A veteran of Britain's famed Scotland Yard police department who calls himself "a practical counter-terrorist" was today named United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security at a time when the world body has seen itself become a direct target of terrorism with the 2003 attack on its headquarters in Iraq.
David Veness, who previously commanded all Scotland Yard's specialist operations including protection, terrorism, security and organized crime and served with the royalty and diplomatic protection service, was appointed to the new post created last year by the General Assembly to remedy failures cited in a report on the Baghdad attack.
"Mr. Veness is one of the most accomplished security professionals in the field," Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said in introducing the new security chief at a news briefing in New York. "Mr. Veness has wide experience and hands-on background that you can imagine how pleased we are with this appointment."
The official previously in charge of overall security, Tun Myat, was asked to resign in March 2004 after the report by the Security in Iraq Accountability Panel appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to look into the Baghdad bombing identified institutional and individual failures in assessing security prior to the attack that killed 22 people, including the UN's top envoy in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, in August 2003.
Since then Mr. Annan has repeatedly made clear that security of UN staff remains of paramount importance for him, and the number of international staff in Iraq has been limited over concerns for their safety.
"I think this is an absolutely formidable responsibility, and the more that I am briefed, the more I begin to become aware of the global undertaking and the nature of the task that lies ahead," Mr. Veness said of the post he will assume on 28 February.
"It's already apparent that the task is absolutely enormous but although enormous, it is relatively straightforward. It is to support and enable the mission of the United Nations in all of its component parts by fulfilling the vital role of assuring the safety and security of those who are on the employ of the United Nations and their dependents and families across 150 countries across the world," he added.
"I think the challenge for my team is probably to confront the grim reality. We would not wish it to be the case that humanitarian and other activities are any way bedevilled by extremist, terrorist or other violent threats. But the grim reality is that that is the position."
Asked whether he would be working in the field outside UN Headquarter in New York, Mr. Veness replied: "I am a practical counter-terrorist by background and that is what I have been for a great many years. I'm very clearly of the view that one needs to see the situation on the ground in the theatre and that's precisely what I will do."