UN security chief steps down over last year’s Algiers terrorist attack
Sir David Veness, Under-Secretary-General for Security and Safety, informed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a meeting yesterday that, as the head of the Department of Safety and Security, he had voluntarily offered to resign in light of his responsibility.
“I am grateful to Sir David Veness for his high sense of devotion to duty and strong professional motivation,” Mr. Ban said in a statement issued today.
“As the first head of the Department, he has provided it strong leadership at a critical period in building a safety and security structure for the United Nations that has significantly improved its security management system in a whole range of areas.”
Mr. Ban added that this had been recognized by the Independent Panel tasked with assessing the safety and security of UN staff worldwide, which had handed its report to the Secretary-General earlier this year.
“While accepting his decision to resign, in the interest of continuity, I have asked him to stay on until such time as a stable succession can be assured. I am aware that this will require some time.”
The Independent Panel’s report was posted today on the UN website. Mr. Ban’s spokesperson Michele Montas said the report had been released with “minimal redactions” to meet concerns not to divulge any details about the Organization’s functioning that may pose further hazards or threats to personnel or premises.
While the seven-member panel has not identified individual accountabilities, it did find “ample evidence that several staff members up and down the hierarchy may have failed to respond adequately to the Algiers attack, both before and after the tragedy,” according to a press statement issued by the UN spokesperson’s office.
It also suggested an independent accountability procedure to review the responsibilities of the key individuals and offices concerned, saying such a procedure would help restore staff confidence and morale.
Seventeen UN staff were among several dozen people who died after two car bombs exploded in the Algerian capital within minutes of each other on the morning of 11 December last year. One of the bombs exploded outside the main UN offices.
In a letter to staff published today, Mr. Ban has announced the creation of a group – to be headed by Ralph Zacklin, the former Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs – to follow up on individual accountability arising from the Algiers attacks.
The Secretary-General reiterated his commitment to ensuring the full accountability of his senior managers and those at other levels of responsible decision-making.
He also said that combating security threats from terrorists and other detractors of the UN and ensuring the safety of staff made it incumbent that host governments and Member States realized their responsibilities more strongly so that there can be much closer cooperation on security matters.