UN must bring more women police officers into the fold to be effective – UN peacekeeping official

6 November 2018

More women officers are needed at UN Police, to make the work of the Organization more efficient and reach the whole population they are meant to serve, a senior United Nations peacekeeping official told the Security Council on Tuesday, adding that, “to reach our full potential, we must bring more women police officers into the fold.”

Alexander Zuev, Assistant Secretary-General for the Rule of Law, at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) was speaking at an annual briefing by UN Police Commissioners on UN Peacekeeping operations, which focused on the work of UN missions in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Haiti.

“Women police officers,” he said, “can help to mentor and inspire future women police leaders, increase access to justice for women and children at risk, and improve information-gathering and analysis by building bridges to vulnerable groups.

Mr. Zuev said that UN Police have stepped up their efforts to increase female participation, in line with initiatives including the UN Secretary-General’s Gender Parity Strategy, and have developed an action plan with specific targets for female police numbers in the field, and at UN Headquarters, by December 2028.

Speaking after Mr. Zuev, Unaisi Lutu Vuniwaqa, Police Commissioner of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), said that the Mission is developing its own gender strategies and action plans.

UNMISS police operations, said Ms. Vuniwaqa, recently deployed a mixed Formed Police Unit, comprising of 50 percent women police officers who provide security to unarmed Individual Police Officers conducting activities such as awareness raising, and fostering community watch groups in addition to providing force protection in situations where women and children converge in large numbers.

The deployment of women police officers, she added, promotes confidence, encourages survivors of sexual violence to report incidents, and enables civilians to share information.

Today, said Ms. Vuniwaqa, women police officers “comprise 22 percent of the mission’s police component, including 33 percent women in professional police posts.”

UN Photo/Evan Schneider
UNMISS Police Commissioner, Unaisi Bolatolu-Vuniwaqa (right), addressing the Security Council meeting on United Nations peacekeeping operations. 6 November 2018.

Transnational crime and police reform were the other topics covered in Tuesday’s Security Council briefing.

Countries particularly vulnerable to serious and organized crime, said Mr. Zuev, are those with “weak State authority and prevailing corruption, countries in conflict or emerging from conflict,” adding that the issue “strikes at the very heart of the United Nations’ core business.”

The Assistant Secretary-General explained that UN Police in operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as in other missions, help their local counterparts set up criminal intelligence systems and use modern technology to prevent and investigate serious and organized crime: further detail was proved by the Awale Abdounasir, the UN Police Commissioner for the Organization’s stabilization mission in the vast African nation, known by its French acronym, MONUSCO.

The third subject covered in the briefing was strengthening the rule of law through police reform and, in particular, the experience of the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).

Mr. Zuev noted that MINUJUSTH transitioned from a peacekeeping mission to a rule-of-law mission one year ago, and that the UN Police force is the “lynchpin” in efforts to strengthen Haiti’s rule of law institutions and promote human rights.

UN Police helped design and train a new Haitian civilian police force, the first time that a UN operation explicitly included police development in its mandate.

Mr. Zuev concluded with a reference to the UN Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) reform initiative which aims to “refocus peacekeeping on realistic expectations; make peacekeeping missions stronger and safer; and mobilize greater support for political solutions and for well-structured, well-equipped, well-trained forces.”

Strategic reviews carried out in the past year, explained Mr. Zuev, will help the UN to strengthen the Secretary-General’s recommendations, a necessity if the UN Police are to fulfil their role in “not only keeping the peace but creating the space for political dialogue and preventive diplomacy.”

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