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UN Staffers Worry Lives May Be At Higher Risk

United Nations envoys in the Congo and Sudan currently sustain the highest number of casualties and could be at grave risk because of a shift in policy.
The trade union of the United Nations administrative personnel is concerned that revisions in the existing policy on security management will put lives at higher level of risk and as a result -- more casualties for the UN staff operating in volatile areas.

In a press release the Staff Union of the United Nations Secretariat says that it is “concerned about the potentially fatal effects” of the revised policy. The shift in wording -- from a “when to leave” to a “how to stay” approach -- may have significant negative consequences according to the Staff Union.

Edoardo Bellando, a member of the Union, tells RFE/RL that whereas the existing policy has always identified the safety and security of the UN staff in dangerous locations as a “paramount” priority, the revised rules, which will enter into effect in 2011, place the foremost priority on accomplishing the mission.

Bellando says that the revised policy may also lead to additional emotional stress for colleagues and relatives of those killed and may create an extra financial burden for the UN -- life insurance and compensation.

The guidelines for acceptable risk in the new UN policy describe the conditions under which additional risk may be tolerated when “vital programs” need to be implemented.

In 2009, 31 UN civilian staff were killed, and 13 have been killed so far this year. The highest number of UN civilian staff casualties are in Sudan and Congo.

-- Nikola Krastev

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