Background

A) Briefing by the Under-Secretary General for Safety and Security

The USG/DSS highlighted the immense breadth and scope of UN activities, involving approximately 150,000 personnel (with 30% based at Headquarters and 70% in the field, including local personnel), in over 2,100 duty stations, over 170 countries, and in 5,600 facilities (excluding some 6,000 UNRWA facilities and over 4,000 facilities shared with host governments), and emphasized the challenge for the UN system to carry out its activities in environments affected by famine, poverty, war or instability.

The USG/DSS noted that, unlike in the past, the UN system was often operating in areas where conflicts are on-going. He pointed to the acute security challenges the UN system faced in areas such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Libya, and indicated that the list of locations where the UN system was facing such challenges was growing. Since 2009, the number of kidnapping incidents had increased. The UNSMS had handled 50 kidnapping incidents involving a total of 73 kidnapped persons. All were returned alive with the exception of one who died from natural causes. While some cases were resolved quickly, others lasted for as long as 140 days and involved multiple negotiations, sometimes with Member States. In 2011, 70 lives were lost, 26 of those due to violence and 44 due to safety-related accidents. The USG reminded HLCM members of the attack in Abuja that killed 23 (including 13 UN personnel) and wounded over 100 persons and the attack in Mazar-i-Sharif that killed 3 UN personnel and 4 national guards.

On the issue of safety, the USG noted that a major airline accident in the DRC had killed 10 UN personnel and, while the number of UN lives lost as a result of road traffic accidents had decreased compared to 2010, UN personnel driving UN vehicles were still involved in road traffic accidents resulting in casualties from local populations.

The USG stressed that, after the Algiers bombing in 2007, the question of accountability was reexamined. There was a move away from a culture of risk aversion to an acceptable risk paradigm that affirmed the CEB-endorsed “how to stay” approach. The new Security Level System (SLS) that was developed to help better define the threats, supported this approach, as did additional tools such as, security risk assessments and a programme criticality framework. DSS worked closely with UNDP to improve induction training provided to Designated Officials (DOs). DSS’ security training officers received further training, security management teams were trained and a number of training modules, including Basic Security in the Field and Safe (BSITF) and Secure Approaches in Field Environments (SSAFE) were updated. All this was done to support a decentralized security management system that enabled field offices to take the necessary decisions to ensure that security may be managed on the ground to the extent possible. Today, Designated Officials and the Security Management Teams (SMTs) are making decisions daily that affect UN personnel. Additional analysts were recruited for field locations and trained to help ensure requisite contacts with host government authorities, as well as facilitate the provision of information to assist in assessing security situations. DSS introduced a single incident reporting system. A new fire safety programme was fielded worldwide and an aviation risk management programme was put in place because of the high volume of air travel by UN personnel. The TRIP system allowed DSS to compile staff lists and keep track of travel within the UN system. So far, two million registrations had been made in TRIP, with some 5,500 persons a day registering online. Nearly 60% of the reported travel involved airline travel while the remaining percentage involved road travel.

The USG highlighted how DSS had moved from issuing policies on the basis of one signatory to putting in place a process in which IASMN members closely examined policies in order to reach consensus and bring them to HLCM for endorsement. While acknowledging that there had been some difficulties in connection with the budgets for jointly financed activities, he stressed how DSS had continuously promoted transparency in its functioning and budgetary processes. He also stressed that all of the initiatives cited above had been made possible through the JFA budget, adding that it was important to have such measures in place to support both international and local personnel who continued to take risks to deliver programmes, including in conflict areas.

B) Issues from the Inter-Agency Security Management Network (IASMN) Meeting

Six policies that had been approved by the IASMN were presented to the HLCM for endorsement, including the policies on: Use of Armed Private Security Companies (and the Guidelines, Model Contract and Statement of Works); Special Events; Security Training and Certification; Improvised Explosive Devices; Security of United Nations Premises; and, Boards of Inquiry.

