New York – On 25 March 1985, Alec Collett was abducted by armed men while on assignment for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Lebanon. For more than 24 years, his wife and family prayed and hung on to hope until his body was finally found and identified in 2009.
Each year, on this Day, we honour the memory of Alec Collett and all our other staff members who have gone missing, been detained or even killed while serving the Organization. The United Nations flag, which represents hope, safety and a better life for the most vulnerable, has in some places now become a target. United Nations staff are becoming increasingly vulnerable in carrying out their work.
In 2012, according to preliminary reports, some 200 United Nations personnel were detained by national authorities and some 30 personnel were abducted by non-State actors; 15 of these abductions were politically motivated and resulted in hostage situations. All were safely released.
Fourteen years after its entry into force, the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel has been ratified by less than half the Member States, and more than four out of five Member States have yet to ratify its 2005 Protocol, which extends protection to UN personnel delivering humanitarian, political or development assistance. The vast majority of cases of arrested, detained and missing staff members do not result in prosecution. I urge Member States who have not done so to sign and ratify the Convention and its Optional Protocol. Ensuring the safety of staff members is paramount.
On this and every day, let us honour the courage and dedication of all United Nations colleagues who risk so much to help those less fortunate. They should never be asked to sacrifice their liberty or lives for these noble ends.