Statement by Mr. Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director, UNEP

Speaking notes for the Executive Director of UNEP,

Mr. Klaus Toepfer, on the occasion of the opening of the

Sergio Vieira de Mello United Nations Library at Nairobi, Wednesday 30 June 2004.


Ambassador Vera Pedrosa,

His Excellency Mr. Joaquim Augusto Whitaker Salles and members of the Brazilian Delegation,

Ambassadors and members of the UNEP Committee of Permanent Representatives,

Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT

Mr. Ibrahima Fall, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region

Mr. Paul Andre de la Porte, UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya

Mr. Lovemore Munlo, Deputy Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha,

Dear colleagues,

It is a great privilege for me and for all the United Nations family, not only here in Nairobi but also around the world, to celebrate today the renaming of the UNEP Library and Documentation Centre.

The new name of the library – the Sergio Vieira de Mello United Nations Library – honours the memory of Sergio Vieira de Mello and all those who have given their lives over the years in the service of the United Nations.


I. Sergio Vieira de Mello

As you know, Sergio de Mello was the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq. He was in his office on 19 August 2003 when a massive bomb demolished the UN headquarters at the Al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad.

The blast killed Sergio de Mello and 21 other UN staff members, and injured many, many more – both UN staff and innocent Iraqi citizens.

Here in East Africa we are no strangers to the terrible consequences of terrorism. Our memories are still fresh with the horror of 8 August 1998 when over 250 people were killed, and a further 5,000 injured, when bombs were detonated at the United States Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam

I also mourn our UN and other colleagues who died in a helicopter crash in the line of duty in Sierra Leone yesterday.

On behalf of the United Nations family based here in Nairobi, I would like to express our solidarity with the victims of all these tragedies. So that we may never forget, we have a Garden of Remembrance just yards from where we stand today. I hope you can find a few minutes to visit this garden today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Sergio de Mello was an outstanding example of dedication and courage in pursuit of the goals of the United Nations. He worked for justice, peace and reconciliation in all the parts of the world, bringing hope to people from Mozambique to Cambodia, from East Pakistan to South Sudan, from Peru to the Great Lakes Region, from East Timor to Iraq.

His sense of public service, his willingness to assist the most vulnerable, his desire to empower others and to contribute to the economic development of the countries where he served inspired us to ask to re-name this library the Sergio Vieira de Mello United Nations Library at Nairobi.


II. Unified UN Library in Nairobi

However, let me say here that we are not just giving this library a new name. Over the past several months, thanks to the commitment of many of you here today, this library has undergone a complete transformation, not just physically but in function.

Historically, we have had a number of libraries based here at Gigiri: UNEP, UN-HABITAT, UNIC, and other smaller repositories of material to service the many UN entities whose country or regional offices are based here.

What we have tried to do – and are succeeding in – is to create a coherent, unified library service – a proper UN Library, here in Nairobi.

I am pleased to say that this effort has the support of the UN General Assembly. A draft resolution was adopted last month by the Committee on Information supporting the creation of a UN Library in Nairobi and urging all United Nations offices in Nairobi to participate in and support this venture.


III. Bringing people to the UN, bridging the digital divide

There are many reasons for doing this. Improving library services here in Nairobi is an effective response to the Secretary-General’s call to bring people closer to the United Nations.

It is helping the work of all the UN entities working here. It is enhancing the status and visibility of Nairobi as a major UN duty station. And it is providing a valuable and much-needed service to the local community.

I am proud to see how the library has become the mirror of United Nations activities here. Despite the new climate of heightened security, this library remains open to the general public for research.

Through guided tours, and introductions to specialists from all the sister agencies based here, the library is one of our best interfaces with Kenyan citizens, as well as our many visitors from around the world.

And, in the context of the global digital divide, when access to information, computers and other electronic resources out of the reach of millions of Africans, it is appropriate and important that we provide general access to the library’s computers.

This service has been considerably expanded over the past months, and is very heavily used every day. I urge you to visit the new cyber space, and also to see the many refurbishments that I am sure our chief librarian Mr. Bounda will be happy to show you.

Ladies and gentlemen, the motto of this library is ‘Information for development: bringing information closer to people’.

It is a tool for education and empowerment. Information and knowledge management are fundamental for sustainable development, especially in the less developed parts of the world.


IV. Partnership for development

The spirit of partnership that has supported the vision of an enhanced library that we are celebrating today is, I think, a practical example of the spirit of the eighth Millennium Development Goal of global partnerships for development.

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank the United Nations Federal Credit Union for their kind donation of $15,000, and all the heads of agencies here who have participated in this venture, in particular Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka and Mr. Paul Andre de la Porte.

Dear Ms. Pedrosa, Head of the Brazilian Delegation,

Please convey our special message to the people of Brazil in general and to the family of Sergio Vieira de Mello in particular. Kindly inform them how we are honouring the memory of one of your country’s eminent sons.

The Sergio Vieira de Mello United Nations Library is a very important working tool for all of us, and I hope that in due course it can become a recognized centre of excellence in training librarians from developing countries.

I encourage everyone here today to continue to support this venture which is, I believe, a symbol of pride for all the UN family in Nairobi.

Thank you.