By Patricia Galves Derolle*
“It is more difficult to organize a peace than to win a war; but the fruits of victory will be lost if the peace is not organised” – Aristotle
Choosing one single most important influential person in my life was a very difficult task, because many people, especially from my family, influenced me positively. Although my family is very important to me, I chose a person who, with his ambitious personality, influences me every day, in many aspects, so to find ways to develop cooperation among countries and also understand why wars still occur in the world: Mr. Sérgio Vieira de Mello.
Unfortunately deceased, the Brazilian and international civil servant was a very significant person within the United Nations. He took part in some of the Organization’s most memorable achievements. Firstly, I must mention his efforts in Mozambique and in East-Timor where in these countries his background as a Brazilian and, consequently, a Portuguese speaking person, helped him understand both the population’s needs and the government limitations. His charisma was such that all levels of the society were touched by it, and this aptitude, in my opinion, is essential for a respected diplomat.
In Cambodia, I admired his courage when he managed to have an appointment with Khmer Rouge in order to allow greater participations of the political group in the peace talks and in the rebuilding of the country. His skills as a negotiator and his determination on changing the Cambodian’s scenario were impressive and I am sure that no other person would have acted better than him. Even though his efforts towards neutrality and his willingness to talk even to ruthless regimes were controversial, I believe that the United Nations, and the countries involved, only benefited from such behaviour. Indeed, the alienation of a party to a conflict has, throughout the 20th Century, proven to be a constant factor of destabilization and worsening of wars.
With a very strong character, Sérgio Vieira de Mello was very committed to the United Nations’ charter and principles and never gave in to pressures from superpower nations or to pre-conceived ideas. The balance of power among nations does not always allow supranational organizations to act the way they should, because unilateral political or economic interests tend to prevail. The job of a UN diplomat requires, therefore, a delicate and difficult balancing act between those policies which powerful nations attempt to impose and those which are actually in the interest of civilians who are victims of the “scourge of war”. The work of the unforgettable Brazilian civil servant has helped to change my outlook on life because he himself was a master of such balancing act: he was, indeed, one of the very few diplomats who managed to shape the actions of the most influential countries in a way that, as much as possible, was subordinated to the ideals which constitute the founding principles of the UN Charter.
Brazil, an emerging country that has always contributed to spread peace to the international community, was very proud to have Mr. de Mello as a significant person at the multilateral level. The Brazilian diplomacy, shocked by his tragic death in Baghdad, has been making efforts to raise awareness about his work, specially in Geneva his former home, and about the lessons that we should learn from him. I myself was able to witness the profound impact that Mr. de Mello had on those who had a close contact with him. Therefore, in my modest opinion, I think that his influence is good not only to people that intend to pursue an international career, but to people that also want to change the current world’s status quo.
* Patricia Galves Derolle é graduada e pós-graduada em Relações Internacionais. Já estagiou na Missão do Brasil junto à União Europeia, em Bruxelas, na Missão do Brasil junto à ONU, em Genebra, já trabalhou no Escritório de Representação do Itamaraty em São Paulo e na Organização Internacional para Transportes Terrestres (IRU) em Genebra. Atualmente, é Advisory Board Member da revista digital Modern Diplomacy e fundadora do site e-Internacionalista. Contato: firstname.lastname@example.org