When Women Police Serve Side by Side with Men, Both Genders Benefit, Entire Service Stronger, Says Deputy Secretary-General

23 August 2011

When Women Police Serve Side by Side with Men, Both Genders Benefit, Entire Service Stronger, Says Deputy Secretary-General

23 August 2011
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

When Women Police Serve Side by Side with Men, Both Genders Benefit,


Entire Service Stronger, Says Deputy Secretary-General


Following are Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the opening ceremony of the Conference of the International Association of Women Police (IAWP), in Lexington, Kentucky, 21 August:

Thank you very much.  I am honoured to be here — and I am pleased to share with you the warmest wishes of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and all my colleagues who serve the United Nations around the world.

What a pleasure to meet in this beautiful Opera House.  Most of all, I am inspired by the wonderful Girl Scouts who welcomed us!  I was a Brownie myself.  I have so many fond memories of my troop, our songs, our badges and our friendships.  I will never forget our Girl Scout pledge.  The words are carved in my heart:  to help all people at all times.

That really sums up why we are all here:  to help some of the most vulnerable people of our world.  In order for them to have stability and opportunity, we need police — especially female police.  That is why I am so grateful to the IAWP for gathering us all together.

On my way over here I thought about a meeting I had a few years back with a very famous Kentuckian:  Ashley Judd.  You probably all know her films, like Ruby Paradise and Tooth Fairy, but to the United Nations, her star shines brightest as a passionate and outstanding humanitarian.

Three years ago, Ms. Judd and I shared a podium at a United Nations General Assembly meeting on the problem of human trafficking.  At the time, I said the solution involved four “Ps”:  prevention; prosecution; protection; and partnership.  Now, I add a fifth P:  police.

Ashley Judd made a very powerful speech.  Many of us were deeply moved by her stories of meeting young women and children who had been forced to work in the sex trade.  She was paying witness to this atrocity.  And she also had ideas for how to stop it.  Ms. Judd said the “contaminated root” of all human trafficking was gender inequality.  And the cure, she said, was, quote:  “nothing short of full and total gender equality:  the legal, economic, educational, social and cultural equality of girls and women”.

I could not agree more with this great daughter of Kentucky.  That is why we brought over 40 officers from nearly three dozen countries here.  They may work in faraway places, but they are just like all of you — out there, every day, helping communities and earning trust.  We also brought our “top cop” at the United Nations.  Commissioner Anne-Marie Orler was chosen because she is the best person for the job.

More and more, the world recognizes how much we need women police.  Decades ago, the United Nations would send in troops — our “Blue Helmets” — to monitor a ceasefire.  We only started expanding our police presence in the mid-1990s after we learned the hard way that ending the fighting is only the first step in ending the suffering.

As long as people fear police instead of trusting them, we cannot hope for true stability.  As long as justice is denied, social tensions will build — potentially exploding into violence.  Until we establish the rule of law, we can never hope for lasting peace.  That is why the United Nations is hiring more and more police to do the jobs you all know so well:  restore order, patrol the streets, arrest suspects and more.  To succeed, we need not just officers but we need more female officers.

In today’s conflicts, too many women suffer directly as innocent victims.  Fighters use sexual violence in the most brutal ways to target women and even children.  As part of their campaigns of terror, uniformed personnel, guerrilla soldiers and irregular groups deliberately and systematically sexually assault women and children.  Even one case is too many.  Tragically, there are more cases than we can count.

In the former Yugoslavia in 1992, approximately 40,000 women were trapped in rape camps.  In Rwanda in 1994, half a million women were raped during the genocide.  Hundreds of thousands of Congolese women have been sexually abused since conflict broke out in their country in 2002.  In places like Chad and Sudan, women and girls suffer heinous sexual attacks while they are just trying to survive by venturing out for firewood, water or food.

Even after parties strike a peace deal and guns fall silent, the breakdown of law and order means domestic violence and sexual abuse continue with impunity.  Victims are understandably afraid to report these crimes to the police.  Unless — we have often found — those police are women.

The United Nations conducted a study earlier this year.  The results will not surprise you.  We documented a clear correlation between the number of female police and the number of reported cases of violence against women.  The more female police you deploy, the more reports you receive.  It is that simple.

We are doing more than just collecting crime reports.  We are helping countries devastated by war — like Kosovo, Liberia and Timor-Leste — to set up specialized police units to respond to sexual crimes.  We are training experts to investigate gender-based violence.  And we are creating private spaces where victims can feel safe to speak out.

We proudly sent a 100-strong all-female Formed Police Unit from Bangladesh to our United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.  I saw them in action.  They patrol the camps that provide shelter for thousands of people who lost their homes in the massive earthquake.  They move in special mobile teams with female counterparts from the Haitian National Police, travelling around to prevent sexual violence.  They are a formidable wall, shielding women from potential attackers.

Stopping crimes before they start is reward enough.  But we are seeing another important result:  more and more women in the countries we serve are signing up to their own police academies.  Think about your own career path.  Maybe your father or brother was in law enforcement.  Maybe your mother was, or maybe you considered a female police officer as your role model.  One way or another, you were inspired to seek a rewarding career in the service.

Our female police are a shining light, illuminating the path for others to follow.  But let me be clear:  our women police are not confined to dealing with sexual violence or serving as role models.  We are working hard to sensitize male police officers about the concerns of female victims.  And we are counting on our female police to do all the jobs carried out by men.  We have found that when women serve side by side with men, both genders benefit and our entire service is stronger.  So we are actively recruiting female police officers from around the world.  In 2009, we set a five-year deadline to ensure that women account for at least 20 per cent of the ranks of United Nations Police.  We are now more than halfway to our target, with about 1,500 female police in our service of 14,000.

This global effort is bringing together political leaders, police and other partners to press countries to provide more female officers.  We are asking UN Member States to review their criteria and procedures to make sure that women are not blocked from applying.  And we are inviting those same countries to create incentives to attract more female police.

I am here to ask you to join this global drive.  We have in this room the tremendous power of women police leaders from all over.  Spread the word.  Encourage your peers to apply to United Nations missions.  Help ensure that criteria and procedures in your countries do not discourage women.  And provide a guiding hand to female police in your services who want to qualify for United Nations missions. I promise the United Nations will do its part to support all of these efforts.

Later today, here at this Conference, we will launch the first-ever International Network of Female Police Peacekeepers.  It is open to all current and former female police peacekeepers, female civilian staff and female police officers who want to join a United Nations peacekeeping operation.  We will be taking another historic step at this Conference when we team up with the IAWP to present the first-ever International Female Police Peacekeeper Award.  We are also proud to work with the IAWP on a skills training programme on minimum selection criteria for peacekeeping.

I have spoken today about police, but the United Nations needs more women across its ranks.  Before travelling here, we received an e-mail from a colleague in the United Nations Department of Safety and Security.  He asked me to please appeal to all of you to consider a career at the United Nations.  If you join us in our mission to end wars, hunger and poverty, you will earn immeasurable satisfaction knowing you have helped people who are suffering.  That is the greatest possible reward — and it can be your legacy to our world.

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