United Nations Cares About The Safety Of Aid Workers

At the policy level the United Nations Fully supports Aid Worker Safety and Security. the devil is in the detail. what does this support mean in practice?

Advocacy to improve the health and safety of humanitarian aid workers has accelerated significantly in recent years. Although this has succeeded in building awareness of the issues; implementing sector-wide solutions has been far more difficult.  While there are no shortages of possible solutions on the table, achieving consensus on what they are, and securing a commitment to implement them, has been nigh impossible until now.

The World Humanitarian Summit, an initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General, presents the humanitarian system with a unique possibility to deliver real commitments to improve the health and safety of aid workers.  Since the first consultation in May 2014, numerous individuals and organizations have advocated for the inclusion of aid worker health and safety at the Summit. This was reflected in a petition to include the topic of aid worker health at the Summit, which was signed by 1,461 people representing national and international aid workers across the sector.

These advocates believe that to deliver principled, accountable and high-quality humanitarian action, it is imperative that communities and people affected by crisis receive the assistance they require from competent and well-managed staff and volunteers. They also recognized that to do this, the humanitarian system needed to invest in the physical, mental and psychological welfare of their staff.

This view was reflected on the 10th of December 2015 when the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution A/RES/70/104, “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel.”  In the resolution the General Assembly noted:

“the importance of giving due consideration to the question of the safety and security of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel at the World Humanitarian Summit.” 

The resolution also emphasized:

“the importance of making available stress management, mental health and related services for United Nations personnel throughout the system, and encourages all humanitarian organizations to provide their personnel with similar support.”

[The full resolution is available at the end of this blog post]

On 9 February 2016, the Secretary-General launched his report for the World Humanitarian Summit, One Humanity: Shared Responsibility.  In the report the Secretary-General advocated for improving the health and safety of humanitarian aid workers by:

Ensuring “that all State and non-State parties to armed conflict fulfill their obligations to respect and protect humanitarian and medical workers;” and by,
 

Putting “in place political, legal, social and safety measures to protect humanitarian and medical personnel and facilities, including enacting and enforcing domestic laws and regulations, education and training, and enhancing cooperation with local communities.”

It is now up to all humanitarian stakeholders to heed the call of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General “to commit to implementing concrete initiatives aimed at making” these recommendations a reality at the Summit.

 UN General Assembly 

UN General Assembly 

 

Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 10 December 2015 [without reference to a Main Committee (A/70/L.25 and Add.1)]  

70/104.    Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel 

       The General Assembly,

       Reaffirming its resolution 46/182 of 19 December 1991 on the strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian emergency assistance of the United Nations,

       Recalling all relevant resolutions on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel, including its resolution 69/133 of 12 December 2014, as well as Security Council resolutions on the protection of humanitarian personnel, including resolution 2175 (2014) of 29 August 2014, and relevant statements by the President of the Council,

       Recalling also all Security Council resolutions and presidential statements and reports of the Secretary-General to the Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict,

       Reaffirming the principles, rules and relevant provisions of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, as well as all relevant treaties, and the need to further promote and ensure respect thereof,

       Recalling the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and the Additional Protocols thereto of 8 June 1977, and the obligation of parties to armed conflict to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in all circumstances, and urging all such parties to comply with international humanitarian law and ensure respect for and protection of all humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel,

       Deeply concerned by the continuous erosion, in many cases, of respect for the principles and rules of international law, in particular international humanitarian law,

       Reaffirming the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence for the provision of humanitarian assistance,

       Recalling that primary responsibility under international law for the security and protection of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel lies with the Government hosting a United Nations operation conducted under the Charter of the United Nations or its agreements with relevant organizations,

       Expressing its appreciation to those Governments which respect the internationally agreed principles on the protection of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel, while expressing concern over the lack of respect for these principles in some areas,

       Noting the fact that the number of States parties to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which entered into force on 15 January 1999, has reached 91, mindful of the need to promote the universality of the Convention, and welcoming the entry into force on 19 August 2010 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which expands the scope of legal protection under the Convention,

       Expressing deep concern at the complex and dynamic security environment, marked by the diverse and multifaceted threats and significant security risks faced by humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel, and the increase in the number of direct attacks against such personnel at the field level, as they operate in increasingly high-risk environments,

       Deeply concerned about the particular vulnerability of locally recruited humanitarian personnel and United Nations associated personnel to safety and security-related incidents, including road traffic accidents, arrest and detention, and abduction,

