The United Nations police need to be properly prepared, equipped and resourced to address current challenges to peace and security, the Organization’s top peacekeeping official told the Security Council today, in a meeting held during United Nations Police Week.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, said that unique and specific police responses are required to counter challenges such as the growing incidence of conflict in dense settings, the continued expansion of transnational organized crime and violent extremism, increased risks from climate and cyberinsecurity, as well as increased demand for comprehensive national institutional capacity-building and police reform.
He went on to outline strategic priorities for United Nations police, in line with its Action for Peacekeeping Plus initiative, including ensuring coherence behind political strategies by United Nations entities to support a country’s political trajectory. In this context, he spotlighted work by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) police in tandem with United Nations partners, the Congolese National Police and the Ministry of the Interior, to advance the United Nations Joint Police Reform Support Programme by strengthening human rights protection and fighting impunity, “which are all ingredients for a successful transition”.
The Peacekeeping Plus strategy also prioritizes greater strategic and operational integration across mission components, he continued, citing such collaboration in Mali between United Nations police and civilian and military counterparts to increase linkages between longer-term strategic planning and operational decision-making. The initiative also fosters the accountability of peacekeepers, he said, stressing that zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse is underscored through enhanced predeployment and in-mission training. Further, efforts are being stepped up to regularly assess performance, including through the development of proposed police-related impact indicators that will be discussed during Police Week.
Turning to the women, peace and security agenda, he said that steps are being taken to strengthen gender-responsive policing efforts to ensure the different security needs of women, men, girls and boys are considered, including through a robust network of gender advisers and police gender focal points. With support from Member States, the United Nations police has already achieved gender parity targets for 2025, with women currently comprising almost 1 in 5 United Nations police officers, including 31 per cent of individual police officers and 15 per cent of members of the formed police units, he said, pointing out that women now head five of nine police components in United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Mody Berethe, Police Commissioner for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), highlighted the Mission’s aim to prioritize the needs of national partners in the current transitional context. The Mission has benefited from cooperation between 31 police-contributing countries, leading to the setting up of specialized police teams to combat sexual and gender-based violence. Such cooperation has helped professionalize specific units of the Congolese police and won over the local population, he added. Outlining various capacity-building efforts, including those to better help the national police fight against organized crime, he said that such cooperation helps mobilize national stakeholders, and also encourages them to assume responsibility of investigations into serious crimes against peacekeeping.
Christine Fossen, Police Commissioner for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), described the ongoing transition experienced by the Mission, as it goes from one anchored in static protection to one that is moving into a more intense phase of political engagement to support the full implementation of the transitional road map which envisages the holding of elections in South Sudan in December 2024. The Mission faces challenges, such as fractures in social cohesion, gender disparities and the proliferation of weapons, which fuel cycles of violence, of which sexual and gender-based violence is a harrowing hallmark, she said, enumerating steps taken to address such factors, including the creation by United Nations police of 185 police community relations committees to address gender-based violence, child protection and crime prevention in general.
Also briefing the Council was Emma Birikorang of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, who highlighted the democratizing effect of peacekeeping on the security sector in host communities and troop-contributing countries. She pointed out that several police-contributing countries are young democracies with checkered histories who may be grappling with their own internal security challenges. The mutually beneficial relationship between United Nations police in the peacekeeping theatre and upon their return home results in a domino effect of practical learning experience, she said, spotlighting in this regard Ghana’s formed police unit, originally established to deploy to international peacekeeping missions, which has been increasingly used for internal operations.
In the ensuing discussion, many speakers emphasized the need for greater gender representation in United Nations policing, with several underscoring the vital role female police officers play in fostering trust with local communities and protecting the most vulnerable groups, including women and children.
Among them was the representative of Gabon, who underscored the essential role of women within police components, particularly in the outreach activities, peace and peacekeeping processes, noting that their presence encourages women to become more involved. In most cases of sexual violence or in the context of fighting crime, local communities are more open to interacting with female police officers. Increasing the number of women in the police components of peace operations constitutes a major challenge that the Organization must take on, she added.
In a similar vein, the representative of the United States said that women’s integration into peacekeeping “has come far, but not far enough”, citing studies that have shown that the presence of women in peacekeeping promotes community trust and increases a mission’s ability to engage with women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by conflict. Pointing out that peacekeepers who perform better are better at keeping themselves and others safe, he underlined the need for regular assessments of in-mission performance, while welcoming efforts to strengthen the doctrinal and curricular framework for United Nations policing — which provides the foundation for strong peacekeeping performance.
Meanwhile, the representative of Brazil stressed the importance of strategic communications to peacekeepers’ safety and security, calling for two-way communication with the local authorities and local society, as well as other partners, to dispel unrealistic expectations and to clarify the actions undertaken by missions, with a view to counter misinformation and disinformation campaigns against them. Such efforts can help prevent episodes of violence against peacekeepers and mission facilities such as those witnessed in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said.
Echoing such concerns, the representative of Ghana, Council President for the month, speaking in his national capacity, was among several delegates underscoring the need for accountability for crimes perpetrated against peacekeepers. “Despite consistent mobilization as well as the adoption of Security Council resolution 2589 (2021), accountability to peacekeepers remains relatively low compared to the growing number of violent incidents against peacekeepers,” he said, calling for the United Nations continued engagement with host countries, including in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali, to achieve this goal.
For her part, the delegate of the Russian Federation spotlighted the principle of “national ownership”, underlining the importance of professionally trained and well-equipped police officers to train local personnel. As well, there is a need to establish constructive communication with the host country and take the priorities it defines into account. The Russian Federation conducts courses for local and foreign law enforcement personnel through the certified programmes at the Peacekeeping Training Centre of the All-Russian Institute of Advanced Training of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, she said, adding that more than 2,500 highly skilled professional police officers have been trained to date. The curriculum is designed for law enforcement officers from developing African States, focusing on women police, she added.
Also speaking today were representatives of Albania, China, Kenya, United Arab Emirates, Norway, Ireland, Mexico, India, United Kingdom and France.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 12:52 p.m.