The Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations dedicated its main conference room to the memory of Minister-Counsellor Glyn Berry on June 14, 2006, the date he would have turned 60. Mr. Berry was killed on January 15 while serving as Canada's Senior Political Director at the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan.
Glyn Berry was a Canadian diplomat of the highest calibre, with a long and distinguished career in the Foreign Service that included postings to Oslo, Washington, Havana, London, and Islamabad.
Born in Northhampton, UK, Glyn was passionate about politics, diplomacy, history, Welsh rugby, singing, and above all his family and friends. A maverick and an adventurer at heart, he had a taste for the unknown and brought a unique mixture of warmth, wit, and worldly wisdom to every posting.
At the Mission of Canada to the United Nations, Glyn headed the Political Section and led Canada’s efforts to promote the international responsibility to protect. As chair of the working group of the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, he was at the forefront of initiatives to improve peacekeeping.
Here, and in Afghanistan, he helped us understand that the long-term challenge is peace-building, the painstaking task of helping fragile states find their way to stability and security. Glyn Berry’s commitment to the ideals of the United Nations is an inspiration to us all as we continue his work.
The Mission's main conference room, where Mr. Berry regularly conducted Canadian diplomacy, is now the “Glyn Berry Conference Room” as a tribute to his service to the Government of Canada and to the pursuit of peace.
At the June 14 dedication, Ambassador Allan Rock gave the following address.
Address by Ambassador Allan Rock
Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations at the Glyn Berry Conference Room Dedication
New York, 14 June, 2006
It’s a measure of Glyn’s popularity and the breadth of his contacts that there are so many of you here today from so many missions and so many parts of the United Nations. This is obviously a day of special meaning for us here at the Canadian Mission, and it’s on behalf of everybody at the Canadian Mission that I express our warmest welcome and also our sincere thanks for being here.
Glyn Berry was born on June 14, 1946. It’s terribly sad that today, instead of celebrating the sixth decade of his life, we are commemorating the six month anniversary of his death.
We are drawn here today, not only out of respect for his memory, but also by a desire to see that his commitment and his work are remembered by others. Glyn Berry was an exceptional person, and we believe that there are important lessons to be drawn from his example.
Glyn joined Canada’s Department of External Affairs as it was then called in 1977, after graduating with his doctorate in political science.
During his early years in Ottawa, he helped shape Canada’s trade, economic and security relations with the United States and with Europe.
His first assignment abroad was to the Canadian Embassy in Norway. He was then posted to Washington, and immediately afterwards to Havana, Cuba — a sequence that I suspect appealed to his sense of humour, as well as rounding out his political experience.
In 1993 Glyn went to England to serve as Counsellor to our High Commission in London. But it was really at his last posting before coming here where he found his true passion. He joined our High Commission in Pakistan, made his first forays into Afghanistan, and began to study the ethnic and the tribal groups in that challenging area.
After Pakistan, Glyn came here, to New York, to a life and a lifestyle vastly different from what he had become used to in South Asia.
His varied experiences had prepared him well for the tasks he faced at the United Nations. He turned his energies to strengthening the framework of collective peace and security — indeed, the very daily work to which all of you are so committed.
As you know, Glyn was a key member of our Mission’s team. He headed the Political Section, and perhaps he became best known outside the Mission for his work as chair of the Working Group of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. Those of you who attended meetings that he chaired know that his steady hand produced common ground on sometimes difficult issues including regulations, management and oversight in peacekeeping.
He truly played a key role in promoting the idea that in today's world, the principal challenge is not just peacekeeping, it is peacebuilding, the painstaking task of helping war-torn countries rebuild their economies and strengthen vital state institutions such as the courts and police forces.
Of course, we remember Glyn as not only a talented colleague, but as a valued friend. His wry sense of humour and his sense of irony lightened even the most pressured moments. There were many occasions in this very room when he brought us all back to earth with a shrewd observation reminding us of the real purpose of our work.
And at a time in his career when he could have sought the easy comforts of a desk job in Ottawa, Glyn left New York for the rigors of Afghanistan, one of the most difficult foreign policy challenges of our day, so utterly essential to the security and the stability of Eurasia and indeed of the entire world.
It was a tough assignment, but Glyn volunteered for it, because he believed in what we collectively are doing in Afghanistan — helping to rebuild a shattered state — and he believed he had something special to offer.
I remember as though it were yesterday, when he came into my office and told me that as head of mission I simply had to approve something he had already applied for. Of course, without knowing what it was, I agreed immediately. And when he told me what it was, I withdrew my agreement.
But he was as excited as a schoolboy at the thought that he would go on that mission, and his principal preoccupation was that he’d be beaten out in the competition by someone younger. And he spent a lot of effort in shape to pass the physical and the medical exam. You can imagine my shock when at 6:30 one morning, I turned the corner out of Central Park, huffing and puffing down 59th toward home, and who should I see coming toward me, and running, obviously in great difficulty and physical distress, a guy who’d taken up running for the first time at the age of 59, in order to pass the physical to go to Afghanistan. Now that’s commitment.
He was no idealistic boy scout. He wasn’t just charging out to fix the world. We were all well aware of his seasoned and sometimes caustic realism. But there was also a deep compassion for the people whose lives he sought to improve, and his work in Afghanistan, by all reports, drew upon all his resources of energy, and courage, and commitment.
It seems to me that he demonstrated the kind of versatility that 21st century diplomats are going to need. The capacity to put on a suit and tie or formal dress, to negotiate patiently and politely in a conference room like this one; and then if necessary to put on a flak jacket and a helmet, and to parley with tribal leaders or warlords in remote locations in difficult terrain.
His life and work illustrated what we like to think of in Canada as the future of our diplomacy, founded on the principle that people are the priority, that true security is human security and freedom from fear.
Truly, he showed us that the foreign service is more than just a career, and that our individual efforts can add up to something worthwhile, something noble, something that changes lives for the better and brings honour and distinction to the country we are privileged to serve.
Glyn’s widow Valerie and their two sons, Rhys and Gareth, could not attend today. But Valerie sent a message that I want to read to you:
"I know that Glyn would be very honoured if he knew that you have chosen his 60th birthday on which to pay tribute to his work. But he would much rather be in your company, greeting old friends and colleagues, and debating about the issues of the day, the first-rate work being achieved through the U.N. and the many challenges that still face the decision-makers and leaders of the world. There seems to be an endless stream of new natural or man-made disasters and conflicts, and there is much to be accomplished by the international community. Glyn was privileged to be part of that process. I know he would be grateful to know that his work will continue.”
Glyn’s father was Welsh, and he identified closely with that proud heritage. Let me conclude with a Welsh proverb that I’m sure Glyn would have appreciated: "If you want to be a leader, then be a bridge."
Glyn knew that at the United Nations, leadership means helping others to achieve their aims, that only when we all succeed does the UN truly succeed.
Those of us at the Canadian Mission hope that in future, those meeting here, in the Glyn Berry Conference Room, will be inspired by his example to build bridges between nations.