8 September 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Improved coordination between all actors worldwide was needed to fight organized crime, United Nations Police Adviser Andrew Hughes said, as he briefed correspondents at Headquarters on the results of last month’s International Policing Advisory Council (IPAC) meeting.

“Organized crime is comprised of networks and the best way to tackle networks is through networks,” Mr. Hughes said, paraphrasing the contribution of some participants of the meeting, which took place in Stockholm, Sweden, on 27 and 28 August.

IPAC, he said, was created three yeas ago and consisted of experts drawn from United Nations organizations as well as from Interpol, Europol, the World Bank, academia and elsewhere.  This year’s fourth annual session focused on developing recommendations on how police deployed as part of peacekeeping operations could better contribute to the fight against organized crime.

Such crime, Mr. Hughes noted, could be a “major spoiler” of efforts to restore peace and security in post-conflict environments.  Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia, Timor-Leste, Guinea-Bissau and the Democratic Republic of Congo had all, at one time or another, experienced significant manifestations of the phenomenon.

On 13 July, he noted, over 700 kilos of cocaine were seized by local authorities in Sierra Leone, with assistance by United Nations police and other international actors on the ground.

The framework under which United Nations police worked in combating organized crime, he said, was the Palermo Convention on organized crime, which committed its signatories to the fight.

Among the recommendations of IPAC on enhancing the role of United Nations police in operationalizing the Convention was improvement of information gathering and analysis and improvement of coordination with other United Nations actors and other organizations, such as Interpol.

In general, he said that there were currently nearly 12,000 United Nations police in the field in 19 missions, contributed by 98 countries.  That number had increased by 100 per cent in the last two years alone, making policing the fastest growing area of United Nations peacekeeping.

The profile of United Nations policing had been changing as it has grown, he said.  At first, it was merely “monitor and report”, but the complexity of engagement has grown to involve both executive policing, as in Kosovo and Timor-Leste, and operational support in other missions.  In 12 of 19 missions, in addition, there was a very clear police reform mandate. 

He added that there was also a large emphasis on greater woman’s participation in policing, which had grown from 4 per cent to 8 per cent in just four years and included an all-woman formed police unit in Liberia and many women in positions of authority in other missions.  The United Nations Police Commissioner in Darfur, he said, had requested that units deployed in that area of the Sudan be 40 per cent women.

Asked if the lack of uniform professional standards was the greatest hindrance to effective United Nations police operations, Mr. Hughes said that, in actuality, diversity was an asset.  There were ongoing efforts, however, to identify standards and best practices and put them in place across the board. 

Asked why it seemed difficult for the United Nations to obtain enough police for peacekeeping missions, he said that recruitment for all missions except for Darfur was on target, but it was not easy.  Police were usually active domestically in any given country, as opposed to standing military units.  In Darfur, there had been logistical problems, but, due to recent improvements, recruitment was progressing rapidly and would continue until full strength was reached.

In terms of lessons-learned from recent incidents in Mitrovica, Kosovo and Timor-Leste, he said that there was investigation and analysis ongoing for both incidents.  At the moment, in fact, experts were meeting in Vicenza, Italy, on lessons-learned from the deployment of formed police units in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

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For information media • not an official record