|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/DSG/39|
|Release Date: 19 June 2000|
| Deputy Secretary-General, in Address to Summit on UN Staff Security,
Says UN Can Do Nothing Unless Staff Is Protected, Safe and Secure
NEW YORK, 16 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the address of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the Third Summit on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service, held at Headquarters on 15 June:
It gives me great pleasure to be with you today for this Third Summit on the Safety and Security of United Nations and associated personnel. The Secretary-General had every intention to attend himself, but he is in the Security Council discussing the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
I would like to start by applauding the Staff Council Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service, as well as CCISUA [the Coordinating Committee for International Staff Unions and Associations of the United Nations System], for maintaining such an intense focus on this issue, which is so central to our morale and our ability to carry out our work.
As some of you in this audience know from first-hand experience, and as all of you know from mourning the loss of dear colleagues, the past year has seen no decline in either the number or the range of threats that United Nations and associated personnel face in the line of duty. From Sierra Leone to East Timor, from Kosovo to the Middle East, United Nations personnel and our colleagues in the non-governmental organization, humanitarian and development communities continue to work amidst unprecedented and unacceptable risks.
Let me give you an idea of the magnitude of the problem. In 1999, the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator recorded 292 violent security incidents against United Nations staff around the world, including violent robbery, physical assault and rape. Detention and hostage-taking have reached new levels. Worst of all, since 1992, 184 United Nations staff members have sacrificed their lives in the service of peace and the international community.
I am not here today to talk only about statistics. Each and every staff member is a unique and special person. Each of you has your own hopes and dreams. Yet, there is a thread that binds you together: as United Nations staff members, you are all working towards the goals for which the United Nations was created: to put an end to the violence and warfare that continue to plague humanity; to ensure that human rights are universally respected; to build a more humane world of justice and democracy; to help people lift themselves out of poverty -- in short, to make this world a better place for all people, not just a lucky few. However elusive these aims may seem at times, they remain worth working for.
I want to stress that when I speak of United Nations personnel, I mean not only military and police staff, but also the thousands of civilians who serve in peacekeeping, peacemaking, humanitarian and development missions; and not only international staff, but also the locally recruited men and women without whom we simply could not fulfil the mandates given to us by the Member States and who often face even grater danger than their international colleagues. Our responsibility extends to them all.
For many of you, service with the Organization entails working under hazardous conditions in remote corners of the world, far from families and the comforts and conveniences of home. It should be a source of pride for all of us that United Nations staff do not shrink from such difficult assignments, and that they accept the fact that at times it is necessary to confront danger if we are to advance the various causes for which we work. Indeed, in the past few days, the staff of MONUC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and colleagues in the non-governmental organization community displayed great courage in remaining in Kisangani during the recent fighting. Danger may be inevitable, but that does not mean we must accept it without taking every possible measure to ensure that staff have the security they need to carry out their missions.
The issue of staff security places great responsibility on governments and us in the leadership of the United Nations. The Security Council has expressed its grave concern at continuing attacks. The subject has also been discussed extensively by the executive heads of United Nations agencies, programmes and funds. You are more than entitled to ask what is being done right now, today, to improve staff security tomorrow. After all, in a global, round-the-clock organization such as ours, the next casualty -- the next day of mourning in the United Nations community -- could be just moments away. And as you know, there are dozens of unresolved cases of detained United Nations staff, so even as we sit here comfortably some of our colleagues may well be suffering or languishing in obscurity.
The Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator, within its limited means, has taken steps to improve training so that all staff members are trained before they are assigned to the field and so that there are adequate numbers of security professionals available to advise United Nations security manager. UNSECOORD is working to improve overall operational security standards so that all duty stations meet at least a basic set of requirements. UNSECOORD is also focusing on stress counselling and on logistics and equipment, so that radios, satellite telephones, flak jackets and other essentials are in place. Given these and other wide-ranging responsibilities, it is clear that a full-time Security Coordinator is needed and the Secretary-General plans to further strengthen the Office in this way as soon as possible.
I should add that the funds and programmes, whose staff are often on the front-line, have also taken many measures to improve security. One of our challenges is to ensure that all these efforts progress in harmony so that we get the best possible results for all members of the United Nations system.
As important as all of this is, it is not enough. That is why the Secretary-General, in his capacity as Chairman of the Administrative Committee on Coordination, has initiated an internal review of the existing security arrangements in the United Nations system. The purpose of this review is to identify measures for reorganizing the coordination and management of the security and safety arrangements, particularly in the field, and for substantially strengthening their policy, legal and operational aspects. He expects to submit comprehensive proposals to the General Assembly in the fall.
Implementation of these and other measures requires resources. I appeal to all Member States who have not already done so to contribute quickly and generously to the Trust Fund for the Security of United Nations Personnel. Sad to say, as of today, only five Member States had done so. Those Member States -- Finland, Japan, Monaco, Norway and Senegal -- deserve our praise. The money they have provided -- amounting to $1.2 million -- has allowed us to implement some urgently needed security training at a number of high-risk duty stations. If I am not mistaken, these are the same five countries and the same amount I quoted when I last made a statement on staff security. We will be recommending to the General Assembly that we move away from the ad hoc approach we have been taking to financing staff security; this is a core responsibility of the Organization, and budgetary arrangements should reflect this.
Another way for Member States to show their commitment to staff security would be to ratify the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which entered into force last year. Today's Summit will honour the newest States parties: Bangladesh, Botswana, Croatia, France, Hungary, Poland, Senegal and Uruguay. The United Nations Secretariat is now carrying out a legal analysis of the scope of legal protection under the Convention, with a view towards recommending means of extending its coverage to categories of personnel who currently fall outside its protective regime.
We also need to speed up ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which defines attacks on peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel as war crimes. Member States also need to be more aggressive in investigating and bringing to justice those who have harmed or murdered people serving the United Nations. Only two perpetrators have been brought to justice and convicted. A sense of impunity prevails. As with any legal regime, laws on the books are only a first step; implementation and enforcement are the true tests.
The governments and peoples of the world continue to place great faith in us. They recognize the importance of the work you do. What they do not recognize fully is what it takes for you to do that work. I would like to assure you that the Secretary-General recognizes the seriousness of this problem and is working hard to change an unacceptable state of affairs. Staff security is not something to think about only when all our other work is done; it is an essential ingredient in the success of that work. We can do nothing unless you, the men and women of the United Nations who bring the Charter to life, are protected, safe and secure. Thank you very much for coming today. I have every hope that this meeting will prove to be an important contribution to our work.
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