Photo of a smiling boy in jacket and white shirt.
Sergio, age 8

Group of young men engaged in riotous activity: throw, kneel and run.
Students clash with riot police in Paris, 1968

Atop a war vehicle, one soldier in a beret holds a gun, another wearing a helmet, holds a flag.
Troops entering Dhaka, 1971

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

1948 Sergio Vieira de Mello was born in Rio de Janeiro on March 15.

1967 After graduating from the Liceu Franco-Brasileiro and following the military’s takeover of the country, Vieira de Mello left Brazil and moved to Europe, where his father was posted as a diplomat.

Paris, France

1968 Vieira de Mello arrived in Paris in May to begin his master’s degree work in philosophy at the University of Paris. (He would later receive two doctorate degrees—one in philosophy and one in human sciences—from the same school.) He joined his fellow students in the massive demonstrations and strikes that took place in Paris that year, and was expelled from France as a threat to national security after publishing an article in Combat.

Geneva, Switzerland

1969 Vieira de Mello began working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), where he would remain throughout most of his career. He would return to Geneva in 2002 as the new high commissioner for human rights.

Dhaka, Bangladesh

1971 War between India and Pakistan created an enormous refugee population numbering nearly ten million people. Vieira de Mello served at the UNHCR Mission in Dhaka, East Pakistan/Bangladesh for a year. The refugees eventually returned to what would become an independent Bangladesh.

Khartoum/Juba, Sudan

1973 Following the end of Sudan’s first civil war, which lasted for close to 20 years, millions of refugees remained displaced. Vieira de Mello worked as associate program officer at UNHCR’s South Sudan Operation in Khartoum/Juba.

Nicosia North, Cyprus

1974 After a Turkish invasion forced hundreds of thousands of Cypriots to flee their country, Vieira de Mello was stationed in Cyprus as the program officer and assistant representative at UNHCR’s Special Operation in Nicosia North.

A man in desert uniform and helmet holds his arm up, while another soldier holds a gun, more gun barrels are seen in the background.
Soldiers celebrate Mozambique’s independence from Portugal, 1975

Maputo, Mozambique

1975 Mozambique gained its independence from Portuguese colonialists, but years of civil war and famine had killed a million Mozambicans and left the land and the economy in ruins. Vieira de Mello worked for two years as the UNHCR’s deputy representative, helping with the country’s repatriation process. Mozambique would finally achieve political stability and economic growth following its 1992 peace accords, and Vieira de Mello would return to Maputo in 1996 as the UN deputy high commissioner.

Lima, Peru

1978 Vieira de Mello served as the UNHCR regional representative in Northern Latin America, Lima, Peru for two years.

An open truck, with the letters UN on the hood, rolls into a town; people line the streets.
UNIFIL in Lebanon, 1978


1981 Vieira de Mello traveled to Lebanon as the senior political advisor to the UN Interim Force (UNIFIL), a position he would continue to hold after Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. UNIFIL had been created in 1978 in order to confirm Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, restore peace and security and help the Lebanese government restore its authority in the region. In the early 1980s, UNIFIL also helped provide humanitarian assistance while the country was behind Israeli lines.

In a field, a red sign with skull and crossbones reads: ³Danger Mines!² in both English and Cambodian.
Cambodia today remains littered with mines

Two orthodox priests in white beards, hats and long cloaks stand in front of a man in camouflage clothing accompanied by two more men, one wearing a zip front jacket the other in a denim jacket.
Vieira de Mello heads up reconciliation at the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, 1999

Two dramatic buildings: with modern architecture: the lower spans across while the tall building stands adjacent.
UN Headquarters, New York, USA

Men wearing uniforms of blue shirts and dark slacks participate in a flag raising ceremony.
Independence Day celebration, East Timor, 2004

Crouching children play innocently, while smoke fills the air behind them.
Children play in bombed out Iraq, 2003

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

1991 As the head of UNHCR in Cambodia, Vieira de Mello oversaw one of the largest logistical operations ever undertaken by the organization: repatriating more than 300,000 Cambodians, at a rate of nearly 1,000 people per day. Devastated by more than 20 years of war and the Khmer Rouge, the country remained littered with land mines. While in Cambodia, Vieira de Mello also worked as the director of repatriation and director of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre.

Zagreb, Kosovo and the former Yugoslavia

1993 Vieira de Mello was sent to Zagreb as the special representative of the secretary-general for Yugoslavia and later as head of civil affairs of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serious fighting in Croatia had started in 1991, when Croatia and Slovenia declared themselves independent from Yugoslavia. Serbs living in Croatia, supported by the Yugoslav People's Army, opposed this move. The UNPROFOR, initially established as an interim arrangement to create the conditions of peace and security required for the settlement of the Yugoslav crisis, also began delivering humanitarian relief to civilians. Vieira de Mello would return to the former Yugoslavia in 1999, as the special representative of the secretary-general in Kosovo’s reconstruction process.

New York, the United States of America

1998 Vieira de Mello traveled to the United States to work for the undersecretary for humanitarian affairs at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Dili, East Timor

1999 After more than 20 years of Indonesian occupation, the former Portuguese colony of East Timor was trapped in a conflict with Indonesian rulers. The Timorese voted for independence, but pro-Indonesian militias launched a campaign of violence, killing and displacing up to 500,000 people before Indonesia and Portugal agreed to hand over power to the United Nations. In an unprecedented mandate from the UN, Vieira de Mello was called upon to be the special representative of the secretary-general and the transitional administrator in East Timor, exerting power as the territory’s “governor,” in charge of the international peacekeeping force as well as every aspect of civilian governance. To his success, he helped to establish the century’s first new nation.

Baghdad, Iraq

2003 Vieira de Mello took a four-month leave of absence from his position as the UN high commission for human rights in order to go to Iraq as a special representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan. While working on this delicate mission, he was tragically killed in a bombing attack on August 19, 2003.

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source: United Nations Department of Information

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