Project report

The Right Capacities for New Challenges

Making International Police Peacekeeping More Effective in the 21st Century

01 Oct 2012, 
published in
High-Level Conference on International Police Peacekeeping in the 21st Century (10-11 October 2012, Berlin)

Executive Summary

For more than a decade, peace operations have seen a rapid expansion in both the number of police officers deployed and the ambition of mandates to maintain security and contribute to establishing the rule of law with executive powers, to provide operational support to host-state police, and to support the reform and rebuilding of entire police services. To assess the current and future operational, strategic and political demands that arise for the UN Secretariat and member states, the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) convened the High-Level Conference on International Police Peacekeeping in the 21st Century: The Right Capacities for New Challenges. 

The conference was held in Berlin on 10 – 11 October 2012 and was jointly hosted by the German Federal Foreign Office, the German Ministry of Interior and the UN Police Division within DPKO’s Office of the Rule of Law and Security Institutions. The German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Guido Westerwelle, and the German Minister of the Interior, Dr. Hans-Peter Friedrich, both addressed the 200 participants along with UN Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Ameerah Haq, who headed the UN delegation. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon contributed a video message to the delegates from more than 100 member states, international and regional organizations, academia and training institutions.

Indispensable for Preventive Security at Home and Abroad

An effective and legitimate police service is indispensable to provide security, maintain public safety and uphold the rule of law in accordance with human rights and democratic values. The work of police in peace operations is therefore an essential building block of any transition to a more stable and peaceful political order. As the largest and most experienced provider of police peacekeepers, the United Nations leads in delivering international support to the reconstruction of security and rule-of-law institutions after conflict. UN police have important comparative advantages, including the ability to deploy rapidly; longstanding expertise in training and guidance development; the credibility to engage governments politically on sensitive issues; and the legitimacy of their mandate.

While demand for international police peacekeeping is likely to remain high, the current economic climate continues to affect the supply of police officers, the regional imbalance of contributions and the provision of police experts. As a result, police peacekeeping faces the dual challenge of becoming more effective with fewer human and financial resources.

However, conference participants concluded that the perceived competition between domestic and international demands for qualified police officers reflected a false choice. The lack of effective police coverage anywhere in the world enables transnational organized crime, corruption and terrorism to flourish. Internal and external security are indivisible in today’s world, and by improving host state police, peace operations contribute directly to security at home.

Speakers at the conference argued that police peacekeeping receives too few trained and qualified officers, including those with specialist skills, to fulfil core police roles and to advise and mentor local counterparts – extremely demanding roles that have little in common with most police officers’ assignments at home. To succeed, missions need strategic guidance and institutional support, as well as predictable funding and effective partnerships with regional security organizations and development agencies.

Practical Improvements in Capacities, Capabilities and Collaboration

The participants discussed possible improvements, several of which are already underway. First, the UN’s initiative to develop a strategic guidance framework will create a common platform for police officers serving in UN peace operations and bridge the gap between various national approaches.

Second, the UN and its member states together must address significant capacity gaps in terms of skills and diversity. The UN’s Global Effort to increase the share of women police peacekeepers to 20 per cent by 2014 remains crucial to achieving greater operational effectiveness. Francophone officers are in high demand, as are specialists in police planning and management, information analysis and criminal intelligence, integrated border management, public order management, professional standards, anti-corruption and police command. Specialized capabilities can also be successfully deployed as specialist teams” from a single country – a model that Norway recently applied in Haiti.

Third, senior officials in police peacekeeping need to be better prepared for the challenge of effective, strategic leadership in operations in uncertain and complex environments, which call for an appreciation of local political contexts and genuine domestic ownership; extensive communication with all stakeholders; the ability to manage the unique skillsets of UN police officers; and the creativity and pragmatism to make do with insufficient resources. More emphasis should be placed on professional staff development with a view to career paths that include international policing.

Fourth, participants considered better ways of leveraging institutional partnerships to tackle organized crime as a peace spoiler, and discussed ongoing initiatives such as the West African Coast Initiative and the Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre, the 2009 Action Plan for International Police Peacekeeping (by member states, UN DPKO and INTERPOL), and the contribution of bilateral police assistance.

Needed: A New Political Dynamic in Support of Effective Police Peacekeeping

The Concluding Statement (attached) outlines how police peacekeeping can become more visible on the political agenda, nationally as well as globally. At the global level, key political steps for member states are to dispatch police advisers to New York and to give greater prominence to police peacekeeping in the work of the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council. To better connect to national capitals, the establishment of a Group of Friends for the UN Police” was discussed as a way to include all stakeholders involved in UN police missions and facilitate the informal exchange of ideas, a way to create a sense of common purpose, and a place to launch concrete initiatives. Since the conference, the Group of Friends has been created; it held its first meeting in New York in May 2013.

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