15 NOVEMBER 2011


The United Nations Staff Union and its Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service expressed outrage at an attack 31 October on the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) in Kandahar, Afghanistan, involving suicide bombers and gunmen, in which three UNHCR employees were killed and two others wounded. Two others were also killed. The incident confirmed a deadly trend of attacks against United Nations personnel in Afghanistan. On 1 April this year, seven staff members were brutally killed after demonstrators attacked the premises of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in Mazar-e-Sharif. On 28 October 2009, an attack on a guest house in Kabul carried out by three Taliban militants with suicide vests, grenades and machine guns took the lives of five staff members. The outright murder of UNAMA security officer Louis Maxwell in that attack remains unanswered to this day by the United Nations and the Afghan Government.

These and previous attacks, including the shooting and killing of a UNHCR Afghan contract worker on 26 November 2008 at a meeting of local elders in Lower Sheikh Mesri, confirm Afghanistan as one of the most dangerous places for United Nations staff.

In the light of that attack, the Staff Union once again urges the Secretary-General to reconsider the deployment of staff in Afghanistan and to carry out a comprehensive review of the security situation in the country. The Secretary-General should not deploy United Nations staff unless national and local authorities in the host country take measures to comply with established levels of security. The Staff Union emphasizes that the safety of staff remain the highest priority, and that adequate measures must be taken to protect staff throughout Afghanistan.

At a global town-hall meeting held by Secretary-General on 13 September 2011, staff unions and associations representing over 50,000 United Nations staff delivered a joint statement expressing their concerns over the increasing number of fatal attacks directed against the Organization during his tenure. While incensed over the lack of accountability of senior officials, the staff unions and associations made it clear that "it cannot be right that our current security management policies accept casualties and deaths as a routine part of programme delivery." They added that the growing number of incidents only proves "that the Organization is moving in the wrong direction on security."