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United Nations Police Contributions to Action for Peacekeeping

By Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations








Two and a half years ago, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General launched the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, calling on all stakeholders – including Member States, the Security Council, the General Assembly, financial contributors, troop-and police-contributing countries, host countries, intergovernmental and regional organizations and the UN Secretariat - to collectively address the challenges facing peacekeeping. Since then, the Department of Peace Operations (DPO) has made measurable progress in delivering on our mandated tasks, ever mindful that peacekeeping remains an essential multilateral tool for preventing conflict and sustaining peace for millions of vulnerable people around the globe. A4P priorities are overarching - they guide the work of DPO and peacekeeping operations in the field, the implementation of Security Council mandates and our response to the COVID-19 crisis.  The United Nations Police (UNPOL), as a key component of United Nations peacekeeping, is strongly committed to advancing A4P priorities and to further strengthening the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations.

In the area of women, peace and security, gender-responsive policing is essential for effective UN and host-State policing. In UNMISS and MINUSCA, Specialized Police Teams have ramped up training and advisory services to the South Sudanese National Police Service and the Internal Security Forces, respectively, to address surges in cases of sexual and
gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence amid COVID-19. UNPOL has also continued to engage with police contributing countries to surpass the already achieved intermediate gender parity targets for 2020, including at the command levels. Greater women’s participation sends a strong message to populations in our host countries, which is amplified when those women occupy positions of leadership and authority.

Regarding partnerships, UNPOL collaboration with regional and sub-regional organizations, a wide range of UN entities and national police services remains critical to every area of their work, particularly during transitions. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to postpone the third UN Chiefs of Police Summit (UNCOPS), originally scheduled for June 2020, I encourage all Member States to recommit to participate when it is convened in 2021. UNCOPS remains the premier platform for engagement among senior police executives on strengthening global security and triangular cooperation to address current and emerging cross-border threats, including in the post-COVID era.

In Darfur, UNPOL have been working closely with the African Union on the drawdown of UNAMID and the transition to UNITAMS, with a view to sustaining peace and preventing a relapse into conflict by ensuring adequate interim policing capacities. UNAMID and the UN Country Team continue to jointly deliver programmatic activities in four states in Darfur through State Liaison Functions (SLF) in the key areas of rule of law; durable solutions, resilience and livelihoods; and human rights.

UNPOL advance political solutions by supporting host States to realize effective, efficient, representative, responsive and accountable police services that serve and protect the population in adherence to the rule of law and international human rights law. As part of MINUSCA, UNPOL are supporting the Internal Security Forces in their efforts to facilitate electoral security during the upcoming presidential elections in December 2020.

UNPOL play a key role in all aspects of protection of civilians, including physical protection. In Mali, UNPOL help the Malian Security Forces (MSF) extend state authority through the deployment of MSF personnel, now totaling 3,537 to the northern and central regions. In Darfur, UNPOL contributed to 15 SLF construction projects comprising three community-oriented policing centres and two police stations and family child protection units. In the Central African Republic, UNPOL foster a protective environment through police capacity-building, including by assisting with the recruitment and training of 1,000 gendarmerie and police cadets, with an additional 1,000 forthcoming. During these unprecedented times, UNPOL have been instrumental in raising awareness about preventing the spread of COVID-19 and have distributed personal protective equipment, hygiene products and medical supplies throughout our mission settings, particularly among communities in vulnerable contexts (including to those that are internally displaced).

UNPOL contribute to the continuous implementation of the Action Plan for Improving the Security of UN Peacekeepers and other measures to increase safety and security. In Mali, UNPOL have focused on assessing security levels, increasing training in security awareness and first aid, and conducting table-top exercises on medevac and violent demonstrations. In conjunction with the UN Mine Action Services (UNMAS), UNPOL undertake Improvised Explosive Device (IED) threat mitigation, post-blast investigations and training on forensic laboratory processes, carrying out simulation exercises on camp defense plans.

To ensure the highest levels of performance and accountability, UNPOL - in close cooperation with Member States and other partners - have advanced several initiatives. These include the Integrated Peacekeeping Performance and Assessment Framework and the Comprehensive Performance and Assessment System, pursuant to which UNPOL have issued and implemented standards to further evaluate the impact of deployed officers and to take action in cases of underperformance. Aligning pre-deployment training by Member States with the Organization’s in-mission training is central to enhancing performance. The DPO Police Division, together with the DPO Integrated Training Service, progressed the development of standardized training modules under the UNPOL Training Architecture Program. This program aims to ensure that UN police personnel are able to implement mandated tasks based on the Strategic Guidance Framework for International Policing, international human rights.

In the area of conduct, UNPOL have continued to make the reinforcement of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse a priority, including through pre-deployment and in-mission training.

Finally, in the area of our missions’ environmental impact, UNPOL have refined the UNPOL Environmental Management Framework by aligning mission-specific initiatives decreed by heads of police components in MINUSCA, MINUSMA, MONUSCO and UNAMID with their missions’ Environmental Risk Management Plans. Climate insecurity, the devastating consequences of which have been laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic, is a growing threat multiplier for our missions and host communities. I expect this, in line with the achievement of all of the Sustainable Development Goals, to become a larger focus of UN policing as we go forward.

The A4P agenda aims to make peacekeeping missions stronger and safer, to mobilize greater support for political solutions and for well-equipped, well-trained forces, and to set and manage expectations. Peacekeeping today is better prepared, more robust and more reactive, but we are still at the start of this journey and we cannot go it alone. Collectively strengthening the effectiveness of our missions is critical to mandate delivery, to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and to dealing with the crises that we will inevitably face in the future.

UNPOL is a key part of this endeavor. In 2017, during the annual United Nations Police Week, the Secretary-General, has called UNPOL “a link to the future of peacekeeping operations”. The stakes are high. It is crucial that UNPOL have all the support they need to meet these challenges.