[Dateline: New York | Author: iSeek]
With at least 19 United Nations Staff members under arrest, imprisoned or disappeared around the world, the annual Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members will be observed on Wednesday, 25 March.
Organized by the UN Staff Council Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service (CSIICS), the observance of the Day intends to draw attention to the problem and to raise the importance of staff safety and security in general.
This year's observance highlights the dangers faced daily by UN staff members and associated personnel, as well as journalists, around the world. Recent high-profile hostage incidents in Niger and Pakistan have underscored the urgency of the problem.
From mid-2007 to mid-2008, State authorities arrested 160 staff members and there were 39 cases of detention by militia and other groups, according to the latest related report of the Secretary-General (A/63/305).
Locally recruited humanitarian and United Nations personnel remain the most vulnerable and make up the majority of those arrested.
At least 125 journalists are behind bars around the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and at least 30 have disappeared.
In a message issued for the occasion, the Secretary-General cited the international instruments put in place to safeguard staff and urged “all Member States to do their part to buttress this architecture of protection.”
He specifically mentioned the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel (A/RES/49/59), its 2005 Optional Protocol to the Convention (A/RES/60/42), the Geneva Conventions and the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
New York observance
In New York, the day will marked by a ceremony on Wednesday, 25 March at 11 a.m. in the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA) room on the 3rd floor of the Secretariat Building. All are invited to attend.
Invited speakers include Pierre Bertrand, Chief of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Liaison Office; Andrew Whitley, Chief of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Liaison Office; and Stephen Kisambira, President of the United Nations Staff Union.
About the day
The Day marks the 24th anniversary of the abduction, in 1985, near Beirut Airport, of Alec Collett, a former UN Information Centre Director and journalist, while on assignment for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The fate of Mr. Collett has never been determined.
Following his abduction, the UNCA made Mr. Collett their Honorary President, a title he has retained ever since.