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Ban Ki-moon Urges Governments To Bolster Safety Measures For UN Staff

In a major new report, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed to Member States and Host Governments to support all measures of safety and security to improve the operational environment for UN personnel and humanitarian workers.

"United Nations personnel serve in an increasingly dangerous environment and encounter a variety of threats not previously encountered in the history of the Organization," the UN chief says in a report to the General Assembly, which cites the safety and security of UN personnel as his highest priority.

The report, "Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel," contains an analysis of security incidents that affected UN personnel in 2012, as well as data and observations on incidents in the first six months of 2013.

According to the report, significant security incidents affecting UN staff in 2012 showed an increase from 1,793 compared to 1,759 in 2011. Violent acts are cited as the primary cause of death or injuries last year, with 20 of the 35 deaths attributed to this, while 15 staffers were killed in safety-related incidents.

The Secretary-General expressed concern for the disconcerting rise in abductions which "reflect the dangerous environments in which United Nations personnel serve."

Thirty-one UN personnel were abducted in 2012, compared to 21 in 2011. Recent data indicate that the number of abductions continues to rise. During the first six months of 2013, 15 United Nations personnel were abducted. Of these, 12 personnel were abducted in Syria.

The increasing asymmetrical nature of global conflicts together with the frequent use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and suicide bombings in increasingly challenging environments in which UN personnel are obliged to operate, plays a critical role in increasing security threats.

"Direct attacks against the United Nations are a distressing phenomenon that has developed over the last decade and these attacks are becoming more intense and more sophisticated," says Ban.

The Secretary-General reminded that "security of the United Nations and humanitarian personnel is firstly, the responsibility of the Host Government.".

He also appealed to Host Governments and Member States for their support in bringing to justice perpetrators of crimes and acts of violence against UN and humanitarian workers.

In addition to an analysis of security challenges encountered during the reporting period, the report also provides an update on measures and initiatives taken by the Department of Safety and Security (DSS) and the United Nations Security Management System (UNSMS) in continuing efforts to mitigate risks and strengthen security capabilities to protect UN personnel.

Of particular concern to the Secretary-General are locally-recruited staff who "represent the great majority of United Nations personnel serving in the field and suffer the most from insecurity and acts of violence." He acknowledges the support of the General Assembly to improve the security of local staff, but says that more could be done to ensure their safety and security.

He urged all Member States that have not already done so, "to ratify or accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel."

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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