Background

The Committee received the regular briefing by the Under-Secretary General for Safety and Security. Mr. Gregory Starr, on the current situation of security and safety for UN system staff, and on the nature and relevance of emerging threats.

Discussion

The briefing provided numerous statistics on the number of attacks against United Nations and humanitarian workers, which have significantly increased over the last ten years. Illustrating the worse attacks against civilian personnel during 2009/2010, a comparison was offered between UN casualties of violence and national crime rates, which indicated a homicide rate for UN civilian personnel disproportionately higher than the average rate, especially in high threat locations.

Despite an overall increase in civilian casualties in high threat locations in 2009, the lower rate of casualties reported for 2010 (to date), demonstrated that when there are investments in security, especially in highest threat countries, despite the sometimes high costs, such investments can produce results.

Although an analysis of significant security incidents in 2009 indicated that UN national personnel as a comparative percentage were not quite as affected, in hard numbers and on a daily basis, the USG/DSS confirmed that many more national than international staff continue to be impacted by significant security incidents.  It is therefore vital to provide resources to ensure that national staff receive the requisite levels of security training.

Reference was made to the fact that there were notable improvements in the manner in which DSS was able to gather information relating to security incident statistics from multiple sources. This allowed for more accurate reporting and comparative analyses. However, it still remained a challenge to obtain reliable facts and figures.

The Committee was informed of the efforts undertaken by DSS to secure necessary donor funds to continue to support the “Saving Lives Together Initiative” – a pilot program where the UN shares threat information with NGOs around the world.

The USG/DSS highlighted the need for the UN to achieve the goal of finding ways to stay and continue to operate, especially in high threat locations. In this respect, he cautioned against the UN becoming risk adverse and stated that security should not drive decisions on how many personnel should be in a given location.  It was important to determine programme criticality first, followed by a review of the modalities in place to support programme needs, including a review as to whether security considerations can be accommodated. Capping numbers of personnel on the ground should not be an arbitrary determination driven solely by security concerns.

Action

The Committee:

Took note of the briefing by the Under-Secretary-General and expressed its deep appreciation for his dedication and efforts towards supporting acceptable approaches to continue delivering on the mandates of UN organizations, along the CEB-stated principle of “how to stay”, and based on a fundamental analysis of programme criticality.