Sérgio Vieira de Mello

Sérgio Vieira de Mello

name = Sérgio Vieira de Mello
residence =
other_names =

image_size = 200px
caption =
birth_name =
birth_date = Birth date|1948|3|15
birth_place = Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
death_date = Death date and age|2003|8|19|1948|3|15
death_place = Baghdad, Iraq
death_cause = Killed in the Canal Hotel bombing
Alma mater = University of Paris (Sorbonne)
occupation = Diplomat, humanitarian worker
title =

Sérgio Vieira de Mello (March 15 1948 – August 19 2003) was an illustrious Brazilian United Nations (UN) diplomat who worked for the UN for more than 34 years, earning respect and praise around the world for his efforts in the humanitarian and political programs of the UN.

He was killed in the Canal Hotel Bombing in Iraq along with 21 other members of his staff on 19 August 2003 while working as the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Iraq.


Vieira de Mello [http://www.sergiovdmfoundation.org/en/sergio_biography.html] was born in Rio de Janeiro to the diplomat Arnaldo Vieira de Mello and his wife Gilda; he had a sister, Sônia.

He joined the UN in 1969 while studying philosophy and humanities at the Sorbonne University of Paris. He received two doctorate degrees from the Sorbonne (1985). He was fluent in English, Spanish, Italian, French, and conversational Arabic, as well as his native Portuguese.

He began his U.N. career as an official of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva in 1969. He worked with refugees in Bangladesh during its independence in 1971 and in Cyprus after the 1974 Turkish invasion.

He spent three years in charge of UNHCR operations in Mozambique during the civil war that followed its independence from Portugal in 1975, and three more in Peru. Vieira de Mello also served as Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for Cambodia, being the first and only UN Representative to hold talks with the Khmer Rouge. He became senior political adviser to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon between 1981 and 1983.

The early 1990s found him involved in the clearing of land mines in Cambodia, and then in Yugoslavia. After working on the refugee problem in central Africa, he was made Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees in 1996 and he became UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator two years later. He would hold this position simultaneously with others until January 2001. He was a special UN envoy in Kosovo after the end of Serbian control of the former Yugoslav province in 1999. Vieira de Mello was instrumental in dealing with the issue of boat people in Hong Kong.

In mid-2000, he visited Fiji together with Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth of Nations' Secretary-General, in an attempt to assist in finding a negotiated settlement to the hostage situation, in which Fiji's Prime Minister and other members of Parliament were kidnapped and held as hostages during the 2000 Fijian coup d'état. [http://www.fijitv.com.fj/index.cfm?go=tv.resources&cmd=forumview&cbegin=0&uid=fijionenews&cid=11029]

Before becoming the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2002, he was the UN Transitional Administrator in East Timor from December 1999 to May 2002, guiding that former Portuguese colony occupied by Indonesia to independence. He was also special representative in Kosovo for an initial period of two months and was the coordinator of humanitarian operations at UN headquarters. In May 2003 Vieira de Mello was appointed as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to Iraq, an appointment initially intended to last for four months. According to "New York Times Magazine" journalist James Traub in his book "The Best Intentions", Vieira de Mello had originally turned down the appointment before being persuaded by Condoleezza Rice and President George W. Bush. He had been working in this position when he was killed in the Canal Hotel bombing.

He was mentioned in some circles as a suitable candidate for UN Secretary General. His death was widely mourned, largely on account of his reputation for effective work to promote peace. Vieira de Mello was survived by his French wife Annie, and two adult sons, Laurent and Adrien. He was buried at the Cimetière des Rois in Geneva, Switzerland.

Some of his friends and family have created the "Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation" [http://www.sergiovdmfoundation.org] to honor his life and carry on his mission.

In April 2004, Sérgio Vieira de Mello was posthumously awarded the 'Statesman of the Year Award' by the EastWest Institute [http://www.ewi.info] , a Transatlantic think tank that organizes an annual Security Conference in Brussels [http://wsc.ewi.info] .

De Mello founded two large, important, similarly-titled Human Rights Agencies: UNHRP [United Nations Housing Rights Programme] and UNHREP [United Nations Human Rights Educational Project] [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Human_Rights_Educational_Project] . The former is currently a part of UN-Habitat Settlements Programme headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya [Executive Director Ms. Anna Tibaijuka] .

The goal of UNHREP "is to set up an educational facility for teaching Human Rights from a variety of angles. The school will then be further developed to include subjects of international relations, conflict resolution, diplomacy and diplomatic etiquette" [http://midiaindependente.org/en/blue/2004/07/286986.shtml] .

According to the UN-Habitat Settlements Programme [http://www.unhabitat.org/programmes/housingrights/] , "The development objective of the UNHRP is to assist States and other stakeholders with the implementation of their commitments in the Habitat Agenda to ensure the full and progressive realisation of the right to adequate housing as provided for in international instruments."

Accounts of his death

In his book "The Prince of the Marshes", Scottish writer Rory Stewart recounts his experiences at the Canal Hotel the day of De Mello's death. Quotation

I had wandered past the security point without anyone attempting to search me or ask my business. The Iraqis coming in and out of the compound were good-humored. I had said to my friend that things seemed pretty relaxed. She had replied that the special representative was proud that Iraqis could approach the UN building -unlike in the Green Zone, whose barriers were a half mile from the main offices.

