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UN Week – 2/11/13

April 13, 2013

This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

John and Douglas Carey, Editors

United Nations Police Force

The United Nations Police (UNPOL) force has been part of  the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) since 14th  April 1964, contributing to the maintenance and restoration of law and order in the buffer zone and supporting the military and the Civil Affairs Branch. 

The UNPOL component is headed by UNFICYP’s Senior Police Advisor, and comprises a Deputy Senior Police Advisor, 68 police officers from nine countries and one civilian support staff.

UNPOL works closely with UNFICYP’s Military and Civil Affairs components as part of a “three-pillar” concept, developed to maximize internal collaboration on all aspects of the Mission’s mandate.

UNPOL officers are based in UNFICYP Headquarters at the UNPA (United Nations Protected Area) and at eight police stations located in the buffer zone. Fifteen UNPOL officers work directly with the Civil Affairs Branch, mainly to assist in the return to normal conditions within the buffer zone.

UNPOL is a civilian police force. It is not a substitute police force as it does not administer the law or have powers of arrest or detention.

UNPOL police services include

  •  Investigating criminal offenses committed or suspected of having been committed by non-UN persons inside the buffer zone;
  •  Providing support to UNFICYP by preserving public order during demonstrations and disturbances inside and adjacent to the buffer zone;
  •  Resolving civil disputes between residents in the two communities in the buffer zone;
  •  Maintaining law and order in the bi-communal village of Pyla, which is the only area in the buffer zone where both communities live together;
  •  Controlling civilian access to the buffer zone;
  •  Monitoring the crossing points between the north and the south;
  •  Verifying permits for farming and building construction in the buffer zone;
  •  Investigating illegal dumping of waste in the buffer zone;
  •  Preventing hunting and bird trapping in the buffer zone;
  •  Investigating of alleged illegal immigrants located within the buffer zone.
  •  Maintaining regular liaison with relevant authorities in the north and south;
  •  Facilitating Cypriot Police and “Turkish Cypriot Police” investigations inside the Buffer Zone.

 Outgoing United Nations Police Adviser Ann-Marie Orler on January 30 called for a change in the Organization’s policing mindset so as to develop a greater focus on quality over quantity.

At a Headquarters press conference to mark the completion of her time as United Nations Police Adviser in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, she said large numbers of police officers were not necessarily needed, as it may be of far greater benefit to concentrate on fewer, more specialized officers with particular skills.

Focusing on quality over quantity had a number of advantages, including placing fewer uniformed men and women in dangerous mission postings, she continued.  It also provided a higher and more effective level of support, tailored specifically to the needs of each individual host country, and generated cost-savings, which were critical at a time when the entire world was looking to increase productivity and reduce costs.

In a wide-ranging review of the United Nations Police Division’s performance during her tenure, Ms. Orler underscored the Secretary-General’s “zero-tolerance” policy regarding sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as the recent Human Rights Screening of United Nations Personnel (2012).  She said sexual exploitation and abuse was directed at victims who had often already suffered the effects of conflict and instability.

Those who committed violations polluted the good work that the United Nations police did, destroyed the goodwill they had built and tarnished the good name of all their fellow officers, she said.  “This is simply unacceptable.”  Reiterating the United Nations zero-tolerance policy, she stressed that “zero occurrence” was her goal for the United Nations Police, urging Member States to exercise “zero impunity”.  They should not only take legal action in such cases, but also inform the United Nations of the resulting outcomes, she said.

She explained that specific measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse were in place on several levels, emphasizing that Member States were responsible for providing pre-deployment training.  Curfews had been instituted, and out-of-bounds areas for United Nations personnel delineated.  The Organization investigated any violation of those rules and followed up with Member States.  Police officers found responsible of grave violations of standards of conduct were immediately repatriated on disciplinary grounds.

She went on to point out that in all serious cases, the United Nations barred repatriated officers from any future assignment with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  “My vision as Police Adviser has always been to foster professionalism across the UN Police,” she said.  “We’ve enhanced our recruitment and selection processes in order to do so.  We’ve also developed new pre-deployment trainings and created a toolkit on recruitment for Member States.”

On the Police Division’s strength, she said that, as of the end of December, it had approximately 12,398 personnel out of an authorized strength of 15,225.  Concerning gender, she explained that, while the goal was to have the most professional United Nations police service possible, one could not build a modern, professional police organization without encouraging equal participation by women and men.  In that regard, the global effort to raise the number of female police officers was extremely important to increasing the quality of the United Nations Police, she noted.

With the launch of the global effort in 2009, the goal had been to reach 20 per cent female officers by 2014, she recalled.  While there had been an increase in numbers over the past three-and-a-half years, the Department remained at only 10 per cent female officers.  Therefore, “much more should be done”, she said, calling again upon all Member States to send more highly qualified women.  Rwanda, for example, had sent a contingent of 15 female officers to Côte d’Ivoire just last month, she recalled.  Alongside Bangladesh and India, Rwanda was one of the top three countries contributing female police officers.  Together, those three countries currently contributed more than 450 female officers; representing approximately 37 per cent of all the Organization’s female officers, she said, adding there was a need for similar efforts on the part of all Member States.

Ms. Orler said that promoting equality and justice regarding gender issues remained at the forefront of her priorities, even during her last days as Police Adviser.  While conceding that much more work remained for her successor after she had completed her duties, she highly commended the men and women she had led, declaring:  “I am quite honoured and humbled by being allowed to serve as the UN’s “top cop”.  She added that she was confident that, given the strong, professional United Nations police service that everyone had worked collectively to promote, the Police Division would be well equipped to serve the cause of peace in the coming years.

Asked about allegations of United Nations police sexual abuse in Haiti, Ms. Orler said she would not discuss “individual cases”.  Preventive measures were already being enforced, including certification by Member States that officers to be sent to the United Nations service were “clean”.  However, those found guilty were subject to repatriation and would never return to United Nations mission duty.  Additionally, a new computer-based data system had been established to track such past incidents and offenders.

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