Gender-responsive policing, the fight against organized crime, strengthening rule of law, protecting human rights and building consistency across all United Nations peacekeeping missions were among priorities voiced as heads of police components briefed the Security Council today.
Such priorities are among the constituents of a police presence that is “people-centred, mission-oriented, modern, agile, mobile and flexible, specialized and rights-based,” Alexander Zouev, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said ahead of the annual briefing by United Nations Police Commissioners.
Commissioners present today were Unaisi Lutu Vuniwaqa of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Awale Abdounasir of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and Serge Therriault of the Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH). Also briefing was Tuesday Reitano, the Deputy Director of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.
Underlining the importance of gender-responsive policing, Mr. Zouev said more women police officers is a top priority, as they can inspire future female leaders, increase access to justice for women and children and improve information-gathering and analysis by building bridges to vulnerable groups. “To reach our full potential, we must bring more women police officers into the fold,” he stressed, describing the Police Division’s action plan for that purpose.
Ms. Bolatolu-Vuniwaga described UNMISS’ gender-responsive policing approach to its civilian protection mandate, enhancing protection for 200,000 internally displaced persons. Despite those efforts, gender-based violence remains pervasive, requiring specialized units. In addition, support for national policing has been strengthened through a gender-policing approach as well.
Mr. Therriault said that development of capable local policing is a key social and political component of MINUJUSTH, the only United Nations peacekeeping mission without a military presence. Noting that the Mission includes over 1,500 women, he stressed that police reform has a multiplier effect as a vector of stability in any society, plays a central role in conflict prevention and helps create the conditions for rule of law.
Mr. Abdounasir emphasized that organized crime has become an international scourge that threatens the stability of many countries around the world. Noting that countries often try to militarize the struggle against organized crime, he said United Nations Police components can help to build criminal justice capacity to fight it more effectively and sustainably. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO officers work with local police to build technical skills needed to confront crime networks, among other areas.
Ms. Reitano said that given the growing convergence of criminal activity, illicit markets and conflict, the response across the peacebuilding cycle has not kept pace in a consistent manner. “The way in which criminal actors have embedded themselves in conflict zones suggests that policing must be a strategic consideration at all stages,” she argued. She urged the Security Council to move the issue to the mainstream of its work.
Speaking after the briefers, Council members agreed that police work is a crucial part of United Nations peacekeeping and that priority concerns should include gender-sensitive policing, building the capacity of local police and law enforcement and helping countries fight organized crime. Some emphasized national ownership and building law-enforcement capacity in fragile countries as the most critical work, along with having a clear strategy to hand over responsibility to national forces.
Increased deployment of women police was underlined by many speakers as a way of building trust with local populations, for which purpose the importance of the deployment of ethnically diverse units was also stressed. Some underlined pre-deployment training of United Nations Police, particularly in human rights and gender issues. The representative of the United Kingdom emphasized the need for precise expertise for the particular situation faced by each mission. The aims and scale of deployments must also account for changing dynamics in host States, the Russian Federation’s representative added, calling for continuous dialogue on all aspects of peacekeeping among relevant parties.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Cote d’Ivoire, Bolivia, Peru, Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Poland, United States, Sweden, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kuwait, France and China.
The meeting began at 3:01 p.m. and ended at 5:16 p.m.
ALEXANDRE ZOUEV, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, outlined various strategic peacekeeping priorities aimed at achieving a United Nations police presence that is “people-centred, mission-oriented, modern, agile, mobile and flexible, specialized and rights-based”. Underlining the importance of gender-responsive policing, he said female police officers can help to mentor and inspire future women police leaders, increase access to justice for women and children at risk and improve information-gathering and analysis by building bridges to vulnerable groups. “To reach our full potential, we must bring more women police officers into the fold,” he stressed.
In that regard, he said, the Police Division has developed an action plan laying out specific targets for female representation in contracted and seconded posts in field missions and at Headquarters by December 2028. Those efforts are already bearing fruit, with the number of female heads of police components in United Nations peacekeeping operations having reached 40 per cent. However, underrepresentation at the top persists and other efforts — including the development of female senior police officer command courses — have helped to identify over 140 female officers for mid-career to senior leadership positions. In addition, police components in field missions are expected to develop and implement their own gender strategies and action plans accordingly.
Turning to another top priority, he said United Nations police components are increasingly called upon to assist their host-State counterparts in addressing serious and organized crime, which “strike at the very heart of the United Nations core business”. Through corruption, intimidation and violence, organized criminal groups erode a State’s long-term capacity to provide for the public good. “This hurts national dialogue and reconciliation, entrenches positions of power and endangers the entire peacebuilding process,” he stressed, also citing the rise of asymmetric threats and non-State actors. Describing how such challenges manifest on the ground in West Africa, the Sahel and elsewhere, he stressed that — against the backdrop of that “new normal” — a more holistic and coherent response is required.
