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UN Police workshop in Italy is latest effort to attract more female officers into the force

UN Police workshop in Italy is latest effort to attract more female officers into the force

Continuing its efforts to attract more female officers into United Nations policing, the division is organizing a 4-day conference at the UN Training Centre in Italy next week, because despite increases in the number of women in operations worldwide, there are still too few, warns the world body’s top police officer.

Progress has been made over the last two years in attracting more female officers into the UN Police, including the recent introduction into Liberia of an all-female specialized unit, but while the Peacekeeping Department’s (DPKO) Police Adviser Mark Kroeker is full of praise for all his officers worldwide – both men and women, he says the current figure of just 6 per cent of the force made up of female officers is unacceptable.

“I am extremely gratified by the increase in the numbers of women who serve in police components in UN missions. The fact that we have women in police and that they are serving in various leadership positions, and various tactical positions, an entire Formed Police Unit (FPU) for example made up of women in Liberia, this is all encouraging,” he told the UN News Centre.

“But this is way too few. Our attempts at getting our Members States to contribute police are difficult but the attempts in addition to add women to their contribution, this is almost impossible: we need to have women police officers so that we send the signal that women are co-equals in police work and that’s the way it should be because they’re available for every assignment as every man is in policing.”

The 20-23 March workshop in Brindisi, Italy, will bring together around 30 gender experts from both within and outside the UN to further discuss ways to encourage Member States to provide more female officers, as well as come up with operational guidelines for officers in the field.

It will also build on recommendations made at earlier UN Police meetings, including a two-day seminar in Nigeria in January, which called among other things for the Police Adviser to visit prospective donor countries to discuss with them the need to provide a mix of male and female officers.

“We are grateful to the countries that have provided officers to UN policing, but we have a lot of work to do to get more women into the field, we can do a lot better,” says Mr. Kroeker, who will give the keynote address at the Brindisi meeting, as well as offer other institutional support.

“The first and foremost reason that women should be in policing is that police organizations, if they’re not an occupying force but a service organization, should reflect the communities that they serve, and the communities that they serve have a gender mix. And if you show that you have a mixed composition there’s a very significant chance that you will increase the receptivity, the respect that that community will have for the police.”

He also noted that there are certain specific responsibilities that women in most cases perform better than male officers, namely sexual assault cases and in some instances child abuse cases where the victims – mostly female, feel more at ease, culturally and emotionally, dealing with a female officer.