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Security Council Delegates Call for Increasing Number of Women in United Nations Police, as Peacekeeping Chief Outlines Priorities

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SC/14696

SECURITY COUNCIL
8901ST MEETING (AM)

Female police officers are instrumental to the United Nations’ flagship initiative to strengthen the effectiveness of its peace operations, the Security Council heard today, as speakers discussed more gender-responsive policing and how to increase the deployment of women on the ground.

Convening during United Nations Police Week, today’s meeting featured the Organization’s top peacekeeping official as well as two women who head the police components of peacekeeping missions.

Jean‑Pierre Lacroix, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peace Operations, said the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, launched in 2018, guides responses to the challenges facing United Nations peacekeepers. Noting that Action for Peacekeeping Plus (A4P+) is the implementation strategy to advance these efforts, he described how United Nations police (UNPOL), a key component of these missions, is helping to advance A4P+ priorities.

For instance, he said UNPOL is promoting women’s networks within field missions, advising mission leaders on living conditions for women peacekeepers and on how fostering gender-responsive work environments.

He said UNPOL also contributes to host countries’ post-conflict transitions. In the Darfur region of Sudan, for example, it facilitated the drawdown of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and transition to the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), providing much-needed interim policing, police planning capacities and knowledge transfer.

Noting that gender-responsive policing ensures that the different security needs of men, women, girls and boys are considered, he said United Nations police have already achieved gender parity targets for 2025, with five police components headed by women, including today’s briefers.

Violet Lusala, Police Commissioner of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), outlined obstacles to the Mission’s efforts to maintain public order and protect civilians, including the presence of armed elements, intercommunal clashes and cattle rustling. Further, she pointed out that the non-establishment of Abyei Police Service has created a vacuum for local law enforcement, worsened by the lack of basic services, such as water, health and education.

Moreover, she said, services for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence remain non-existent. Highlighting the need for increased United Nations police capacity, she urged the Council to press Sudan and South Sudan to immediately establish the Abyei Police Service.

Patricia Boughani, Police Commissioner of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), called for a shift in mindset to promote a gender perspective, given that few women are deployed in Mali’s security forces in the centre and the north. UNPOL is developing strategies to build women’s dormitories in some regions and providing training, as well as working to financially empower women through quick impact projects.

In terms of implementing the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, she said work is being done to set up local police and local advisory committees, with the latter providing ways for representatives of the State, police and local populations to consult each other with the aim of developing local crime prevention and security policies.

In the ensuing discussion, Mexico’s representative, Council President for November, emphasized the importance of today’s session as a way to highlight the work of the United Nations police, which he described as “little known, even overshadowed” by the visibility of the military components.

Ireland’s delegate said while strides towards gender parity have been made within United Nations police, with women comprising 14 per cent of deployed officers, more must be done. “This means looking beyond numbers, addressing structural barriers and crating enabling environments for women’s participation,” she observed.

On that point, India’s delegate similarly called for increasing the number of women in United Nations police components. Noting that India was the first to deploy a Formed Police Unit in Liberia in 2007, and now contributes 175 police to various United Nations operations, he said: “Women peacekeepers, particularly women police officers, can play an important role in understanding and responding to the specific needs of women in conflict and post-conflict environments”.

The Russian Federation’s delegate meanwhile said United Nations police are trained in combating organized crime, drug trafficking and violence against children and protecting civilians from direct security threats. Although they can help national police forces — or even replace them — she cautioned against deploying lengthy missions that essentially lead to a replacement of local police by the United Nations.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking also for Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, called for redoubled efforts to ensure that women are always fully represented at each decision-making table and level without discrimination or bias — as equal participants, key decision makers and primary beneficiaries.

Also speaking today were representatives of China, Viet Nam, Estonia, France, United States, United Kingdom and Norway.

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:05 p.m.

Briefings

JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peace Operations, said the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative guides responses to the challenges facing United Nations peacekeeping operations, and Action for Peacekeeping Plus (A4P+) is a strategy to move the initiative forward. United Nations police, a key component of those missions, is helping to advance A4P+ priorities. Noting that the first and second priorities of A4P+ aim to ensure coherence behind political strategies, as well as greater strategic and operational integration, he said the Secretariat has recently established the inter‑agency task force on policing, co-chaired by the Department of Peace Operations and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It aims to unite efforts throughout the United Nations system and maximize collective impact by drawing on comparative advantages, expertise and know-how in fostering representative, responsive and accountable policing services. To this end, United Nations police will continue reinforcing its partnerships with regional and subregional organizations, particularly in strategic guidance development and training.

