Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Thursday, 5 November 2009

UN workers fear huge impact of relocation

The UN has said that it will temporarily relocate 600 of its international staff based in Afghanistan.

Here, UN workers discuss how the measures to tackle growing security challenges will impact on the UN operation in Afghanistan.

UN employees carry a slain colleague's coffin at Kabul airport on 3 November 2009
Taliban attackers in police uniforms stormed the guesthouse last week

I've been asking the organisation to consider our security very seriously, as current operational standards are ineffective. I feel vulnerable.

Everyone in the UN community here agrees that security needs to be beefed up. Security at the UN-approved guest houses is a joke. A couple of armed guards are no match for determined suicide attackers.

Relocation of UN staff is definitely what's needed for the time being. The targets cannot be defended in any rational form and it is very possible that we continue to be targeted because the Taliban will find it in their interest to drive the UN out of the country.

There's lots of discussion going on and we have meetings every day. What is clear is that there will be significant downsizing and measures to protect our staff by moving to more secure locations - cities that are a bit less vulnerable than Kabul.

Workload will increase and it will take some time to adapt to the new conditions. How long - it's impossible to tell

This will have a huge impact on our operation here. It will take longer and it will be more difficult to achieve our goals.

It's going to be much harder to work out from a remote location. A certain amount of work can be done, by using of video for example, but monitoring and evaluation is going to be more difficult.

The whole working environment in Kabul is going to change. Those who are left here will have to fill in for those who'll be relocated, which will make their lives much more difficult.

For example, a colleague who is already out of the country, has been able to do some work remotely via email, but when it comes to the monitoring and valuation of the project - someone else has to pick that up, and it's probably going to be me.

We are also supposed to be moving in armoured vehicles, but we have limited number of vehicles. That means our interaction with government ministries and partners will be more difficult.

Workload will increase and it will take some time to adapt to the new conditions. How long - it's impossible to tell.


I welcome the wise decision taken by the UN to reduce non-essential international staff.

The security situation is getting worse day by day in the South and access to the field is very dangerous. Just when you think that the situation has gone back to normal, something happens.

The reduction of the international staff would mean that Afghan UN workers will have to fill the gap and this will be an opportunity for them to enhance their efficiency.

Although the security situation poses a similar threat to us, Afghan staff, this is our country, and we should be prepared to take the risk, even if we have to lose our precious lives for the good of our country.

It's unbearable for us to see our foreign colleagues, who've left their countries to serve ours, lose their lives.

So, the reduction of UN foreign staff is welcome, until the security situation improves.

In the meantime, special effort should be put into strengthening the Afghan government, so that it can cope with the gap of foreign workers.

I don't think the impact will be big because our operation is limited to certain areas and certain periods. And I think we will be able to cover for our foreign colleagues.


I am a general unit supervisor working for the engineering section of the UN. I've been working in Kabul for the last one and a half years.

I am going to be affected by the decision to relocate foreign staff. I don't know yet where I'll be sent to, we are going to have a meeting this afternoon to discuss the details.

While relocation is good for the protection of our lives, it's not good for the work we do.

I don't care how bad the security situation is. We are here to help the people of Afghanistan. We must work hard even in dangerous situations in order to reach our goal.

We have to show Afghan people that we are here for them. By relocating its staff, the UN is sending the wrong message to Afghan people.

I am prepared to stay and continue my work. I prefer to stay here than to be relocated.


We have always said that the Taliban or other insurgents are merciful people.

We say this because if they wanted to kill us, we could be slaughtered in our hundreds on any day; in the traffic, at the office, at play or at home. But they have chosen not to target us, until last week.

Last week's horrific event, which saw the murder of five of our colleagues and three of our Afghan counterparts, does not mark a decrease in security in Kabul city.

One of the saddest aspects of all of this is that the focus has been on international staff and not on the 75% UN staff who are Afghan nationals

We believe it was designed to deliver a message to the UN and the international community regarding interference in the election process and the, now cancelled, second round of elections.

Kabul city was a much more violent place in 2006 until the early 2007. Afghan security forces, who have control over Kabul security, on the most part, are doing a terrific job.

At the moment we have not been briefed as to what a temporary relocation means and who will be effected. It is our understanding that each UN agency will undertake its own assessment of what relocation might mean.

As such, the manner in which this relocation will affect operations is not yet known and will probably differ between UN agencies.

One of the saddest aspects of all of this is that the focus has been on international UN staff and not on the 75% of UN staff in Afghanistan who are Afghan nationals.

To my understanding very little is being done to bolster their security.

Of all of the employers in all of the world you would think that the UN would value all human life with the same respect.

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