Laura Dolci

Secretary of the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council. Widow of Jean-Selim Kanaan, where he had been deployed by the UN Office for Project Services to work as Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq.

Laura Dolci, Jean-Selim and their son
Jean-Selim in front of helicopter
Jean-Selim delivering UN aid

How were you affected by the Canal Hotel attack, as a UN staff member? Did it make you rethink what you did or where you worked?

In the terrorist attack against the UN Headquarters in Baghdad on 19 August 2003, I lost Jean-Selim Kanaan, my 33-year-old husband and father of our newly born son. We had met in Bosnia, and then moved together to Kosovo and later to New York, fiercely in love and sharing the same values and love for the blue flag. With him and our colleagues, a piece of me also died on that tragic day. Continuing to work for the UN was a difficult choice for me, but one that has helped me give purpose and meaning in the face of that heinous criminal act.


Twenty years later, what does the attack mean to you and your work?

The 19 August is engraved in every cell of my body. It is part of me and the life of our family. It means a child who grew up without knowing his father. That 2-ton bomb brutally maimed our family, but we held together, inspired by Jean-Selim's sacrifice, and we carried on, giving meaning to our existence and holding high the values of humanity and justice, at home and at work.


What does the attack and the UN’s response convey to the world today?

That the world is complex, with new threats emerging. Yet, this is a great profession, and I am happy to see that the legacy of Sergio and his colleagues continues to inspire the new generation of UN civil servants in the field. I hope, however, that this twentieth anniversary will also be an occasion for the UN family to reflect on how best to operate in today's complex scenarios. I hope the UN flag will regain its brightness. We need a stronger UN, negotiating for peace, mediating to prevent and stop conflicts. Our fallen colleagues would want just that.