For its part, the Department aims to strengthen capabilities and mindsets, he said, which lie at the core of the third A4P priority, by aligning Member States’ predeployment training with the Organization’s in-mission training. The Police Division, together with the Integrated Training Service, develops curricula under the United Nations Police Training Architecture Programme. To ensure the highest levels of accountability to peacekeepers — the fourth priority — it is critical to improve the safety and security of personnel, he said, noting that the Action Plan to Improve the Security of United Nations Peacekeepers, now in its fourth iteration, structures efforts towards this aim. At the same time, United Nations police is working to create an enabling environment by promoting women’s networks within field missions, which advise mission leadership on living conditions for women peacekeepers and how to foster gender-responsive work environments.

To advance A4P’s fifth priority — the accountability of peacekeepers — he said United Nations police reinforces zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse, including through enhanced predeployment and in-mission training. Regarding the sixth priority — strategic communications — he said United Nations police works to amplify the positive impact of presence, including through new engagement on social media platforms, as well as community-oriented policing and awareness-raising to combat misinformation about the COVID‑19 pandemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, confront sexual and gender-based violence in South Sudan, and encourage dialogue and trust between Cypriot communities.

In line with the seventh priority, he said efforts to improve cooperation with host countries will help to enable smooth transitions, as seen in Darfur, where United Nations police facilitated the drawdown of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and transition to the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), providing much-needed interim policing, police planning capacities and knowledge transfer. In addition, gender-responsive policing ensures that the different security needs of men, women, girls and boys are considered. With support from Member States, United Nations police has already achieved its gender parity targets for 2025, with five police components headed by women, including today’s briefers.

VIOLET LUSALA, Police Commissioner, United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) briefed the Council via videoconference about the latest developments with the Force, which is in its tenth year of operation. The improved relationship between both the Force’s host countries — Sudan and South Sudan — has not yet translated into progress towards finding a political solution for the final status of Abyei, she said. She touched on challenges that remain in the protection of civilians and mandate implementation in general — among them, limited rule of law structures, human rights violations, impediments to humanitarian assistance and the impact of the pandemic. United Nations police (UNPOL) continues to mitigate the situation in Abyei in line with UNISFA’s mandate, she said, recalling that Security Council resolution 1990 (2011) initially mandated UNPOL to help establish the Abyei Police Service; however, this has not been realized, as several invitations to the relevant parties to jointly plan for the Police Service have not been honoured. In the absence of the Police Service, resolution 2205 (2015) authorized UNISFA to enhance the capacities of the voluntary Community Protection Committees, she said.

She outlined existing problems impeding UNISFA’s work in maintaining public order and protecting civilians, including the presence of armed elements, intercommunal clashes and cattle rustling. Further, she pointed out that the non-establishment of Abyei Police Service has created a vacuum for local law enforcement, worsened by the lack of basic services, such as water, health and education. Moreover, services for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence remain non-existent. She highlighted the need for increased UNPOL capacity, called on Sudan and South Sudan’s Governments to provide basic services in Abyei, and urged the Council to press both Governments to immediately establish the Abyei Police Service.

PATRICIA BOUGHANI, Police Commissioner, United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), speaking on gender mainstreaming in the provision of operational support, said the idea of equality is an ancient one, but its incorporation into gender considerations is more recent. The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, along with Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) and 2122 (2013) lay the foundation to integrate women into the heart of peace and security processes. A strategy on gender parity applicable to uniformed personnel in peacekeeping operations also has been established, she said, noting that resolution 2242 (2015) asked the Secretary‑General to develop a strategy to double the number of women in military contingents and police components. She went on to underscore that “the concept of gender is one that is constantly changing” and that the consideration of male, female and transgender persons is crucial, adding that the police component has taken steps in that regard. The high profile of women within United Nations police should encourage Mali’s population and security forces to encourage women to take up careers in posts that are traditionally considered to be dominant ones.

