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    UNIS/SG/2448
    17 November 1999
    Kosovo Crash Victims Gave Life to Words 'Humanitarian Imperative',
    Says Secretary-General to Rome Memorial Service

     

    NEW YORK, 16 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the memorial service for the victims of the World Food Programme (WFP) air crash in Kosovo, delivered on his behalf by his Chef de Cabinet, S. Iqbal Riza, in Rome on 17 November:
     

     We have gathered today to mourn irreplaceable colleagues.  In their mission, these 24 men and women gave life to the words "humanitarian imperative".  In doing so, they gave their own lives.  In our memory, they will live on.

     We share the grief of their families and friends all the more because this loss comes as a deep blow to their other family:  the international humanitarian family.  Whether their job was providing for the poor or helping build the peace, they were united in a mission to rebuild the lives of human beings in need.

     The men and women of the humanitarian family are a special segment of the human race.  They feel their duty to help innocent people more deeply than they fear for their own safety.  They know that failure in that duty would rob millions of people of the hope that something called the international community will uphold the basic dignity of humankind.

     That hope is kept alive every day by men and women like the 24 we mourn today; like all too many others who have made the ultimate humanitarian sacrifice; like the more than 50 World Food Programme staff -- to name only them -- who have died in the line of duty.

     There will always be people for whom the work of such men and women represents the only hope in the face of hardship.  And so the members of the humanitarian family continue to carry out that work in Kosovo as anywhere else they can make a difference, no matter how great the risk; no matter how small the material reward; and sometimes with only the wings of faith and hope to sustain them.

     That was the work that brought our 24 colleagues together from 10 different countries.  One of their peers in Pristina summed it up well: everybody on that plane was doing a fine job for Kosovo.

     He was right.  Let that be the way they live on in our memory.  Let their humanitarian imperative live on as their legacy to us.  Let our imperative be to carry on their work, to rebuild lives and to build the peace. And may their souls rest in the peace they so richly deserve.

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