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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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