Background

The HLCM Chair introduced the agenda item and expressed deep sympathy for the victims of the recent terror attacks in Brussels, referring to the horrific threat that terrorism is making on the world, and also making reference to the attack in Bamako that had occurred the day prior to the commencement of the HLCM meeting. The Chair observed that the UN system has a duty to support governments and countries to fight these security threats, noting the Secretary-General’s task force on anti-terrorism, and that many UN mandates are closely linked to this topic.

Discussion

The Chair conveyed apologies from the Under-Secretary-General (USG) for the UN Department of Safety and Security (DSS), who was unable to attend HLCM and would be represented by his DSS colleagues participating via VTC from New York.

The United Nations Assistant-Secretary-General for DSS introduced the team from DSS participating via VTC, including Mr Mohamed Ragaey (Chief, Threat and Risk Service), and Mr Craig Harrison (Chief of Service, Policy, Compliance and Coordination Service and Project Manager for the UN Secretariat Safety and Security Integration Project (UNSSSIP)).

Mr. Ragaey presented the Committee with an update on current security threats, challenges and responses. In his presentation he referred to recent attacks in Brussels and Bamako, noting that the world is changing, requiring unconventional reaction from DSS. The presentation provided an overview of the UN operating environment, noting that there are expanded UN operations in conflict zones, deteriorating security environments and specific threats against the UN, while at the same time, there is a need to adhere to the UN philosophies of managing risk and ‘stay and deliver’.

The presentation provided an overview of the global threat environment, with threats ranging from armed conflict, terrorism, organized crime, outbreak of political and civil instability Africa and Latin America, Taliban resurgence and the expansion of ISIL. Mr Ragaey mentioned examples of attacks on soft targets in West Africa, observing that the recent attacks have shown that due to internet technology, terrorists do not need a lot of preparation or weapons. He discussed three recent attacks in Africa (in Bamako, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire) which were carried out by 2-3 individuals, choosing hotels that are high profile and easy to access with delayed security responses expected. Mr Ragaey noted that many Member States do not have resources to train and provide protection. Common targets include subways, restaurants, theatres and hotels. Security threats are a challenge for both the host government and the UN, and DSS has issued guidelines on how to guide staff in these difficult situations.

The presentation also provided some statistics, noting that 180,000 staff are covered under UNSMS across 53 agencies, funds and programmes, and including 400,000 recognized dependents. DSS provides services in 122 countries and is responsible for 4,500 UN premises. The total number of uniformed and civilian personnel in Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs) has increased from 60,000 to 120,000 in the last ten years. There has been increasing requirements for DSS Surge deployment to global crises, with activation of crisis management and response operations in 17 countries during the 2014-2015 biennium. 

The presentation also outlined the effective responses that DSS has provided, and the anticipated future challenges. With regards to challenges, these included increased use of internet and social media by extremists and organized crime groups. The presentation described a hybrid threat – the merge and cooperation of extremist elements and organized crimes and smuggling groups to share knowledge and experience.

Mr. Ragaey concluded his presentation with some comments on the way forward for DSS, including enhancement of mitigating measures for offices, enhanced cooperation with Member States to exchange threat information, enhanced physical security, enhanced threat analysis and forecasts, and emphasis on security as an integral part of programme planning. He emphasized the need for flexibility of resources to reflect the security environment, noting that DSS will continue to use risk management approach on all delivery of DSS services.

Mr. Harrison provided the Committee with an overview of the UN Secretariat Safety and Security Integration project (UNSSSIP), noting that it would lead towards a consolidation of civilian field safety and security personnel in peace operations into a single integrated system, managed by DSS. The concept of integration goes back to 2003, following the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, when a report from an Independent Panel on the Safety and Security of UN Personnel in Iraq recommended integration of security resources. Following this, the General Assembly provided a mandate for integration of security elements in PKOs and Special Political Missions (SPMs) in its resolution A/RES/59/276. In 2015, formal steps were taken to complete integration through a UNDSS Strategic Review, a report of the High-level Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, decisions of the UN Policy Committee, and the report of the Secretary-General on safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of UN personnel (A/70/383) together with the subsequent resolution that reaffirmed the need to integrate.

The UNSSSIP envisages one department under the authority and direction of the USG DSS that achieves greater effectiveness in the delivery of safety and security services and efficiency in use of existing security assets. In terms of the scope of the project, the first effort will focus on the integration of DPA, DPKO and DFS safety and security personnel into DSS. The second effort will look at integration of Security and Safety Services (SSS) personnel. Excluded from the project are security personnel of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, and occupational health and safety personnel. DSS currently has 2,000 security personnel, DPA-led SPMs 1,100, DPKO-led PKOs 2,800, DFS 44, representing a total of almost 6,000 Secretariat security personnel. The integration will result in tripling the size of DSS.