Emphasizing the need to do more to ensure the welfare of police officers in increasingly challenging environments, he said the recent report by Lieutenant Colonel Dos Santos Cruz titled “Improving Security of United Nations Peacekeepers” laid bare some shortcomings. “We are committed to correcting them,” he stressed, spotlighting efforts to standardize the assessment and evaluation of Formed Police Units as one example. Also outlining efforts to strengthen the rule of law through police reform, he cited such examples in Bosnia, El Salvador, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, and noted that police are the largest continent of the new United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), charged with helping to strengthen the country’s rule of law institutions and promote human rights.
Noting that 150 Member States have so far endorsed the “Action for Peacekeeping” (A4P) Declaration of Shared Commitments on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, he said the annual gathering of Heads of Police Components will provide critical impetus to its realization in the field. “We heard Member States loud and clear,” he said, welcoming calls to forge more unity of purpose across the United Nations system and ensure greater coherence. Also welcoming the opportunity provided by today’s meeting to take stock of progress achieved and what remains to be done, he said the various recent strategic peacekeeping reviews have proved impactful and increased their efficiency and effectiveness and expressed hope that today’s meeting will help further mobilize those efforts.
UNAISI LUTU VUNIWAGA, Police Commissioner of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), said it champions a gender responsive policing approach in the implementation of its civilian protection mandate. The approach accounts for the protection needs of girls, women, boys and men to ensure operational effectiveness. “The UNMISS police component remains committed to protecting civilians, preventing sexual and gender-based violence, building confidence amongst civilians and fostering a secure environment for the voluntary return of the displaced population,” she said. Since 2013, the Mission has enhanced protections for 200,000 internally-displaced persons living within civilian protection sites. The United Nations Police regularly conduct searches within those sites and maintain a very visible and proactive presence. Among recent steps to enhance protection and promote trust among the community, the civilian protection site in Juba has been divided into different zones. Each zone has dedicated officers that are easily recognizable, approachable and accountable. To assist the displaced and vulnerable population in remote areas beyond the civilian protection sites, officers are now conducting regular high-visibility patrols.
Despite such efforts, sexual and gender-based violence remains pervasive throughout the country, she warned, voicing concern about reports of sexual violence perpetrated against children. A Specialized Protection Team on Gender, Children and Vulnerable Persons Protection was deployed to combat sexual and gender-based violence. She said the United Nations Police’s support for police services and security and government institutions will be strengthened through a gender-policing approach, adding that a formed police unit, 50 per cent of which is staffed by female officers, has been deployed. That force provides security to displaced women leaders during consultations undertaken by the Mission and encourages survivors of sexual violence to report incidents. “UNMISS has the largest combined deployment of women police personnel in any peacekeeping mission,” she said, noting that female officers comprise 22 per cent of the Mission’s police component.
AWALE ABDOUNASIR, Police Commissioner of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), emphasized that organized crime had become an international scourge that threatens the stability of many countries around the world and thus undermines international peace and security. Countries most vulnerable to organized crime are those in which the law-enforcement institutions are weak, giving a free hand to the criminal groups, allowing them to conduct trafficking in drugs and minerals and laundering of money that often funds terrorism. The networks of such groups can be quite complex and gain power not only through intimidation but also by infiltrating State institutions through corruption.
In order to face the challenge, he said, countries which have become fragile benefit from the support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), as well as various services across United Nations missions. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, covering a vast territory with long, porous borders, the MONUSCO police component supported its national counterparts in a preventive approach against money laundering and finance of terrorism, trafficking in persons, mineral smuggling and corruption. It built the capacity of 2,711 police officials in technical and scientific skills needed to confront organized crime networks, and assists with collection of evidence, including the use of a drone for that purpose. Such constant support has resulted in nine major investigations into criminal groups in the country. Noting that countries often try to militarize the struggle against organized crime, United Nations police components can help to build criminal justice capacity to fight it more effectively and sustainably, he said.
SERGE THERRIAULT, Police Commissioner of the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), said a capable and accountable police force is a key social and institutional asset for any society. Peace holds when citizens see themselves in their police, he said, adding that policing is a component of governance and is intended to ensure that the rights of all persons are protected. “The greatest comparative advantage of United Nations police may lie in the fact that it brings international legitimacy to efforts aiming at developing the local police,” he noted.
