Governments asked to ratify treaty protecting UN humanitarian personnel

25 June 2008

The head of the United Nations staff union and the top UN legal official today called on governments to join a legal instrument designed to protect humanitarian personnel around the world.

At a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York, Staff Union President Stephen Kisambira and UN Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel presented a certificate to diplomats from the 14 countries that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the 1994 Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel.

The countries are Austria, Botswana, Gabon, Germany, Kenya, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Tunisia.

“Your ratification was a significant step,” Mr. Kisambira said. “It will enhance security of staff worldwide. I encourage all Member States to follow your lead. Security of UN personnel is a global responsibility.”

The 2005 Optional Protocol provides legal protection to staff delivering emergency humanitarian assistance and to those providing political and development assistance in peacebuilding. It extends the legal protection offered by the 1994 Convention, which only applies to personnel engaged in peacekeeping operations. The Convention has been ratified by 84 Member States, or 43 per cent of the UN membership.

The Optional Protocol is not yet in force, as eight ratifications are still required for its coming into effect.

“Rather than focusing only on Member States that did not ratify, I would like to value and appreciate those that did,” Mr. Michel said. “The Optional Protocol is important because it reflects the evolution of realities on the ground. It acknowledges the role of staff who work on the ground, often in very dangerous circumstances.”

“Do a little boasting, and tell your colleagues in the General Assembly that it would be a good idea to join in,” he said, thanking the diplomatic community in New York for its role, “because of course the capitals follow what is happening here, but you are the ones who take the lead.”

The ceremony was organized by the UN Staff Council Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service.


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