As role of police grows in peace missions, UN wants more female officers in ranks

10 June 2010
UN Police Adviser Ann-Marie Orler

The United Nations is stepping up its efforts to boost the number of female police officers serving in its peacekeeping missions around the world, highlighting that women can play a unique role in certain areas, including responding to sexual- and gender-based violence.

The number of female blue helmets is climbing, and the world body is aiming to more than double the proportion of women comprising UN Police (UNPOL) to 20 per cent by 2014.

“The continuing growth and complexity of our police components underlines the central role of promoting the rule of law in post-conflict environments,” UN Police Adviser Ann-Marie Orler told reporters today in New York.

Last August, the UN launched a so-called Global Effort to increase the number of female police officers in serving with peacekeeping missions. Currently, of the 13,680 UNPOL serving in 17 missions, just 8.5 per cent are women.

The number of female UNPOL must increase “not just because deploying more women reflects natural justice… but because women bring an essential extra dimension to one of our most important tasks – bringing peace, stability and development to populations recovering from conflict,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week at a meeting with female blue helmets.

Ms. Orler today pointed to the need to make the UN selection and training processes more efficient so that more female police officers can be brought on board peacekeeping operations.

The Global Effort also aims to augment the number of female police officers serving with Member States’ national police forces.

The Police Adviser noted that Bangladesh is aiming to recruit 10,000 more female police officers in the coming months, while Liberia has also set the 20 per cent target for 2014.

The presence of female police officers in Liberia has helped to increase the reporting of cases of sexual and gender-based violence, according to Doreen Malombo, the police gender adviser for the UN peacekeeping mission in the West African nation, known as UNMIL.

“It is not very easy for a woman to [discuss] sexual violence issues with a male officer,” she told the UN News Centre, but they “feel free to bring out their cases” with female police officers.

When Liberian women see female UN police officers carrying out tasks, such as guarding government sites, “which they feel are supposed to be performed by males, it has given a change of an image for the organization,” Ms. Malombo said.

“They now know that policing is not for males alone, but for everybody,” encouraging more women to join the ranks of the Liberian National Police (LNP), she said.


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