Jordan Ryan: High Level Conference on International Police Peacekeeping in the 21st Century

Oct 10, 2012

Berlin, Germany


Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you – and thank you in particular to the German Government and to the United Nations Police Division of the Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) for organising this important event.

I have both a professional and personal interest in the topic of this meeting having lived and worked in peacekeeping contexts. I have witnessed first-hand the important work done by UNPOL – including in Liberia where I served as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General. And I was delighted to see the strong partnership established there with Germany. And to see Germany’s strong commitment continues.

Currently, as the Director of the United Nations Development Programme’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, I am also acutely conscious of the value of ensuring that the kind of support described by Commissioner Orler continues following the drawdown of an international police peacekeeping presence.

As is attested by the tragic conditions of far too many failed states - and the plight of the 1.5 billion people around the world living in places affected by violence, conflict or high levels of crime; a society cannot successfully function without justice and security.

And achieving justice and security is almost impossible without properly trained police officers, who know the law; can do their job; serve their communities and not themselves; and understand human rights.

Policing is critical to all communities – but it is especially essential to those where justice and security are weak, where the rule of law has broken down, and the vulnerable are threatened - such as countries in or emerging from conflict.


For those living in these countries; basic security is the most pressing concern. And an effective national police service serves as the guardian of this basic security.

As the first point of contact between citizens and the State, an effective national police force should be empowered to protect people and uphold the rule of law.

Far too often this is not the case. In many post-conflict societies, police lack the resources, training, reach or equipment to function in a way that provides security for people and their property. 

In such cases, victims of violence, including sexual violence, have nowhere to turn to hold their attackers to account; farmers and small business owners have no recourse to action when their property is stolen; and people live in fear.

Where oversight is inadequate or a blind eye is turned to corruption and abuse, the police themselves can become instruments of oppression; a climate of impunity breeds discontent and tensions escalate – often resulting in violence. It is worth remembering that the violence of last year’s Arab Spring started in Tunisia when a young man set himself on fire to protest the continued harassment he received from corrupt police officers.

Against this background, the role of international police peacekeeping emerges as critical for protection, and for building sustainable peace and security in many countries.  


Building the capacity – and integrity – of national police services is therefore essential for stability that is essential to help countries to recover from conflict and prevent resurgent cycles of violence.

In post-conflict countries or places where security is threatened; more is required than a sole focus on the technical training of police officers. It is critical that systems of oversight and management be established and embedded into state institutions.

The restoration of trust between communities and the police is paramount. In some cases, this requires a profound shift in institutional culture – as police learn to become service-oriented, and prioritize the needs of the community.

The question is: how can the international community best assist in this process? How can we strengthen the security forces so that they help ensure political resilience and stability?

UNDP has had a range of experiences in providing support to the development of police forces in conflict and post-conflict situations. Through our Global Programme on strengthening the rule of law in crisis-affected and fragile situations, we are working to enhance security and justice in more than 30 such countries, including work in various peacekeeping settings. I would like to share with you a few examples of our work, as well as they type of challenges we confront.

UNDP examples:

In Liberia, we worked closely with the government and the UN Mission to establish the Justice and Security Trust Fund in 2009. This innovative Trust Fund enables donors to channel funding to key security organisations, including the Liberian police, so they may meet operational needs. The Liberian Minister of Justice chairs the Trust Fund’s Steering Committee, and she is joined by the Inspector General of the Liberian National Police, to ensure greater national ownership.

UNPOL is also represented in this forum, and works with UNDP to train the fledgling police force, especially in light of the mission’s eventual drawdown. In advance of last year’s election in Liberia UNDP helped to train and deploy 682 national Police Support Unit officers as part of these activities.

In Afghanistan, UNDP manages the Law and Order Trust Fund, a mechanism that channels over US $1.2 billion in donor assistance to pay the salaries of the Afghan police.

In Sierra Leone, UNDP provides targeted assistance to Family Support Units in the police force, which help to better manage cases of sexual and gender based violence.

Nevertheless, for those of you who saw Nicholas Kristof’s documentary ‘Half the Sky’ last week, which featured a young girl trying to seek security after being raped in Sierra Leone, much more work is clearly needed. UNDP is committed to working with our UN, international and national partners on this as we move into the next phase of our programme there.

In Somalia, UNDP has made great strides in supporting the establishment of an effective and legitimate police force. In partnership with the Ugandan Government, we have been able to train over 500 cadets, who received three months’ induction, along with specialised training on various aspects of criminal investigation. Most importantly this year, UNDP recruited a generation of female high-school graduates to begin this cadet-training programme – a major accomplishment.

