At its 27th session, held in Venice in April 2014, the High-Level Committee on Management (HLCM) agreed to establish a working group, to be chaired by the Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security (USG, UNDSS), with a Co-Chair to be selected among other HLCM members, to undertake a comprehensive review of the issues raised in UNDSS’ paper titled, “Reconciling Duty of Care in the UN’s Operating Environment.

In August 2014, the first meeting of the HLCM High-Level Working Group on “reconciling duty of care for UN personnel with the need ‘to stay and deliver’ in high-risk environments” (“Working Group”) was chaired by USG, UNDSS, with Ms. Karen Farkas, Director, Division of Human Resources Management (UNHCR), serving as a Co-Chair. During this meeting, a wide range of duty of care issues was discussed, along with the objectives of the Working Group as well as the scope of its work. The second meeting of the Working Group was held in November 2014, whereby the Working Group’s Terms of Reference (TORs), including a formal work plan and related timelines, were established. There are currently fourteen UN system entities and networks represented on the Working Group, along with one observer.

Scope of Work

The scope of the Working Group’s analysis is limited to high-risk environments, where organizations, managers, personnel and their eligible family members arguably face the widest range of duty of care issues. The Working Group aims to analyse five, distinct high-risk environmentsAfghanistan, Ebola-impacted countries, Haiti, Mali/Somalia and Syria) marked by the existence of armed conflict, medical emergency, natural disaster or terrorism and propose a working definition of “duty of care”. The Working Group’s objective is to clarify and improve the extent to which the Organization is meeting its duty of care towards personnel and their eligible family members in high-risk environments. The Working Group then plans to identify specific issues, which may include formal guidance and practical tools for managers in the field.