UN will change way of 'doing business' in wake of Iraq security report - Annan

24 October 2003

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today the world body "will have to change our way of doing business" after a report earlier this week criticized the UN for failing to protect the workers killed in a bomb explosion last August in Baghdad.

He said the United Nations would take action on the report.

Asked upon his arrival this morning at UN Headquarters in New York to comment on a report by an independent panel led by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari that UN security systems were "dysfunctional," Mr. Annan said, "Over the past 50 years, the United Nations has been working around the world under a system of security, which has served us well. But the world has changed and we will have to change our way of doing business to be able to protect our staff around the world.

"We will need to focus on our operational objectives, but at the same time take measures to protect our staff. I hope we will be able to do that and we are not limiting our review to Iraq, we will be doing it globally," he said.

Mr. Annan said that although he had not had time to study the report in detail, "I am very grateful to Ahtisaari, who knows the system well, for having taken on the challenge.

"His report will be taken seriously. It requires reflection and action, and we will do that," he stressed

The Ahtisaari report emphasized accountability and Mr. Annan today said questions of "what happened, who did what and did not do what" would be studied and "changes will have to be made."

Mr. Annan said the order to leave some staff in Iraq, and not pull out completely, "was my decision."

"It was a correct decision and I'm glad some staff stayed on to carry on the work with the 4,000 Iraqi staff," he said.

In an interview with UN Radio, the Secretary-General was asked about the report's criticism of the decision to send high numbers of international staff to a risky zone. Mr. Annan replied that the UN had been working in Iraq for more than 20 years and many of the UN staff had been there for more than 10.

But, he added, "Obviously we had to wait for the situation to calm down as to get indications from the occupying power that it was reasonably safe to return and we started going back. When you look at the numbers of UN staff in Iraq you must also consider the task they were doing, you must not forget that the UN under its humanitarian programme was assisting nearly 60 per cent of the Iraqi population.

"They were interested in rebuilding the infrastructure, electricity, water, and essential services which has been disrupted after the war and these were essentially to help the people and provide them with these needs.

"So, when someone talks about numbers one has to look at the task, the urgent task that needs to be done and this is why we send staff to do their best to assist Iraqi people. They were only there to help and it was tragic and unjust that they (were) attacked the way they were attacked."


Video of Kofi Annan's remarks


Listen to UN Radio report


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