As the political institutions of Somalia become established, the UN will have more opportunities to work more systematically on issues of oversight of the police and other security forces, as we are doing in a number of Arab countries following last year’s uprisings.

In Tunisia for example, we are now supporting the Ministry of the Interior to reform the security sector, including the police and the National Guard. Recently UNDP was able to help the government to revise an important law on public order (law 1969-4), addressing the issue of police control of demonstrations without resort to excessive force.

The United Nations has the advantage of being well placed to engage with what are sometimes sensitive institutions, as recent experience in Egypt also testifies. Given the neutrality of our presence and a relationship with the government that can span decades, UNDP has often developed a privileged relationship with national governments. UN missions meanwhile bring political leverage and extensive expertise. To build on the best that the UN has to offer, joint planning, joint programmes, and carefully managed transitions are essential.

In Timor-Leste, a joint programme with the UN mission, under the leadership of Ameerah Haq then SRSG in Timor, enabled us to begin to raise much needed funding to support the Timorese police. With the disappearance of reliable, assessed budgets that come with UN Missions, there is a need for Member States to consider seriously how best to take on the continued responsibility of funding the remaining needs of the police in transition situations.

Of course, this means working closely with the national authorities, but also it requires considerable work by UN, on both sides of the street, to work together to ensure that the security forces are prepared well for the time when UN police leave. But we also must have systems in place so that funding gaps do not jeopardize all of the hard work and advances made by the capable work of DPKO in the first instance.

Future vision

I could go on. Examples of UN and UNDP successes in these areas are common.

But of course, the UN family can still do more to help the national authorities of post-conflict countries provide the security that their people so desperately – and legitimately – demand.

Globally, I am confident that the new Global Focal Point arrangement mentioned by ASG Titov will enhance the quality and coherence of UN assistance.

I will come back to this – but first I would like to highlight three concrete ways in which I believe we can improve our capacity-building support on policing.

1.            It is important to recognise that to strengthen people’s security and enable national policing to be effective, we need to engage much more broadly than with just the Bobbies on the street. Real security depends on the effectiveness of a whole range of institutions, as well as on the relationship between those institutions and the communities. Greater focus therefore needs to be placed on community relationships. If police are truly to serve the best interests of communities, it is imperative to build the relationship between them and the cops on the beat. This means engaging local government or informal community structures, and situating our police reform programmes within a broader approach to citizen security.

2.            More focus needs to be placed on policy and management issues related to policing. We have come a long way over the past two decades; we know that assistance must be deeper than just isolated police training. But for complex reforms to take hold, they must be firmly embedded in institutional structures. Therefore we need to increase support to ministries and oversight bodies to ensure the sustainability of reforms and civilian management. By doing so, we help to build in the incentives and safeguards that make for professional, effective police officers on the ground.

3.            As our understanding of police reform and capacity building has evolved and become more complex, so too do we realise that the available human resources and expertise required to address the more complex issues are not necessarily easy to find or hire. The international community needs to work harder to tap into the most appropriate and sophisticated expertise where it can be found.

As many of you may be aware, the UN Civilian Capacity Review process is on-going. Member States are getting closer to establishing a mechanism that will enable us to identify experts from various rosters of police, security, rule of law and development workers. I am hopeful that ‘CAP MATCH’, an online platform that connects those that can offer specific expertise with those who need it, will prove an important resource for all of us working in this field. We will all be keeping a close eye on how this mechanism develops.

Through the newly established Global Focal Point for justice, police and corrections in rule of law, UNDP and DPKO are committed to building on each other’s comparative strengths to improve the quality, effectiveness and timeliness of UN support in post-conflict and crisis situations. We have heeded the call from Member States for greater coherence in the UN’s rule of law work, of which capacity development of national police is a critical part.

With this new arrangement, we are better placed to advance the more elaborate, people-centred approach to capacity development that has been the focus of my presentation today.


The United Nations has made many advances in the 12 years since the Brahimi report first called for a doctrinal shift in the use of civilian police and related rule of law elements in complex peace operations.

With the on-going support of the international community as so strongly demonstrated by our host the Federal Republic of Germany, I am confident that together we can rise to the challenge of strengthening the rule of law, justice and security, especially where it is needed most: those countries affected by conflict.

Again, let me thank the United Nations Police Division of DPKO and the German Government for organising this important event.



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