Although first suggested by the former United Nations Secretary-General Trygve Lie in 1948, the official emergence of the United Nations Police (UNPOL) was in 1960 following the first deployment of UN Police officers to the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC). Since this genesis 60 years ago, UN Police has proven itself to be a critical and valuable component in supporting the navigation towards peace.
Today, nearly 9,000 UN Police officers, of about 11,000 total authorized, are deployed in 18 peace operations throughout the world, diligently working to diffuse the effects of conflict and violence on vulnerable communities and striving to foster global peace and security. Their core responsibilities include assistance to host-State police through operational support and capacity-building, but in some missions, UNPOL officers also act as interim law enforcement, directly responsible for all policing functions and the maintenance of law and order.
This week, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Police, we acknowledge the immense service and sacrifice made by UN Police officers, everywhere. With the intention of honouring their lasting global contributions, this photo essay pays homage to the long history of the UN Police and captures historic moments of poignancy, humanity and unity along the path towards peace.
The primary mission of UN Police is to enhance international peace and security by supporting Member States in conflict, post-conflict and other crisis situations. To this end, UNPOL provides operational support to host-State counterparts by protecting civilians; helping to facilitate secure elections; investigating incidents of sexual and gender-based violence; promoting environmental sustainability; and preventing and addressing serious organized crime and violent extremism.
UN Police reinforces and re-establishes security through patrolling, community-oriented policing, advising domestic police services, increasing compliance with international human rights standards, and restoring and promoting public safety and the rule of law.
In accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, which recognizes the importance of women’s participation in United Nations field-based operations, the UN Police Division has undertaken several measures to enhance the representation of women in the police. UNPOL remains committed to prioritizing the recruitment, deployment and retention of women police officers in peacekeeping operations at all levels.
Women police officers play a critical role in promoting peace and security.
In both conflict and post-conflict situations, where sexual and gender-based violence is often rampant, survivors are more likely to approach women police officers, further emphasizing the critical role of women police officers in peace operations.
Despite the global challenges that have accompanied the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Police continues to implement its mandate, and provides crucial support to address the unprecedented needs of authorities and communities in host States.
In spite of these growing challenges, the UN Police Division strives to provide effective, efficient, representative, responsive and accountable police services that support and protect the communities they serve.
Happy 60th Birthday, UN Police!
Naomi Belay is an intern in the Digital Communications Team at UN Peacekeeping.