Top UN officials call on Member States to protect UN and associated personnel

Top UN officials call on Member States to protect UN and associated personnel

With United Nations peacekeeping and civilian personnel continuing to face a frightening -- and often lethal -- array of threats, top UN officials today called on governments to ensure the legal and physical protection of the staff serving for the world body.

Addressing the fourth Summit on the Security of International Staff, Secretary-General Kofi Annan recalled that 68 countries have lost their nationals in the service of the United Nations. Deploring the fact that less than one-third of the 189 UN Member States were parties to the Convention on the Protection of UN and Associated Personnel, he urged countries to ratify the treaty "without delay," and to approve a Protocol that would extend its application to all UN operations and categories of personnel. He also urged ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which defines attacks against peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel as war crimes.

General Assembly President Harry Holkeri of Finland said it was a matter of "serious concern" that the number of incidents and casualties had increased in the 1990. He stressed that host governments had "the primary duty to protect humanitarian personnel under their jurisdiction."

For his part, the President of the Security Council, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, said the Council had been increasingly focusing on the issue, devoting to it special meetings at which staff representatives had brought their security concerns.

Mark Malloch Brown, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), stressed that "risks in the field have been shifting from peacekeepers to humanitarian and development workers."

Underscoring the gravity of the situation, UN Staff Council Vice-President Fernando Astete said that 15 UN civilian staffers had lost their life in 2000 and 6 this year, while 242 had been victims of hostage-taking and kidnapping in the past seven years.

The meeting was organized by the UN Staff Council and its Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service.