MINUJUSTH is the only United Nations peacekeeping mission without a military presence, he noted, adding that it relies on 295 individual police officers and seven formed police units. This arrangement has enabled the continued development of the Haitian National Police under the guidance of international police advisors. The Mission’s police component promotes the rule of law in Haiti through consultations with human rights and community violence reduction organizations. He said that police reform has a multiplier effect as a vector of stability in any society and plays a central role in conflict prevention. Ongoing reform efforts, including Haiti’s 2017-2021 Strategic Plan, are implemented with a multi-stakeholder focus and the national police force is now in the order of 15,735, including 1,568 women. He concluded by saying that the men and women that have served as United Nations Police officers across the world have risen to the challenge of supporting police reform in failed and fragile States to empower national authorities to protect their populations and create the conditions for the prevalence of the rule of law.
TUESDAY REITANO, Deputy Director of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, said organized crime is a global and accelerating phenomenon and a threat to international peace and security. The Initiative, in collaboration with several organizations, analysed over 1,000 major global smuggling and trafficking routes and found that they extend across conflicts in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas. She estimated that illicit profits generated annually in conflict areas add up to $31.5 billion and warned that the sources of revenue for non-State armed and terrorist groups are diversifying. The overwhelming majority of illicit profits go to political actors and associated transnational criminal networks. “Combating organized crime must be considered a significant factor in conflict prevention,” she stressed.
Noting that the Security Council has recognized the growing convergence of criminal activity, illicit markets and conflict, she said that the response across the peacebuilding cycle has not kept pace. The Initiative analysed 1,113 Council resolutions adopted between 2000 and 2017 and found that 35 per cent made reference to some form of organized crime or illicit market. Yet, there is a gap between awareness of the problem and operational responses. Of the United Nations 35 peacekeeping missions, special political missions and envoys currently in effect, only eight have operational organized crime functions. “The way in which criminal actors have embedded themselves in conflict zones suggests that policing must be a strategic consideration at all stages,” she said, adding that peace operations must be crime-sensitive.
She said there is no written guidance for peacekeepers or United Nations mission staff addressing organized crime. Peacekeeping missions must be able to draw upon the benefits of the experience of the whole United Nations system in understanding and responding to criminality in conflict zones. The lack of a systematic link between peacekeeping missions and the UNODC means peacekeepers operate without full knowledge of the criminal ecosystem in which they operate. “A poorly framed response to illicit markets can have highly detrimental impacts on human rights,” she warned. Stressing that tackling organized crime in conflict zones is an integral part of tackling the phenomenon worldwide, she urged the Security Council to move the issue to the mainstream of the United Nations work.
GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) affirmed that United Nations Police are not meant to replace a State’s security apparatus but to complement and support them. In that way, they can create the conditions for strong national ownership in protection of civilians, the fight against organized crime and other key areas. Their daily ability to work with and build the effectiveness of local police is therefore a critical element. He asked the Commissioner of MINUJUSTH how ready the national police there are for the transfer of responsibility that now faces a deadline. He paid tribute to those participating in United Nations missions, particularly those who have lost their lives.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) welcomed United Nations efforts to build a consistent police system that is flexible to adapt to varied situations and has a focus on building local law-enforcement capacity. In the fight against organized crime, the role of United Nations Police has been well-established in practice through strengthening State institutions and creating a conducive environment for rule of law. Stating that the role in protecting civilians is less clear, he said that performance management frameworks on the ground must be improved for that purpose. Strategies for transfer of responsibility to the host State must be clarified as well. He reaffirmed his country’s support and commitment to all components of peacekeeping operations, paying tribute to those who staffed them.
FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) underscored the need for clear guidelines for all the work of peacekeeping operations, while underlining the need for close coordination with national authorities and local communities to ensure the work responds to local priorities and builds local capacity. This is particularly important when it comes to fighting organized crime, he said. Establishment and training of local police should be a particular priority, especially in building mediation capacity. Such work should pay attention to local ethnic makeup and be able to build trust, for which women’s participation is critical. He asked the Commissioners if the levels of women’s participation for that purpose have already been achieved. He also asked about guidelines for civilian protection. Lastly, he paid tribute to the personnel of peacekeeping operations.
LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) said strengthening the rule of law through police reform is one of the key tasks of United Nations Police in post-conflict situations. United Nations Police also connect missions with the local population, she said, pointing to the role they played during election-related activities in the large cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Another important aspect of policing in United Nations peacekeeping operations is preventing and managing serious organized crime. Financial gains from organized crime fund insurgent groups and terrorists and perpetuate cycles of conflict. Missions can address this issue by developing sustainable host-state capacity to address serious organized crime. Finally, a good mix of female and male police officers is essential to manage sexual and gender-based violence, support victims and help ensure perpetrators of crimes are held accountable. This is especially relevant in South Sudan, where the deployment of more female police officers is needed to mitigate the risk of sexual and gender-based violence in and around the internally displaced person camps.
