Subject: UN: Award pays tribute to UNAMET

UN Newservice UN mission receives Elie Wiesel Ethics Award for role in holding East Timor popular vote

12 October -- The United Nations mission, which facilitated last year's popular consultation on East Timor's independence, received the Elie Wiesel Ethics Award today at a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York.

Accepting the Award on behalf of the Secretary-General, UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette commended the staff of the Mission, which was known by its acronym UNAMET. She said that perhaps no other Mission's staff had "done more in such a short period to restore stability to a territory, and give its people hope for a better future." In particular, she paid tribute to the local UNAMET staff who had lost their lives during the operation. "This Elie Wiesel Ethics Award belongs to them," she said.

Ms. Fréchette also recalled the tragic murder last month of three UN humanitarian staff in West Timor. "These staff members had dedicated themselves to assisting some of the most vulnerable of the East Timorese population," she said, noting that "it may have been the very success of their mission which doomed them in the eyes of those who see peace as an enemy, and violence as the answer."

The Deputy Secretary-General stressed that the UN and its staff in East Timor would not be deterred from their mission. "The people of East Timor have suffered for too long, and the international community is too dedicated to helping them achieve a better future, to allow the militias and their supporters to win," she said.

The Award ceremony was part of a daylong programme commemorating the first anniversary of the popular consultation. The commemoration began on 30 August, the day of the vote, when Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a congratulatory message to the people of East Timor and the UN Department of Public Information issued a special booklet on the popular consultation. Today's activities included a panel discussion and the release of a collection of photographs and anecdotes entitled Timor Lorosa'e: One Momentous Year. 


12 October 2000 Press Release DSG/SM/19

DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL PAYS TRIBUTE TO UN STAFF, AS SHE ACCEPTS ELIE WIESEL ETHICS AWARD ON BEHALF OF UNAMET

20001012

Following is the text of a statement made this evening by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette at the presentation of the Elie Wiesel Ethics Award to the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET):

As we meet in this great hall dedicated to the principles of independence and self-determination, I wish to say -­ on behalf of the staff of UNAMET -- how proud and honoured I am that they have been given the Elie Wiesel Ethics Award. In this year of triumph and tragedy for UN staff around the world, perhaps no other mission’s staff ­ and here I refer to both UNAMET and the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) -- has done more in such a short period to restore stability to a territory, and give its people hope for a better future. You could not have chosen a more deserving mission or a more deserving staff.

UNAMET was entrusted with a unique mission, and overcame extraordinarily difficult conditions to conduct the popular consultations within the limited period of time, and with limited resources. The success of UNAMET was made possible, above all, by the courage and dedication of its staff. Several local staff of UNAMET lost their lives during its operation, and I would like to again pay tribute to them and their family members. This Elie Wiesel Ethics Award belongs to them.

Helping East Timor stand on its own as a free and independent country is one of the greatest responsibilities ever given to the United Nations. Based on the outstanding efforts of UNAMET in preparing the territory for the referendum, we are making real progress. Fortunately, we are working with the people of East Timor as true partners in every field -­ fostering economic development; promoting tolerance and reconciliation; creating a civil service; rebuilding infrastructure; and preparing the elections that will enable them to start on the road of true and lasting self-government.

Just as United Nations staff everywhere, the UNAMET staff were the face of our Organization to the people for whom we exist: the poor, the vulnerable, those threatened by violence, and those seeking to build stable, democratic and prosperous societies out of the ashes of war.

When you decided to give UNAMET this award, neither you nor I could have imagined the sacrifices that would be demanded of members of the wider United Nations family in Timor last September. Then, as you know, three United Nations humanitarian staff were murdered in West Timor by the very forces who previously had wreaked such havoc in East Timor, and sought to derail the efforts of UNAMET. These staff members had dedicated themselves to assisting some of the most vulnerable of the East Timorese population. Tragically, it may have been the very success of their mission which doomed them in the eyes of those who see peace as an enemy, and violence as the answer.

What was clear on that tragic day, and what is clear today, is that the United Nations and its staff in East Timor will not be deterred from their mission. The people of East Timor have suffered for too long, and the international community is too dedicated to helping them achieve a better future, to allow the militias and their supporters to win. In this noble effort, our frontline is staffed by former UNAMET staff and others who answered the call to service in East Timor. I am certain that they all will find renewed inspiration and dedication from receiving this high honour. I congratulate them, and, on their behalf, thank you for recognizing their service.

Thank you.


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