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United Nations Daily Highlights, 04-03-29

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY FRED ECKHARD

SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Monday, March 29, 2004

SUMMARY OF REPORT OF SECURITY IN IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY

PANEL RELEASED TODAY

On November 10, 2003,

Secretary-General Kofi Annan established the Security in Iraq Accountability Panel to undertake an independent audit and accountability procedure to review the responsibilities of all individuals and UN organizations/offices/entities involved in the security of the UN operation in Iraq. The Panel should, in particular, examine the actions or omissions of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad and its staff which might have prevented or mitigated the effect of the attack, or diminished the loss of life and injury to UN personnel.

The Panel members were Gerald Walzer (Chair), a former Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees; Sinha Basnayake, former Director of the General Legal Division of the Office of Legal Affairs in the United Nations; Kevin Carty, Assistant Commissioner of National Police of Ireland; and Stuart Groves, Senior Security Manager and Security Focal Point in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Panel was assisted in its work by Bryan Deschamp, Senior Special Adviser, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Panel submitted its report to the Secretary-General on March 3, 2004.

While it reached the conclusion that there was no blurring in the relevant chains of command, the Panel identified the following principal failures:

Contrary to the established practices and procedures of the Organization, no prior security assessment mission was sent to Iraq before the first humanitarian staff returned to Baghdad on 1 May 2003, or before the decision was taken to send staff from Amman to Baghdad by road rather than by air.

At the executive level in Headquarters in New York, the Steering Group on Iraq (SGI), lacked due care or diligence in the manner in which it dealt with the circumstances of the return to Baghdad. It should have asked some searching questions about the security aspects of the proposed return plan.

The SGI endorsed a flawed concept of operations paper received from the Designated Official and endorsed by the UN Security Coordinator. The SGI failed to insist on clarifying the extent of the risk the staff would be running. It also failed to insist on respect by all entities involved regarding staff ceilings and security clearances, in contravention of the established practice and procedures of the Organization.

No comprehensive, documented review was undertaken of the security requirements at the Canal Hotel (where the UN headquarters in Baghdad was located), following the return of UN staff on 1 May.

The UN Security Coordinator, the Designated Official, and the Security Management Team in Baghdad, appeared to be blinded by the conviction that UN personnel and installations would not become a target of attack, despite the clear warnings to the contrary.

Meanwhile, security updates compiled and disseminated between 23 May and 19 August gave a picture of how the security situation deteriorated during that period of time. There was a conflict between information received from UN and from U.S. military sources as to whether requests were made by senior UN staff in Baghdad to vacate U.S. military personnel and equipment from critical positions around the Canal Hotel before the attack on 19 August.

The standard of security management as regards the Canal Hotel was seriously deficient and lacking cohesion. This deficiency was exacerbated by the inadequate support that the Field Security Coordinator received from senior security management in New York, and from the Designated Official.

The UN Security Coordinator failed to take remedial action with regard to difficulties being encountered by Office of the UN Security Coordinator (UNSECOORD) staff in Baghdad to cope with increasing demands on their services and rising stress levels.

The Chief Administrative Officer of the UN Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, and the Building Manager of that Office, did not demonstrate any serious intention to procure and install blast-resistant film for the entire Canal Hotel. These two officers displayed profound lack of responsibility and ineptitude in the manner they sought to implement the request for installation of the film. Their combined response to the issue indicates a lethargy that is bordering on gross negligence.

Given the security communitys awareness of the deteriorating security circumstances in Baghdad, there was a failure on the part of the Designated Official, the UN Security Coordinator and the SGI to take appropriate remedial action, either by reducing staff numbers or by a concerted effort to improve security measures.

