Press Conference by Director of Police Division, Department of Peacekeeping Operations

As diverse demands for United Nations peacekeeping continued to grow, more than 14,000 United Nations police officers — a force that was increasingly specialized and increasingly female — were deployed around the world, said the United Nations top police officer at a Headquarters press conference today.

“UN Police are one of the tools that the United Nations uses to address peace and security for all citizens of the world,” said Anne-Marie Orler, Police Adviser and Director of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ Police Division. United Nations police officers hailed from 88 countries and were engaged in security activities in 11 peacekeeping operations and five special political missions. Meanwhile, the total number of officers deployed had more than doubled in the past decade.

Ms. Orler spotlighted some of the activities of United Nations police over the last six months, including the provision of security during the first and second rounds of Haiti’s recent presidential election and continued work building the capacity of that country’s National Police. More than 800 national officers had recently graduated from a training programme in Haiti, she said, and recruitment was under way for the next round of “Police Promotion”, slated to begin in September. In Darfur, police officers with the United Nations-African Union Mission (UNAMID) had selected and trained more than 1,700 community policing volunteers. More than 1,200 crimes had been successfully reported and monitored in Darfur since January, she said, but there had also been a tragic death of a female police adviser, which took place during a hijacking as she was on patrol.

A notable highlight was recent progress made in Timor-Leste, where Ms. Orler said that United Nations police had handed over the primary responsibility for command and control of all operations to the country’s own police force, the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste. The move marked the start of the reconstitution phase of the transitional process, which is designed to lead to the eventual withdrawal of the United Nations mission in that South-East Asian country.

Ms. Orler told correspondents that she had visited some of the United Nations police force’s top contributing countries over the past six months, including Bangladesh, India, Jordan and Pakistan. Among other things, she held discussions with troops about the increasingly specialized skills that were now sought in police, as well as the need to recruit more female officers. She also held meetings with police leadership at United Nations peacekeeping missions, with the specific goal of emphasizing the importance of fully implementing the Organization’s “zero-tolerance” policy on sexual exploitation.

The United Nations had recognized in recent years that the participation of women in policing was critical to ensuring that women’s priorities were reflected and police services were accessible to all victims. To that end, a global effort was launched in August 2009 to increase the number of female police officers in national and international services, with a target of achieving, globally by 2014, a 20 per cent female United Nations police force. To date, said Ms. Orler, over 10 per cent of officers were women, and “more and more countries around the world are getting behind this effort”. According to a recent United Nations police publication, the number of female officers had risen from just 4 per cent in 2004.

Asked by a correspondent if the roles of police in peacekeeping missions and special political missions differed, Ms. Orler said that the goals of the two functions were “very much the same” — namely, to build capacity among national police. Beyond that aim, she said, the role of United Nations police officers differed according to the mission’s mandate. Some special political missions had been established to reinforce the efforts of national authorities and prevent future conflicts, she noted, adding that, in those cases, “our aim is to strengthen and make accountable the security sector so that guardians of public order do not exacerbate political tensions”.

Responding to several questions related to the situation in Sudan, and in particular about several recent security incidents, she said that the main goal of United Nations police in Sudan was to “protect the people and make sure the Sudanese police was up to standards”. In terms of investigating recent incidents, the police contingent had no investigative mandate itself, she stressed. Nonetheless, it would offer as much support as possible to local authorities and would never “turn a blind eye” to any Government involvement in such incidents.

For information media • not an official record