United Nations peacekeeping operations: Police Commissioners - Security Council, 8901st meeting
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United Nations peacekeeping operations: Police Commissioners - Security Council, 8901st meeting

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Female police officers are instrumental to the United Nations’ flagship initiative to strengthen the effectiveness of its peace operations, the Security Council heard today, as speakers discussed more gender-responsive policing and how to increase the deployment of women on the ground.

Convening during United Nations Police Week, today’s meeting featured the Organization’s top peacekeeping official as well as two women who head the police components of peacekeeping missions.

Jean‑Pierre Lacroix, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peace Operations, said the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, launched in 2018, guides responses to the challenges facing United Nations peacekeepers. Noting that Action for Peacekeeping Plus (A4P+) is the implementation strategy to advance these efforts, he described how United Nations police (UNPOL), a key component of these missions, is helping to advance A4P+ priorities.

For instance, he said UNPOL is promoting women’s networks within field missions, advising mission leaders on living conditions for women peacekeepers and on how fostering gender-responsive work environments.

He said UNPOL also contributes to host countries’ post-conflict transitions. In the Darfur region of Sudan, for example, it facilitated the drawdown of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and transition to the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), providing much-needed interim policing, police planning capacities and knowledge transfer.

Noting that gender-responsive policing ensures that the different security needs of men, women, girls and boys are considered, he said United Nations police have already achieved gender parity targets for 2025, with five police components headed by women, including today’s briefers.

Violet Lusala, Police Commissioner of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), outlined obstacles to the Mission’s efforts to maintain public order and protect civilians, including the presence of armed elements, intercommunal clashes and cattle rustling. Further, she pointed out that the non-establishment of Abyei Police Service has created a vacuum for local law enforcement, worsened by the lack of basic services, such as water, health and education.

Moreover, she said, services for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence remain non-existent. Highlighting the need for increased United Nations police capacity, she urged the Council to press Sudan and South Sudan to immediately establish the Abyei Police Service.

Patricia Boughani, Police Commissioner of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), called for a shift in mindset to promote a gender perspective, given that few women are deployed in Mali’s security forces in the centre and the north. UNPOL is developing strategies to build women’s dormitories in some regions and providing training, as well as working to financially empower women through quick impact projects.

In terms of implementing the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, she said work is being done to set up local police and local advisory committees, with the latter providing ways for representatives of the State, police and local populations to consult each other with the aim of developing local crime prevention and security policies.

In the ensuing discussion, Mexico’s representative, Council President for November, emphasized the importance of today’s session as a way to highlight the work of the United Nations police, which he described as “little known, even overshadowed” by the visibility of the military components.

Ireland’s delegate said while strides towards gender parity have been made within United Nations police, with women comprising 14 per cent of deployed officers, more must be done. “This means looking beyond numbers, addressing structural barriers and creating enabling environments for women’s participation,” she observed.

On that point, India’s delegate similarly called for increasing the number of women in United Nations police components. Noting that India was the first to deploy a Formed Police Unit in Liberia in 2007, and now contributes 175 police to various United Nations operations, he said: “Women peacekeepers, particularly women police officers, can play an important role in understanding and responding to the specific needs of women in conflict and post-conflict environments”.

The Russian Federation’s delegate meanwhile said United Nations police are trained in combating organized crime, drug trafficking and violence against children and protecting civilians from direct security threats. Although they can help national police forces — or even replace them — she cautioned against deploying lengthy missions that essentially lead to a replacement of local police by the United Nations.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking also for Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, called for redoubled efforts to ensure that women are always fully represented at each decision-making table and level without discrimination or bias — as equal participants, key decision makers and primary beneficiaries.

Also speaking today were representatives of China, Viet Nam, Estonia, France, United States, United Kingdom and Norway.

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:05 p.m.