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Political, Social Polarization Leading to Rise in Global Insecurity, Secretary-General’s Report Finds

Global insecurity will continue to rise as a result of political and social polarization, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres says in his report to the General Assembly released on 30 October, titled “Safety and Security of Humanitarian Personnel and Protection of United Nations Personnel”.

According to the report, political and social polarization built on economic disparities and populism, competition for natural resources and environmental degradation, fragmented non-State armed actors and the absence of political solutions to evolving conflicts, remain the main causes for insecurity.

The report analyses global security and security incidents involving United Nations and humanitarian personnel and premises in 2017 and the first half of 2018.  It predicts that blurring lines between criminal cartels, non-State armed groups and extremist organizations will continue.  Disregard for international humanitarian law and human rights law is endemic, with attacks on humanitarian and United Nations personnel continuing unabated.

Despite the highly complex global security environment, United Nations civilian personnel killed due to violence fell to its lowest in six years, except for peacekeepers, according to the report.  Nine United Nations personnel were killed by violent acts from 2017 through the first half of 2018.  Meanwhile, fatalities due to malicious acts among peacekeepers increased to 61 in 2017, compared to 34 recorded in 2016, the highest number on record since 1994, the report says.  Among those peacekeepers, 15 lost their lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a single incident in December 2017.

In that 18-month period, a total of 21 personnel lost their lives owing to acts of violence and safety-related incidents, the report says.  The United Nations also saw an increase in the number of incidents of intimidation and harassment of its personnel.  The number of reported sexual assaults against its staff also rose in 2017, and 57 per cent of those affected were women.

Direct attacks against United Nations premises, as well as the arrests and detention of United Nations personnel did, however, decrease in 2017, according to the report.  Although crime remains the main cause of personnel fatalities due to violence, the number of United Nations personnel affected by crimes has steadily decreased since 2014.

The report also highlights the Secretary-General’s concern over the security of United Nations locally recruited (national) staff, affected to a larger extent by crime compared to international staff, with 61 per cent of those impacted by criminal acts being locally recruited.  The United Nations has recently promulgated a comprehensive policy to address their security issues.

However, more United Nations personnel were affected by safety and security incidents in 2017 than in 2016, including a rise in fatalities from road traffic accidents, according to the report.  The Organization has developed a system-wide road-safety strategy but needs more support for this initiative.

Based on information received from humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the report says 60 personnel of humanitarian NGOs were killed in 2017 and the first half of 2018.  The number represents an increase over the previous 18-month period, in which 51 fatalities were reported.

“Promoting further the organizational culture which mainstreams the safety and security of United Nations personnel in all aspects of the Organization’s work remains one of my top priorities,” the Secretary-General says.  He calls upon the international community to work together to address the underlying political and social challenges and close sustainable development gaps that have led to the rise in insecurity.  He also urges Member States and other partners of the Organization to support the Department of Safety and Security Trust to further the protection of United Nations personnel.

For additional information, please contact Florence Poussin, at tel.:  +1 917 288 1037, or email:; or Suchada Kulawat, at tel.:  +1 917 601 4822, or email:, in the United Nations Department of Safety and Security.

For information media. Not an official record.