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Secretary-General Pays Tribute to 485 Personnel Killed in Duty during 2021, Highest Number Ever, Who ‘Upheld Vision and Values’ of United Nations

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Annual Memorial Service to Honour United Nations Personnel Who Lost Their Lives in the Line of Duty from 1 January to 31 December 2021, in New York today:

We have come together to honour the memory of United Nations personnel who lost their lives serving our organization over the course of last year.  I want to acknowledge the family members and loved ones joining us from all over the world — our hearts are with you.  We are united in sorrow and solidarity.

Throughout the past year, COVID-19 continued to cause immeasurable suffering and death.  And as we did last year, we pay tribute today to our colleagues we lost because of malicious acts, natural disasters and illness.

As a result, at this memorial service we mourn the highest number of colleagues — 485 UN personnel — lost in a single year.  Together, they represent the magnificent diversity of our United Nations family.

Seventy were military, 1 was police and 414 were civilian personnel.  They hailed from all corners of the world — 104 nations in all.  Their expertise and backgrounds were as diverse as the work they did across our Secretariat, agencies, funds and programmes.

Often far from home, without fanfare, they devoted their careers to help others.  Unbowed by cynicism, they worked to make a difference — no matter how high the obstacle, no matter how distant the reward, no matter, even, how difficult the challenge.

They worked to secure peace in forgotten places.  They fed the hungry and sheltered those driven from their homes.  They helped protect our planet, delivered life-saving assistance and fought to give children a better future.

In short, they upheld the vision and values of the United Nations.  We mourn their passing and cherish their memories.  Please join me in a moment of silence as we reflect on their lives and service.

Our world is in turmoil — scarred by conflicts, threatened by crises and overwhelmed by emergencies.  Our only hope is to join forces and work together as one international community.  The United Nations is both the instrument and the expression of that community.  And it is the colleagues we honour today who embodied that promise and gave life to that hope.

In their name, we vow to carry on with the same dedication and courage that defined their work.  We pledge to support their families.  And we commit to be ever vigilant in reviewing and improving the safety, care and well-being of our staff.  Our colleagues lost their lives, but their spirit to help others lives on — today and every day.  May their memory be a blessing and an inspiration to us all.

For information media. Not an official record.