       Expressing deep concern that the occurrence of attacks and threats against humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel is a factor that severely restricts the provision of assistance and protection to populations in need, and commending the commitment of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel to stay and deliver effectively the most critical programmes even in dangerous environments,

       Stressing the need to uphold the respect and protection which the flag of the United Nations, and the nature of humanitarian work, should command and ensure, and stressing the importance of fully respecting the obligations relating to the use of vehicles and premises of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel as defined by relevant international instruments, as well as the obligations relating to distinctive emblems recognized in the Geneva Conventions,

       Commending the courage and commitment of those who take part in humanitarian operations, especially national and locally recruited personnel, and including those serving with national and international non-governmental organizations in the field, often at great personal risk,

       Commending also the courage and commitment of those who take part in peace operations, including peacekeeping operations,[6] often at great personal risk, especially national and locally recruited personnel,

       Noting with concern the evolving threats that United Nations personnel face when deployed and that, in 2014, 1,734 persons, representing 0.96 per cent of the United Nations system personnel, were affected by safety and security incidents, with 30 fatalities, of which 15 resulted from acts of violence, namely, crime, acts of terrorism and civil unrest, 166 injuries, of which 65 resulted from acts of violence, and 6 abductions, and noting that these figures do not include United Nations personnel who are not part of the United Nations security management system, such as locally recruited area staff of UNRWA, of whom 18 were killed, 52 injured and 5 abducted in 2014, 

       Strongly condemning all attacks against humanitarian personnel, expressing profound regret at the deaths, injuries and abductions resulting from these attacks, and noting with concern that there were 329 recorded attacks against humanitarian personnel in 2014, resulting in at least 121 personnel killed, 88 injured and 120 abducted,

       Strongly condemning also all attacks and threats against medical personnel and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities, and deploring the long-term consequences of such attacks for the population and health-care systems of the countries concerned, and in this regard welcoming efforts by States, international and non-governmental organizations and other relevant stakeholders to strengthen compliance with international humanitarian law by raising awareness and promoting preparedness to address the grave and serious humanitarian consequences arising from such violence,

       Expressing profound regret at the deaths, illnesses and other adverse consequences affecting humanitarian personnel and health-care personnel as a result of public health hazards such as the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in West Africa, and stressing the need for a conducive environment, appropriate equipment and resilient public health systems, and the urgency of preparedness,

       Expressing deep concern at the deep and long-lasting impacts of attacks and threats against humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel,

       Strongly condemning acts of murder and other forms of violence, rape and sexual assault and all forms of violence committed in particular against women and children, and intimidation, armed robbery, abduction, hostage-taking, kidnapping, harassment and illegal arrest and detention, to which those participating in humanitarian operations are exposed, as well as attacks on humanitarian convoys and acts of destruction and looting of property,

       Affirming the need for States to ensure that perpetrators of attacks committed on their territory against humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel and against their premises or assets do not operate with impunity, that such attacks are investigated promptly and effectively and that the perpetrators of such acts are brought to justice, as provided for by national laws and in accordance with obligations under international law,

       Recalling the inclusion of attacks intentionally directed against personnel involved in a humanitarian assistance or peacekeeping mission in accordance with the Charter, as long as they are entitled to the protection given to civilians or civilian objects under the international law of armed conflict, as a war crime in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and noting the role that the Court can play in appropriate cases in bringing to justice those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law,

       Reaffirming the need to ensure adequate levels of safety and security for United Nations and associated personnel, including locally recruited staff, which constitutes an underlying duty of the Organization, and mindful of the need to promote and enhance security consciousness within the organizational culture of the United Nations and a culture of accountability at all levels, as well as to continue to promote awareness of and sensitivity to national and local cultures and laws,

       Gravely concerned at the large number of accidents and resulting casualties among United Nations and associated personnel, and conscious of the importance of road and aviation safety in ensuring the continuity of United Nations operations and preventing casualties among civilians and United Nations and associated personnel, and in this regard regretting the loss of civilian life as a result of such incidents,

       Stressing that acceptance of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel by the host Governments, local authorities, local communities, populations and other parties as appropriate crucially contributes to their safety and security,

       Noting the importance of reinforcing close collaboration between the United Nations and the host country on contingency planning, information exchange and risk assessment in the context of good mutual cooperation on issues relating to the security of United Nations and associated personnel, as well as the importance of coordinating prevention and mitigation measures and managing security in crisis situations,

