Early this evening we went to the ever-excellent Goethe Institute to watch a screening of ‘Sergio‘ to celebrate World Humanitarian Day. The 2009 documentary film is based on Pulitzer Prize-winner Samantha Power’s biography, Sergio: One Man’s Fight to Save the World, and revolves around the story of United Nations diplomat, Sergio Viera de Mello, who worked for the UN for more than 34 years and was ultimately killed in the Canal Hotel Bombing in Iraq on August 19, 2003. It’s an immensely touching account of the extraordinary career of a gifted, charismatic, committed example of all that is best about the United Nations. Juxtaposed and interspliced with this is a sadly chilling account of the bombing and of Viera de Mello’s lingering death, entombed in the ruins. One of the film’s revelations is that Viera de Mello, normally a cheerful, smiling man, was in a pensive state that day for the reason that he was about to make several speeches criticising the US occupiers in Iraq for being too brutal. Although the UN Mission and de Mello himself were there with the blessing of President Bush, he felt that they would otherwise risk seeming complicit, rather than maintaining the UN’s honourable traditional stance as objective and honest broker. What a terrible irony, then, that he should have been assassinated by a movement that saw no distinction between the US and the UN. The other interesting facet of de Mello’s philosophy is that, although he had a long spoon, he was prepared to sup with the devil. Samantha Power gave an eloquent justification of this approach in a TED talk you can see here. This echoes the views of Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s one-time special adviser and a key player in the Northern Ireland peace process, that, no matter how repugnant, if you want to find peace you must sooner or later open communication channels with your enemy.