Subject: A Diplomat's Life: Sergio Vieira de Mello
Received from Joyo Indonesia News
- East Timor Mourns Loss Of UN Envoy Vieira de Mello
- NYT- A Diplomat's Life: Sergio Vieira de Mello, 55, of the U.N., Dies: A Shining Reputation Built on Tough Tasks
- WP: Diplomat Will Be 'Acutely Missed,' Says U.N.'s Annan
- WP: The Name Atop Everyone's List [Vieira de Mello; by Richard C. Holbrooke, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton
East Timor Mourns Loss Of UN Envoy Vieira de Mello
DILI, East Timor, Aug. 20 (AP)--East Timor has lost a "unique and unforgettable friend," President Xanana Gusmao said Wednesday after receiving news of the death of U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello in a bomb attack in Baghdad.
"It is with shock and great sadness that I received news of the tragic killing," Gusmao said.
Vieira de Mello served as the de facto U.N. governor of East Timor from Dec. 1999 to May 2002, following the territory's bloody break with Indonesia.
His administration is credited with facilitating the return of 250,000 refugees who had fled the violence carried out by Indonesia's army after a U.N. independence referendum on Aug. 30, 1999.
It also helped re-establish basic government and medical services, reopen schools, and set up new police and armed forces in the devastated territory. It organized the new nation's first free presidential and parliamentary elections.
Vieira de Mello's tenure ended when East Timor gained independence on May 20 last year. Since September, he served as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, taking leave from the post to serve in Baghdad.
Vieira de Mello's work earned him wide popularity in East Timor, Gusmao said.
"As transitional administrator in East Timor...Sergio Vieira de Mello endeared himself to the people of East Timor with his common touch, sensitivity, sense of humor and charisma," Gusmao said. "As a leader he fought tirelessly for democracy, human rights and...justice."
"Our nation mourns the death of a unique and unforgettable friend."
Human rights groups also praised Vieira de Mello's work in East Timor:
"He worked tirelessly to help that battered nation stand on its feet as an independent country," said a statement from the New York-based East Timor Action Network.
-Edited by Lena Lee
In Jakarta, officials they had worked closely with him to overcome the bitterness left over from Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975 and its iron-fisted rule that ended in bloodshed in 1999.
"Vieira de Mello personified the high dedication of U.N. officers who often work in very demanding situations," Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman, Marty Natalegawa, said.
A DIPLOMAT'S LIFE
Sergio Vieira de Mello, 55, of the U.N., Dies: A Shining Reputation Built on Tough Tasks
By PAUL LEWIS
Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top United Nations official in Iraq and the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, who had served the organization in trouble spots around the globe, died yesterday from injuries received in the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. He was 55.
"The loss of Sergio Vieira de Mello is a bitter blow for the United Nations and for me personally," Secretary General Kofi Annan said yesterday. "I can think of no one we could less afford to spare."
On May 29, Mr. Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian citizen, was picked by Mr. Annan to be his special representative in Iraq for four months. The choice was widely seen as a tribute to Mr. Vieira de Mello's exceptional diplomatic skills and charm, honed on a succession of difficult assignments that clearly qualified him for the task of helping rebuild Iraq.
A rare international diplomat who relished risky negotiations as well as grinding work in the field, Mr. Vieira de Mello was best known for leading the United Nations Transitional Administration that prepared East Timor for full independence after it broke from Indonesia.
Earlier he served as the chief United Nations official in Kosovo after United States bombing raids broke Serbian control of the province.
He was rewarded for these successful missions with his appointment in September 2002 as high commissioner for human rights. (He was on a leave of absence from that job when he was killed.)
His firm but elegant style contrasted with the more confrontational approach of his predecessor, Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, and, officials say, improved relations with the Bush administration.
Indeed, with his credentials as a citizen of the developing world and his ease moving in some of the more rarefied political circles, he was frequently mentioned as a potential candidate to head the United Nations.
Announcing Mr. Vieira de Mello's appointment to the Baghdad post, Mr. Annan acknowledged his exceptional experience in rebuilding war-devastated societies, saying: "No one has more experience in this area than Sergio Vieira de Mello. I need someone who can hit the ground running."
