International Day Of Solidarity With Detained And Missing Staff Members
Every year on March 25th, the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members commemorates the anniversary of the abduction of Alec Collett. He was kidnapped by an armed gunman in 1985. Collett, a former British journalist, was kidnapped at gunpoint while working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Collett’s body wasn’t found until 2009.
More recently, in 2018, 16 UN staff members were kidnapped or abducted. All of them were released. In 2019, 21 UN staff members were arrested or in detention. Five of them were held without any formal charges. Kidnap victims are held on average for 12 days. However, Vincent Cochetel, a worker with a UN refugee agency was held captive for 317 days in 1998.
These attacks on humanitarian workers often take place in unstable environments. Political motivation is believed to be the primary reason for such kidnappings.
The United Nations was founded in 1945. Currently, nearly 100,000 UN staff members are active in different countries. Of those staff members, 3,500 brave men and women have lost their lives while working with the organization. The 1990s were especially difficult. During this decade, more lives were lost than in the previous four decades combined. The UN began to realize that the more active they became, the more their staff would become targeted.
Since 1985, the UN has marked the anniversary of the abduction of Alec Collett. In 1993, the UN established the Convention on the Safety of the United Nations and Associated Personnel. The UN General Assembly adopted this Convention in 1994. At that time, the UN also declared March 25th as International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members.