UNDSS delivers specialized safety & security services

Whether it is physical security, threat analysis or close protection, UNDSS is developing the necessary expertise to stay ahead of the fast paced changes in the security environment.


Aviation is critical to the continuity and safe delivery of UN programmes. The Commercial Air Travel Safety Unit (CATSU) was created to provide 54 UN organizations and their staff with policy, guidance, and information on global commercial air operators. CATSU ensures quality, evidence-based information is available to the global UN System to enable decision-making for the suitability of air operators for use in official UN travel.

The work of the CATSU enables the conduct of global UN activities. By providing confidence that air operators have been assessed for safety, UN staff (beneficiaries of our work) can focus their attention on critical humanitarian, development and peacekeeping duties - wherever in the world they are located or may travel.

Protective Security Services

In the course of their duties, Senior UN Officials (SUNOs) may be subject to increased threat and associated risk due to their higher visibility, leadership roles in the implementation of specific mandates and programmes, or prior high-level posts held.

SUNOs may face additional threats in situations where they have issued statements or undertaken actions against various threat actors, or represent positions contrary to the aims of such groups.

The Division of Headquarters Security and Safety Services (DHSSS) of UNDSS is responsible for the setting of standards and coordination of Protective Security Services throughout the UNSMS.

Fire Safety and Hazmat

The UNSMS has established basic fire prevention principles and guidance on preparation and response in order to minimize the risk from fire to personnel, assets and operations. The Designated Official for safety and security in each UN field locations is responsible for ensuring the establishment, implementation and annual review of all fire safety plans within his/her area of responsibility.

Evaluation, Knowledge Sharing and Compliance

In order to meet an ever-growing demand for evaluation, the Compliance, Evaluation and Monitoring Section (CEMS) leads and conducts security programme evaluations, thematic evaluations and policy evaluations across the UNSMS to assess the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of security arrangements and programmes in a systematic and objective way.
CEMS also coordinates and maintains the Department’s system of lesson learned and knowledge sharing. Knowledge gained from operational experiences is captured, analysed and shared across the UNSMS with the aim to build institutional memory and ensure continuity of programmes. Knowledge-generating activities help stakeholders at different levels understand the relevance of activities involved in achievements, thus improving collaboration and co-ordination. 
CEMS supports the implementation of the Department’s Compliance Strategy, which aims to ensure the implementation of, and compliance with, security policy, procedures and guidelines of the UNSMS.

Communications Centre

The Communication Centre (ComsCen) maintains round-the-clock emergency communications at UN Headquarters with field duty stations on security matters. It dispatches official correspondence and monitors open media sources to provide timely alerts on evolving security developments that may impact the safety and security of UN personnel worldwide. The ComsCen is located within the UN Operations & Crisis Centre at UN HQ, and works with closely with the United Nations Operations and Crisis Centre (UNOCC)

Information and Communication Technology: Innovating with Security

The Crisis Management Information Support Section (CMISS) manages the Information and Communication technology for the UNSMS. This comprises digital systems, including an automated security clearance mechanism for the travel and information management tools that provide security-related information for the UN system personnel worldwide. CMISS enables over 10,000 security clearances to be processed each day.

CMISS information management systems are used in crisis situations to identify quickly all UN system personnel who are present in the area where a crisis occurs.  This enables the UN to fulfil its duty of care obligations.

CMISS has also developed a number of information management systems to support UNDSS and UN personnel with security responsibilities in their security related functions.  These systems provide high-level strategic information to decision-makers. CMISS is currently hard at work to leverage emerging mobile technologies.

Event Security

We provide security management services at the UN special events around the world, including major events that attract thousands of delegates and participants. In 2016 alone, UNDSS coordinated a total of 185 events, with over 350 uniformed officers deployed.

Hostage Incident Management

As the organisations of the UNSMS are increasingly called upon to operate in insecure areas, the UNSMS has developed a comprehensive policy, guidelines and training for managing hostage incidents. The policy stipulates that the Organisation will not pay ransoms nor make any substantial concessions to hostage-takers, nor shall it intervene with Member States concerned to make exchanges for hostages. Ransom or other concessions for the release of a hostage encourages potential hostage-takers and thus increases the danger that other personnel might face in the future.

Explosive Detection

In order to provide the highest level of security for the personnel, delegates and visitors of the United Nations the Division of Headquarters Security and Safety Services (DHSSS) conducts a wide range of special operations and explosive detection. The K-9 Units have proved to be of great support in the identification, prevention and response to threats on the United Nations premises. K-9 units are currently in operation in seven locations - New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna, Addis-Ababa, Santiago and Beirut. The main services provided by the K-9  include but are not limited to vehicle searching, bomb sweeps of the premises and mail screening.

Physical Security

The UN occupies premises all over the world, often in dangerous and high-risk locations.  With direct attacks against UN premises on the rise, our Physical Security Unit provides expert advice on physical security of UN offices to UNDSS security officials in the field. While most UN premises are provided by the Member States, we use the Security Risk Management process to determine if additional security measures for premises are required.

Threat Analysis

UNDSS provides threat analysis expertise to the UNSMS through its Threat and Risk Assessment Service. It undertakes security threat information analysis in support of the SRM framework such as Threat Assessments, Threat Profiles, Security Threat Information (STI) Alerts and Notices, Topic Assessments, Threat Advisories and Warnings, and Personal Security Risk Assessments (PSRAs). In addition, UNDSS provides threat assessment briefings to senior UN management and security decision makers.