       Noting also that, in order to remain fit for purpose and to support the effective and principled delivery of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations security management system needs to evolve in response to the challenging global security environment, requiring, inter alia, an effective management structure, adequate and predictable resources and the timely deployment of security personnel with appropriate skills and field experience and of the equipment necessary for the performance of their duties, including vehicles and telecommunications equipment, which have an essential role in facilitating the safety of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel,

       1.     Welcomes the report of the Secretary-General; 

       2.     Urges all States to make every effort to ensure the full and effective implementation of the relevant principles and rules of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, and refugee law as applicable, related to the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and United Nations personnel;

       3.     Condemns in the strongest possible terms the alarming increase in threats to and deliberate targeting of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel and the unprecedented increase in the scale and the increasingly complex nature of threats faced by such personnel, such as the disturbing trend of politically and criminally motivated attacks, including extremist attacks, against them;

       4.     Strongly urges all States to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of national and international humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel and to respect and ensure respect for the inviolability of United Nations premises, which are essential to the continuation and successful implementation of United Nations operations;

       5.     Calls upon all Governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies, in particular in armed conflicts and in post-conflict situations, in countries in which humanitarian personnel are operating, in conformity with the relevant provisions of international law and national laws, to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies and organizations and to ensure the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel and the delivery of supplies and equipment, in order to allow those personnel to perform efficiently their task of assisting the affected civilian population, including refugees and internally displaced persons;

       6.     Calls upon all States to consider becoming parties to and to respect fully their obligations under the relevant international instruments;

       7.     Also calls upon all States to consider becoming parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court;

       8.     Further calls upon all States to consider becoming parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, and urges States parties to put in place appropriate national legislation, as necessary, to enable its effective implementation;

       9.     Calls upon all States, all parties involved in armed conflict and all humanitarian actors to respect the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence for the provision of humanitarian assistance;

       10.    Welcomes the contribution of female humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel in humanitarian and United Nations operations, expresses concern that these personnel may be more exposed to certain forms of crime and acts of intimidation and harassment, strongly urges the United Nations system and Member States to analyse the different forms of violence, crime, acts of intimidation and harassment to which women and men are differently exposed, and also strongly urges the United Nations system and Member States to choose appropriate and gender-sensitive approaches for their safety and security and to ensure that female humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel are meaningfully included in decisions related to their safety and security;

       11.    Strongly condemns all threats and acts of violence against humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel, also condemns attacks intentionally directed against personnel involved in a peacekeeping mission in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations as long as they are entitled to protection from attack under international humanitarian law, reaffirms the need to prosecute, penalize and punish those responsible for such acts, strongly urges all States to take stronger action to ensure that crimes against such personnel do not remain unpunished and are investigated fully, and affirms the need for States to ensure that perpetrators of any such acts committed on their territory do not operate with impunity, as provided by national laws and obligations under international law;

       12.    Stresses the importance of continued close coordination and consultation with host Governments on the functioning of the security level system and related tools, and in this regard encourages the Secretary-General to continue to consult with the host Governments;

       13.    Calls upon all States to comply fully with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including as provided for under the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949, in order to respect and protect civilians, including humanitarian personnel;

       14.    Stresses the obligation, in accordance with international humanitarian law and national laws and regulations, as applicable, to respect and protect medical personnel, as well as humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities, in all circumstances, in this regard notes the role of domestic legal frameworks and other appropriate measures in promoting the safety and protection of such personnel, and urges States [and all parties to armed conflict] to develop effective measures to prevent and address violence against such personnel, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities;

       15.    Notes the importance of giving due consideration to the question of the safety and security of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel at the World Humanitarian Summit, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, on 23 and 24 May 2016 ;

       16.    Calls upon all States to provide adequate and prompt information in the event of the arrest or detention of humanitarian personnel or United Nations and associated personnel, so as to afford them the necessary medical assistance and to allow independent medical teams to visit and examine the health of those detained, and to ensure their right to legal counsel, and urges States to take the necessary measures to ensure the speedy release of those who have been arrested or detained in violation of the relevant conventions referred to in the present resolution and applicable international humanitarian law;

       17.    Calls upon all parties involved in armed conflict not to abduct, take hostage or kidnap humanitarian personnel or United Nations and associated personnel or to detain them in violation of the relevant conventions referred to in the present resolution and applicable international humanitarian law, and speedily to release, without harm or requirement of concession, any abductee or detainee;

