19 August 2003 was a sad day for the United Nations and all those who believe that peace and security can be achieved through dialogue and international cooperation. On that fateful day, Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 of his UN colleagues and associates fell victims of one of the first of a long series of violent acts that have characterized the Iraq war.
With Sergio Vieira de Mello's cruel disappearance, the world has lost a brilliant and charismatic advocate of peace and human rights but also a tireless and highly effective humanitarian leader. He represented the best the UN could offer in terms of promoting multilateral solutions to many of today's world challenging global crises. He remains an example for many to emulate.
His brutal death provoked an outburst of sympathy and many testimonies of high appreciation and deep regret for his untimely loss. In acknowledgement of this wide movement and to honor his memory, pursue his ideals and continue his unfinished mission, the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation has been established in Geneva (Switzerland), at the initiative of a small group of colleagues, friends and family.
"As I said at the time of his tragic death, Sergio dedicated his professional life to the values set out in the United Nations Charter. He never once hesitated to take on difficult, even dangerous assignments. Victims of conflict and disasters throughout the world came to know him as someone who understood their plight and knew how to deliver results despite enormous obstacles. That effectiveness was always combined with a remarkable grace and sensitivity.
We cannot accept that all his brilliance, his energy, his devotion to his staff and his loyalty to the ideals of the United Nations, have been so abruptly taken from us.
It is for this reason, that I warmly commend to you the work of this Foundation that will keep alive among us the memory and the vision of Sergio."
- Former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan