23 November 2005

Risk Assessment, Host Country Relations, Recruitment among Issues Addressed, as Budget Committee Concludes Discussion on UN Security Management

NEW YORK, 22 November (UN Headquarters) -- As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today concluded its debate on the management of safety and security at the United Nations, the focus was on the risk assessment, the Organization's relations with host countries, access control projects, and recruitment for security posts worldwide.

Among the main concerns expressed by the representative of Jamaica, who spoke on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, was the process used by the Secretariat to recruit temporary security staff and the length of time necessary for revising host country agreements to reflect updated security arrangements.

Many questions were also posed by the representative of Egypt, who said that the attack on United Nations headquarters in Baghdad in 1993 had demonstrated the deficiencies of the existing security system and its lack of clear lines of authority and accountability.  He agreed with several preceding comments and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) regarding the deficiencies of the Secretariat's report, which fell short of meeting all the requirements for a comprehensive implementation report requested by the Assembly in resolution 59/276.  He was worried about the Secretariat's tendency to set up structures and provide resources to solve problems.  He was also concerned about the recruitment process:  of the 21 posts at the senior management level, only two were from developing countries.

Turning to the projects for enhancing physical security at Headquarters and the access control system, he wanted to receive clear information on the turnstile project and the financial implications of the issuance of new ID cards.  His other questions related to the unequal treatment of access control at Headquarters and at other United Nations facilities; the protocol of access control; and the impact that the new access system could have on security guards and emergency evacuation plans.  He also asked whether heads of States, ministers and other high-level officials would be subject to the turnstile projects.

Responding to comments from the floor, Under-Secretary-General, Department of Safety and Security, David Vaness, stressed the importance of a well-designed risk assessment process.  With primary responsibility for the protection of the United Nations resting with the host Governments, in conducting risk assessment it was appropriate to rely on the information provided by those Governments, as well as information from other components of the United Nations system.  Information from any additional sources had to be verified.  Continuous evaluation of incidents was a valuable tool.

He also elaborated on the main steps required to ensure appropriate security relations and division of labour with host nations, which ranged from establishing points of contact and ensuring a common understanding of threats to effective liaison with local security and police organizations and concluding memorandums of understanding or amendments to host nation agreements.

Unfulfilled physical security requirements for all offices away from Headquarters had been grouped together into the so-called "access control" project, he continued.  The consultant on the matter had completed his site visits at the end of October, and the Department was now meeting with the Office of Central Support Services to prepare recommendations on both approved projects in progress and additional requirements for physical security that have not yet been addressed by the Assembly.

Updating the Committee on staffing, he said that out of a total of 1,775 posts worldwide, 1,419, or 79.9 per cent had been filled.  He expected the remainder to be filled by June 2006.  In New York, 82.7 per cent of posts had been filled.  As for security posts worldwide, 926, or 89.6 per cent, were filled.  All posts in Geneva would be filled by the end of January, and in Santiago by the end of April.  In the field, 438 of 619 posts (70.8 per cent) had been filled.  The development of a Department of Safety and Security roster of 262 candidates for P-3 and P-4 posts had been completed, and the selection would be completed by December.

Integrated security management systems had been established for such large and high-risk missions as Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and the Sudan, he said.  Joint Department of Peacekeeping Operations-Department of Safety and Security teams had recently visited Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Côte d'Ivoire to explain and initiate integrated security structures.  Similar visits were planned for Western Sahara, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Burundi.

On the accountability framework, he said that the matter had been discussed at last April's meeting of the Inter-Agency Security Management Network.  When it reached the Chief Executives Board, the World Bank and a number of agencies expressed a need for alternate wording to better reflect unique aspects of their reporting relationships.  The Office of Legal Affairs was now attempting to arrive at mutually acceptable language.  Discipline had also been discussed at the April meeting.  The newly established Department of Safety and Security compliance, evaluation and monitoring unit would support disciplinary action, as warranted, by providing independent and well-documented incident reporting. 

Responding to Jamaica's concerns regarding the length of time needed to adapt host country agreements to reflect security issues, Mr. Veness said that interim measures could be taken to develop an effective, working relationship with the host country.  First, the United Nations needed an effective management team that could understand the threat it faced and then identify focal points within the host country security system to provide security and any needed emergency responses.  The next step would be the deployment of needed physical measures.  All of those steps could be bolstered by an exchange of letters on security issues, with the final step being formal agreements with the host country.

In that connection, the representative of Egypt added that last year's decisions entailed not a review of the whole issue of host country agreements, or exchanges of letters.  The issue was the impact of host country agreements and security arrangements provided by host countries to the United Nations on the resources requested. 

Among other concerns expressed today was geographic distribution of posts filled on a temporary basis.  In this connection, Mr. Vaness said that the Department was making every effort to select staff on a wider geographic basis.  At the beginning, it had been working with the Office of Human Resources Management to recruit temporary staff to address immediate needs, but full-time people would be coming aboard towards the end of the year.  There would be more geographical representation among them.

In that connection, the representatives of India and Egypt recalled that when resolution 59/276 was negotiated last year, Member States had agreed that 383 new security posts would be introduced, 134 of them on a temporary basis.  The reason many delegations had gone along with that decision was that it was also decided to further review the posts in the light of the comprehensive report to be submitted at the 60th session.  The report, however, appeared to be lacking in many aspects.

* *** *