UN chief pledges to keep ‘memories alive’ of those who died in service during 2020

The United Nations

The United Nations paused on Thursday to honour 336 personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2020: the highest number ever in a single year.

The memorial ceremony, held online, paid tribute to civilian and uniformed staff who died because of malicious acts, natural disasters and other incidents.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its wider impacts, including on healthcare access, the number also included colleagues who passed from the disease or other illness.

A year like no other

“The year 2020 was like no other in the history of the United Nations”, Secretary-General António Guterres said.

“The world faced a merciless pandemic that continues to sow tremendous suffering. Millions of families lost loved ones. The UN family was no different.”

The Secretary-General called for a moment of silence to remember the fallen colleagues, whose names were read out loud during the ceremony.

A diverse ‘family’

Representing more than 80 nations, they literally came from every corner of the globe, and reflected the diversity and richness of experience of the UN.

“They devoted their careers to advancing the vision and the values of the United Nations – securing peace, promoting sustainable development, advancing human rights”, Mr Guterres said.

Patricia Nemeth, President of the UN Staff Union, added that those who made “the ultimate sacrifice” for the Organization “did so in an effort to defend the freedoms of the most vulnerable, and provide for them the most basic needs that we all enjoy.”

Remembrance and hope

The personnel who died in 2020 will never be forgotten, the Secretary-General said. He also underlined UN commitment to continue reviewing and improving practices related to staff safety and care.

“They embodied the essence of multilateralism — people around the globe joining forces to build a better world. In their name, we pledge to continue that work”, he said.

“As we honour our dear colleagues, let us keep their memories alive through our work to build a life of dignity and hope for all.”

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