UN flag now a target, warns head of staff security review panel

28 February 2008
Lakhdar Brahimi, Chairman of the Independent Panel on Safety and Security of UN Personnel and Premises

Although the United Nations flag used to provide protection, it is now becoming a target, the head of an independent panel tasked by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to assess the safety and security of the world body's staff worldwide cautioned today.

Announcing the composition of the six-member panel at UN Headquarters in New York, veteran diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi said the new body will take a “critical look at the existing situation” to determine how the UN and its Member States can bolster the safety and security for the Organization's people and premises globally.

“We tried to assemble a number of people that have a mix of experience and expertise to see how we can understand what has happened and how we can make 'doable' recommendations,” he noted.

Aside from Mr. Brahimi, the Independent Panel on Safety and Security of UN Personnel and Premises – which will begin its work next week – will comprise Elsayed Ibrahim Elsayed Mohamed Elhabbal of Egypt; Anil Kumar Gupta of India; Umit Pamir of Turkey; Thomas Boy Sibande of South Africa; and Margareta Wahlström of Sweden.

He added that it is possible that an additional member will be added.

The new body will “take a close look at what happened in Algiers and see what immediate lessons there may be for us in that extremely shocking and sad happening,” Mr. Brahimi said, referring to last December's deadly bombing which claimed the lives of 17 UN staff members.

“The Panel is also expected to take a wider view of the implications of these new problems that are facing the Organization in terms of threats and challenges.”

The Secretary-General, who has characterized the Algiers attack as a “savage loss,” announced in January his decision to appoint the team, voicing hope that its findings will impact the UN system worldwide.

Responding to reporters' questions today, Mr. Brahimi pointed out that some around the world are questioning the world body's impartiality and independence. “A lot of people are – some rightly, some not rightly – angry with the UN,” he said.

Clarifying earlier reports that Algeria did not intend to cooperate with the new Panel, he said that he thought that the North African country was originally not consulted or informed about the creation of the body.

“My understanding now is that they are fully on board and my understanding is that on this, Algeria and the United Nations are on the same side of the table, not on different sides,” the Panel head observed.


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