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Afghanistan: Ban appeals to Member States for extra security for UN staff and premises

29 October 2009 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he will ask Member States to expedite measures to strengthen security to respond to the “dramatically escalated” threat against the United Nations, as witnessed by the deadly attack yesterday in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed five UN staff and injured several others.

“Increasingly, the UN is being targeted, in this case precisely because of our support for the Afghan elections,” Mr. Ban told reporters after a closed-door meeting with the Security Council.

He noted that, not counting peacekeepers, 27 UN civilian personnel have lost their lives to violence so far this year, more than half of them in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The UN is a civilian operation,” he stressed. “We are working there to help Afghanistan’s people but our mission is not safe and [is] vulnerable. We need the full support of the Afghanistan Government and the international community.”

Yesterday both Mr. Ban and his Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, pledged that the UN will continue its work in the country despite the attack on a guest house in Kabul, for which the Taliban has claimed responsibility.

In his briefing to the Council, Mr. Ban told the 15-member body of the heroism of the security officers of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) during the early morning attack.

“For at least an hour, and perhaps more, they held off the attackers, fighting through the corridors of the building and from the rooftop, giving their colleagues time to escape,” he said.

“Without their heroism, there could have been more casualties, victims.”

He added that the UN is considering a number of immediate short-term measures, including the consolidation of UN staff in Kabul, as well as the feasibility of bringing in extra security units to guard UN facilities.

“We cannot do it alone. We need the support of the Member States,” said the Secretary-General. “We must realistically assess the situation and put in place more effective protections for our staff as they perform their crucial tasks.”

The Council, in a presidential statement, voiced support for the measures already taken by Mr. Ban to ensure staff security and said it looked forward to further detailed proposals by him. It also commended the determination of the UN not to be deterred by the tragic incident and to carry on its mission in Afghanistan.

UN agencies in Afghanistan met today to review security for their staff in the wake of the attack, which occurred just days ahead of the presidential run-off scheduled for 7 November.

“A number of recommendations for immediate actions have gone forward, and further discussion of longer-term measures will continue in the coming days,” UN spokesperson Michele Montas said at a press briefing in New York.

Asked whether the elections will be postponed, Ms. Montas said that was not planned, adding that the UN is determined to continue with its support to the elections.

Earlier today, Mr. Ban stressed the need for a strengthened and unified security management system, as he presented his budget proposals for the Organization for the biennium 2010-2011.

The proposals, he said, will enable the UN to strengthen security for its staff, their dependents and UN premises. He urged Member States to consider the proposals favourably, saying, “After all, our people are your people.”

Mr. Ban will take his request for strengthened security measures to the full membership of the UN when he briefs the Assembly tomorrow.

“I will ask for expedited action for our security measures, so that we can meet the dramatically escalated threat to UN staff, now widely considered to be a ‘soft target,’ as well as provide support for victims and their families,” he stated.

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