Press Conference on United Nations Campaign to Recruit More Female Police for Peacekeeping

7 August 2009

Press Conference on United Nations Campaign to Recruit More Female Police for Peacekeeping

7 August 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE on united nations campaign to recruit

more female police for peacekeeping

Senior United Nations Police officials today praised the work being carried out by female police officers in the world body’s peacekeeping missions, and urged Member States to deploy more women, who added a much-needed and unique perspective to police units, especially in building trust and serving as role models for local women and girls.

“We need more female police as soon as we can get them,” Andrew Hughes, the United Nations Police Adviser said during a Headquarters press conference called to highlight the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ worldwide push to recruit more women police, as part of the campaign launched in May 2009 entitled “Power to Empower” that aimed to enhance gender equity throughout the Organization.  (See also Press Release PKO/218).

He said the goal is to have Member States raise the number of female police officers serving in peacekeeping missions to 20 per cent by 2014, up from its current number of 8 per cent.  Currently, there were 11,000 United Nations police officers working in 17 peacekeeping missions around the world, though the Organization is mandated to have 15,000.

“Deploying more women […] makes practical and operational sense in this line of work,” he said, emphasizing that female police officers in all roles –- in formed police units, such as Liberia, individually deployed officers, or as commissioners -- added value to the missions in which they worked and were a benefit to relations with host populations.  One of the many areas where female police officers could “add value and break down barriers” was in facilitating investigations of gender-based violence.   

He told reporters that the current top contributors of policewomen were Nigeria, India, South Africa, Ghana, Zambia, Cameroon, Nepal, Philippines, Canada, and Côte d’Ivoire.  These 10 countries account for more than 60 per cent of the female police officers deployed today.  He applauded those countries for their efforts and urged other Member States to work towards the goal of boosting the numbers even further.

Joining Mr. Hughes was Ann-Marie Orler, Deputy Police Adviser, who said Security Council resolution 1825 (2008) had been adopted, symbolizing that body’s concern for increasing incidents of sexual and gender-based violence being used as a tactic of war.  Today, in peacekeeping missions in Timor-Leste, Liberia, Kosovo, Sudan, Burundi, Haiti and Sierra Leone, United Nations Police had helped create specialized units that helped investigate incidents of gender-based violence and assisted victims.

“Police services are most effective when both sexes are represented [and] the equal participation of female police officers at all levels of the United Nations Police provides enhanced operational efficiency,” she said.  In addition, as role models, women police officers empowered local female populations in reporting sexual crimes, and encouraged young women to become police officers.  Women also brought a diverse set of skills to tasks such as crowd control, investigations, community policing, and intelligence gathering, she added.

She went on to say that thousands of people in Haiti, Liberia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been affected by, and continued to be at risk of, sexual violence and abuse, perpetrated most often by men in uniform.  “How can you expect female victims to go to uniformed personnel and ask for help when they to are most often men,” she asked, stressing that was one reason why it was so important to have women in uniform, to help build trust in police services. 

“Much more could be done if we had more female police officers,” she continued, strongly encouraging police contributing countries to adopt polices that set a percentage of their contribution of female officers on par with their national police gender ratio.  She also urged the States to review their recruitment policies to ensure they were not less favourable towards women. 

Next, Ms. Orler introduced three of the female police officers who had participated in a round table discussion organized by the Government of Canada, and held at Headquarters yesterday afternoon, on investigating sexual and gender-based violence.  They were:  Anne Tusiime, the Gender, Child and Vulnerable People’s Protection Officer at the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), who had helped set up special protection units in seven police stations throughout Southern Sudan; and Guilavogui Gnalen, the Gender Officer and former head of Sexual Crimes for United Nations Police in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), who had assisted in setting up 10 specialized units at the departmental level and 55 at the community level, staffed by some 200 officers.

Also present was Doreen Malambo, who is in charge of investigations for the Women and Children Protection Section of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).  Responding to questions about how she helped sensitize the local population to her work, she said that all efforts began with Liberian children and young people.  Focusing on youngsters was vital to building trust, she said, adding that UNMIL was also working hand in hand with non-governmental organizations and other actors to raise awareness not just about sexual violence, but also about victims’ rights and assistance initiatives.

To a question about the ways ingrained cultural attitudes might impact her job, Ms. Tusiime said that, indeed, many women officers, in Sudan and elsewhere, encountered cultural constraints, regarding training and investigative procedures.  Such constraints made the reporting of cases of sexual violence especially difficult.  All that meant that her office had to work tirelessly to carry out sensitization campaigns within communities and local police forces.

Echoing Ms. Malambo, she said such campaigns in Sudan also targeted school children, as well as religious leaders and clan leaders.  She believed such leaders, who played important roles in their communities, were starting to gain trust in the women police, particularly since more women and girls that had been sexually abused were now coming forward.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.