UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned on Monday's 10th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that attackers targeting the United Nations have become "more sophisticated, more brazen and better armed."
Ban spoke at a memorial service at U.N. headquarters honoring the 22 staff members who died in Baghdad, 30 U.N. staffers who died in the last 10 months and thousands of other staff members who "have given their lives serving peace" in past years.
The secretary-general said the U.N. has learned from its losses and is changing the way it operates around the world to strengthen security, training and provisions for the families of victims.
Ian Richards, vice president of the U.N. Staff Management Committee, said the U.N. has moved boldly into conflict zones, and "right now our colleagues and their families are paying too high a price."
He said the U.N. is no longer seen as neutral, and "the U.N. flag is now a target instead of a shield."
Over the last 10 years, Richards said, the Aid Worker Security Database tracked 555 U.N.-related staff and contractors who were attacked and more than 200 who were killed. Another 102 staff members were killed in the Haiti earthquake in 2010, bringing the total to over 300 — "a huge number for a civil service," he said.
Richards urged the United Nation to do more to take care of its staff and "bring staff deaths to zero."
He and other staff members delivered a letter to the secretary-general saying they are now "vulnerable" and asking Ban to restore negotiations with the U.N. Staff Union "so that we can work with you to protect staff."
The anniversary of the Aug. 19, 2003 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad is now commemorated as World Humanitarian Day, and events were being held in more than 50 cities around the world.
Marilyn Manuel, who was seriously injured, said at the memorial service she felt "bittersweet" about returning to the U.N. from her home in Manila.
Denmark's Henrik Kolstrup, who was in a coma for five weeks, was still in a wheelchair. The bombing changed his life, he said, "but it also opened up some unexpected silver lining. Now I have been home. I'm suddenly a grandfather to two grandchildren, and things would have been very different. I'm just very grateful for what's around me."
Mujahed Hasan, an Iraqi who lost his left eye, said he is still undergoing surgeries for injuries to his left arm, both legs and his left side.
"I feel blessed because I'm still here," he said, standing with his family.