Background

As is custom, the Committee received a briefing by the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Safety and Security on “Strategic development of the UN Security Management System”.

UNDSS briefing focused on the growingly direct and explicit threat by terrorist groups towards the United Nations.

Discussion

The Committee was brought up-to-date with the recent propaganda campaign by Al-Qaeda, which increasingly attempts to reach a global audience through a variety of multi lingual, audio, video and textual productions, featuring its senior leaders, which are further disseminated through multiple extremist websites.  It was noted that such propaganda campaigns have proven very effective.

In its most recent media production, Al-Qaeda expanded its anti-UN propaganda beyond its usual focus on the UN’s political and peacekeeping role, to include the UN’s humanitarian programmes and activities.

Based upon the fact that security is both an individual and a collective responsibility, the USG urged consideration of three opportunities for strategic development actions the UN system could take to mitigate these daunting threats.

The first is visible leadership, which needs to be based upon a clear understanding of the reality of present dangers.  In this respect, UNDP plays a particularly valuable role, especially in its vital support to Designated Officials.

For what concerns accountability, HLCM member organizations collectively own a security accountability framework. Though endorsed by the Committee, this document requires wider dissemination to enhance awareness of the principles of accountability it contains, which should in turn more frequently be included in regular business and management decision making.

The third suggested opportunity was the early inclusion of security issues in plans, projects and programmes, i.e. mainstreaming of security.  If security aspects are considered at the earliest stages of planning then the result is more effective, efficient and economical.  As an example of good practice of both accountability and early inclusion of security in the planning process, the USG referred to UNICEF document “Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies” which states both guiding principles and actions to be taken within the earliest stages of any crisis response.

As regards the development of the Department of Safety and Security, progress continued to be made in respect of growth, integration and operational effectiveness. The test of success of DSS would be the extent to which everyone else in the UN system is enabled to get their work done.  Concerns were re-iterated in respect of security gaps for national staff, under-emphasis on safety (especially vehicle safety) and inadequate crisis response mechanisms.

In conclusion, the USG recommended that the Committee endorsed the contents of the report of the Inter Agency Security Management Network (IASMN).

Organizations expressed deep appreciation for the work of UNDSS and, among the main points raised in the discussion that followed, noted IASMN’s remark that, at many meetings of SMTs, agencies are represented by very junior staff who are not in a position to make decisions, and emphasized that Agencies must ensure adequate and appropriate levels of representation at the SMTs as it is unfair to place this burden on the Designated Official alone.

Some organizations also expressed the need to clarify the scope of IASMN, as references to the ‘Field’ Security Management System still exist in various documents. USG Veness clarified that there is only one Security Management System which pertains to all UN duty stations, whether ‘HQ’ or ‘Field’ and that the structure of DSS itself reflects this integration. The designation ‘Field’ survives only in-so-far as that is the portion cost-shared by the Agencies. With respect to the so called ‘Headquarters locations’, it was noted that host-country agreements and the fact that elected Executive Heads of the Specialized Agencies are accountable only to their governing bodies, add a level of complexity and must be taken into consideration.

The Committee noted these comments and stressed the critical importance of addressing any issues with respect to the SMS within the System itself, ensuring the preservation of a cohesive, coordinated approach to delivering security and safety to UN system staff.

IASMN’s decision to determine their meeting times based on the HLCM meeting schedule, taking into consideration the meeting schedules of organizations concerned, was noted with appreciation.

The Committee then considered a proposal (CEB/2007/HLCM/23) to re-establish a technical working group to follow-up on its previous decision to “… move forward with a more comprehensive, all encompassing project to address significant issues remaining outside the mandate of the current review of the cost-sharing formula (including alternate sources of funding and mainstreaming) for the 2010-2011 biennium”.

On this matter, there was general consensus on the fact that funding of the Security Management System (SMS) was a political rather than a technical issue and that any discussion on the matter should, therefore, take place at that level to ensure that solutions proposed meet the scale of the problem.

The Committee encouraged member organizations to maintain pressure on their Governing Bodies to make sure that security and safety of staff receives the necessary attention and resources, with a view to increasingly mainstream such issues in all activities and mandates carried out in the UN system.

With specific regard to the significant unspent balances in the SMS cost-shared budget for the biennium 2006-2007, organizations recommended that such balances be credited to their shares for the following biennium.

Action

The Committee endorsed the IASMN report subject to the comments of the meeting.

The Committee appreciated the effort by UNDSS to increase accountability on its activities by providing detailed and timely information on status of expenditure, programme performance of its operations and vacancy status of its posts, and encouraged UNDSS to continue to do so, to enhance the overall transparency and stakeholders’ participation in the management of the UN Security Management System.

With a view to facilitating the resolution of issues that have or may emerge with respect to the management and funding of SMS, the Committee appointed a small Advisory Group of three member organizations, which would provide its support to UNDSS upon request by the HLCM. The group membership was determined as follows:

  • WFP, in representation of UN Funds and Programmes;
  • UNIDO, in representation of small organizations;
  • WHO, in representation of Specialized Agencies.

Andrew Lukach, Senior Security Manager of UNDP, would serve as Secretary of the Advisory Group.