Saying that the safety of United Nations workers “has to be my first priority,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan has presented his $97 million plan for new unified security measures to the General Assembly’s main budget committee.
“Please understand that security for our staff has to be my first priority,” he stressed, “and that therefore I consider this one of the most important proposals – if not the most important – that I have put before you during my time as Secretary-General,” Mr. Annan said in remarks to the Assembly’s Fifth Committee on Monday.
“Those talented and dedicated men and women carry out vital missions of development and peace throughout the world, in always challenging and sometimes hostile circumstances,” he added. “They need and indeed deserve the best possible safety and security.”
Under the plan Mr. Annan unveiled last month, three separate entities currently responsible for staff safety – the Office of the Security Coordinator, the UN Security and Safety Services and the security component of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations – would be combined into a new Directorate of Security to be headed by an Under-Secretary-General reporting directly to him.
The new Directorate would be responsible for assessing threats and risk, and providing common security policies and standards throughout the UN system. Day-to-day decision-making on security matters, meanwhile, would remain with local offices.
According to cost estimates, some $35 million will be needed to bolster the safety of field offices around the world, and nearly $28 million will have to be spent to upgrade the premises at the UN complex in New York, pay for more security officers and training, and install new access control measures.
In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that after last year’s bombing of UN offices in Baghdad and other tragic incidents, the world body was forced to acknowledge that it had become a target of political violence, challenging long-held perceptions that it was protected by its flag and by its status as an impartial, benevolent actor.
That new security reality provides a compelling rationale for security reform, he said, noting also that various studies have identified shortcomings in the UN’s existing security management system.
Catherine Bertini, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Management, said Mr. Annan is actively reviewing candidates for a new security director and will hopefully be able to make an appointment soon.
“He’s looking for a lead security person,” she said. “What we absolutely have to have is somebody who has been steeped in the operations and management of security for most of their career, if not all. Somebody who has the confidence of the international security community, and someone who is able to work seamlessly with all of the different entities [that] have security information.”