Organised crime, breakdowns in law and order and attacks by extremists are examples of challenges faced by UN peacekeepers the Security Council heard, during a briefing by senior UN Police Commissioners and UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix.
Organised crime has become a “central scourge facing many countries”, Awale Abdounasir, Police Commissioner for the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), warned. He said the problem particularly affects fragile states, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Many countries concentrate on a military response to the challenge, but “a judicial response that holds perpetrators of crimes accountable would be more effective” and a better strategy for combating conflict and insecurity involves building up police forces, along with justice sector and prison system reform.
The MONUSCO police commissioner said his force developed an organised crime prevention strategy for DRC and called for concerted efforts to combat the phenomenon at a regional and sub-regional level, as well as reinforcing of State authority and strengthening the rule of law.
Sudan’s law and order vacuum
Slow progress implementing a 2011 peace deal between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, regarding security in the Abyei region, created a “law and order vacuum”, Mary Gahonzir, Senior Police Adviser for the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), told the Council.
Abyei has no formal governance and boundary lines for the oil-rich territory have not been formally agreed between the Sudan and neighbouring South Sudan. Since the formation of South Sudan in 2011, UNISFA monitored what she termed an uneasy peace in the area.
In response to the insecurity informal community protection committees have been formed, supported, trained, and monitored by UNISFA police. These committees play a crucial role in sustaining peace and security, particularly in addressing sexual and gender-based violence she said.
MINUSMA police are engaged in protecting civilians and re-establishing State law, said Issouffou Yacouba, Police Commissioner of the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), as well as implementing Government strategies for reducing inter-communal violence and re-establishing basic social services. The work of UN peacekeepers is hampered by the slow pace of security sector reform, the fallout of military operations, border management problems and the lack of funding for the Malian Defence and Security Forces.
Partnerships ‘central to success’
Acknowledging peacekeepers are likely to face increasing challenges, Peace Operations chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said the central importance of partnerships to the success of operations, such as the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), now planning for the mission’s transition and exit, with the aim of sustaining peace gains and preventing a return to conflict.
He added peacekeeping is made more effective by the increased number of women. The UN, he said, met its targets for the percentage of female peacekeepers deployed as individual officers and allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse are on a downward trend. “Vigilance remains essential,” he said.
Co-ordination between police officers from the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and local authorities was praised by Marie-Joseph Fitah-Kona, Adviser to the Mayor of the Third Arrondissement of Bangui, in Central African Republic (CAR).
Fitah-Kona said Mission officers are gradually regaining the trust of the local population and religious communities now exist more peacefully. Since MINUSCA’s arrival in 2013 “rampant insecurity” lessened, shops reopened and life for many returned to normal. The CAR “must not be abandoned, because the situation is far too fragile,” and welcomed ongoing recruitment of 1 000 more police and gendarmerie officers to the national security forces, with MINUSCA support.
The Security Council briefing was part of the 14th UN Police Week, when heads of UN police components and police experts from 14 peacekeeping operations, special political missions and regional offices, discuss topics related to performance, conduct and discipline, and strengthening and sustaining peace through human rights.