In Baghdad, Mr. Vieira de Mello faced the exceptionally difficult task of coordinating the United Nations' efforts to rebuild civil authority and promote humanitarian relief with a United States occupying force reluctant to cede authority to the United Nations.
When the Security Council agreed last May to lift economic sanctions against Iraq and authorize the United States and Britain to administer the country until a democratic government was established, it also insisted on giving the United Nations a role in the country's postwar evolution.
From the moment he arrived, Mr. Vieira de Mello insisted his priority was to protect the interests of the Iraqi people during the United States-led occupation.
"I have been sent here with a mandate to assist the Iraqi people and those responsible for the administration of this land to achieve freedom, the possibility of managing their own destiny and determining their own future," he said shortly after he arrived in Iraq.
He also sympathized with the resentment of Iraqis at having foreign troops on their soil, telling a Brazilian newspaper in an interview published Monday: "It is traumatic. It must be one of the most humiliating periods in their history. Who would like to see their country occupied. I would not like to see foreign tanks in Copacabana." He was referring to the famous beach in Rio de Janeiro.
Yet in the short time that he was in Baghdad, Mr. Vieira de Mello established a satisfactory relationship with L. Paul Bremer III, the top United States administrator there, and he told friends he was confident they would be able to work constructively together.
Sergio Vieira de Mello was born on March 15, 1948, in Rio de Janeiro. He studied in Brazil and France, where he was awarded two doctorates from the University of Paris, becoming fluent in English, French and Spanish as well as Portuguese.
He joined the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva in 1969, becoming assistant high commissioner in 1996. He served in Bangladesh as it won independence in 1971 and in Cyprus after the 1974 Turkish invasion.
He spent three years in charge of refugees in Mozambique during the civil war that followed its independence from Portugal in 1975. He was political adviser to the United Nations peacekeepers in Lebanon from 1981 to 1983.
The 1990's found him dealing with refugees and other humanitarian problems in Cambodia, in the former Yugoslavia as it broke apart in a series of wars, and in the Great Lakes region of Africa torn by civil wars.
Mr. Vieira de Mello is survived by his wife, Annie; and their two sons, Adrien and Laurent.
Diplomat Will Be 'Acutely Missed,' Says U.N.'s Annan
By Colum Lynch Washington Post Staff Writer
UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 19 -- Sergio Vieira de Mello, the senior U.N. diplomat who was killed in today's truck bombing in Baghdad, was one of the world's most experienced nation-builders, a major star at the United Nations who ran Kosovo after U.S. air power drove Serbs from the ethnic Albanian enclave in 1999, and delivered East Timor to independence last year.
The Brazilian diplomat, 55, who began his U.N. career as an obscure refugee official, was tapped by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in late May to help Iraq's transition to self rule. He was due to step down Aug. 27 and return to his regular job in Geneva as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"I can think of no one we could less afford to spare or who would be more acutely missed throughout the U.N. system," Annan said after learning of Vieira de Mello's death. "He impressed everyone with his charm, his energy, and his ability to get things done -- not by force but by diplomacy and persuasion."
A charismatic, movie-star-handsome figure who spoke fluent English, French and Spanish in addition to his native Portuguese, Vieira de Mello demonstrated an ability to tackle difficult problems by obtaining cooperation from Bosnian Serb militias challenging U.N. humanitarian relief efforts in Bosnia in the 1990s. He also was vital to efforts to repair relations with Indonesia at a time it was battling U.N. efforts to bring independence to East Timor.
He was viewed as a potential successor to Annan.
Vieira de Mello was a favorite of the Clinton administration's senior foreign policy team, establishing close ties with Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and U.N. Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke. "He was charismatic, he had great leadership skills, and he was always impeccably dressed in the middle of a hellhole," Holbrooke recalled today.
Vieira de Mello won the respect of President Bush, as well. As head of the United Nations' chief human rights agency, he charmed Bush despite his criticism of the administration's treatment of prisoners from the Afghanistan conflict at a U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The administration this spring pressed the United Nations to send Vieira de Mello to Iraq, and diplomats said Bush and the Brazilian diplomat got along well at their first meeting at the White House in March.
