Vieira de Mello joined the United Nations in 1969 and would devote his life to the organization and its ideals. Known to most as simply 'Sergio', Vieira de Mello worked in some of the world's most volatile and distressed regions. His career spanned assignments in Lebanon, Peru, Bosnia, Sudan, Cambodia, Cyprus, Mozambique, East Timor and Iraq. Working mostly for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sergio achieved some astonishing successes. These achievements were not easily won. Sergio grew up with the UN, developing several guiding principles along the way.
Embracing the 'gray areas': Trying to bring ideals to reality required respect for the world's complexity. Sergio recognized that the world often refuses to present us with simple choices between 'good' and 'evil.' Viewing the world in shades of gray can be a source of great benefit but also great risk. As Samantha Power writes in Sergio, “as he brought Karadzic the latest edition of The New York Review of Books or scoured the shops of Belgrade for the perfect gift for Milosevic, he lost sight of the fact that he had grown silent on matters of principle and oblivious to the ways extremists were exploiting his determined neutrality to advance their own ends.”
Talking to the "unlike-minded": Sergio tried to convince and cajole, rather than command. As Power wrote in her biography of Vieira de Mello, a friend once teased Sergio that his autobiography would be titled My Friends, the War Criminals. Sergio’s willingness to engage with potential spoilers was concerning for many. He negotiated with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, drank wine with Ieng Sary and ultimately paved the way for the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Cambodian refugees. At the same time, he was largely silent on the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge.
Listening first: Sergio learned to listen first and act second, encouraging local involvement in UN decision-making. This principle was fundamental to Sergio's approach in East Timor where he oversaw that country’s transition to independence. This transition is seen as a rare UN success and it was hard won.
Centrality of human dignity: Sergio believed in the central importance of dignity to our lives. At times, he relied on this principle to make progress. On one occasion he recommended giving Serb smugglers employment certificates stating that they were consultants for the UN in order to convince them to bring blankets into Bosnian territory. "Money may not be enough." He noted, "Give them something morally different from what they get in their lives. Give them a sense of dignity."
These were just a few of the principles that guided Sergio as he traveled from place to place, crisis to crisis. When Sergio died he was serving as the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General to Iraq. He had managed to find a balance between pragmatism and idealism, principles and compromise. He was the UN's 'go to guy', having spent decades refining his approach. In the words of his friend and colleague Dennis McNamara, Sergio was, "one of the bright stars, maybe the brightest. He was the master magician, mediator, manager, massager of egos." This was the tragedy of August 19.
- Format: DVD [MOD]
- Rating: Not Rated
- Number of Discs: 1
- Run Time: 94:22 Minutes
- Region: 1
- Aspect Ratio: Widescreen
- Language: English
- Studio: HBO Archives
- DVD Release Date: February 15, 2012
- Genre: Documentary
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Couldn't get this DVD locally so sourced via HBO. Saw initally on TV and bought the DVD for my son as a xmas present. Hope it will inspire him to become a person who can make a difference and achieve great things on a global scale.
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The DVD is an account of what would be his last mission as UN High Commissioner for Refugees. With heart wrentching testimonials from the men that did what they could to save Sergio and an overview of the man's career fighting for the most vulnerable people in the world, "Sergio" is a valuable look into the world of humanitarianism through one of its brightest stars.