Monday, September 1, 2008

UN must overhaul image to improve staff safety: Ban Ki-moon


Mon 1 Sep 2008, 11:50 GMT

[-] Text [+] GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations must improve its image in conflict zones so its employees are not seen as targets, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday.

Addressing a Geneva ceremony commemorating the 2003 bombing of the U.N.'s Baghdad headquarters, which killed 22 U.N. staff, Ban said he was committed to taking "every possible measure to protect our staff around the world".

But he said it was impossible to eliminate risk without changing errant perceptions about the world body and its staff, who are occasionally seen as working on behalf of leading powers and not in a neutral interest.

"Too many people in the world do not understand what the U.N. does, or its role as an impartial friend to all. This remains one of our most significant strategic communications challenges," Ban said.

The U.N. has more than 100,000 staff supporting peacekeeping operations in countries including Georgia, Lebanon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Sudan, and Chad, and deploys scores of humanitarian aid workers to distribute food and run refugee camps in some of the world's most dangerous hotspots.

Plans are under way to build a larger and better-fortified compound to house U.N. staff in Iraq, and security policies will be overhauled in line with recommendations from an independent panel formed after last December's blasts in Algiers that killed 17 U.N. employees, the U.N. chief told the ceremony.

At its New York headquarters and regional hubs in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi, the U.N. and its agencies also work to promote human rights, protect the environment, tackle disease, and fight poverty. It spends about $15 billion a year.

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