Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on UN Police in Peacekeeping Operations and the Challenges of Policing within a Protection of Civilians Mandate

Ambassador Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 13, 2015


Thank you, Under Secretary-General Ladsous and welcome to all of the Police Commissioners here. Thank you for your service, above all, often in very difficult environments, and thank you for being here to brief us. Special thanks, Matthew, to the United Kingdom for convening this important briefing. It is extremely important that this become an annual event, not only because of what happens in this briefing itself, but for all of the side meetings that go on where we get to hear directly from the police commissioners. It’s a perspective that we don’t get day to day – which I’ll come back to.

The world of UN policing is changing rapidly. Just three years ago, there were 52 Formed Police Units participating in UN Peacekeeping missions around the world. There are 64 today, and at the Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping six weeks ago, Member States pledged an additional 15. Earlier this year, just to give one telling example, we authorized the deployment of more UN police to just one mission – in the Central African Republic – than were stationed globally 21 years ago. So that’s just one reflection of sort of the large numbers, but it’s the incredible relevance of these police in post-conflict societies, in societies that are still experiencing conflict, in weak states – this is an extremely important function and we need to reflect that as the UN Security Council in our engagement with you and our support for you.

It’s not just about numbers, as we deploy more police, we are asking more of them. We now recognize that effective policing is critical to achieving one of peacekeeping’s most important and most challenging mandates, which is the protection of civilians. The Commanders with us today know this better than anyone. The individual officers on the streets represent the first line of defense – and the first point of assistance – for civilians in need. This work equips officers with the kind of invaluable local knowledge, insight, and relationships that can help mission leaders refine strategies and tactics to more effectively address potential threats to civilians. So the work that police do can inform the entire mission and the way those missions are calibrated to serve their foundational function. In the longer term, of course – even more fundamentally – UN police contribute to the sustained protection of civilians and to freedom from fear in the country by training their local counterparts and building lasting institutions which uphold the rights of civilians. Your job is to try to put yourselves out of business so that we don’t need UN police and we don’t need peacekeepers. And that’s about building local security institutions, and particularly police forces.

From daily patrols to multi-year programs, it’s evident that the growing number of UN police can and must play a leading role in protecting civilians. And we in the Council must do all we can to position you for success. I’d like to highlight quickly four ways we can do this.

First, we have to ensure that the UN’s approach to peacekeeping fully reflects the importance of police. And this means, as others have said, supporting continued reforms, including through the external review proposed by the Secretary-General to examine how UN policing is equipped to carry out these enormous responsibilities. And I know there’s a sense on the part of many of you that there are deficiencies in terms of how police are coming into mission areas and the kind of training and equipment they have to do their jobs. It also means supporting the Police Division’s efforts to develop a strategic guidance framework for UN policing, which many of you have been hungry for.

Second, we must ensure that all UN police are properly trained and equipped. And we in the United States have sought to address these needs. Since 2010 we have trained over 5,000 police peacekeepers, and next year we plan to conduct trainings across seven PCCs, enhancing pre-deployment preparation for up to 14 units. We also continue to provide technical, financial, and material support to the UN Police Division’s efforts to improve FPU standards, training, and curricula. And because well-trained police can only have an impact once they’re on the ground, we’re also working through the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership to ensure these units can deploy quickly. And, here, this is a very important point: by procuring and delivering the equipment required by an FPU, the United Sates intends to shorten the deployment time from many months to as little as 30 days after the adoption of a Security Council Resolution. And we know this is going to be hard to deliver on, but this is an extremely important ambition.

Third, I’d just second everything that the representative of Chad and, most recently, Chile have said about the importance of increasing the number of women police. But I think we also need to acknowledge that part of the challenge is that each of our nations’ police forces – whether they’re city police, or state police, or national police – themselves have a deficit of women police. And so that gets replicated in UN missions. So we have to deal with the challenge, as Member States, in our domestic law enforcement arms and then the UN system itself needs to reach in and make sure that, when there’s a pool of women that can be deployed, that there’s a special effort made to bring them into these missions.

Fourth, and lastly, we must improve the channels of communication to ensure that the Council has visibility into the critical work you’re doing and into your perspective, which is distinct. We need the benefit of your reporting in order to ensure that these missions are achieving their mandates. And this is why, as I said earlier, we must make this an annual session, but also why in our country-specific briefings police commissioners must increasingly participate alongside force commanders and the special representatives of the Secretary-General. This is an extremely important perspective and it would allow us to ask questions of you beyond the kind of tour d’horizon that we’re doing today.

In the spirit of this free flow of information, let me close by posing just a couple questions.

Deputy Commissioner Bent, UNMISS’s police contingent is now charged with protecting more than 180,000 civilians living in six designated locations. This was never the way the mission was supposed to be configured, it was never the kind of degeneration or deterioration that anybody expected to see in South Sudan. I gather you have around 1,170 police officers to accomplish this mission, which has now sadly had to become a central part of UNMISS’ mandate. But then there’s the fact that those are just the 180,000 in the camps, and the rest of the country is filled with civilians in desperate need of protection as well, at very difficult times. So I wonder if you could speak to the resources, capabilities, or mandate adjustments you need in order to walk and chew gum at the same time? And that’s both for the police and then as the police is integrated into the larger peacekeeping mission, civilians outside the POC sites, again, are crying out for protection. And what is the division of labor between police and troops in this regard?

Finally, Commissioner Hinds, first of all I just want to underscore – as somebody who visited you in Liberia at the height of the Ebola epidemic, everybody else was racing to the exits – it’s just extremely impressive the leadership that you showed, that the police who worked under your command, that the UN peacekeeping mission, UNMIL, showed as a whole. I think the gratitude of the Liberian people and the entire international community to you for having stayed the course and been there for those people in their hour of most desperate need, I think it will never be forgotten. And that gratitude – I really hope you and the officers who work with you feel that. The big challenge for you as you face a draw-down, of course, is building up the local Liberian police. And that’s been a challenge for a very long time. Can you speak a little more to the extent to which having an exit strategy is helping focus the mind, and whether you’ve seen actually concrete improvements in the training and in the results of that training in terms of Liberian police capacity? And, moreover, outside of Monrovia – where a lot of the effort has been dedicated over time, because that’s where the central government authorities are – how can the LNP begin to make strides, particularly again with the draw-down looming over the mission, so that police outside of Monrovia have the capabilities that they need in order to keep the Liberian people safe?

Thank you.