One week after a deadly car bombing claimed the lives of 17 United Nations workers in Algiers, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today visited the site of the attack and met with the world body’s staff, paying tribute to their dedication and professionalism.
“We will complete the work that you and your fallen colleagues have begun,” Mr. Ban pledged to the staff. “We will not be deterred. We will go on doing whatever we can to help build a better future for the people of Algeria. Only by carrying on with that mission can we begin to do justice to the memory of the friends we have lost.”
He added that while he is in Algiers, he will do “all I can to explain to the public and the media the role of the UN – why we are here, what we do, what we stand for and what we don’t.
“We are not here to represent the interests of one group of nations against another. We are here to help build better lives for children and provide shelter for refugees. We are here to address environmental problems. We are here to clear land mines and advance the rule of law and human rights,” he said.
On arriving in the Algerian capital, Mr. Ban visited the site of the 11 December terrorist attack that destroyed the offices of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and damaged those of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A second car bomb exploded near a government court building.
Mr. Ban condemned the attacks, stressing that “those who target innocent civilians in this way commit an unspeakable crime.”
The Algiers bombing is not the first time the UN has been attacked by terrorists. A bomb destroyed the world body’s Baghdad headquarters in August 2003, killing 22 people, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
The Secretary-General pledged to spare no effort in ensuring that the UN provides adequate security for its staff, wherever they serve. Noting that the UN family in Algiers faced logistical problems following last week’s tragedy, Mr. Ban promised “to do all in our power to put into place a communications system that is adequate when an emergency occurs.”
Immediately after the attacks, Mr. Ban sent his top aides, including UNDP chief Kemal Dervis, to Algiers to determine how best to aid those injured in the attack and the families of the victims.
Last week, the UN confirmed that staff members from UNDP, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), International Labour Organization (ILO), UNHCR, Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), World Food Programme (WFP) and the Department of Safety and Security were among those killed in the attacks.
During his visit, the Secretary-General was given the tattered flag that had flown outside the UN offices. He will bring it back with him to New York when he returns tomorrow as a symbol of the UN’s determination to work in Algeria, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters.
While in Algiers, Mr. Ban also met with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Ms. Montas said. The two men discussed issues related to the security of UN staff in the country, as well as counter-terrorism, migration, the Middle East, Darfur, climate change, the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals, and Western Sahara.
Speaking to reporters before leaving the country, Mr. Ban called terrorism “a crime against humanity” and called on Member States to agree on a plan of action against terrorism, including an agreed definition of terrorism.
Meanwhile in New York, UN staff will be holding a silent march tomorrow in front of the Headquarters complex to protest last week’s attack and to remember those colleagues that were killed.