First Individual: Iraqis ‘not deserted’ after 2003 assault on UN Baghdad

The then New York-based Elpida Rouka had accompanied the Government Director of the Workplace of the Iraq Programme on a mission to Baghdad and survived the lethal explosion which killed 22 of her UN colleagues.

The 19 August assault is commemorated yearly by World Humanitarian Day.

“A younger 25-year-old barely two years into the UN on the time, I used to be in equal measure bright-eyed and bushy tailed virtually cajoling the Government Director of the Iraq programme to take me alongside on that August mission to Baghdad. I used to be naive in regards to the workings of the world, not at all times a reasonably sight, and the group’s position therein. 

Elpida Rouka, survivor of the bombing of the Canal Hotel in Baghdad on 19 August 2003 holds her damaged UN Laissez-Passer.

Elpida Rouka, survivor of the bombing of the Canal Lodge in Baghdad on 19 August 2003 holds her broken UN Laissez-Passer.

Aside from the private price, I suffered latent PTSD that manifested years later, and the private price to so many, I had not but realized the associated fee to the group. Baghdad modified the whole lot for the UN. How we do issues. Who we’re. What the world thinks of us. What we consider us. 

I couldn’t fathom why late Secretary-Common Kofi Annan didn’t order the UN out of Iraq; years later, once I labored in his Cupboard, we made our peace. And but I actually returned to Iraq 4 years on, not as an support employee however as a part of a political mission, a continuation of types of what Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN Particular Consultant in Iraq, who died within the assault, and his staff had began that fateful summer season. I had eventually “consciously” embraced the UN blue.

UN terrorist goal

Canal will at all times function a reminder, albeit a tragic one, of what the UN blue flag, for the primary time a direct goal of a terrorist assault, represents or should symbolize. 

I’m now in regards to the age lots of these we misplaced on that day would have been. They embodied the spirit of the UN flag, defying threat, rising above politics, talking up for these whose voices have been silenced, speaking reality to energy, difficult extra highly effective teams when these are incorrect, pushing in opposition to all odds and going again. 

They and everybody else we now have misplaced and carry on dropping since in too many conflicts the place we now have didn’t result in peace will proceed to function a compass to course-correct, lest we neglect that the oath of workplace encompassed the preamble of the UN Constitution: “We, the peoples…”  

A number of missions – Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Syria – and bodily and emotional scars later, I proceed to hold my scorched and shrapnelled UN laissez-passer from that August 2003 to remind me precisely of that.

Altering nature of conflicts

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is widely used by UN staff for example in Mali (pictured).

Private protecting gear (PPE) is extensively utilized by UN employees for instance in Mali (pictured).

It’s exhausting to inform whether or not 20 years on Canal has any which means to the surface world and even to the youthful generations of worldwide civil servants, apart from to the survivors. In some ways the character of conflicts and UN engagement therein has modified considerably in twenty years, with fashionable peace operations set in more and more advanced, always shifting, high-risk multipolar settings with involvement of non-State actors and violent extremists, asymmetry of use of power, spillover of battle past borders, nice energy fallouts and ensuing deepening of world distrust. 

Working behind T-walls [protective concrete barriers that surround UN compounds in conflict-affected countries], out of sandbagged fortified compounds, in armoured automobiles, clad in PPEs [personal protective equipment] and cautious of prolonged publicity to the locals is commonly thought-about the norm. 

In Iraq, children run with kites in Domiz Camp in Dohuk.

© UNICEF/Diego Ibarra Sánchez

In Iraq, kids run with kites in Domiz Camp in Dohuk.

On the identical time, the group is challenged to be accountable to its personal and to these they serve. We nonetheless have many classes to be taught from Canal in terms of the latter, for our missions to be totally ready for the worst, for our employees to take heed to the complexities of the locations we’re deployed in, and for our management to have the ability to clearly talk what it’s we’re doing there.

The identical goes for the Member States which at instances current us with unimaginable mandates. But the UN’s response to Canal was proper in a single main facet: the UN didn’t abandon the Iraqis on that day, and in doing so it acknowledged the sacrifice of those that misplaced their lives within the pursuit of reality; those that stay an ethical compass.”

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