UNDSS provides leadership and coordination of the UNSMS


UNDSS leads the Security Management System (UNSMS), which supports 54 United Nations entities and is represented through the Inter-Agency Security Management Network (IASMN).


UNDSS leads and coordinates security operations and requirements

Given the nature of our work and the challenging security environment in which the UN operates, a strong leadership and coordination mechanism is vital to enabling safe programme delivery. UNDSS provides critical advice and rapid decision-making capacity on UNSMS policy and operational issues to UNSMS members, senior United Nations management and personnel, including through leadership of the Crisis Operations Group, and/or Executive Group on Security.


On the ground

On the ground, UNDSS coordinates all necessary requirements to enable personnel to deliver the UN mandate safely, be it about training, programme assessments in support of the Security Risk Management (SRM) process, budget preparation, or security logistic.



As the Chair of the Inter-Agency Security Training Working Group, we promote cooperation and interagency standardization for safety and security learning programmes. Our aim is to maximize reach to all personnel while reducing costs and timelines for the UN system at large. As part of this effort, we established the Competency Based Learning (CBL) model as the standard for safety and security programmes.


Host Government liaison

The primary responsibility for the security and protection of United Nations personnel rests with the host Government. UNDSS leads host Government security collaboration for the UNSMS and reinforces the capacity of the host Government to fulfil these obligations. This means that UNDSS liaises with host Government police, military and foreign ministries (or similar) to facilitate cooperation and adherence to requirements, and to ensure security support is provided to UN personnel on the ground in times of crisis.


Crisis Response

When security-related crises occur, UNDSS leads and coordinates crisis response and other emergency operational support, including 24/7 communications and monitoring, surge response, deployment of critical incident stress counsellors and support to the United Nations Operations and Crisis Centre (UNOCC).


The UNSMS: A holistic approach to security

The goal of the UNSMS is to provide a coordinated approach to security and enable the conduct of UN activities while ensuring the safety, security, and well-being of UN personnel, premises and assets. The UNSMS covers all UN departments and offices as well as UN Agencies, Funds, and Programmes, and four international organizations (ADB, EBRD, ICC, and IOM) that have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN, represented by the Department of Safety and Security. The UNSMS is currently made up of 54 entities, with representation ensured through the Inter-Agency Security Management Network (IASMN). UNDSS provides strategic advice and direction to the UNSMS on multi-disciplinary issues with security implications.



Saving Lives Together: A framework of cooperation with INGOs

The Saving Lives Together (SLT) initiative was created in recognition of the fact that the organisations of the UNSMS, International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) and Intergovernmental Organisations (IOs) face similar security challenges when operating in volatile environments. SLT was established to provide a framework to improve collaboration on common security concerns and enhance the safe delivery of humanitarian and development assistance. 

SLT is a series of recommendations aimed at enhancing security collaboration between the UNSMS organisations, INGOs and IOs. It recognises the collectively experienced security threats and the importance of collaboration to support the safe delivery of humanitarian and development assistance.

The objective of SLT is to enhance the ability of partner organisations to make informed decisions, manage risks and implement effective security arrangements to enable delivery of assistance and improve the security of personnel and continuity of operations.

Although SLT is a voluntary engagement by partner organisations, the success and effectiveness of the initiative is dependent on the commitment of all participating organisations to work collectively towards the mutual goal of improving the security of personnel and operations. Accordingly, organisations that wish to become SLT partner organisations must commit to the adoption and effective implementation of the principles, objectives and arrangements in the SLT Framework.

To this end, SLT partner organisations commit to:

  • Establish security collaboration arrangements
  • Share relevant security information
  • Cooperate on security training
  • Cooperate on security operational and logistics arrangements, where feasible
  • Identify resource requirements for enhancing security coordination between the UN, INGOs, and IOs, and advocate for their funding
  • Consult on common ground rules for humanitarian action

It is recognised that SLT partner organisations perceive and assess threats and vulnerabilities differently, accept different levels of risk, and implement security arrangements which they consider suitable for their organisation and operational conditions. SLT is designed to enhance and complement security risk management systems of SLT partner organisations, not substitute these systems and related arrangements.



Prior to 2005, security services to UN Secretariat personnel and operations were provided by several entities: the United Nations Security Coordinator’s Office (UNSECOORD), the Security and Safety Service (SSS) and the security elements within peacekeeping and special political missions. These are known as the security sections of a mission.

The establishment of UNDSS in 2005 established UNDSS, uniting UNSECOORD and SSS.  However, the security elements of peacekeeping and special political missions have remained separate, despite continuing to face similar challenges while operating in identical environments with limited security resources.  While these entities did coordinate and cooperate on security issues to a great extent, there continue to be areas of overlap, duplication, inefficiency and confusion.

The United Nations Secretariat has since turned its focus on the more effective use of security personnel, namely through the integration of UNDSS and field mission security personnel. UNDSS has taken action to integrate these various security service elements, through the United Nations Secretariat Safety and Security Integration Project (UNSSSIP).  The project addresses the management, human resources and financial challenges of integration, and  aims to achieve maximum effectiveness of security service delivery through better coordination of the Secretariat’s existing security workforce and resources.

The desired end state of the project is to enable one Secretariat department, UNDSS, to effectively provide:

  • Professional safety and security services required to enable the delivery of UN programmes and activities globally in the current and evolving environment;

  • Leadership, management and coordination for safety and security resources;

  • A professional, mobile flexible and global workforce with the requisite knowledge, skills and experience.

In pursuit of this goal, the Secretary-General conferred on UNDSS in December 2016, a range of authorities required to implement the integration, including management, human resources and financial arrangements. Meanwhile, UNDSS continues to work closely with the relevant departments to achieve the project’s desired end state.