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Safety of UN workers ‘our top priority’, says Guterres

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The United Nations flag flies at half-mast at UN Headquarters.

The UN chief on Friday paid tribute to the dozens of United Nations personnel who have been detained this year while working for the Organization, and those whose whereabouts is unknown.

In his message marking the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members, Secretary-General António Guterres said that UN staffers and contractors “work tirelessly to serve the people of the world”, and it was important to recall the dangers they face, on a daily basis.

Since the beginning of last year, 142 UN personnel have been detained, including 15 in 2022 alone.

‘Unacceptable threats’

“In total, 22 United Nations personnel are still in detention. National staff are often at particular risk and face unacceptable threats to their safety and security”, said the UN chief.

We continue to monitor these cases and seek the immediate release of all our colleagues. I thank the Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service of the United Nations Staff Union for its steadfast advocacy and vigilance.”

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Mr. Guterres reminded that anyone working for the UN should be allowed to do their job unhindered, wherever they are based, and that they have privileges and immunities as civil servants, including those contained in the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.

Protection protocols

“I also call on all countries, which have not yet done so, to accede to and fully implement the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel as well as the 2005 Optional Protocol to the Convention”, said the Secretary-General, “which extends protection to personnel delivering humanitarian, political or development assistance.”

He said the safety of anyone who works with the UN, “is our top priority.”

“On this International Day, let us stand in solidarity with all detained colleagues and pledge to protect all United Nations personnel as they work to advance peace and human rights, protect the planet and build a better future for all.”

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