UN honors Sen. Kennedy as 'a tireless advocate for refugees'

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations refugee chief today paid tribute to Edward Kennedy, the United States senator who passed away yesterday at the age of 77 after battling brain cancer, lauding his support for the Organization and his efforts to defend the rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres said the life of the late senator and brother of former President John F. Kennedy is a testimony to the difference a single policy-maker can make.

“Year after year, conflict after conflict, Senator Kennedy kept the plight of refugees on the international and national agenda, promoting policies and laws that saved and shaped countless lives,” Mr. Guterres said in a statement. “The world is diminished by his passing. But we will always have his example to inspire us.”

Sec.-Gen. Ban Ki-moon and Sen. Edward Kennedy in Washington, D.C., in 2007. (UN/Mark Garten)

Sec.-Gen. Ban Ki-moon and Sen. Edward Kennedy in Washington, D.C., in 2007. (UN/Mark Garten)

The High Commissioner noted that throughout his life, Senator Kennedy was “a tireless advocate for refugees – among the most vulnerable people in the world.”

For nearly five decades in the Senate, Kennedy fought for legislation improving the treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers and reducing discrimination against them, Guterres said.

“His efforts have benefited millions of individuals from all over the world forced to seek shelter and protection outside their homelands.

“He did what he did from the conviction that it was the right thing to do – and wholly in line with the great American tradition of providing help and hope to those who have suffered from injustice and war,” Guterres said

“Few were stronger supporters of the UN, and in my visits to Capitol Hill I always benefited from his wise counsel,” Mr. Ban said in a statement issued in New York.

“He was not just a friend to those of power and high position, but even more to those who had neither. He was a voice for those who would otherwise go unheard, a defender of the rights and interests of the defenseless.”

The Secretary-General added that those who feel that government can too often be faceless and inhumane did not know Senator Kennedy, who “stood for the best in all of us.”

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters, Mr. Ban recalled his personal memories of the US legislator and said that “what he has been doing as a person, as a senator, as a public servant… it will be long remembered in the minds, in the hearts of many people, particularly those people whose human rights have been abused.”

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