Secretary-General Concerned about Security of United Nations Personnel, Humanitarian Workers in Increasingly Challenging Environments

24 October 2013
ORG/1574

Secretary-General Concerned about Security of United Nations Personnel, Humanitarian Workers in Increasingly Challenging Environments

24 October 2013
Press Release
ORG/1574
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Concerned about Security of United Nations Personnel,

 

Humanitarian Workers in Increasingly Challenging Environments

 

“United Nations personnel serve in an increasingly dangerous environment and encounter a variety of threats not previously encountered in the history of the Organization,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a report to the General Assembly released today.

Citing the safety and security of United Nations personnel as his highest priority, the Secretary-General also appeals to Member States and host Governments to support all measures of safety and security to improve the operational environment for United Nations personnel and humanitarian workers.

“Diverse security threats against United Nations personnel remain acute,” the Secretary-General says.

The report, “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel”, contains an analysis of security incidents that affected United Nations personnel in 2012, as well as data and observations on incidents in the first six months of 2013.

Significant security incidents affecting United Nations personnel in 2012 showed an increase to 1,793 compared to 1,759 in 2011.  Violent act was the primary cause of death or injuries in 2012, with 20 of the 35 deaths attributed to this, while 15 were killed in safety-related incidents.  In 2011, 50 per cent of deaths and 60 per cent of injuries resulted from a single car bomb attack on the United Nations building in Abuja, Nigeria, on 26 August.

The Secretary-General also expresses concern for the disconcerting rise in abductions, which “reflect the dangerous environments in which United Nations personnel serve”.  Thirty-one United Nations personnel were abducted in 2012, compared to 21 in 2011, 12 in 2010 and 22 in 2009.  Recent data indicate that the number of abductions continues to rise.  During the first six months of 2013, 15 United Nations personnel were abducted.  Of these, 12 personnel were abducted in Syria.

The increasing asymmetrical nature of global conflicts together with the frequent use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide bombings in increasingly challenging environments in which United Nations personnel are obliged to operate, plays a critical role in increasing security threats.

“Direct attacks against the United Nations are a distressing phenomenon that has developed over the last decade and these attacks are becoming more intense and more sophisticated,” the Secretary-General states.

The Secretary-General refers to the attack by extremists on the United Nations compound in Mogadishu, Somalia, in June 2013, which killed eight people, including a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) staff member, and the attack against the International Organization for Migration (IOM) office in Afghanistan.  IOM is a member of the United Nations Security Management System.

“The security of the United Nations and humanitarian personnel is firstly, the responsibility of the host Government,” the Secretary-General says.  He calls upon all Member States to step up efforts to ensure the safety and security of United Nations and humanitarian personnel who are serving on their territories.

He also appeals to host Governments and Member States for their support in bringing to justice perpetrators of crimes and acts of violence against United Nations and humanitarian personnel.

“There can be no impunity for anyone who carries out acts of violence against United Nations personnel.”

In addition to an analysis of security challenges encountered during the reporting period, the report also provides an update on measures and initiatives taken by the Department of Safety and Security and the United Nations Security Management System in continuing efforts to mitigate risks and strengthen security capabilities to protect United Nations personnel.

Reforms and improvements implemented by the United Nations Security Management System have allowed the United Nations to introduce a “sophisticated security risk management system”, and increase the Organization’s training for security personnel as well as staff members.  Using the risk management techniques, the Organization has been able to adopt the model of “Stay and Deliver” which allows United Nations field operations to continue to deliver critical services in high-risk areas.

Moreover, the Department of Safety and Security has beefed up efforts in managing hostage incidents, with the promulgation of a policy on hostage incident management as well as the establishment of a network of specially trained staff who are available for immediate deployment.

Of particular concern to the Secretary-General are locally recruited staff, who “represent the great majority of United Nations personnel serving in the field and suffer the most from insecurity and acts of violence”.  He acknowledges the support of the General Assembly to improve the security of local staff, but says that more could be done to ensure their safety and security. 

He urges all Member States that have not already done so “to ratify or accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel”.

The report, “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/68/489), was requested by the General Assembly in December 2012, to be presented at its sixty-eighth session.

For further information, contact Suchada Kulawat, Policy Officer, Department of Safety and Security, tel.: +1 917 601 4822, e-mail: kulawat@un.org.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.