       18.    Requests the Secretary-General to take the necessary measures to promote full respect for the human rights, privileges and immunities of United Nations and associated personnel, and also requests the Secretary-General to seek the inclusion, in negotiations of headquarters and other mission agreements concerning United Nations and associated personnel, of the applicable conditions contained in the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies and the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel;

       19.    Recommends that the Secretary-General continue to seek the inclusion of, and that host countries include, key provisions of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, among others, those regarding the prevention of attacks against members of the operation, the establishment of such attacks as crimes punishable by law and the prosecution or extradition of offenders, in future as well as, if necessary, in existing status-of-forces, status-of-mission, host country and other related agreements negotiated between the United Nations and those countries, mindful of the importance of the timely conclusion of such agreements, and encourages further efforts in this regard;

       20.    Encourages the Secretary-General to continue the ongoing efforts of the United Nations to develop a more systematic follow-up process with relevant host Governments on cases of serious crimes and acts of violence resulting in the death or serious injury of United Nations system personnel, in order to bring perpetrators to justice;

       21.    Calls attention to and reaffirms the obligation of all humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel to respect and, where required, observe the national laws of the country in which they are operating, in accordance with international law and the Charter;

       22.    Stresses the importance of ensuring that humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel are aware and respectful of national and local customs and traditions in their countries of assignment and communicate clearly their purpose and objectives to local populations in order to enhance their acceptance, thereby contributing to their safety and security, and in this regard ensure that humanitarian action is guided by humanitarian principles;

       23.    Urges the United Nations and other relevant humanitarian actors to include as part of their risk-management strategy the building of good relations and trust with national and local governments and the promotion of acceptance by local communities and all relevant actors with a view to enhancing safety and security;

       24.    Requests the Secretary-General to continue to take the necessary measures to ensure that United Nations and other personnel carrying out activities in fulfilment of the mandate of a United Nations operation are properly informed about and operate in conformity with the minimum operating security standards and relevant codes of conduct and are properly informed about the conditions under which they are called upon to operate and the standards that they are required to meet, including those contained in relevant national laws and international law, and that adequate training in security, human rights law and international humanitarian law is provided so as to enhance their security and effectiveness in accomplishing their functions, and reaffirms the necessity for all other humanitarian organizations to provide their personnel with similar support;

       25.    Also requests the Secretary-General to continue, in coordination with Member States, to take the necessary measures to ensure that all United Nations premises and assets, including staff residences, are compliant with the United Nations minimum operating security standards and other relevant United Nations security standards, and to continue the ongoing assessment of United Nations premises and physical security worldwide;

       26.    Welcomes the ongoing efforts of the Secretary-General to ensure that all United Nations personnel receive adequate safety and security training, stresses the need to continue to improve training so as to enhance cultural awareness and knowledge of relevant law, including international humanitarian law, prior to their deployment to the field, and reaffirms the necessity for all other humanitarian organizations to provide their personnel with similar support;

       27.    Also welcomes the efforts of the Secretary-General to provide counselling and support services to United Nations personnel affected by safety and security incidents, and emphasizes the importance of making available stress management, mental health and related services for United Nations personnel throughout the system, and encourages all humanitarian organizations to provide their personnel with similar support;

       28.    Notes with appreciation the ongoing measures taken by the Secretary-General and the United Nations system to enhance road safety, including through improved training and initiatives to promote road safety so as to reduce incidents caused by road hazards and, in particular, to reduce casualties or injuries resulting from these incidents among United Nations and associated personnel and among the civilian population in the host country, and requests the Secretary-General to continue the collection and analysis of data and to report on road incidents, including civilian casualties resulting from road accidents;

       29.    Welcomes the progress made towards further enhancing the security management system of the United Nations, including through the integration of all security personnel of the Secretariat under the leadership of the Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security, and supports the continued implementation of the stay-and-deliver strategy while focusing on effectively managing the risks to which personnel are exposed in order to enable the United Nations system to deliver the most critical programmes, even in high-risk environments;

       30.    Encourages the Secretary-General to continue consistent implementation of the programme criticality framework as an operational tool allowing informed decisions on acceptable risk to United Nations personnel;

       31.    Also encourages the Secretary-General to continue to develop enabling procedures that facilitate the deployment of suitably qualified United Nations security personnel, with the aim of improving the safety and security measures of the United Nations, in order to strengthen the ability of the United Nations to deliver on its programmes, mandates and activities, including humanitarian programmes;