My friend went into a small office and soon came out, apologizing; it might be possible for me to join the meeting after all. I saw De Mello passing. I had met him in Indonesia, but he did not catch my eye or recognize me and I went to the canteen, where I sat from ten until two in the afternoon, talking to local NGO staff who came in to eat and use the Internet. I particularly liked a Tunisian security advisor who had served in the Balkans and was worried about terrorists targeting the UN.

I left at two, intending to return later in the afternoon to use the Internet. But when I came back at 4:30, a thick column of smoke was rising from either end of the building, families were screaming and pushing at a cordon of U.S. soldiers, and the woman who had served me my salad in the cafeteria was running toward us. In my brief time away from the building, a suicide bomber had driven his truck up beneath De Mello's office window [cite book
last = Stewart
first = Rory
authorlink = Rory Stewart
title = The Prince of the Marshes and Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq
publisher = Harcourt
year = 2006
pages = 101-103
isbn= 978-0-15-603279-7
] .

Career Chronology

*1969-1971: French Editor, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland
*1971-1972: Project Officer, UNHCR, Dhâkâ, East Pakistan
*1972-1973: Programme Officer, UNHCR, Juba, Sudan
*1974-1975: Programme Officer, UNHCR, Nicosia, Cyprus
*1975-1977: Deputy Representative and Representative, UNHCR, Maputo, Mozambique
*1978-1980: Representative, UNHCR, Lima, Peru
*1980-1981: Head of Career Development and Training Unit of Personnel Section, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland
*1981-1983: Senior Political Officer, UNIFIL, DPKO, Lebanon
*1983-1985: Deputy Head of Personnel, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland
*1986-1988: Chef de Cabinet and Secretary to the Executive Committee, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland
*1988-1990: Director of Asia Bureau, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland
*1990-1991: Director of External Affairs, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland
*1991-1993: Director for Repatriation and Resettlement Operations, UNTAC, DPKO, and Special Envoy of High Commissioner Sadako Ogata, UNHCR, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
*1993-1994: Director of Political Affairs, UNPROFOR, DPKO, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
*1994-1996: Director of Operations and Planning, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland
*October-December 1996: Special Envoy of Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region
*1996-1998: Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, Geneva, Switzerland
*1998-2002: Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, UN, New York, USA
*June-July 1999: Special Representative of Secretary-General to Kosovo
*1999-2002: Transitional Administrator, UNTAET, DPKO, Dili, East Timor-Leste
*2002-2003: High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva, Switzerland
*May-August 2003: Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Iraq



*Jean-Claude Buhrer et Claude B. Levenson, "Sergio Vieira de Mello, un espoir foudroyé". – Paris : Mille et une nuits, 2004. – 199 p., 20 cm. – ISBN 2-84205-826-7 .
*George Gordon-Lennox et Annick Stevenson, "Sergio Vieira de Mello : un homme exceptionnel". – Genève : Éditions du Tricorne, 2004. – 143 p., 25 cm. – ISBN 2-8293-0266-4. – En appendice, choix de textes de Sergio Vieira de Mello.
*Jacques Marcovitch - USP - "Sérgio Vieira de Mello - pensamento e memória". 1 Edição | 2004 | Brochura 344p. | Cód.: 167075 | ISBN 853140867 (pt)
*Samantha Power, "Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World", (Hardcover - Pub. Date: 2/14/2008).

External links

* [http://www.sergiovdmfoundation.org Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation]
* [http://www.economist.com/books/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10717820&CFID=14377625&CFTOKEN=3d46a1ee5a8a830b-601EEE13-B27C-BB00-0127738E5FE59A82 The Economist - "A brave man's journey"]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2146395.stm BBC News - Obituary: "Sergio Vieira de Mello"]
* [http://edition.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/08/19/sprj.irq.demello/ CNN - "Sergio Vieira de Mello: A Rising Star"]
* [http://home.nyc.rr.com/sergiodemellodoc/ "En Route to Baghdad" directed by Brazilian journalist Simone Duarte ]
* [http://www.usp.br/svm USP "Sergio Vieira de Mello: pensamento e memória" ] . (Portuguese language).
* [http://ochaonline.un.org/webpage.asp?ParentID=9848&MenuID=9855&Page=1291 "Sergio Vieira de Mello Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator]
* [http://www.ohchr.org/english/about/hc/vieira.htm UNHCHR Sergio Vieira de Mello]
* [http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/enroutetobaghdad/sergio.html PBS Independent Lens pages on "En Route To Baghdad"]
* [http://midiaindependente.org/en/blue/2004/07/286986.shtml UNHREP. The Final Project of the Man of Peace]
* [http://www.unspecial.org/UNS671/t22.html UN Special Nº671. DEAR FRIENDS OF SERGIO]


* [http://www.hrdc.net/sahrdc/hrfchr59/Issue6/interview.htm Interview with Human Rights Features]
* [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=03/08/20/1450239 Interview] on Democracy Now!
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/forum/2523983.stm Interview] on BBC News
* [http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/europe/july-dec99/kosovo_8-4.html Can Kosovo recover?] - Interview on PBS

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