In the light of the above failures, the Secretary-General, having reviewed the Panels findings and conclusions, with the assistance of his senior advisers not directly involved in the issues considered by the Panel, has decided on the following action:

Refer the matter of the Chief Administrative Officer of UNOCHI and the Building Manager of UNOCHI to the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the two staff members, who are being charged with misconduct;

Immediate reassignment of the Field Security Coordination Officer from UNSECOORD to an appropriate post not involving any functions related to security matters;

Letter of reprimand to the Security Management Team in Iraq;

Request for the immediate resignation of the Humanitarian Coordinator/Designated Official from his current Assistant Secretary-General post in the United Nations and return to his "D-2" (Director) post in World Food Programme. His future assignments will not include any responsibilities for security matters;

Request for the resignation of the UN Security Coordinator from the United Nations;

A letter to each head of a UN Fund or Programme who had staff in Iraq during the period 1 May 19 August 2003, critical of their management and lack of respect for staff ceilings and security clearances (applicable in Iraq);

A letter addressed to the Deputy Secretary-General, in her capacity as Chairperson of the SGI, expressing his disappointment and regret with regard to the failures identified by the Panel which are attributable to the SGI. This letter would be shared with all members of the Steering Group.

In the light of the above findings and conclusions of the Panel, the Deputy Secretary-General tendered her resignation to the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General, taking into account the collective nature of the failures attributable to the Steering Group on Iraq as a whole, declined to accept the resignation.

The Secretary-General regretted the failures identified by the Panel and expressed his determination to take all corrective measures, within his authority, to enhance the safety and security of all U.N. staff, especially those deployed in dangerous conflict areas. The Secretary-General paid tribute to the staff who lost their lives or were injured in the attack on the United Nations in Baghdad on August 19, 2003. He renewed his confidence in the staff of the Organization for their devoted service and unflinching dedication to the United Nations.

Asked about Louise Fréchettes tendering of her resignation as Deputy Secretary-General, the Spokesman said that matter is closed. She offered her resignation in writing. and the Secretary-General did not accept that, because the failures of the SGI were collective and not the responsibility of any one individual, except for the Security Coordinator, Tun Myat, who sat on that group and was responsible for advising it on security matters.

Eckhard added that the Secretary-Generals decision not to accept the resignation was his firm, definite, carefully considered decision.

Asked whether Fréchette will be limited in her further dealings with security issues, the Spokesman noted that the SGI is made up of many of the senior-most officials of the Secretariat, and the letter from the Secretary-General signals to them that, on security matters in particular, they will have to be more vigilant.

He emphasized, as did Gerald Walzer, that security is responsibility of security coordinator.

The security coordinator is the one with overall responsibility for security in the UN system as a whole, Eckhard said, adding, "The buck stops there." The Designated Official, Ramiro Lopes da Silva, is the senior person responsible for all security in the mission area, and was, in effect, following the recommendations of the Security Coordinator in New York.

Tun Myat was asked to submit his resignation, and he submitted it, the Spokesman said. Ramiro Lopes da Silva was allowed to go back to his previous position with WFP in Rome, at his old level, with the directive that he will no longer have security responsibilities in the UN again, he added. Lopes da Silva is currently finishing up an assignment as Special Humanitarian Adviser in the Central African Republic, pending a new assignment at WFP.

Asked who has ultimate responsibility over security, Walzer said that the Secretary-General can declare Phase V, to evacuate staff on security grounds, and that the Security Coordinator has direct reporting responsibility to the Secretary-General.

He said that the Secretary-General had received advice, recommending the return of UN staff to Baghdad, which did not indicate to him that standard practice was not observed in that situation. The Secretary-General had acted properly, in the panels view, Walzer said.

Walzer noted that it is standard practice to send in a security team prior to any other UN teams going in to decide on UN involvement in recent conflict zones. The panel felt, Walzer said, that the opportunity to assess security fully before putting staff on the ground had been missed, and that problem had not been pointed out to the SGI or the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General acted thinking that the recommendation he received followed regular procedures, he said.

The Spokesman said the Secretary-General took the decision to return UN staff to Iraq on the recommendation of his senior-most officials, and on the specific recommendation of the Security Coordinator. There had been no dissenting voices to that decision, he added.

Asked about Sergio Vieira de Mellos assessment of the security situation, the Spokesman said there were indications in the report that Vieira de Mello, like the other managers in Baghdad, did not have an adequate grasp of the rising threat to them of the deteriorating security situation.

The Secretary-General, the report says, did have a phone conversation with Vieira de Mello following the bombing of the Jordanian embassy, on whether that was a sign the situation was growing more dangerous, but was reassured that the situation was still manageable, Eckhard said.