       32.    Requests the Secretary-General, inter alia through the Inter-Agency Security Management Network, to continue the increased cooperation and collaboration among United Nations departments, organizations, funds and programmes and affiliated international organizations, including between their headquarters and field offices, in the planning and implementation of measures aimed at improving staff security, training and awareness, including field crisis management and gender inclusion in security management, and calls upon all relevant United Nations departments, organizations, funds and programmes and affiliated international organizations to support those efforts;

       33.    Calls upon all relevant actors to make every effort to support in their public statements a favourable environment for the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel;

       34.    Emphasizes the need to pay particular attention to the safety and security of locally recruited humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel, who account for the large majority of casualties and who are particularly vulnerable to attacks, including in cases of kidnapping, harassment, banditry and intimidation, requests the Secretary-General to keep under review the relevant United Nations safety and security policy and to enhance the safety and security of locally recruited personnel, while maintaining operational effectiveness, and calls upon the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to ensure that their personnel are adequately consulted on, informed about and trained in the relevant security measures, plans and initiatives of their respective organizations, which should be in line with applicable national laws and international law;

       35.    Notes with appreciation the progress reported in implementing the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Safety and Security of United Nations Personnel and Premises Worldwide;

       36.    Requests the Department of Safety and Security of the Secretariat to further strengthen the security management of the United Nations, focusing on strengthening security risk management policy and tools and their application, increasing situational awareness and analysis capacity, strengthening policy development and promoting best practices, increasing compliance with minimum operating security standards and improving monitoring and evaluation, enhancing surge capacity for emergency response, devising effective physical security measures, developing the expertise of security professionals and strengthening support to the designated officials and the security management teams in the field, and promoting an effective and preventive security management approach that is multidimensional;

       37.    Welcomes the work of the Secretary-General in enhancing security collaboration with host Governments, including efforts to support United Nations designated officials with regard to collaboration with host Government authorities on staff safety and security;

       38.    Stresses that the effective functioning at the country level of security operations requires a unified and robust capacity for policy, standards, coordination, communication, compliance and threat and risk assessment and operational and deployment flexibility to ensure that the security workforce reflects the changing dynamics of the security environment, and notes the benefits thereof to United Nations and associated personnel, including those achieved by the Department of Safety and Security since its establishment;

       39.    Welcomes the steps taken by the Secretary-General thus far, and encourages further efforts to enhance coordination and cooperation, at both the headquarters and the field levels, between the United Nations and other humanitarian and non-governmental organizations on matters relating to the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel, with a view to addressing mutual security concerns in the field, based on the “Saving Lives Together” framework as well as other relevant national and local initiatives in this regard, and requests the Secretary-General in this respect to enhance further collaborative initiatives to address the security needs of implementing partners, including through enhanced information-sharing and, where appropriate, training, invites Member States to consider increasing support to those initiatives, and requests the Secretary-General to report on steps taken in this regard;

       40.    Underlines the urgent need to allocate adequate and predictable resources to the safety and security of United Nations and associated personnel, through regular and extrabudgetary resources, including through the consolidated appeals process, and encourages all States to contribute to the Trust Fund for Security of Staff Members of the United Nations System, inter alia, with a view to reinforcing the efforts of the Department of Safety and Security to meet its mandate and responsibilities to enable the safe delivery of programmes;

       41.    Also underlines the need for better coordination between the United Nations and host Governments, in accordance with the relevant provisions of international law and national laws, on the use and deployment of essential equipment required to provide for the safety and security of United Nations personnel and associated personnel working in the delivery of humanitarian assistance by United Nations organizations;

       42.    Calls upon States to consider acceding to or ratifying the Tampere Convention on the Provision of Telecommunication Resources for Disaster Mitigation and Relief Operations of 18 June 1998, which entered into force on 8 January 2005, and urges them to facilitate and expedite, consistent with their national laws and international obligations applicable to them, the use of communications equipment in those and other relief operations, inter alia, by limiting and, whenever possible, expeditiously lifting the restrictions placed on the use of communications equipment by United Nations and associated personnel;

       43.    Requests the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its seventy-first session a comprehensive and updated report on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel and on the implementation of the present resolution, including an assessment of the impact of safety and security risks on such personnel, and the development, implementation and outcomes of policies, strategies and initiatives of the United Nations system in the field of safety and security.

72nd plenary meeting 10 December 2015