1 November 2003

The impact of Baghdad explosion is growing within the whole U.N. system as more facts are learned and more questions are asked. An "Independent Panel" led by former Finnish President and Senior U.N. Official Marti Ahtisaari made specific observations on 20 October and the Secretary General announced he will study carefully. Ten days later, on the eve of a gathering of heads of U.N. offices, programmes and agencies, the Secretary General sent a letter to the staff promising improved security. That, however, was not enough to contain the anger, frustration and sense of unapplied justice. The more the delay in providing a clear and tangible response, the sharper the response. Already staff throughout the system are insisting that those responsible, no matter how senior, are held accountable.

Panel's Executive Summary

1. In the view of the Panel, the UN security management system failed in its mission to provide adequate security to UN staff in Iraq. The failure of UN management and staff to comply with standard security regulations and directives left the UN open and vulnerable to the type of attack that was perpetrated on 19 August 2003. In particular, the UN security system failed adequately to analyse and utilize information made available to the system on threats against UN staff and premises. The security awareness within the country team did not match the hostile environment. The observance and implementation of security regulations and procedures were sloppy and non-compliance with security rules commonplace. Adequate security arrangements may not have been able to prevent the attack against the Canal Hotel perimeter, but would certainly have minimized the vulnerability of the staff and premises and reduced the number of casualties caused by the attack.

2. The main conclusion of the Panel is that the current security management system is dysfunctional. It provides little guarantee of security to UN staff in Iraq or other high-risk environments and needs to be reformed. The challenge of security of UN staff in crisis zones in the current world requires the highest level of professionalism and expertise from the security management. The current system is not able to provide this expertise. The new system should have a clear chain of command, an audit trail, extensive information management capabilities and clear division of labour and coordination. Adequate financial resources for the UN security management to act in a timely and effective manner should be available.

3. A major deficiency identified by the Panel is the lack of accountability for the decisions and positions taken by UN managers with regard to the security of UN staff. The United Nations needs a new culture of accountability in security management. Personal accountability of those entrusted with the safety of personnel as well as all staff in the field for their compliance with security rules should be paramount. In the case of Iraq, the Panel is of the view that the seriousness of the breaches in the UN security rules and procedures in the field and at Headquarters warrants a separate and independent audit process.

4. There is no place without risk in Iraq. A new security approach is needed in order to ensure staff security in such a high-risk environment. The key objective for the UN system in these circumstances is to reach and maintain an acceptable balance between UN operational objectives in Iraq and the security and protection of its staff and assets, both national and international. Before the decision to resume the activities in Iraq is made, a thorough and professional security assessment should be undertaken in order to determine whether the return of international staff is possible and, if so, under what kind of security arrangements. These arrangements should be set in place prior to the return of UN staff.

5. The panel feels strongly that these principles should be applied to all UN missions.

Secretary Generals Letter

Like all of you, I am gravely concerned at the findings of the Independent Panel which I appointed, after the disaster of 19 August, to look into the safety and security of UN personnel in Iraq. The Panelís report reveals serious shortcomings in our provision of security to UN staff in Iraq. We owe it to all those affected by the attack on our Baghdad headquarters -- the dead, the injured, the survivors, and their families -- to do our utmost to ensure that such failures are not repeated, either in Iraq or elsewhere. Indeed, we also owe that to ourselves and to each other.

Accordingly, I am taking immediate action to implement the Panelís recommendations.

First, in response to the recommendation to set up a separate and independent audit and accountability procedure, I am appointing an independent team of experts to review the responsibilities of key individuals for the lack of preventive and mitigating actions before the attack on 19 August.

Secondly, I am reviewing the serious weaknesses that have been revealed in the management of our security system. In early August a team of three external security experts completed a thorough evaluation of UN Security Arrangements, which had been requested by the General Assembly. Their report calls for a strategic reorganization of UN security management, to create a unified and strengthened system. The details of this are now being worked out under the chairmanship of the Deputy Secretary-General, and that effort will now also benefit from the findings of the Ahtisaari Panel.

Thirdly, on 20 August I instructed the Office of the Security Coordinator and the whole security apparatus of the UN system, including all the Funds, Programmes and Agencies, to conduct an in-depth review of all our security systems and the measures needed to ensure that we have the rules, procedures, equipment, training, and above all the capacity that will allow us to be much better prepared, in future, to meet the new kinds of threats that we have to face. In completing this review we will seek the advice of independent experts.

Fourthly, immediately after 19 August I instituted a review of the threats faced by our missions in the field, especially the most vulnerable of them. Measures, including those recommended by the Ahtisaari Panel, are now being taken to upgrade the security of these missions.

Finally, I am keeping the situation in Iraq itself constantly under review, particularly in the light of the new wave of violence in Baghdad this week, particularly the attack on the International Committee of the Red Cross. In this connection, our small remaining team of international officials in Baghdad is being relocated temporarily for consultations with a team from Headquarters, to thoroughly review our future operations in Iraq and the security arrangements that will be required.

As Secretary-General, I will spare no effort in acting on the conclusions of the Panelís report. I deeply regret the systemic failures that it has revealed, and I look forward to your support in our endeavours to rectify them. Yours sincerely, Kofi A. Annan, New York, 31 October 2003

These are initial steps in a process which, it is hoped ,will be serious,urgent and firm.

The issue goes to the heart of leadership, responsibility, and accountability, as well as to the performance and delivery of international civil service. Like everyone else who lost beloved colleagues in the first such assault on the U.N., we have many questions and could list many facts. In allowing adequate -- but not prolonged -- time for a responsible response and an indication of action, it will be useful to produce the executive summary of the investigation, mention the first letter by the Secretary General in ten days and the general reaction of the staff. We owe it to the U.N., our Organization in which we believe and to our fallen colleagues to continue pursuing this matter.