Over the past 10 years, the United Nations Standing Police Capacity (SPC) has filled a critical need in global peace operations by providing readily available police expertise, outgoing head of the unit, Maria Appelblom said.
She is proud to have played a part putting SPC “on the map,” while and highlighted the need to recruit more women officers to for this important work.
After the Security Council gives the green light to establish a new peace operation, SPC staff members provide start-up capability for the police components in missions. They also assist existing missions with a range of expertise, including transnational organised crime, community-oriented policing and gender advisory services.
The SPC experts “assist the mission when there is a gap, maybe a key function that needs to be filled,” explained Appelblom, who has been SPC Chief for three years and is one of the most senior policewomen in the world body.
Tasks performed by the unit include helping to start up missions to assisting with elections. Appelblom said one of her team leaders filled the position of Police Commissioner of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) for seven months.
Female police officers serving with the UN are role models for the local population and vital for helping women in host communities feel secure, Appelblom said adding more women were needed for these functions.
Appelblom said after being raped a woman may not feel comfortable talking to a man. “In some cultures it is difficult for a woman to talk to a man in general,” she said pointing out this is a reason why female police officers are important in UN peace operations.
“One of the global efforts the UN Police Division is working on is to have an increase in female officers. The aim is 20% by 2020,” she said.
While some might say there is too much focus on numbers, Appelblom feels it is important “we focus on the figures as well as other mainstreaming initiatives because there needs to be a critical mass of women to influence the situation”.
The Swedish national, who completes her assignment with the UN this week, said she intends to remain involved in encouraging participation of women in peace operations.
“We have a wide range of initiatives in the pipeline where I am still going to be engaged, where we are going to do further research into the obstacles for female officers to join the UN, both on the national and the UN level,” she said, alluding to possibly piloting a mentorship programme.
She wants to push countries, including her own, to send qualified police officers, especially women, to the UN.
The SPC has helped missions to implement their mandates by working on a host of issues. Appelblom recalled the unit helping with the establishment of police units at the national and local levels to tackle sexual and gender-based violence and assisted with recruitment of national police officers to name a few achievements.
She said she was proud to have her motto realised: “Putting SPC on the map.”
“My greatest achievement is I’ve been able to enhance deployments, doing a lot of outreach, making the SPC known,” she said, adding requests for the unit’s services are increasing.
Looking forward, she hopes SPC can be a part of a UN mission “in all its different phases,” such as peace negotiations, mission start-up, transition, drawdown and working with the country team once the mission has departed.