In response to a number of questions raised during the consideration of the above mentioned policies, the USG confirmed that more local staff had been killed over the years than international staff. This, in part, reflected the proportional ratio of the international to local staff in the total UN staff count. Regarding premises, the USG confirmed that, while there were not enough funds available to upgrade all UN premises, the Premises policy was intended to provide for a balance between security risk management and the upgrades required to bring premises to at least an adequate standard, and to encourage risk-based decisions that support any requested expenditures.

Regarding the Board of Inquiry policy, the USG pointed out that following the Canal Hotel bombing and the incident in Algiers in 2007, high level panels had been convened to develop recommendations to improve the UNSMS. At the same time, DSS had undertaken a review of post-incident actions and best practices by DPKO/DFS, resulting in the ensuing policy. He noted that while the Secretary-General had the right to convene an inquiry following a significant security incident, there had not been a coordinated response in the event of a significant incident affecting multiple agencies, funds and programmes. This policy, which had guided the recent Abuja Board of Inquiry, provided for this coordinated response. Participating agencies in a given Board, where applicable, would share the costs of such a Board. The USG also informed the Committee that the Abuja Board of Inquiry report, though not a public document, had been shared with the Executive Heads of the affected agencies and that it would continue to be the case under the new policy that Executive Heads of the affected agencies would receive a copy of any BOI report.

Regarding the policy on Special Events, it was clarified that this was largely geared towards very large events, such as the Rio and Climate Change conferences. The Security Training and Certification policy would serve to address how persons are trained and ensure that training records are maintained.

The policy on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) was driven by the fact that there were UN
personnel in conflict zones who had been demining and, in the process, addressing active IEDs. This was cause of great concern particularly as such actions could compromise the neutrality of the UN that could be perceived as being party to a conflict. The policy reaffirmed the fact that mine action personnel are meant to take only those mines out of play that are no longer effectively in play, i.e. post conflict, and forbade taking active IEDs out of service.

Regarding the policy on the use of Armed Private Security Companies (including the Guidelines, Model Contract and Statement of Works), the USG acknowledged that this issue was not without contention and had been subject to intense debate. Recognizing that private security companies were already being used in the UN system but that there was no policy in place to regulate their use or provide the requisite oversight, the Secretary-General’s Policy Committee had deliberated on this issue. The resulting decisions supported the use of armed PSCs as an exceptional measure after all other support options are exhausted, i.e. host country, member state and UN support. It was also recognized that, there was a need to look closely at the reputational risks posed to the UN and at the country of operations. Subsequently, the policy and related documents, to be implemented in tandem with the existing Use of Force policy, had been developed in close consultation with a broad spectrum of stakeholders throughout the entire process.

In his closing remarks, the USG thanked the Committee, the Chair and Vice-Chair for their parting comments. Recognizing that the past three and a half years had been challenging, he was honoured to have  had this time in the Secretariat and also serviced over 42 agencies, funds and programmes. The USG took the opportunity to remind HLCM that safety and security had not been on the agenda of the CEB since 2009 and that it would have been appropriate

Discussion

Noted with appreciation the briefing provided by USG Gregory Starr.

Action

Endorsed the policies and guidelines that were approved by the IASMN at its 17th session for inclusion in the United Nations Security Management System Security Policy Manual and the United Nations Security Management Operations Manual and for promulgation within the United Nations System:
(a) Armed Private Security Companies the Guidelines on the Use of Armed Security Services from a Private Security Company, as well as the Model Contract and Statement of Works;
(b) Boards of Inquiry;
(c) Security Training and Certification;
(d) Special Events Organized or Sponsored by UNSMS Organizations;
(e) Security of United Nations Premises;
(f) Improvised Explosive Devices.

Recalled USG Starr’s major contribution in leading, together with former USG for Field Support Susana Malcorra, the complete overhaul and re-design of the UN Security Management System, in follow up to the recommendations of the Independent Panel on the Safety and Security of United Nations Personnel and Premises Worldwide;

Expressed appreciation to USG Starr for his active and committed engagement in the works of the Committee, for his inclusiveness, consensus building and participatory approach. The Committee wished USG Starr well in his new undertakings and personal life.