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UN peacekeeping missions urged to bolster number of women police officers

UN peacekeeping missions urged to bolster number of women police officers

The ranks of female police officers serving in United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world need an urgent boost to more effectively protect and assist women against the rampant use of sexual abuse as a weapon in armed conflict, the world body’s top police advisors stressed today.

“The equal participation of female police officers at all levels of the United Nations… empowers the female population in reporting cases of sexual and gender-based crimes,” Ann-Marie Orler, Deputy UN Police Advisor, told reporters in New York.

Ms. Orler pointed to the start made by seven peacekeeping missions – Timor-Leste, Liberia, Kosovo, Southern Sudan, Haiti, Burundi and Sierra Leone – where UN police divisions have helped create national specialized units that investigate and assist victims of gender-based and sexual violence.

“Much more can be done if we have more female officers. However, we depend on Member States to nominate these [female] formations,” she said. “The UN, therefore, strongly encourages police contributing countries to establish a policy that sets the percentage of the contribution of female police officers at par with the national police gender ratio.”

Ms. Orler noted that thousands of people in Liberia, Sudan and in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been affected and continue to be at risk of abuse or violence, while Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his latest report on the issue that in eastern DRC, at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence have been recorded since 1996.

Ms. Orler said that the perpetrators are most often men in uniform “and how can you expect women, the victims of abuse, to ask for help from uniformed personnel when they are men.”

UN Police Advisor Andrew Hughes said that one area where “female police officers can break barriers and add value is in facilitating the investigation of gender-based violence.”

The constabulary must represent the gender of the community they serve, said Mr. Hughes. “In order to gain or, in some cases, regain the trust of these societies.”

Mr. Hughes said that the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) aims to significantly increase the number of female police officers serving in its missions from 8 per cent of the current 11,000 police officers working in 17 missions around the world, noting that the world body is mandated to have 15,000 law enforcement officers.

“We need more French speakers in Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in Chad and in Côte d’Ivoire,” said Mr. Hughes. “To sum up, we need more qualified police, we need more qualified female police and we need them as soon as we can get them.”