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Press Conference by United Nations Police Adviser, 21 March 2012

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

With its “blue helmets” being called on to carry out increasingly challenging and complex peacekeeping missions, the United Nations was taking steps to bolster their ability to train national police officers, re-build security infrastructure and tackle organized crime in conflict-torn regions worldwide, the head of the Organization’s Police Division said this afternoon.

“We are attracting and recruiting more specialized officers,” Ann-Marie Orler, Police Adviser of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Director of the Police Division, said during a Headquarters news conference.

The peacekeeping Department was also drawing on lessons learned in the field to better school new recruits and veteran officers alike in ways to address challenges, she said. And it was teaching them to prevent and investigate sexual and gender-based violence, particularly among vulnerable groups, such as women and children, in post-conflict settings through a training programme begun last year.

Recruited from over 80 countries, the Organization’s more than 14,400-strong police force was deployed in 11 peacekeeping missions and seven special political missions throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Haiti. More officers would soon be sent to the Sudan-based United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

In the last six months, the force had helped re-build police stations and training facilities, equip national police services and upgrade technology. Its efforts had taught local police in post-conflict settings to manage public safety, carry out forensic investigations, strengthen police administration, and root out gender-based violence, among other services, she said.

United Nations police were supporting efforts of the Department of Political Affairs in the Organization’s missions in Iraq, Libya, Somalia and four other locations, she said. In Timor-Leste, where presidential elections were held this week and the security situation was improving, they had fully handed over power to the Timorese and were preparing to scale down.

Ms. Orler said those and other steps were highlighted in the Secretary-General’s first-ever report on the force (document A/66/615), which was issued this year. The 21-page document, which gave a detailed account of the United Nations police’s mandate and functions, was a “great opportunity” for the Police Division to present its current challenges and future role.

In addition, the Organization had made headway towards its goal of ensuring that by the end of 2014, at least one in every five police officers was a woman, she said. At present, 10.4 per cent of the force was female, up from 7 per cent in 2009.

Female police officers served an important function as security providers, mediators, investigators and trainers in reconstructing police services worldwide, she said. They had a major impact as role models in the populations they served. “We need more female officers in order to better implement the mandates that we are given. It does, as we see time and again, make a difference,” she said.

The United Nations was also calling on Member States to increase women among the ranks of their respective national police services in order to broaden the pool of potential peacekeepers. Last week, Uganda’s Government announced its commitment to have women comprise 30 per cent of its national force and 25 per cent of its blue helmets contingency.

The top contributors of female officers — Bangladesh, Nigeria, Rwanda, India, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Tanzania, Cameroon and Nepal — had filled that quota already, she said.

To prevent sexual exploitation and abuse committed by peacekeepers, the United Nations required all its police officers to complete sensitivity training and then sign an undertaking to respect the Organization’s rules and regulations upon deployment to a mission, she said. Any officer charged with sexual abuse was immediately repatriated, and serious offenders were barred from serving on future missions.

During a recent meeting at Headquarters with the Organization’s Police Commissioners, Ms. Orler encourage them to conduct unannounced visits to police officers and to get to know their staff well. “As law enforcement officers, we are expected to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” she said, calling on Member States to strongly enforce the Organization’s “zero-tolerance” policy of sexual exploitation in order to achieve “zero-occurrence”.

Asked whether the one-year prison sentence given to Pakistani members of a United Nations Formed Police Unit serving in Haiti for raping a 14-year-old boy was an appropriate penalty, Ms. Orler said the degree of sentencing varied among Member States and that she would not comment on it. But, when pressed further, she added that “in this case, we actually got justice,” and in “a very rapid manner”. The Organization had taken the case “very, very seriously” and had immediately dispatched a team to urgently investigate it, she said.

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