Marking International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, UN Secretary-General António Guterres paid tribute to UN personnel abducted, detained or missing while serving.
“Day in and day out, deed by deed, United Nations personnel work unwaveringly to help the most vulnerable, protect the planet and build a better future for all,” said Mr. Guterres. “Sadly, fulfilling this vital mission, often entails great perils.”
In 2018, 16 UN staff members were kidnapped or abducted, and one so far in 2019. All have been released.
In addition, according to the UN’s security department headquartered in New York, about 20 UN staff members from a dozen agencies are currently under arrest or being detained, including several held without charges being made explicit. Given the sensitive nature of some of the cases, no further details on specific cases can be disclosed.
“We will continue to do everything within our means to secure our colleagues’ release,” said the UN chief, in his statement.
The International Day was created on the anniversary of the abduction of Alec Collett, who worked for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) until he was abducted by armed gunmen in 1985. His body was finally found in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in 2009.
“I call on all countries to support the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel as well as its 2005 Optional Protocol,” said Mr. Guterres, deploring that, to date, only 95 countries are party to the Convention and only 33 to the Optional Protocol.
“Whether in their home countries or abroad, United Nations staff members have an admirable commitment to service. Their safety must be our priority.”