In April 2009 the Chief Executives Board approved the United Nations Security Management System (UNSMS) Guidelines for Acceptable Risk (Acceptable Risk Model). Later field testing of the Guidelines identified the need for greater clarity on programme criticality. In June 2010 the High-Level Committee on Management therefore established a Programme Criticality Working Group (PCWG), under the leadership of Hilde F. Johnson from UNICEF. This group’s goal was to “define four levels of programme criticality and develop a common framework for informing decision making within the guidelines for acceptable risk”.

Martin Mogwanja, as new UNICEF Chair of the Working Group, presented the Programme Criticality Framework developed by the Group and the proposed implementation plan. The Framework includes a methodology and a tool for informed decision making while determining programme criticality of activities carried out by UN system personnel.

The Programme Criticality Framework would be used to determine the programme criticality (PC) level for specific activities within a given geographic location and timeframe. This PC level would then be used in the Acceptable Risk Model to ensure that UN personnel do not take unnecessary risk and that those who remain in-country, work on highest priority activities in accordance with UN strategic results. The Framework would also allow country-level programme managers to design programmes and activities to be within predictable, known and acceptable risks. The PC Framework was developed through extensive consultation at headquarter and field levels, including field testing in Somalia, Kenya and Democratic Republic of Congo.  

A key element of the Framework is its integration with the new UN Security Management System (UNSMS) and, particularly, its value as a tool for implementing the newly adopted “how to stay” approach.  The Framework is not about staying at any cost, rather, it ensures that the programmes and personnel that remain in any country are working on the highest priority functions and programmes. In turn, these are defined as those supporting the strategic objectives of the United Nations system. Within this approach, the possibility for any staff to opt for “not-staying”, without being penalized by their organizations, was re-affirmed.  


The Committee recalled that the Programme Criticality Framework represented the last step in an effort, led by USGs Susana Malcorra and Gregory Starr, with active and high-level engagement by all HLCM members, to re-design the UN Security Management System. Such effort has led to the approval by CEB, in the past three years, of many new tools, criteria, and procedures, including the new Security Level System.

The Committee thanked UNICEF for accepting this responsibility and for guiding the Working Group to the completion of the new Framework.

The Staff Federations, affirming the paramount principle that staff should not face undue risk, expressed appreciation for the work undertaken, stressing that the key issue was to make sure that all possible risk-reduction measures be put in place in any circumstances, and that the decision to continue to operate in a given location be made solely to carry out the highest-priority mandates entrusted to the UN in that particular context.


The Committee:

Approved the Programme Criticality Framework (methodology and tool) for decision making within the Guidelines for Acceptable Risk, as outlined in document CEB/2011/HLCM/18, and submitted it to CEB for endorsement at its upcoming fall session on 28 October 2011.

Recommended that the Programme Criticality Framework be rolled out in at least 12 high priority countries (between January 2012 and April 2013) and that a consolidated progress report (with lessons learned and recommended adjustments) be made to HLCM at its 2013 spring session, following a preliminary update at the fall 2012 session. The list of 12 countries could be adjusted if so required by changing security conditions.

Affirmed that the above rollout is a collective UN-wide responsibility and will be undertaken by a “Programme Criticality Coordination Team” comprising members of DFS, DOCO, FAO, ILO, OCHA, UNAIDS, UNDP, DPA, DPKO, DSS, UNFPA, UNHCR, WFP, WHO, UNEP and UNODC (under UNICEF’s leadership) and supported by new funding arrangements for global coordination and management, travel and related expenses for in-country training and the development of a Programme Criticality e-training package.

Tasked the above “Programme Criticality Coordination Team” to develop a detailed Funding Proposal with Implementation Plan and Budget for the rollout of the Programme Criticality training, along the principles, activities and requirements outlined in document CEB/2011/HLCM/18/Add.1. The finalization of this Funding Proposal remains essential in order to cover the costs of the rollout and to ensure that all related activities are implemented on schedule.  The Committee further noted that, should sufficient funding not be made available on time, it would delay the start date, as well as scheduled training activities and expected results.