"Sergio paid a courtesy call on Bush," said Robert Gelbard, a former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia and East Timor. "After that, Bush said that's the man he had to have."
Bush expressed his "deepest condolences" to Vieira de Mello's family and to the people of Brazil. "Just as he selflessly coordinated international efforts in East Timor and Kosovo, [he] was helping the Iraqi people move down the path towards a democratic country," Bush said in a statement.
Vieira de Mello became a key ally in the administration's efforts to gain broader legitimacy for the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. The decision, which ran counter to the interests of Iraqi militants seeking to undermine U.S. postwar plans, placed the United Nations squarely behind the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.
Gelbard, a long-standing friend of Vieira de Mello, said the Brazilian diplomat had written him an e-mail, telling him that he had just over a week left on the job in Baghdad, and that he looked forward to discussing Iraq and international terrorism.
"I'm obviously very devastated by this," Gelbard said. "He was an astonishingly effective diplomat and negotiator. He was really one of the very, very best members of the international community."
Holbrooke, who first began working with Vieira de Mello during the Cambodian refugee crisis in the late 1970s, vigorously promoted the envoy to head the U.N. effort to restore independence to East Timor.
"He presided quite brilliantly over East Timor's transition from a war-torn half-island to an independent state," Holbrooke said. "Kofi then sent him to Geneva as a well-earned reward so he could be in a calm place. But as soon as the hellhole erupts in Baghdad, he is the one person that everyone can agree is the indispensable man."
The Name Atop Everyone's List
By Richard C. Holbrooke
Until Sergio Vieira de Mello's death in Baghdad yesterday, almost no Americans had heard of him. Yet for several decades this remarkable United Nations career official had been advancing many of America's long-term policy interests while loyally serving the United Nations.
He saw nothing incompatible in this. In Iraq, he was working for peace and security and self-government -- the key American goals -- and while he appreciated American domestic politics, he could never fully understand why Washington so often undermined the United Nations instead of strengthening it.
Sergio, my friend for more than 20 years, went wherever the danger was greatest. Once there, he always carried out his mission with charisma, charm and courage -- and, I must add somewhat enviously, sartorial perfection, no matter how difficult the terrain.
Sergio's track record was remarkable. Since 1971 he had served in Bangladesh, right after its war for independence, in Sudan, Cyprus (after its war), Mozambique (during its war), Peru, Lebanon, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and the Congo, Kosovo and -- finally, or so he believed at the time -- East Timor.
In that distant corner of Southeast Asia, he reached his greatest heights. Sent there in 1999 by the man he called "my brother," U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Vieira de Mello took control of a half-island torn by 24 years of war with Indonesia, and in less than three years guided it to full independence as the 21st century's first new nation. On May 20 of last year, we watched as the U.N. flag came down at midnight in the capital, Dili (former president Clinton and I among the official U.S. delegation), and the new national flag rose. Sergio's job was over, and with great relief he prepared to take up a more peaceful post.
We embraced on a dusty field in Dili, and Sergio said, "It's time to go home" -- meaning not his native Brazil but Geneva, where he would become the new High Commissioner for Human Rights and reunite with his family.
But within months, Iraq demanded a strong U.N. presence, and one name was atop every list. Even the Bush administration knew that Vieira de Mello was something special. Uncomplainingly, he set off again at the request of his "brother."
It has been widely reported that he was instrumental in convincing the American authorities in Baghdad that the Iraqi Governing Council needed to be more than just an advisory group -- a wise and far-reaching decision based in large part on Vieira de Mello's experience in Kosovo and East Timor.
As Americans learn -- too late -- about this great man, I hope they will recognize that he and the others who died or were wounded in Baghdad were part of a vast army of U.N. civilian personnel serving in often hellish conditions around the world. Of course, they are not all as good as Sergio Vieira de Mello. Some are simply time-serving bureaucrats, as is true in most large institutions. But many are very good indeed.
