We provide a safety & security policy framework

Policies facilitate decision-making & ensure cohesion within the UNSMS

In developing new security policies, planning and coordinating with partners is a key element of the work of UNDSS. UNDSS elaborates all security policies, covering all aspects of security management, in consultation with all United Nations Security Management System (UNSMS) organizations that are stakeholders.

Photo of a meeting.

©UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Infographic depicting the UNDSS Policy Making diagram.


How are security policies developed?

Security policies are initiated, developed and reviewed by the Inter-Agency Security Management Network (IASMN), a specialized network of the High Level Committee on Management (HLCM). The Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security chairs the IASMN, composed of the senior security managers of all organizations represented in the United Nations Security Management System (UNSMS). Following the IASMN’s consideration and approval of security policies, the HLCM either approves or decides on the IASMN’s recommendation directly or recommends the endorsement of the UNSMS policies for the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB’s) approval. Policies are circulated after being approved by the HLCM/CEB. Therefore, they are UN system-wide policies endorsed at the highest level of the United Nations system. We usually refer to these policies as “UNSMS policies”.

The Security Policy Manual: a robust policy framework for security operations

The Security Policy Manual (SPM) constitutes a solid policy framework for enabling the conduct of UN operations while ensuring the safety and security of UN personnel.

The Security Policy Manual contains a series of security policies that guide all actors within the United Nations Security Management System (UNSMS), including UNDSS.

There are four essential policies for any security decision maker in the United Nations system:


The Applicability Policy

This policy identifies those who fall under the scope of the United Nations Security Management System (UNSMS) and are covered by United Nations security arrangements. Those covered include internationally and locally recruited personnel, their eligible family members, interns, United Nations Volunteers and consultants for United Nations entities. In practical terms, this means that any individual who has signed a direct contractual agreement with one of the UNSMS entities falls under the UNSMS in accordance with this policy.

In the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) or the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPA)-led missions, individually deployed police and military personnel are covered by the UNSMS. The security of troops deployed with their contingents and police in Formed Police Units, are covered by separate mechanisms. Individuals recruited locally and hired on an hourly basis are excluded from this policy as are any family members of individually deployed military or police personnel.

The policy on Security Risk Management (SRM)

The SRM policy outlines the concept and principles which guide all decisions related to security within the United Nations Security Management System (UNSMS).

The SRM process is a structured and risk-based decision-making tool. It guides the process for the identification and assessment of the threats to United Nations personnel, assets and operations in a Designated Area. It then identifies measures and procedures to reduce the level of associated risk in order to enable program delivery within acceptable levels of risk. The process also includes a structured decision-making model for acceptable risk, which balances security risk with programme criticality.

Key policy documents


Framework of Accountability for UNSMS

The Framework of Accountability provides details on the various roles, responsibilities and accountability related to security decision making from the Secretary-General to the individual staff member. It also provides the architecture for decision-making related to security. In the United Nations, the decision-making for day to day decisions related to security is decentralized to the field, generally to the most senior United Nations representative, who therefore holds the responsibility of Designated Official for Security (DO).

The DO is accountable to the Secretary-General, through the Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security, and is responsible for the security of United Nations personnel, premises and assets in the Designated Area. The Secretary-General delegates to the DO the requisite authority to take decisions, subject to review of the Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security.

The DO is assisted by a Security Management Team (SMT), composed of all representatives of the United Nations Security Management System (UNSMS) organizations in the country or Designated Area, a Security team led by a Principle Security Adviser and Chief Security Adviser or Security Adviser depending on the size and complexity of the area.

The Programme Criticality Framework

This is a mandatory policy of the Organization endorsed by the High Level Committee on Management (HLCM) and the Policy Committee. Its application is crucial to ensure integrated security decision-making in an area. The aim of the Programme Criticality Framework is to assess programmatic priorities in changing or volatile security situations. The responsibility for Programme Criticality lies with the senior United Nations representative in the country responsible for programmes (i.e., the Resident Coordinator or Special Representative of the Secretary-General).

Programme Criticality assessments are also recommended as preparatory measures in those countries with unpredictable or rapidly changing security environments. Such proactive assessments can facilitate rapid decision-making if the security risks are suddenly elevated. Once a certain UN program is assessed to a certain level of criticality, it is then possible to see what level of risk the UN can accept in order to implement it. Find out more about Programme Criticality at the United Nations.


Secretary-General António Guterres, protected by UN Security Service Officers, is on his way to the General Assembly Hall during the General Assembly's seventy-fourth general debate.

Secretary-General António Guterres, protected by UN Security Service Officers, is on his way to the General Assembly Hall during the General Assembly's seventy-fourth general debate. ©UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe


The Secretary-General's report on safety and security: a comprehensive snapshot of the security environment

The annual report of the Secretary-General (A/73/392, A/73/392/CORR.1, A/73/392/CORR.2) on "safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel" describes the global security environment, the security challenges facing United Nations personnel and how the United Nations responds to such challenges.

It presents an analysis of emerging security trends and their implications for United Nations personnel. It highlights the role of the UNDSS in delivering and strengthening safety and security measures, which in turn allows the United Nations a seamless delivery of its programmes across the globe. The report includes statistical trends on security incidents affecting United Nations personnel. Produced every year and released in the fall, the Secretary-General’s report precedes the annual General Assembly resolution on Safety and Security of UN and associated personnel.