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Security Council: UN Police need greater support amid ‘many challenges’

Ambassadors met for their annual briefing with the heads of UN Police Components serving at field missions.

Approximately 9,000 police officers – men and women – from 94 countries are deployed at UN peace operations, mainly in formed police units (FPUs) comprised of 140 members. 

Unique responses required

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, opened the meeting by highlighting the importance of continuously enhancing and adapting peacekeeping to match changing conditions.

“Many challenges to global peace, security and development today – such as, a global decline in respect for the rule of law, corruption, disregard for international law, transnational organized crime, attacks on human rights, and the shrinking of the civic space – all call for unique and specific policing responses,” he said.

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Mr. Lacroix recalled that the latest report on the overall performance of UN peacekeeping operations highlights a gap between their mandates and what they can actually deliver.  For some missions, the gap has become “quite significant”, he added.

In response, the UN will continue to strengthen effectiveness through its Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) agenda, particularly the A4P+ strategy. Priorities include ensuring coherence behind political strategies, and greater strategic and operational integration.

Council support critical 

However, “there is only so much that UN Peacekeeping operations can achieve alone,” he cautioned.

“Violent conflict is increasing in many parts of the world. And the number, intensity and length of conflicts worldwide is at its highest level since before the end of the Cold War. This is all amidst heightened geopolitical tensions, including in this Council,” he said.

As a result, UN operations can only achieve what he called the “immediate goals” of peacekeeping, such as preserving ceasefires, protecting civilians, mediating local conflicts and strengthening institutions, where possible.

“These are very important goals of course, but the ultimate objective of UN Peacekeeping is to achieve durable political solutions to conflict,” he said.

“Without the unified political support of Member States and particularly the Security Council for political solutions where our missions are deployed, we can only serve to mitigate rather than resolve conflicts.”

Christophe Bizimungu, Police Commissioner at UN Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), briefs the Security Council meeting on United Nations peacekeeping operations and Police Commissioners.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Christophe Bizimungu, Police Commissioner at UN Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), briefs the Security Council meeting on United Nations peacekeeping operations and Police Commissioners.

Action in the CAR

The annual meeting provides an opportunity to reaffirm the vital role that UN Police (UNPOL) play across what he called “the conflict prevention spectrum”, spanning from peacekeeping to peacebuilding.

Commissioner Christophe Bizimungu showcased the achievements of UNPOL serving with the UN Mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, who have been strengthening the capacities of the internal security forces (ISF), comprising the local police and gendarmerie.

Officers have been working in three specific areas: training and technical assistance, infrastructure and equipment support, and institutional support.

Their impact has been significant, he said. For example, ISF were largely absent across the country five years ago and unable to provide basic services to the population.  Today, they are present and operational in the capital, Bangui, and in large swathes of the territory.

“We have noted real improvement of public order and in terms of controlling crime within the country,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Christine Fossen, Police Commissioner at UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), briefs the Security Council meeting on United Nations peacekeeping operations and Police Commissioners.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Christine Fossen, Police Commissioner at UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), briefs the Security Council meeting on United Nations peacekeeping operations and Police Commissioners.

Gender in focus 

The Police Commissioner at the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) stressed the need for gender-responsive policing during conflict and in the face of new and emerging threats.

“Amidst a challenging global geopolitical environment, threats such as gender discrimination, adverse climate events such as flooding and droughts, climate-related conflict, and food insecurity have become more entrenched and disproportionately affect women and girls,” Christine Fossen told the Council. 

She gave examples from the field, such as the situation in Bentiu where four years of incessant rain, flooding and the resultant limited access to firewood and livelihood support for women coincided with a spike in reports of sexual and gender-based violence. 

“As we continue to experience clear linkages between extreme weather patterns and gender it is apparent that we must enhance our understanding of these new dimensions as well as the nature of our policing response, including training, sensitization, and trust-building,” she said.

Faisal Shahkar, UN Police Adviser, briefs the Security Council meeting on United Nations peacekeeping operations and Police Commissioners.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Faisal Shahkar, UN Police Adviser, briefs the Security Council meeting on United Nations peacekeeping operations and Police Commissioners.

What UN Police needs

UNPOL have continued to improve the lives of the people in the countries where they are deployed but achieving their goals requires greater support from the Security Council, UN Police Adviser Faisal Shakhar said in his briefing.

He stressed the critical need for officers with expertise in countering organized crime, including environmental crime and terrorism; forensics; crime analysis; community-oriented policing; sexual and gender-based violence; gender mainstreaming; and improvised explosive device risk awareness and mitigation.

FPUs require more French-speaking officers and mixed-gender units, available for rapid deployment and equipped with state-of-the-art capabilities including SWAT (special weapons and tactics), rapid reaction, canine and riverine elements.  

Police teams specializing in community-oriented policing, environmental crimes, public order management, border policing and forensics, are also wanted.

“To further the digital transformation of peacekeeping, we will require social media monitoring and analysis tools for use as early warning mechanisms; aerostat and live high resolution video feed capabilities; and personnel who are proficient in data analytics and management, cybercrime investigations and cyber security,” he added.

Mr. Shakhar concluded his remarks by underscoring that “sustained leadership and continued political engagement of Member States are indispensable for the success of the United Nations policing.” 

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