Remembering Sergio Vieiro de Mello


Five years ago today an explosive laden truck pulled rammed into the Baghdad headquarters of the United Nations killing 22 people, including the head of mission Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Sergio was a legend at the United Nations. His extraordinary talents as a peacemaker and diplomat touched the lives of millions of people around the world. Early in his career, he single handily negotiated (with the Khmer Rouge) for the repatriation of thousands of Cambodian refugees. From 1999 to 2002 he oversaw the building-from-scratch of the newest country on earth, East Timor. His great success at nation building led Secretary General Kofi Annan to appoint him as head of mission in Iraq where he would apply his gifts as a peacemaker, humanitarian and troubleshooter to the world’s most complex conflict. Sadly, a terrorist’s bomb took his life only a few months into his mission. Iraq descended into chaos not long thereafter.

Sergio may be gone, but his legacy lives on. The Pulitzer Prize winning author Samantha Power wrote a book about him this year. An HBO documentary and a feature film (by the director of Hotel Rwanda) are both on the way. And now, there is a new blog on the block to keep Sergio’s vision of peacemaking fresh and build a movement for a smart foreign policy built upon the values he embodied as an international civil servant.

Chasing the Flame blog (which shares the title of Power’s book) is written by Sergio’s friends, admirers, and assorted foreign policy experts. Annick Stevenson, Sergio’s former spokesperson, opens the blog.

Imagine a world in which everybody would speak to his/her neighbor, would listen to his/her views and would try to understand them, would, more generally, always wish to know the will of others before deciding, would negotiate before envisaging any military reaction, would never ever view war as the solution to any conflict whatever the reasons may be…A world in which war would become impossible because it would too difficult to think of killing someone you share so much with. This world existed. It was in the mind of Sergio Vieira de Mello. This is how he conceived it and lived it, as much as he could, or at least as a matter of principle.

Add Chasing the Flame to your blogrolls and RSS feeds. Sergio’s vision of diplomacy and constructive dialogue is as urgent and relevant to American foreign policy as it ever was.

(Image credit: SergioVM Foundation)