Speech by Ms. Alice Walpole, Deputy Special Representative for Iraq of the United Nations Secretary-General, on the Occasion of the Anniversary of the Canal Hotel Bombing

Baghdad, 19 August 2019

Friends and colleagues,
Sixteen years ago today, the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was devastated by a massive bomb. Twenty-two of our colleagues were killed and more than 150 were wounded. Among those who lost their lives was the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello.


We commemorate this anniversary, as every year, with terrible sadness. We feel very keenly the absence of all those who lost their lives and the suffering of all those injured.
And we wonder, again, how could this have happened? United Nations international staff from all corners of the world, leaving behind their homes and families, coming to Baghdad to rebuild a damaged nation; United Nations national staff working to help their own country recover from conflict. All of them trying, with limited resources and unlimited determination, to deliver on their honourable mission. How could they have fallen victims to the violence they tried to stop?
That Baghdad bombing in August 2003 marked a step-change in the global treatment of humanitarian workers. Iraq has seen many further bombings over the years since 2003. United Nations and other humanitarian staff, in Iraq and elsewhere, have experienced considerable instability and danger as they operate in the field. The years since have seen multiple attacks in which humanitarians aid workers and other civilian colleagues working for peace have become targets worldwide.
Since August 2003, more than 4,500 humanitarians have been killed, injured, detained, kidnapped or otherwise prevented from carrying out their life-saving duties. That is an average of 280 humanitarians attacked each year, or five every single week. Last year saw the second highest number of attacks on aid workers on record, with 405 aid workers attacked, 131 killed, 144 wounded and 130 kidnapped in a total of 226 separate incidents.
Today, on World Humanitarian Day, it is appropriate that we remember, too, United Nations colleagues in other field missions whose lives have been sacrificed: in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Algiers in 2007; or the bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2011; or – to come right up to date - the deaths of three UN security colleagues less than ten days ago in a car bomb attack in Benghazi, Libya.
And I would like to take the opportunity here to honour the memory of our Governorate Liaison Officer, Amer Al-Qaissy, abducted and murdered in 2016.
As we stand here today, gathered in resolve and determination to uphold the UN Charter and our pledge to humanity, let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of our friends and colleagues, and pay tribute to their service to peace. Our work continues.
Thank you.

Last modified on Monday, 19 August 2019 15:42

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