There must be a shift in mindset in order to promote the gender perspective, she said, taking into consideration cultural trends and given the fact that few women are deployed in Mali’s security forces in the centre and the north. UNPOL is developing strategies on building women’s dormitories in certain regions and also providing training courses, as well as working towards the financial empowerment of women through quick impact projects. In terms of implementing the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, she said work is being done to set up local police and local advisory committees, with the latter providing ways for representatives of the State, police and local populations to consult each other with the aim of developing local crime prevention and security policies.

Statements

INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), speaking also for Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, stated that it is an undeniable certitude, grounded in both historical fact and in contemporary political reality, that women are indispensable stakeholders in effective peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. Her delegation is committed to all efforts aimed at ensuring the full, equal and meaningful participation and leadership of women in United Nations policing — and in peacekeeping more broadly. The immense expertise, competitive advantages and wider societal benefits that women bring to peace operations — in all roles, both uniformed and civilian, and at all levels at Headquarters and in the field — prove ever so critical. She then asked the Under‑Secretary‑General about his vision for delivering a more comprehensive gender mainstreaming strategy across all United Nations peace operations, seeking more concrete proposals. Calling for redoubled efforts to ensure that women are always fully represented at each decision-making table and level without discrimination or bias — as equal participants, key decision makers, and primary beneficiaries, she called for the removal of obstacles to women's engagement towards lasting peace.

GERALDINE BRYRNE NASON (Ireland) highlighted the important contribution that United Nations policewomen make to enhancing protection of women on the ground and enabling their participation in peacemaking and peacebuilding efforts. While strides towards gender equality have been made within United Nations police, with women comprising 14 per cent of deployed officers, more must be done. “This means looking beyond numbers, addressing structural barriers and crating enabling environments for women’s participation,” she said. United Nations police also play a critical role in transitions, particularly when a peacekeeping operation is being reconfigured. That process is successful when it is inclusive, nationally owned, financially supported and focused on protecting civilians. While States bear primary responsibility for protecting their population, the Council is obliged to support Governments in developing and implementing national strategies to do so. This requires the full participation of local communities and stakeholders, especially women, youth and civil society. However, it is also vital that reconfiguring the United Nations presence in the field enables long-term peacebuilding efforts. This means integrating United Nations police early into transition planning, particularly, bridge-building between the Organization and local communities, with a focus on training and coordination. She then asked about the placement of United Nations police within the newly launched Action for Peacekeeping+ (A4P+) initiative, and about how the women, peace and security agenda should be mainstreamed within that focus.

GENG SHUANG (China) said better use must be made of United Nations police, whose role in peace operations is increasingly important against the backdrop of a more complex international security situation, with diverse threats. However, he pointed out that the police service’s role is not to act as a substitute for national police forces in re-establishing public order, adding that MINUSMA must help restore State authority in the centre of Mali, and that steps must be taken to establish the Joint Police Service in Abyei. In Haiti, he said relevant efforts of United Nations peacekeeping operations failed because the host Government was unable to assume responsibility. “The international community should conduct more robust training and learn lessons from the past,” he said. He went on to emphasize the need to strengthen capacity building, and for full-fledged training and resources to be provided for mandate implementation and self-protection. It is imperative to ensure the safety of personnel, he said, calling for the full implementation of resolution 2518 (2020) in this regard. One death is one too many. As chair of the Group of Friends on the Safety and Security of United Nations Peacekeepers, China will hold a meeting to discuss how to strengthen camp security later this month. He asked the Under‑Secretary‑General about the weakest links in enhancing security, and about the measures that should be taken to address them.

DINH QUY DANG (Viet Nam) commended the increasing number of women police officers, and specifically, the six women currently serving as heads or deputy heads of the United Nations police components in peacekeeping and special political missions, two of whom are briefing the Council today. He underlined the importance of prioritizing, through resources and attention, the promotion of women in peacekeeping operations, including policing activities. Further, the international community should enhance training and capacity building support to developing countries, including for women police officers. He noted that the percentage of Vietnamese female peacekeepers in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) has increased to 20.6 per cent, from 16.5 per cent in 2020, exceeding the Secretary‑General’s target of 15 per cent for uniform gender parity before 2028.

ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) said that police components are an integral part of United Nations peacekeeping operations, noting that while the challenges in Abyei and Mali significantly differ, in both areas, there is work for the “Blue Berets”. Most peacekeepers are deployed where there is a weakening or absence of police forces. United Nations police are trained in combating organized crime, drug trafficking and violence against children and protect civilians from direct security threats. They can provide assistance to national police forces or even replace them, she said, cautioning against deploying lengthy missions that essentially lead to a replacement of local police by the United Nations. Sometimes, an in-depth explanation of a mission mandate is necessary to gain the trust of the local population and avoid unrealistic expectations. Women and children require a particularly careful approach to be taken, she said, underscoring that the ranks of the United Nations police should include both female and male officers.

ANDRE LIPAND (Estonia) called for the timely issuance of visas for personnel within UNISFA, including the police component. Citing UNPOL efforts to strengthen the rule of law, he said Estonia will continue to support the A4P+ initiative and remain vigilant on upholding zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse. A more gender-equal composition of United Nations police is critical to ensuring effective policing and community policing, countering the spread of misinformation and preventing and eliminating conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence. Estonia will continue to underline the importance of implementing the women, peace and security agenda, ensuring women’s full and meaningful participation in peace processes, as well as in UNPOL by emphasizing the importance of resolution 2538 (2020), he added. He asked the Commissioners about their priorities in creating a safe, enabling and gender sensitive working environment for women.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said United Nations Police is essential and women’s participation in the force is indispensable. In Mali, UNPOL contributes to the protection of civilians and helps maintain contact between the State and the populations through its presence alongside domestic security forces. United Nations police are also a key component of transitions, supporting national capacity building and security sector reform, as seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through its support for the implementation of the national reform plan. Noting that linguistic difficulties encountered by staff who do not master the host‑country language could undermine the performance of missions, he welcomed the results of the partnership between the International Organization of La Francophonie and the United Nations Police Division. France promotes the full participation of women in peace processes, deploying 21 gendarmes and one police officer of all ranks in three missions.

RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said his country has deployed nearly 3,000 police officers in 24 United Nations peacekeeping operations. As the first country to deploy a Formed Police Unit in Liberia in 2007, India now contributes 175 police personnel to various United Nations operations. Voicing support for Secretary‑General’s call to for accelerate implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, the “A4P+ priorities” and the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy, he pointed to instrumental contributions by the Indian Female Engagement Team within the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) to enhancing local women’s engagement, and by the Indian female formed unit within the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), which helped to increase the participation of Liberian women in the security sector from 6 per cent in 2007 to 17 per cent in 2016. He also drew attention to Shakti Devi, who was awarded the International Female Police Peacekeeper Award in 2014 for her involvement in the creation of a women’s police council in Herat, Afghanistan. “Women peacekeepers, particularly women police officers, can play an important role in understanding and responding to the specific needs of women in conflict and post-conflict environments,” he said, underscoring the need to increase their numbers within United Nations police components. He recommended identifying and resolving the structural problems that prevent this from happening, adding that women must be given equal opportunities and that a zero‑tolerance policy towards sexual harassment and abuse must be observed.

LINDA THOMAS‑GREENFIELD (United States) expressed her condolences to the Government of Egypt following the shooting of its police officers deployed on 1 November to MINUSCA and called for a thorough investigation of the incident. She welcomed the increase in advancing the women, peace and security agenda, noting that the share of women in United Nations police has doubled, from 15 per cent 10 years ago to 30 per cent today. However, she stressed: “It is simply not enough.” She urged police-contributing countries to increase women’s participation in all levels of policing, welcoming the Action for Peacekeeping+ initiative to accelerate implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. She also emphasized the need for strengthened accountability. “When peacekeepers fail to protect civilians, it erodes trust, undermines Mission effectiveness and damages the image of peacekeeping,” she said, adding: “We need United Nations police to be effective, successful[…]accountable and above reproach.”

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), highlighting the recent attack on an Egyptian police contingent in Bangui, Central African Republic, said this incident is a stark reminder of the difficult circumstances for peacekeepers. On women’s contribution to United Nations policing, he said their full, equal and meaningful participation is a moral imperative critical to mission effectiveness. Turning to the Secretary-General’s “A4P+” priorities, he stressed that police experts must be at the “top table in missions” and treated as an essential part of integrated planning. Recruitment must be fair, timely and merit-based, selecting the right skills, capabilities and expertise that particular missions need. Finally, police should be fully integrated into United Nations systems, including the Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System, the Integrated Peacekeeping Performance and Accountability Framework and the Comprehensive Planning and Performance Assessment System. Expressing concern over pending sexual exploitation and abuse cases among United Nations police, he asked Under-Secretary-General Lacroix to outline steps that are being taken to tackle this behaviour in mission awareness training.

