Every day, around 9,000 United Nations Police officers from 94 countries help foster international peace and security by supporting countries in conflict, post-conflict and crisis situations. They reinforce and re-establish security through patrolling, community-oriented policing and other operational support, advising domestic police services, increasing compliance with international human rights standards, and restoring and promoting public safety and the rule of law.
As a United Nations systemwide service provider and the focal point on policing and law enforcement matters, the United Nations Police (UNPOL) contribute across the entire peace and security continuum, advancing the political, development and humanitarian objectives of the United Nations, including Action for Peacekeeping and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The breakdown of law and order often triggers United Nations deployments and, conversely, the (re)establishment of the rule of law contributes to long-term stability and allows United Nations peace operations to eventually withdraw.
“Specialized policing assistance, as part of the conflict prevention toolbox, can help avoid the need for larger-scale interventions down the road.” — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres prior to the second United Nations Chiefs of Police Summit (UNCOPS) in June 2018.
Where requested and mandated, United Nations Police (UNPOL) supports Member States to realize effective, efficient, representative, responsible and accountable police services that serve and protect the population. UNPOL builds and supports police capacity to prevent, detect and investigate crime, protect life and property, and maintain public order and safety in adherence to the rule of law and international human rights norms. UNPOL also pursues community-oriented and intelligence-led policing approaches to contribute to the protection of civilians and human rights; addresses, among other things, sexual and gender-based violence, conflict-related sexual violence, and serious and organized crime; and conducts investigations, special operations, public order management and electoral security.
Global contribution to peace and security
Almost 9,000 United Nations police officers are deployed in 17 United Nations peace operations, namely, MINURSO, MINUSCA, MINUSMA, MONUSCO, UNIFIL, UNVMC, BINUH, UNMHA, UNFICYP, UNISFA, UNMIK, UNIOGBIS, UNMISS, UNSMIL, UNOCA, UNOAU and UNSOM.
The United Nations has been deploying police officers for service in peace operations since 1960, with the first deployment to the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC). The number of UNPOL officers authorized for deployment in peacekeeping operations and special political missions has grown from 5,840 in 1995 to about 11,000 in 2020, reflecting increased demand for policing expertise.
United Nations police provide operational support to host-State counterparts including to protect civilians; help facilitate secure elections; investigate incidents of sexual and gender-based violence; prevent and address serious organized crime and violent extremism; and promote environmental sustainability. United Nations Police also assist with the reform, restructuring and development of host-State police services and other law enforcement agencies.
All UNPOL personnel wearing the blue beret are active-duty members of their home police services seconded to work with the United Nations. Since 1990, 129 countries have seconded female and male police officers to serve the United Nations Police.
Gender Parity: A Top Priority for UN Police
In line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), which recognizes the importance of women’s participation in United Nations field-based operations, and resolution 2242 (2015), which calls for the doubling of the number of uniformed women personnel by 2020, the United Nations Police Division has undertaken several measures that have resulted in significant increases in the deployment of women police officers to field missions.
The United Nations Police Division remains committed to prioritizing 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, including through public order management activities, specialized capabilities such as Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) and participation in high-risk operations.
Women police officers are indispensable during high-visibility patrols, cordon and search operations, and during pat-down searches. In some instances, only women police officers can interact with women and girls in the communities and such engagements inform the protection strategies of the United Nations, thus ensuring that the needs and perspectives of those who are the most at risk are taken into consideration and addressed.
In conflict and post-conflict situations where sexual and gender-based violence is likely to be rampant and possibly used as a tactic to achieve strategic or political objectives, survivors and members of the community are more likely to approach women police officers. Thus, women police officers play a crucial role in operations, monitoring and reporting of violations, addressing impunity, and promoting accountability leading to enhanced rule of law, recovery and reconciliation.
A robust Gender Parity Strategy
In 2018, building on the United Nations Secretary-General’s System-Wide Gender Parity Strategy, the Department of Peace Operations developed a Uniformed Personnel Gender Parity Strategy with clear objectives, targets and benchmarks, along with reporting and monitoring mechanisms to achieve appropriate gender balance.
Under this strategy, by the year 2028, the UN Police Division is committed to recruiting at least 30% women police officers in professional positions in the field (20% in Formed Police Units and 30% as Individual Police Officers) and 35% at UN Headquarters. To achieve these goals, the UN Police Division will continue to engage Member States and seek the support of gender champion countries.
The UN Police Division will also continue to identify opportunities for women police officers in missions while ensuring that gender perspectives are mainstreamed in all policing activities and equal opportunities are afforded to women in police at all levels.
The United Nations Police, in conjunction with mission components, United Nations partners and others, including the African Union, European Union, Organisation de la Francophonie, INTERPOL and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, strengthens rule of law capacities and supports security and justice sector reform in host States, in line with Strategic Guidance Framework for International Policing (SGF). This support reinforces national, regional and international efforts to disrupt criminal networks and address key drivers of conflict and violence, as well as social injustice and inequality.
UNPOL is part of the Global Focal Point for the Rule of Law arrangement, which allows the delivery of UN policing expertise in collaboration with other UN entities for effective conflict prevention, peacekeeping based on the rule of law and sustainable peacebuilding in both mission and non-mission settings worldwide.
“I strongly believe that the Global Focal Point for Police, Justice and Corrections arrangement has become a new, indispensable and system-wide delivery platform.” — Alexandre Zouev, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions
The United Nations Police Division seeks highly qualified police officers from United Nations Member States for service in UN peace missions around the world. UN police officers are authorized by resolutions of the Security Council to serve in peace operations to implement the mandated policing tasks.
The majority of UN police officers – about two-thirds – serve as part of formed police units, while the remainder are individual police officers, which include specialized teams, contracted seconded police and civilian experts.
Find out more information on how to be nominated and serve with United Nations Police.
For more information, visit United Nations Police.