Global Policy Forum

UN Wants $97 Mln for Security After Iraq Blast


By Evelyn Leopold

October 12, 2004

The United Nations has proposed a major $97 million (54 million pound) overhaul of its security system with 778 new posts, a response to devastating safety reports after the 2003 bombing of its offices in Iraq. In a report to the General Assembly on Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the world body needed a new directorate of security, based in New York, to unify its myriad safety structures around the world. "A degree of risk cannot be avoided," he said. "The challenge is to mitigate it."

The report did not give figures but U.N. sources said Annan, and his deputy, Louise Frechette, wanted to add 778 positions, including 33 in places where there are no security staff. Some 99 posts would be in New York. The cost of the new jobs as well as needed equipment would be $97 million.

A year ago, a panel headed by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, accused the United Nations of a catalogue of security breaches that it said probably cost lives in the August 19 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. That report blamed security officials and top management in New York and in Iraq for lapses before the August 19, 2003 attack in Baghdad that killed 22 people and injured 150. It called the security arrangements "dysfunctional" and "sloppy."

One problem was that no one was in overall charge. The report proposed a new unit at U.N. headquarters, headed by an undersecretary-general and including a "threat and risk analysis" section. This directorate would have responsibility for security for 100,000 U.N. staff and 300,000 dependents worldwide, including those from specialized relief agencies, at more than 150 duty stations. A considerable number of these are considered high risk, the report said. In each country, one security officer would be in charge. In countries, with peacekeeping missions, security would have to be coordinated with commanders and the New York peacekeeping department the report said. In case of a dispute, Annan would intervene.

The report is being transmitted to General Assembly budget and management committees, which must rule on the proposals and will probably trim some of the costs, diplomats said. "It's not going to be an easy ride," said one envoy, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Annan, whose trips abroad are secret until the last minute, cautioned that the United Nations could not succumb to a "bunker mentality" and shrink from work it was expected to do. But he said "recent events have brought the United Nations face to face with the danger that the organization itself may have become a primary target of political violence." "Further attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan remain possible and there is a distinct possibility of direct and deliberate targeting of United Nations personnel and facilities in other locations as well," he said in the report.

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