TRINE HEIMERBACK (Norway) stressed that United Nations police mandates should draw on their full capabilities in protecting civilians, strengthening the rule of law, safeguarding human rights and enhancing local capacities. Also pointing to the importance of adequate resources and staffing for police, she said this is especially important as new, non-military challenges demand a proactive and innovative approach. Also essential is gender balance, she said, noting that Norway supports parity efforts internationally by funding a programme led by the United Nations Police Division, aiming to increase the number of female officers. Adding that specialized police teams have become an established tool in United Nations policing, she urged the Division to continue developing this model when reviewing guidelines in 2022, making use of technological developments and ensuring the Strategic Guidance Framework reflects new challenges. She also strongly encouraged Member States to form strong partnerships with regional and other outside organizations, particularly the African Union and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).

ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico), Council President for November, spoke in her national capacity to emphasize the importance of today’s session as the work of the United Nations police in peacekeeping missions is little known, even overshadowed by the visibility of the military components. Noting that police components have undergone significant changes since their first deployment in 1960, she said there are currently around 11,000 policemen and women participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions. Formed police units and individual police officers contribute to the development of national institutional capacities for strengthening the rule of law, including police, prosecutorial, judicial and prison institutions. This role is marked in such special political missions as the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, and the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). She asked the briefers about advancing implementation of the women, peace and security agenda through their work, especially in the protection of women peacebuilders in local communities and women human rights defenders. She also sought more information on the lessons learned from the establishment of early warning systems that can prevent massive human rights violations.

Mr. LACROIX, responding to questions, concurred with speakers who highlighted the growing importance of a police-type response in United Nations peacekeeping, which he attributed to emerging drivers of conflict, including the illegal exploitation of natural resources, and the need to address situations with a high density of population, including those involving urban areas, refugees and internally displaced persons. Moreover, the police force plays an increasing role in capacity building, notably with respect to strengthening the rule of law and justice. To questions about strengthening gender-sensitive policy in peacekeeping, he said this involves a continuing effort to increase the participation of women in United Nations police, and in making the environment more welcoming, including by improving facilities. He called on police-contributing countries to increase the number of female police officers they make available to peace operations and called for the broader application of innovative best practices by some Missions, including the use of local networks and female community liaison assistants.

Turning to questions on accountability and combating gender-based violence, he said efforts are being made to sensitize personnel, and to train local police and judiciary. Recalling the recent difficult decision to repatriate an entire contingent due to serious allegations, he said it is a “stark reminder that we are far from out of the woods”. He said that seven pending allegations for 2021 are presently being investigated, adding that the number of allegations is the same as in 2020, which is “not encouraging”. Nonetheless, the United Nations police is intensifying efforts to fight sexual exploitation and abuse, and enhance accountability, including through the involvement of victims-rights advocates, he said.

Police Commissioner LUSALA, of UNISFA, responding on the issue of civilian protection, said intelligence-led policies should be enhanced to ensure working relationships with all stakeholders. She also spoke about the need to reduce overcrowding in detention centres, especially during the pandemic, by pressing for dispute resolution within justice systems and drew attention to the issue of the reduction of human rights abuses to detainees, including by releasing minors and juveniles from prison. She noted the need to create awareness about the prevention of conflict-related and sexual violence within the host community.

Police Commissioner BOUGHANI, of MINUSMA, responding to the question on the mandate posed by China’s delegate, she said the community police andsecurity committee are bodies within which security stakeholders and local people can meet and exchange their concerns regarding crime and understand one another’s problems. The community police are the best tool for building trust between local people and security forces. She also mentioned “colocation” that seeks to promote national ownership, whereby an individual police officer goes to a unit and provides advice on the daily work of Mali’s security forces. She went on to say that the main challenge is freedom of movement, notably in the centre of Mali, where Formed Police Units and individual police officers carry out patrols. “We cannot go everywhere we want,” she said, adding that to meet this challenge, the Mission is developing assessments and sharing information, for example on the protection of the population. To the question about women’s safety and security, she drew attention to an eight-week predeployment course, adding that individual police officers attend induction training and that there is ongoing in-house training on security and safety.

PEACEKEEPING

For information media. Not an official record.