8661st Security Council Meeting: United Nations Peacekeeping Operations

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06-Nov-2019 02:44:11
United Nations police help provide stability, fill voids, preserve gains, says Under-Secretary-General, briefing Security Council on peacekeeping operations at 8661st meeting.

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From community outreach to counter-terrorism forensics to daily security patrols, police officers deployed as part of United Nations peacekeeping operations serve crucial functions across the world, the Security Council heard today as it was briefed by force leaders and other senior officials.

Police commanders from peacekeeping missions in Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Abyei border region between Sudan and South Sudan participated in an interactive discussion with Council members, outlining both strides made by their personnel and challenges faced. Joining them in the Chamber was the head of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, who provided an overview of the Organization’s strategic policing efforts. Speaking via video teleconference — and assessing such efforts through the lens of local authorities — was a senior mayoral adviser in Bangui, Central African Republic.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said United Nations police continue to work closely with local, regional and subregional partners. In Mali, they help provide stability. In Darfur, they are helping plan for the ultimate exit of the African Union-United Nations hybrid mission, while preserving gains made. Meanwhile, local “protection communities” trained by United Nations police are filling a void in the absence of a functioning police service in Abyei. Outlining strides made in police training and performance, he said the Organization met its target of increasing the percentage of female peacekeepers to 26.8 per cent. However, that number is a ceiling — not a floor — and much more remains to be done.

Issoufou Yacouba, Police Commissioner of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), said that the vastness of Malian territory combined with the slow implementation of the peace process has reduced the State’s abilities to carry out its functions in the north and central regions. This has eroded public confidence and bolstered extremist groups, in turn exacerbating intercommunal violence. Against that backdrop, MINUSMA police are assisting with civilian protection and the re-establishment of State authority, including through trainings provided in conjunction with the European Union mission EUCAP Sahel Mali and other partners.

United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) Police Commissioner Awale Abdounasir cited similar dynamics. Describing organized crime as a central scourge facing many countries — especially fragile States — around the world, he warned that too many Governments have concentrated on a militarized response when criminal and judicial ones would prove more effective. MONUSCO is supporting such a strategy in its work, while helping to build the operational capacity of local police and assisting with plans for justice sector reform and prison system improvements, he said.

The Senior Police Adviser for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), Mary Gahonzire, cited little security progress made by the parties to the conflict in that border region. Outlining the Mission’s work in that context, she described its creation of “protection communities” and the provision of training, monitoring and operational, and administrative support. Noting that the committees play a crucial role in sustaining peace and security, particularly by addressing sexual and gender-based violence, she touched on efforts to step up recruitment, including of women.

Meanwhile, Marie-Joseph Fitah-Kona, Adviser to the Mayor of the Third Arrondissement of Bangui, Central African Republic, recounted her first-hand view of a range of positive recent developments following the deployment of police units from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. After being shuttered during the country’s 2013 crisis, shops reopened, people were able to walk on the street and life for many returned to normal. Dialogue between armed groups has resumed and religious communities now coexist more peacefully. She also highlighted the awareness-raising work being done by police officers on violence against women and sexual exploitation and abuse.

Council members then took the floor, with many expressing support for the critical work of United Nations police officers. Some speakers stressed that — like all peacekeepers — such officers must always adhere to their mandates and be guided by the core principles of impartiality, consent of the parties and non-use of force except in cases of self-defence or defence of mandate. Meanwhile, others emphasized that police can be more effective, and stay safer, if they are provided better resources and equipment.

The representative of France, for one, called for the upgrading of police officers and gendarmerie within missions’ command structures. Pointing out that United Nations police officers convey a different message than blue helmets, she said they are received positively by local populations and are often viewed as representing a return to normality. Recalling that several missions have reported a positive correlation between the number of women in their forces and the durability of peace on the ground — as was seen in Liberia — she said that, despite a recent increase in the number of female peacekeepers their numbers still remain too low.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire recalled that his country hosted a United Nations peacekeeping mission, which was closed after its successful completion in 2017. Noting that a positive dynamic relationship between a mission and the host country allows for national ownership — as well as a return to stability and prosperity — he described police components as essential and called for more attention to local capacity-building.

The representative of the Russian Federation, meanwhile, characterized police officers as a “link in the chain between the population and peacekeepers”. Underlining the importance of developing strong relations with host countries and listening closely to the views of police-contributing countries, he warned against attempts to impose “outside concepts” — which are not endorsed by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping — into the work of peacekeepers and police units. Nor would it make sense to allocate functions to police personnel that would draw them away from their specialized work, such as political or human rights monitoring, he said.

The delegate of China joined other speakers in stressing that United Nations police should be guided by the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, under clear and explicit mandates that respect the sovereignty of the host countries. Describing political dialogue and economic development as the keys to lasting peace, he said China is delivering on its commitments to policing by forming the first standby contingent for United Nations peacekeeping and training officers from many countries. For its part, the Council must take stronger action on peacekeeper safety and security and enhance response capability in dealing with emergencies.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Belgium, South Africa, Dominican Republic, United States, Germany, Indonesia, Poland, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Peru and the United Kingdom.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:50 p.m.

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