United Nations Police (UNPOL) has become a central pillar of the Organization’s peace operations and therefore must be “fit for purpose” to meet the security threats in today’s volatile world, senior UN officials told the first-ever gathering of national police leaders today.
More than 100 national police chiefs gathered at the UN Headquarters in New York to chart the way forward for UNPOL to deliver greater impact on the ground. Today, 12,600 male and female police officers from 87 countries are deployed in 18 UN peace operations.
In his video message to the UN Chiefs of Police Summit, or UN COPS, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that around the world, brave police officers are making a difference by establishing the rule of law and paving the way for peace and sustainable development.
“From Kabul to Kinshasa […] from Port-au-Prince to Pristina, United Nations Police work in some of the most challenging situations on earth,” he noted, acknowledging their work to protect communities, bring stability, and restore confidence.
Key partners and senior United Nations officials also joined the discussion, held in the UN General Assembly Hall, on how peace operations and national policing complement and mutually reinforce each other when addressing current and emerging challenges, such as transnational threats.
Addressing the Summit on Mr. Ban’s behalf was Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General, who said that UN police operations are making a difference in places where the rule of law is weak or absent.
In Mali, UNPOL are building national capacities, mentoring Malian law enforcement in forensics, counter-narcotics works and crime analysis. They are also making invaluable contributions in South Sudan, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Liberia.
Last year, the UN celebrated its 70th anniversary by launching major reviews of the tools to respond to conflict – peace operations, peacebuilding and the role of women in peace and security, Mr. Eliasson said. These efforts were complemented a few days ago by the finalization of an important review on UN police, he added.
Emphasizing some key requirements and qualities needed with UNPOL, he said police officers need to be well-prepared, well-equipped and well-trained. They need to be capacity builders and experienced leaders.
They need the latest technology and access to intelligence, crime data and analytical tools, and they must help root out sexual exploitation and abuse. More women are needed in UNPOL, he said.
Given the integrated nature of global challenges, such as the record high number of displaced people worldwide, humongous humanitarian needs caused by conflicts, and the rise of violent extremism, there is a growing role for police.
In any mission setting, UNPOL are central to protecting human rights and preventing situations from deteriorating, he said, adding that they can act on the early signs of crisis – not wait for disasters and atrocities to occur.
Police can help strengthen UN work on prevention and post-conflict peacebuilding. There are areas where police have special competence and comparative advantages, he said.
The UN reviews and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reaffirm the conclusion of the World Summit in 2005, a meeting that Mr. Eliasson, as President of the General Assembly, presided: “There can be no peace without development; no development without peace; and neither without respect of human rights.”
“UN Police is central to this equation, to this structure,” he said. “It has become a central pillar of United Nations peace operations as indicated in the external review of the functions, structure and capacity of the UN police function.”
“We need to work with 21st century tools”
“Over the years, how many paths have we followed,” said Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, citing examples such as significantly improved criminal statistics in Haiti; the fact that Liberia’s National Police are “now set to assume security responsibilities in a country, which in 2003 had no police at all;” or improvement security in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.
“All of that is real progress,” he said, stressing that it must be understood that the policemen and policewomen of the United Nations make a real differing in the lives of people in various countries in post-conflict situations. “They help countries torn apart by conflict to lay the foundations of sustainable peace,” he explained, adding that when people saw police on patrol and knew that they could call their local emergency number and receive assistance or lodge complaints when crimes had been committed “all of this shows there is a return to normalcy; that people can begin to rebuild their lives and their country.”
Moreover, he said UN police have a comparative advantage that is unequalled: they bring international legitimacy to the development of efforts for security solutions. “Th