Monday's (8/19/13) memorial to United Nations staff members who perished in the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad ten years ago serves as a striking refutation to Ladan Rafii's ill-founded attack on the dedication and integrity of New York City-based UN staff. Simple scans of the United Nations website, as well as ours, provide ample evidence of the staff's record of regular volunteer service in hazardous posts abroad. Here are several that typify the record of these dedicated people, contradicting Ms. Rafii's claims that New York-based staff "refuse" to leave their "cushy jobs" at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan:
- Eugenia Beldo decided to leave her New York post following a series of killings of UN peacekeepers that she says made her "feel more duty bound." Beldo spent time in Southern Iraq, Abkhazia, and Angola, where she saw colleagues kidnapped and held prisoner;
- Maria Elena Reyes-Bly, on the New York staff since 1978, has frequently volunteered for overseas service. Her four-year stint in Bosnia & Hercegovina during the war regularly exposed her to bullets and missiles. She remembers the artillery barrage on the eve of Bosnia's Declaration Day of Independence as the longest night of her life;
- Ronald Critchlow left a job as a sales executive for a Fortune 500 company because of his desire to contribute to the UN's mission. He began by taking any UN job available to him - from working in the shipping department to delivering water jugs to interpreters at the General Assembly. When the opportunity arose, he volunteered to serve in Iraq with UN weapons inspectors. He writes, "I knew it was dangerous because so many UN staff members have died serving the UN in war zones. But when you work for the UN, you accept that the work sometimes requires facing danger. I understood that I might not see my kids again. We lost many many staff members in Iraq. I was one of the fortunate ones."
Ladan Rafii is apparently channeling UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's characterization of his staff as "selfish" when he allowed his frustration at the General Assembly's rejection of his very poorly prepared and written managed "mobility" proposal to get the better of him at his press conference last January. He's had the good sense not to repeat that word since then.
Any objective evaluation of the New York-based staff's record will lead one to agree with Narda Cupidore who has served in Angola, Mozambique and Israel, and whose husband served in Iraq and is currently in Somalia: "Sacrifice is a way of life in the UN - we can only hope that our sacrifices are appreciated."