DIDAR TEMENOV (Kazakhstan) said reflections on the role of United Nations Police are important to collective efforts for peace and security. He said no country can feel safe when another is affected by conflict and stressed that while efforts to tackle threats to security might be multilateral, priorities identified by host nations must be given priority. Restoring and maintaining peace and stability are long-term efforts that require the cooperation of myriad actors and community outreach is necessary. He called for clear mandates and directives for police contingents that account for civilian protections and empower women and children. “Collective actions require unity of efforts,” he said, stressing the need for new modes of cooperation between police and military forces. He asked briefers what mechanisms must be instituted between police and military units to improve the effectiveness of United Nations mandates and noted that increasing the number of women police efforts helps build trust.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) emphasized the role of police components in conflict analysis, early warning and prevention efforts, saying that aspect of their work should be further studied, developed and implemented on the ground. She drew attention to the significant contribution that women can make to peacekeeping, particularly in community policing. She also noted the indispensable role of police components in the transitional phase of peacekeeping operations, such as supporting the rebuilding of host-country police capabilities. She highlighted the need for a holistic approach that leverages the advantages of each peacekeeping component, explaining that doing so would contribute to a more effective use of limited resources.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said United Nations Police make critical contributions to peacekeeping missions around the world. Institutionalizing a culture of performance within the United Nations system must contribute to enhancing the performance of peacekeepers through the reporting of performance failures and by providing concrete incentives for strong performances. He urged the Secretary‑General to employ performance data to improve the work of police units and welcomed efforts to develop an integrated performance framework. United Nations Police make important contributions to the protection of civilians, he said, adding that MONUSCO police officers are working to guarantee safety during upcoming elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He supported better integration of police into all aspects of peacekeeping mission planning and said police expertise must be integrated into peacekeeping efforts.
IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden) said policing is an important function in all phases of conflict. From prevention to peacekeeping to peacebuilding and sustaining peace, there is always a need for structural capacity and institution building that contributes to stability and the rule of law. To feel confident in the future, people in vulnerable situations need to see tangible investments in the rule of law. Building responsive and representative institutions is key, which is why Sweden contributes police and corrections personnel to United Nations missions. The Global Focal Point arrangement is one useful vehicle for making a comprehensive contribution to the rule of law and other development work. For the Police Division to provide the Council and Secretariat with strategic direction on police issues it must be adequately placed within the system’s structures and the United Nations Police Adviser must have access to relevant decision-making discussions. Sweden strongly supports the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative and will be involved in future work. More than one-third of the police officers Sweden contributes to United Nations peace operations today are women. It is equally important to ensure the participation of women in local outreach and projects.
DAVID CLAY (United Kingdom), paying tribute to the personnel of United Nations Police, said that the experiences of such police on the ground must be shared in order to set out a clear plan for the future to improve effectiveness. In that light, he underlined the need for guidelines for policing that runs through the planning of missions, the need for the deployment of the precise expertise required for each mission and the need to build trust with the local population, which means more diversity among the components and more participation of women.
NARCISO SIPACO RIBALA (Equatorial Guinea) asked if their conflicts with local police are a concern of the day-to-day operations of United Nations Police. He also asked how United Nations Police could best coordinate with local police in the effort to deprive terrorist organization of the funding that drug smuggling and other crime provides them with.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) recognized that United Nations Police play an important role in promoting stability and long-term development in countries affected by conflict and their significance is amplified by changing conflict dynamics. United Nations Police are vital in supporting the capacity of host State law enforcement institutions. Experiences like that of Liberia show the demonstrable success of United Nations Police in sustaining peace. She said that national ownership must be the guiding principle for United Nations Police and that their work must address national capacity gaps. She stressed the role of United Nations Police in preventing violence against women and children and said the increased deployment of female police officers will have a positive impact on trust-building efforts. “Increasing the participation of women in United Nations Peacekeeping is a source of pride,” she said. Cooperation between the Security Council, troop- and police-contributing countries and the Secretariat is essential to strengthening the effectiveness of United Nations Police in peacekeeping, she concluded.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said the importance of police work in peacekeeping is “clear to all” as police officers support law enforcement reform efforts. Police in peacekeeping missions increasingly provide assistance related to the fight against transnational crime and serve as a link between the population and Government of host States. Police, just like every other United Nations peacekeeper, must uphold their relevant mandates and the Charter of the United Nations. He stressed the importance of establishing relationships based on trust with host countries and emphasized that host country priorities are essential to the success of peacekeeping missions. “Local police hold the primary responsibility for protecting civilians,” he said. The aims and scale of deployments must also account for changing dynamics in host States, he stressed, calling for increased dialogue on all aspects of peacekeeping among relevant parties. The necessary resources must be in place for police to act effectively. He said United Nations representatives have noted the high level of professionalism of Russian police officers in peacekeeping mission, adding that 20 per cent of currently deployed Russian police officers are women.
