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UN Police chief stresses need for peacekeeping collaboration, highlights Africa’s role

UN Police chief stresses need for peacekeeping collaboration, highlights Africa’s role

Mohammed Alhassan
Dealing with the complex global conflicts of the 21st century requires all stakeholders to collaborate ever more closely, the interim United Nations police chief said today, stressing that Member States, the UN, and countries receiving peacekeeping missions all have their roles to play in restoring order and building lasting peace in shattered societies.

Police Adviser Mohammed Alhassan, a Ghanaian who heads the UN Police operation in Liberia, also highlighted the contribution that Africa makes in providing peacekeepers, and particularly police officers, to UN missions worldwide, despite the lack of basic resources and conflict going on in many parts of the continent. Mr. Alhassan is the first African to hold the top UN Police post.

“What I’ve learned from my experiences in Liberia and elsewhere that must be carried into other upcoming missions is the fact that UN Member States and all stakeholders need to put at the disposal of the UN Police and for that matter other UN components, the necessary means to support the development of local forces and institutions if we are not to lose momentum,” he told the UN News Service.

“There must also be political will from the countries themselves, with legislative actions for example to speed up judicial and legislative reform. The whole approach must be holistic, both from international actors and donor groups and the Governments themselves: basically all sides have their roles to play.”

Mr. Alhassan, who is scheduled to return to the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) once a new Police Adviser is appointed in the next few months, said despite his own continent’s problems Africa provides around 35 per cent of all UN Police officers to missions worldwide, an example of global cooperation that not only improves policing standards but also fosters goodwill.

“Out of a total of 9,565 UN police in peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions, Africa contributes around 3,300 or so officers…from 33 different African countries. By serving in these peace missions, police officers from all nations not only impart their skills and best practices to the host country but it also offers the opportunity to readily exchange ideas and work with UN partners. It enhances international policing practices.”

“So many of Africa’s citizens remain without access to fundamental rights, such as education, basic healthcare, and also the principles of good governance and rule of law remain just at the beginning…But these challenges are not insurmountable. I am confident that the continent is moving forward.”

In its efforts to respond ever more effectively to global conflicts in the 21st century, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) Police Division has developed various initiatives, with Mr. Alhassan pointing in particular to the Standing Police Capacity (SPC).

Initially starting with a team of 25 hand-picked officers with specific expertise, the SPC was endorsed by Member States at their World Summit in 2005, and the Police Adviser said the first officers, including its chief, have recently arrived at UN Headquarters in New York.

“The SPC is important for global peacekeeping because it affords the UN a core foundation of police and law enforcement expertise. It will provide a rapid response capability but its officers will also have a longer term role to play in helping rebuild, restructure and reform the existing local force,” he explained.

“So yes, the SPC will offer an immediate response capability but the long term objective is to put plans in place that would ensure a smooth transition to another UN mission aimed at institutional capacity building.”

“SPC officers won’t stay in a place for the long-term. They will prepare the ground for a long-term, full UN mission to take over and UN Police officers will be part of this bigger, longer-term mission. The SPC also has the responsibility of assisting existing missions with specialist requirements.”

Mr. Alhassan took over as interim Police Adviser shortly after Mark Kroeker completed his two-year assignment in the post last month.