Asked about reports following the August 19 attack that indicated that Vieira de Mellos plane had been shot at, Walzer said that the plane had been returning from Kuwait, and there had been shooting in the area as the plane was about to land. He asserted that there was no indication that his plane had been targeted.

Asked whether the report uncovered threats that had been made, or were ignored, Walzer said that UN management had grown increasingly concerned about the deteriorating situation in mid-June. He noted that there had been incidents involving international organizations, including armed attacks on warehouses, the loss of a staff member of the International Organization for Migration, and an attack on the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC).

Even those who had grown most concerned never expected anything of that magnitude, Walzer said of the August 19 bombing.

Asked whether the people on the ground on August 19 had all been essential personnel, the Spokesman said that, at the time, there had been concern of a grave humanitarian situation at the end of fighting, so there was an impulse in the humanitarian community to jump in with both feet. Many more staff were going in than the ceiling would allow, he said, leading to the Secretary-Generals response today to the heads of all the agencies.

Asked whether UN staff have legal redress to sue in this case, the Spokesman said that all officials who were carrying out their official responsibilities are immune from legal prosecution. The two individuals whose case has gone to OHRM will go through a standard procedure, and will be informed of their rights under that procedure.

Asked about security for other UN missions, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General already had been working on a worldwide review of security in UN Missions and other headquarter locations, which was very close to wrapping up by last August 19.

Eckhard said the United Nations is aware that the security situation is changing, and Under-Secretary-General for Management Catherine Bertini was in the General Assembly last week, specifying the budgetary implications of work already under way.

Walzer added that there is no question that the staffing of the security team in Baghdad, with the number of staff rising, was inadequate. He noted the perennial problem at the UN to fund security costs.

Asked about U.S. offers for increased security, Walzer said that the panel had not been able to meet with officials from the coalition forces who were responsible for outer perimeter security at the UN compound. The Secretariat is pursuing with the U.S. Government further answers, he said.

Walzer added that he was not aware of any information that further protection was offered than was on the ground. He noted conflicting information on whether the United Nations had wanted to reduce the visibility of the presence on the ground and on whether there had been a decision to decrease some perimeter protection. He noted that coalition forces have had staff turnover and have been promising to cooperate from the outset. The first responses have come in, he said.

ANNAN HANDS OVER DRAFT OF CYPRUS PLAN

EXPECTS COMMITMENT FROM LEADERS

Earlier today in Burgenstock, Switzerland,

Secretary-General Kofi Annan handed over to the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders a draft of the proposed Comprehensive Settlement of the

Cyprus problem. Also receiving the plan today were the representatives of the motherlands, Turkey and Greece.

Just prior to handing over more than nine thousand pages of text, the Secretary-General

said that he expected them to make a commitment here and now. There is a sense of destiny, he said.

The text, he said, is the result of the Herculean efforts of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders, working intensely and in unison for the reunification of their country. He added that they pooled their great talent in search of common ends, while respecting each others identities.

The Secretary-General called on the leaders to act on a vision of a Cyprus, working for all of the people, with the leadership the people deserve.

The draft is now being studied by the parties. The Secretary-General expects them to react tomorrow morning.

The UN team, led by his Special Advisor Alvaro de Soto, will evaluate those reactions to finalize a text on Wednesday. That text would then be submitted to two separate referenda on April 20.

In addition, the Secretary-General met this afternoon with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Later in the evening, he met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

ANNAN CONCERNED OVER VIOLENCE IN DR CONGO

The

Secretary-General is deeply

concerned by the attacks and incidents of violence in Kinshasa yesterday. He strongly condemns any attempt to disrupt the transitional process and calls on all parties to stay the course of national reconciliation leading to fair and free national elections and the earliest implementation of the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement.

The Secretary-General reaffirms the determination of

MONUC to carry out its mandate authorized by the Security Council in support of the transitional process.

[The

Secretary-General's latest

report on the work of

MONUC, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was issued today.]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE UN SYSTEM

SECURITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS LIBERIA: The

Security Council has scheduled consultations at 3 p.m. on

Liberia. Under Secretary-General for

Peacekeeping Operations

Jean-Marie Guehenno is expected to brief Council members on the latest progress

report on

UNMIL, the UN mission in Liberia.

