For the first half-century of its existence, the United Nations felt protected by its flag and the reality that it was a neutral, benevolent actor in world events. If United Nations personnel were directly targeted, it was generally viewed as an isolated event.
In the early 1990s, the security environment for the United Nations changed and became more threatening. There was a rise in the number of deaths and injuries to personnel as a result of malicious acts. The mandate of the United Nations also evolved, resulting in a larger number of United Nations personnel, notably from the humanitarian agencies, being deployed on potentially hazardous missions.
At the same time, peacekeeping missions were being established in areas at war or in situations of high risk. Increasingly, humanitarian personnel were being deployed alongside peacekeeping military units in integrated multidisciplinary missions.
UNDSS is born
A concerted effort was subsequently made across the United Nations system to overhaul and improve staff security arrangements. In 2004, a radical proposal for strengthening and unifying the United Nations security management system was presented to the 59th session of the General Assembly in Report A/59/365 of 11 October 2004.
This resulted in the adoption of General Assembly Resolution (A/RES/59/276 December 2004) that created the Department of Safety and Security which merged the security management component of the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator (UNSECOORD) and the Security and Safety Services (SSS) at Headquarters and at Offices away from Headquarters, (including the regional commissions),.
Furthermore, the Resolution mandated that the new Department be headed by a senior UN official at the rank of Under-Secretary-General for a non-renewable term of five years. The General Assembly also adopted measures to reinforce security operations in all locations and decided to establish a unified capacity for policy, standards, coordination, communications, compliance and threat and risk assessment.
The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) was formally established on 1 January 2005.
The mandate of the Division is (according to ST/SGB/2013/5):
To provide strategic management, operational guidance and overall technical supervision of the Security and Safety Services located in New York, Offices away from Headquarters, regional commissions, and international tribunals.
To manage the growing demand for personal protection details in a systematic and coordinated manner; to coordinate provision of security arrangements and specialized security support to major external events and conferences; to provide specialized assistance to the UNSMS on the assessment and implementation of physical security measures.