FAWAZ BOURISLY (Kuwait) said the work of United Nations Police is important for the exercise of peacekeeping mandates, including the protection of civilians. The presence of United Nations Police “has a significant impact in building trust and preventing the resurgence of conflict”. Turning to the rule of law, he said United Nations Police play a role in strengthening host country legal institutions and in ensuring host countries are capable of addressing challenges such as organized crime. The continued presence of United Nations Police on the ground gives them the responsibility to ensure effective transitions from peacekeeping to peacebuilding. Police must cooperate with relevant actors to move towards effective reconciliation strategies that ensure lasting peace and empower women. Reform of the United Nations peace and security pillar will improve the work of United Nations Police in peacekeeping settings, he said.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France), paying tribute to United Nations Police, said that improving their performance means giving them the ability to act in all necessary situations, particularly in combating violence and transnational crime. Training of United Nations personnel and national police units is critical for those purposes. Increasing the number of women police is also crucial, as is a focus on the role of United Nations Police in protecting human rights. Planning, force generation and management are also critical elements. United Nations Police must be given ambitious goals, she stressed, adding that her country stands ready to contribute to achieving them. She asked for an evaluation of the abilities of the Haitian police and whether MINUJUSTH had enough francophone police officers. She also asked the UNMISS Commissioner what she required in order to better protect women against violence.
MA ZHAOXU (China) paid tribute to police officers, including the citizens of his country among them, who have lost their lives in United Nations service. To strengthen United Nations policing, he said it is vital to strictly adhere to the principles of the United Nations Charter and the mandates set out by the Security Council. As national leadership is also important, supporting the host countries in building their law-enforcement capacity is thus the most important task. Priority must also be given to safety and security of United Nations personnel. Supporting the Secretary-General’s priorities as well as the Declaration on Peacekeeping, he looked for synergies to be developed between the two approaches. Noting the large contribution of his country to United Nations policing as well as the training of other country’s contingents, he pledged even greater contribution to United Nations policing going forward.
Mr. ZOUEV, responding to delegates’ questions and comments, said Council resolution 2382 (2017) called on the Secretary-General to prepare a report on United Nations policing and noted the report will be delivered on time. He said another Council resolution called on the Secretary-General to assess the function, structure and capacity of United Nations Police. He assured delegates that increasing the role of women in United Nations policing will continue, emphasizing the need for francophone woman police officers. “United Nations Police will only work in full compliance with the mandates approved by the Security Council and with full respect to national sovereignty,” he stressed.
Ms. VUNIWAQA said she is mandated to protect civilians and provide technical assistance and advice regarding the investigation of sexual and gender-based violence. UNMISS is conducting efforts to build the capacity of the South Sudanese National Police Service on investigations of that form of violence. The consistent supply of women police officers into the Mission is essential, particularly as concerns efforts to cooperate with host country authorities in countering sexual and gender-based violence. The primary responsibility for the protection of civilians rests with the host Government. However, unpredictable security situations mean the presence of United Nations Police is a deterrent to violence. She noted that UNMISS conducts field training and planning exercises with military forces to enhance cooperation.
Mr. ABDOUNASIR, replying to a question on francophonie in MONUSCO, said that his component has been working to ensure adequate French-speaking ability. Acknowledging that although a lot has been done to fight organized crime in MONUSCO, he said that there is still much to be done and there was certainly a mismatch between the resources available and the size of the country. However, limited resources do not prevent him from carrying out the important work of fighting criminal networks.
Mr. THERRIAULT said that in working with the Haitian National Police, MINIJUSTH has brought trust and collaboration to a maximum level. Continuing work is only being done by those who have built that trust. After two five-year plans, he added, he is confident that the Haitian National Police are ready for the transition away from the Mission, although they will still need international assistance afterwards. Women comprise 10 per cent women of the country’s police force and that figure should grow next year, he said, expressing confidence that goals in that area will be met. The Haitian justice system is also working on building capacity to ensure those in the law-enforcement system embrace accountability. He appealed to donors to continue to support the Haitian National Police after the transition.