Press Releases

    12 June 2002

    Deputy Secretary-General Tells 'Summit' on Staff Security That Increasing Threats 'Compel Us to Do More'

    NEW YORK, 11 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette at the annual Summit on Staff Security:

    This year's "summit" on staff security occurs amid considerable fear that New York City has not seen the last of the terrorism that destroyed the World Trade Center last September. There is also great unease among United Nations staff throughout the world that they, too, are more vulnerable than ever before.

    Such eminently understandable anxieties come on top of the already formidable risks that United Nations staff face in carrying out their mission in an era when civilians are targeted for violence, and when parties to armed conflict show little respect for international law or for relief workers and others trying to help the victims. So far this year, four staff members have lost their lives to malicious acts, and two have been taken hostage in two separate incidents.

    This meeting focuses on yet another set of concerns: when staff are detained, kidnapped or go missing, and local personnel whose association with the United Nations can place them in peril, yet who may lack the same level of protections given to internationally recruited staff.

    As the Secretary-General has stressed, a certain amount of risk comes with the choice of joining the United Nations. But security is a fundamental responsibility for the Secretariat. And the Secretary-General is determined to do all in his power to provide staff with the protection they need and deserve.

    The menace of terrorism commands us to be vigilant. Here at Headquarters, you have seen enhanced scrutiny of cars and passes, improvements in evacuation procedures and the public address system, and other measures. Similar steps have been taken at all duty stations. Staff input has been an essential part of this process, and I want to assure you that that inclusive approach will continue.

    The increasing number of everyday threats in zones of conflict and disaster likewise compels us to do more. In a major step forward, the General Assembly approved the Secretary-General's package of proposals, which will enable us to increase the number of personnel dedicated to staff security in the field, improve their training and equipment, and expand the counselling and other services they provide. Not least, it will help improve the accountability of United Nations managers responsible for security-related decision-making.

    One of the Secretary-General's proposals was to have, for the first time, a full-time United Nations Security Coordinator. I am pleased to say that last month the Secretary-General appointed Mr. Tun Myat to this position. As you know, he brings to the job a wealth of experience gained through many years of service with the World Food Programme and, most recently, as United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, where he was also the Designated Official for Security.

    Mr. Tun will take up his post next month.

    I would like to pay tribute to all staff for carrying out their work under these difficult conditions.

    To the families of those who have died, I offer once again my heartfelt sympathy.

    To the Member States, I ask that they fulfil their responsibilities.

    That means providing the necessary resources. I am happy to note that significant additional resources have been made available to strengthen field security, and I am confident the Assembly will respond favourably to the request for additional funding for Headquarters security.

    It means fighting impunity by arresting and prosecuting to the full extent of the law anyone who attacks, maims or kills United Nations or associated personnel. To date, while 214 United Nations personnel have been murdered since 1992, perpetrators have been brought to justice in just 7 per cent of these cases.

    And it means signing and ratifying the relevant legal instruments if they have not yet done so. The Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel has entered into force, but only 62 States -- less than one third of the United Nations membership -- are party to it. The Statute of the International Criminal Court defines attacks on peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel as war crimes. Now that it has entered into force, the hope is that its mechanisms -- including the threat of prosecution -- will serve as an effective deterrent to future attacks.

    To Benon Sevan, who is leaving the post of United Nations Security Coordinator, I convey the Secretary-General's gratitude for eight years of dedicated service. That tenure coincided with the period in which staff security issues grew in scope and complexity. And even though you were not officially a full-time coordinator, you always gave more than 100 per cent.

    Finally, to the Staff Council -- and in particular its Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service -- I convey the Secretary-General's great appreciation for maintaining such a strong focus on this key issue for our United Nations.

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