Make no mistake: Yesterday's attack on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was also an attack on the United States. The target chosen was simply "softer," in the jargon of terrorism experts. Although underrecognized, overcriticized and underfunded by the United States, the United Nations in Iraq -- as in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan -- is serving America's long-term interests, and always with less protection and fewer resources than it deserves.
The writer was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton.
De Mello Had Long History As Troubleshooter for U.N.
UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. envoy to Iraq killed in a car bombing said when he took the job that his top priority was protecting the interests of the Iraqi people under the U.S.-led occupation.
Sergio Vieira de Mello, 55 years old, was a diplomatic troubleshooter in hot spots around the world. He was appointed the U.N. special representative to Iraq in late May in what was to be a four-month assignment.
All the national flags that ring the U.N. headquarters' entrance in New York were removed from their poles after the announcement of his death. The blue and white U.N. flag was lowered to half staff.
A month after he was appointed, Mr. Vieira de Mello said the U.N. found itself in a "bizarre situation" in Iraq, playing second fiddle to two of its own member countries -- the U.S. and Britain.
The Brazilian-born diplomat had said the top of his agenda was to consult Iraqi leaders and opinion makers "to make sure that the interests of the Iraqi people come first" in rebuilding their country.
The Iraq posting capped a career as the U.N.'s crisis point man, sent to conflict zones from Kosovo to Cyprus to East Timor to help end the bloodshed and rebuild in the aftermath. Since September, he served as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, taking leave from the post to serve in Baghdad.
There, he had to rely on both diplomacy and tough talk as the U.N. tried to find its place after the Iraqi war came close to rendering it obsolete. He had to work with the U.S., even while distinguishing the world body from the occupation, unpopular with many Iraqis.
The U.N. role in postwar Iraq was a major issue during the intense Security Council negotiations on a resolution lifting sanctions and authorizing the U.S. and Britain to administer the country until a democratic government is established. Under pressure from France, Russia and Germany -- which opposed the war -- the secretary-general's special representative was given "independent responsibilities" but at the same time told to work "intensively" with the U.S., Britain and Iraqi officials in reconstruction and setting up a new administration.
The U.N. distributes humanitarian aid and is developing programs aimed at boosting Iraq's emerging free press, justice system and monitoring of human rights. The U.S. failed to win the backing of the U.N. Security Council before it invaded Iraq on March 20, and since major fighting ended in April, the coalition has been reluctant to allow the U.N. to play a large role.
Sergio Vieira de Mello
In his last interview published before his death, Mr. Vieira de Mello sympathized with Iraqi resentment at having foreign troops on their soil.
"It is traumatic. It must be one of the most humiliating periods in their history. Who would like to see their country occupied? I would not like to see foreign tanks in Copacabana," he told the Brazilian newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo in an interview published Monday.
Throughout his tenure in Baghdad, he took pains to remind everybody that the U.N. would be in the country long after U.S. forces leave and insisted that the world body -- not the U.S.-led coalition -- should control the spending of Iraqi oil revenues.
"We're truly in a unique situation here," he said of the occupation. "By the usual U.N. standards, this is at best a bizarre situation."
Mr. Vieira de Mello joined the U.N. High Commission for Refugees in 1969, serving in Bangladesh in 1971, when it became independent. He also dealt with refugees in Cyprus after the 1974 Turkish invasion.
He spent three years in charge of UNHCR operations in Mozambique during the civil war that followed independence from Portugal in 1975, and three more in military-ruled Peru.
He became senior political adviser to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon between 1981 and 1983, covering the period when Israel invaded. In the early 1990s, he was in Cambodia and then in disintegrating Yugoslavia. In 1996, he was made assistant high commissioner for refugees. Two years later, he moved to New York to become undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs soon after Kofi Annan became secretary-general.
Mr. Vieira de Mello later became a special U.N. envoy in Kosovo following the U.S.-led bombing raids that broke Serbian control of the province in 1999. He gained widespread praise for overseeing East Timor's three-year transition to independence after Indonesia withdrew in 1999.
Mr. Vieira de Mello was divorced and had two sons. His mother lives in Rio de Janeiro.