SEPTEMBER ELECTIONS FOR AFGHANISTAN WELCOMED: The head of

UNAMA, the UN Mission in Afghanistan,

welcomed President Hamid Karzais announcement yesterday that elections in

Afghanistan, previously expected for June, would take place this September. That decision, said Special Representative

Jean Arnault, is going to make everyones life a lot easier. Arnault will also travel to Berlin this week to attend the international conference on Afghanistan that will begin there on Wednesday.

SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PEACEKEEPING BRIEFED: The

Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, also known as the C-34, held its opening session this morning. The Under Secretary-General for

Peacekeeping,

Jean- Marie Guehenno, spoke of the surge in demand for peacekeeping and he noted the political, material, financial and human challenges to be met in the months ahead in order to meet those demands.

UNHCR CONCERNED OVER EUROPEAN UNION DRAFT DIRECTIVES ON ASYLUM-SEEKERS: Ruud Lubbers, the

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has

raised

concerns about two draft directives on asylum in the European Union. The points of contention deal with who qualifies as a

refugee and how that decision is reached. Lubbers said that if adopted, the directives could lead to a contravention of international law, an erosion of the global asylum system, and jeopardise the lives of future refugees. EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers are scheduled to discuss the relevant directives aimed at harmonizing EU asylum law in Brussels tomorrow.

ANNAN SENT TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAMME TO SECURITY COUNCIL: The

Secretary-General sent the Security Council a letter on Friday evening which details the organization and terms of reference of an independent, high-level inquiry concerning reports that have called into question the administration and management of the

Oil-for-Food Programme. He said that the terms of reference are designed to promote the maximum degree of transparency and effectiveness. He added that he shall inform the members of the Security Council of the composition of the panel in due course.

RWANDAN REFUGEES REPATRIATED FROM UGANDA: Since the start of voluntary repatriation in January, some 1,100 Rwandan refugees have

gone home from Uganda as the government in Kigali steps up efforts to welcome its refugees back. An estimated 2 million people fled Rwanda in the wake of the 1994 genocide. The

UN High Commissioner for Refugees believes that as of mid-2003, there were still some 60,000 Rwandan refugees in the region. UNHCR expects to help two-thirds of the remaining 60,000 Rwandan refugees in the region to return home this year.

CONCERN OVER REPORTS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN DARFUR, SUDAN: Eight

UN human rights rapporteurs have issued a joint statement

expressing their grave concern about reported widespread abuses in Darfur, Sudan. They urge all parties in the conflict to respect civilian populations in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law. They flag the absolute necessity of identifying the perpetrators and ensuring that they are held accountable in conformity with international standards.

U.N. OFFICIAL ENDS THREE-DAY MISSION TO TANZANIA:

Mark Malloch Brown, the administrator of the

UN Development Programme, is in Dar es Salaam today, wrapping up his three-day mission to Tanzania. Today, he joined Tanzanias Prime Minister, Frederick Sumaye, for the launch of the countrys Parliamentary Online Information System. He also delivered an address on enhancing parliamentary accountability, deepening democratic governance and the

Millennium Development Goals.

DEAD ZONES THREATEN WORLDS FISH STOCKS: The worlds fish stocks are increasingly under threat from oxygen-starved areas, or dead zones, in the worlds oceans and seas,

according to the

Global Environment Outlook Year Book a new report by the

UN Environment Programme.

ANNAN SADDENED BY DEATH OF SIR PETER USTINOV: The

Secretary-General was deeply

saddened to learn of the death of

Sir Peter Ustinov, the actor, writer and humanitarian. Sir Peters exceptional wit, intelligence and creativity were fully matched by his compassion, conscience and character. Not only did his talents bring joy to millions of people; he served

UNICEF with dedication and distinction for more than three decades to bring attention to the needs of children everywhere. The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the Sir Peters wife and family, and joins his admirers around the world in giving thanks for the life of this incurable optimist, remarkable world citizen, and steadfast friend of the United Nations.

Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162 - press/media only

Fax. 212-963-7055

All other inquiries to be addressed to (212)

963-4475 or by e-mail to: inquiries@un.org


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