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UN Police play crucial role for success of peacekeeping missions, top officials tell Security Council

Though generally far less numerous than the military component in United Nations peacekeeping operations, UN Police play a vital role in protecting civilians and training local forces, facing multiple challenges and dangers in fulfilling their mission, the Security Council heard today.

“UN Police (UNPOL) provide core protection activities and are critical actors in our peacekeeping missions,” Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) Hervé Ladsous told the 15-member body of the component, whose authorized deployment has nearly tripled to over 13,000 in the last decade and now participates in 10 of the 17 current missions.

“Enhancing the capabilities of UN Police will further improve their ability to protect…This includes rapid deployment of police units in situations with urgent protection needs,” he said.

He noted the role undertaken in the Central African Republic (CAR) with round-the-clock monitoring of internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, where UNPOL last month prevented an attack in Bangui, the capital, by nearly 200 armed ex-Séléka members, coming under fire themselves.

Mr. Ladsous highlighted the critical role UNPOL played in Haiti where joint operations with the Haitian National Police allowed the Government to re-establish order in notoriously unstable areas over the last year.

In the Grand Ravine slums of Port-au-Prince, the capital, joint operations allowed the first humanitarian and development activities to be conducted, including water distribution and medical care.

UNPOL also provides critical capacity-building to host States to protect civilians by training and rebuilding national police as in Mali, where UN mobile training units have delivered technical assistance and specialized training to over 8,800 Malian security forces.

“UN Police are essential actors in ensuring that their national counterparts carry out the training and institutional reforms to make them effective and accountable protectors of the populace and in helping their colleagues build a trusting relationship with the communities that they are intended to protect,” Mr. Ladsous said.

He also called for more UN women police officers. “Despite an increase in female police officers in missions, the number still falls short of UN targets,” he said. “DPKO understands our missions' limitations, and is working hard to implement our Protection of Civilians (POC) Action Plan to strengthen our police as well as our military and civilian components.”

Detailing the challenges confronting UNPOL operations on the ground in some of the world’s worst trouble spots, the Deputy Police Commissioner of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Charles Bent, underscored the “constant, daily threats” in trying to maintain order in POC sites where populations have ballooned to 180,000 over the past two years.

“The UNMISS POC mission suffers many challenges and dangers,” he said “Situations can quickly escalate to where staff members are surrounded by tens and even hundreds of aggressive and threatening IDPs. Serious physical injury to UN personnel has happened on several occasions…”

“The scope of this tasking is vast and includes civilians sheltering for safety in various venues, including those which are within UN compounds,” he added. “Against these challenges, UNMISS continues to look for innovative ways, ‘a better way’ of doing things.”

These include the Pilot Project for Safe Return based on training South Sudan police to protect human rights, especially those of women and children, and to tackle gender violence. The newly proposed Joint Integrated Police has “great potential here to positively influence and build the future national police service of South Sudan,” he stressed.

Police Commissioner Pascal Champion of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) devoted his presentation to the Beni region, in the east of the vast country, where UNPOL and the national police force (PNC) have been waging a joint struggle against “grave threats and multiple killings” for the past 18 months.

He noted that the PNC “suffers from very numerous deficiencies,” including poor training, antiquated infrastructure and a lack of funding from both the Government and the UN.

“This joint UNPOL-PNC goes beyond the mere policing dimension to target a more global approach,” he said. “The strategy combines the protection of civilians and the restoration of State authority.”

In Liberia, where the UN peacekeeping mission (UNMIL) played a key role in restoring peace and stability after years of civil war, the Ebola epidemic that began in 2014 and infected nearly 11,000 people, killing over 4,800, presented UNPOL with “unprecedented challenges,” UN Police Commissioner Greg Hinds said.

“It tested the Mission's ability to re-think and adapt the execution of its protection of civilians’ mandate, and explored new areas of cooperation and support with the national police and other actors in providing a security envelope to allow the necessary health and humanitarian efforts to occur.

“This highlights the critical role police play, in often unpredictable operational contexts, in protecting civilians,” he added, stressing that that policing “remains an integral part of UN peace operations, and we must have clear, credible and achievable mandates, matched by appropriate resources.”