Challenges facing UN police under the microscope


Top cops from across the globe are meeting at United Nations headquarters this week to chart a vision for the police components deployed to UN peacekeeping missions.

They are taking part in the UN Chiefs of Police Summit (UNCOPS) which aims to build the relationship between UN and national policing efforts and strengthening overall response to transnational threats to peace and security, among other objectives.

More than 11 000 officers from 89 countries currently serve as part of 16 UN operations worldwide; just 10%of are women.

In his address to the opening ceremony, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, spotlighted the heroism and bravery of these men and women, known as the “blue berets”.
“Our UN police colleagues are operating under difficult security and political conditions. Increasingly, our blue berets are serving where there is no negotiated political settlement in place,” he said.
“The long-term political horizon – in places like South Sudan, Mali and the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) – is unclear.”

Lacroix said peacekeeping overall is subject to increasingly dangerous conditions, such as the threat posed by armed groups and extremists.

While peacekeeping remains a cost-effective means towards achieving sustainable peace and security, it is not always seen as a priority he told delegates.

Ministers, police representatives and other experts from 193 countries are attending the summit and the UN peacekeeping chief appealed for their support.

He called for greater political engagement and said it was vital to avoid or mitigate conflicts before they escalated into a full-blown crisis.

Countries were asked to provide more French-speaking police officers, both women and men, with particular areas of expertise, such as a track record of tackling serious and organised crime.

Lacroix said women peacekeepers can also serve as role models and bridges to communities, especially vulnerable populations.

Safety and security of UN personnel is another challenge with steps being taken to improve these aspects of operational deployments.

UN police is an integral part of UN peacekeeping, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.

Police officers help to build and support their national counterparts in post-conflict countries to create the conditions allowing for sustainable peace and development.

As an example, in Haiti UN police currently provide mentoring and strategic advice to senior and middle-level management, while helping the country’s police build trust with local communities.

UN Police saw its first deployment in 1960, to the then Congo, under a UN mission whose mandate included ensuring the withdrawal of Belgian troops following independence, and assisting the government with maintaining law and order.