Currently, these resources draw funding from six different sources, so it is acknowledged that there will be financial challenges with the project. Anticipated benefits of integration include UNSMS having increased effectiveness of safety and security services, in clear alignment with SMS accountability framework. The project will provide safety and security personnel with recognition of their knowledge, skills and experience against a clearly defined, transparent and centrally-managed career development framework, leading to increased mobility options and career progression for security personnel who currently operate in silos.  Member States will also benefit from increased efficiencies and effectiveness in the delivery and use of safety and security resources.

Mr. Harrison outlined the governance structure of the project which consists of four tiers. The first tier is a steering group at the USG level; the second tier is a UNSSSIP Working Group at the director level; the third tier is the UNSSSIP project team; and the fourth tier is a field reference group that has been activated to act as a sounding board and to test plans. A core outcome of the project is to establish one safety and security staff management structure for the Secretariat safety and security job network based upon common management, human resource and financial policies, authorities and arrangements. With regards to the timeline, the project team was established in August 2015 and is currently in further planning and implementation stage. The envisioned project end date is December 2017.

The HLCM Chair and many speakers thanked DSS for the presentations and for the fine work they perform, and endorsed the report of the 23rd IASMN session and the policies put forward for consideration.

Several members expressed the view that, although there is no question on the need to spend resources on safety and security, prioritization is important as spending more on security leaves less resources available to deliver programmes. Also, careful consideration should be given as to whether and how the UN should stay in countries with high security risk, also based on a careful assessment of reputational risks.

In response to the questions and comments raised, Mr. Harrison noted that prioritization has to be based on the Programme Criticality framework, which is now a system-wide policy for determining acceptable risk. Under this framework, for high risk countries the exact point is determined where only those programmes that are absolutely critical for life saving reasons are continued. For an effective implementation of the stay and deliver approach, programme criticality is essential.

Reference was made to the challenges faced by many organizations with regards to resources. It was noted that it would be helpful to understand overall security costs as a system, as it might provide better insights on how to mitigate costs that have been escalating enormously. Several organizations requested DSS to exercise as much budgetary control as much as possible. It was also noted that individual agencies, funds and programmes have security personnel carrying out precious work linked to programme delivery, and that DSS can help in areas such as security analysis in an effort to optimise division of labour between DSS and agencies, funds and programmes. It was suggested that there may be some low hanging fruits in terms of cost savings, listing as examples uniformed armed guard contracts; unified bidding through DSS; and consolidation of radio rooms to make it easier for DSS to monitor. On this last point Mr. Harrison noted that a Working Group has been established to look at harmonization of communications. In response to comments on consistency of safety and security decisions at the field level, Mr Harrison noted that the Designated Official (DO) system and Security Management Teams (SMTs) are within the accountability framework, and that DSS advises SMTs and DOs. It was also noted that the IASMN is a very close and active network that works hard to eliminate any differences in views at the field level.

A number of speakers referred to the UNSSSIP, expressing an interest in the proposed simplification of funding models and hoping that integration would culminate into a clear demonstration of cost efficiencies. A question was also raised as to whether it would be possible to bring some independence into this exercise to provide greater confidence that what DSS is trying to accomplish is the best course of action. In response to the question on potential cost savings resulting from the UNSSSIP, Mr. Harrison responded that the integration project is not currently at a stage to identify cost savings, however management efficiencies are possible, and he also noted that one of the tasks of Working Group will be to look deeper into funding modalities.

A question was also raised as to whether there is a possibility to obtain assistance from DSS in sourcing reliable local security staff. In response, DSS confirmed that as far as possible this is done, and that in fact one of policies before HLCM for endorsement was on unarmed private security services. However Mr. Harrison noted that the use of local providers can be problematic where conflict is ethnic or tribal, as one company normally cannot work because crossing lines involves arrangements with different factions on the ground.

Representative from the Staff federations referred to non-staff with different contracts, and the fact that in the event of a security situation, care should be taken of all UN personnel.

Action

The Committee:
Thanked DSS for their comprehensive and detailed briefing.

Endorsed the IASMN 23rd session conclusions, along with the Policy on Security Risk Management (SRM), the Policy on Unarmed Private Security Services (UPSS), the Policy on Gender Inclusion in Security Management, and the Policy on Arming of Security Personnel.