Address to United Nations Security Council, New York

  • Speech, E&OE

Australia deeply appreciates the important role of policing in peacekeeping and peacebuilding, reflecting the lessons we have learned as a contributor to peace operations in our region of the Indo-Pacific – from Cambodia to Solomon Islands to Timor-Leste and elsewhere.

We are pleased that the Council is focusing on policing issues in countries emerging from conflict.

Australia's close friend and neighbour, Timor-Leste, provides a striking example of the vital importance of building effective host-nation police and other law enforcement institutions.

In 2006 – four years after Timor-Leste's independence – violence broke out in Dili, with Timorese police and military fighting each other in the streets, dozens of deaths and over 150,000 people displaced. The Council authorised a new peacekeeping operation, UNMIT. And Australia led an International Stabilisation Force, including 200 Australian police. The focus of these police transitioned over time from stabilisation to institution building.

Just two years later, Timor-Leste faced another shock – dual assassination attempts against President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Gusmao – yet overall law and order remained intact. This was due to Timor-Leste's efforts in the interim – with United Nations and other international support – to build its own police and other rule of law institutions.

Police are the public face of security, to whom populations should turn for protection. That's why the work of the United Nations on policing is so vital. It can repair the community's faith and trust in local authorities, build a sense of safety and security, and lay the groundwork for long-term stability and development.

Australia has invested heavily in international police peacekeeping. The Australian Federal Police International Deployment Group is one of the world's few stand-alone deployable police peacekeeping capacities, and the first in the world to receive United Nations recognition for its pre-deployment training. In the last twelve months alone, the Group provided training to over 3,500 law and justice officials from 20 nations.

This year, we celebrate fifty years of Australian police contributions to United Nations peacekeeping.

Over the years, there has been a massive increase in the number of police deployed by the United Nations. Just twenty years ago, there were only around 1,600 police in United Nations missions. Today there are over 12,300. And the policing-related mandates authorised by the Council have become increasingly complex. We must ensure that the United Nations Police Components are as effective as possible in achieving those mandates.

This meeting, and the resolution we have just adopted, are landmark steps. The resolution includes clear and strategic guidance for UN Police, and practical, concrete measures to improve their effectiveness.

It reflects the breadth of contemporary developments in UN policing, including adoption of modern technologies and use of specialised police teams in areas such as sexual and gender-based violence and complex serious crime.

It articulates the relevance of policing across the areas of focus of the Council, from protection of civilians – which is central to all the United Nations' work – to combatting transnational organised crime and terrorism, countering violent extremism and fighting impunity.

I will highlight three elements.

First, training, standards and guidance. Over a hundred countries contribute police to UN missions, each with their own nuanced policing approaches. The resolution calls on the Secretary-General to continue to work on unified standards, guidance and training.

Second, building police institutions is vital to the UN's work on justice, corrections and the rule of law. But it is not easy. It requires highly specialised skills. The resolution asks the Secretary-General to focus on ensuring Police Components have the right expertise to achieve this. The political dimensions of reform can often be as important as technical aspects. The Secretary-General's envoys must make this a focus of their good offices work.

Many arms of the United Nations work on policing reform, and the resolution calls for better coordination of these efforts.

Third, women, peace and security. To be effective, police must recognise the particular needs of women. The best way to ensure this is to involve women in outreach and decision making. And to have more women police, so police forces better reflect the diversity of the communities in which they operate, and can better respond to their needs.

A useful example is Vanuatu, where Australia funded the establishment of female police barracks, allowing large numbers of women to participate in and graduate from recruit training, and in turn become mentors and role models. This has helped dramatically redress the gender imbalance in the Vanuatu Police Force.

This issue was also raised by Mr Ladsous and I ask Commissioner Carrillho what more we can do to encourage and support more women to join police forces in countries hosting UN missions.

Today's resolution paves the way for continued Council focus on policing issues, including an annual meeting with Heads of Police Components, to ensure the Council's decisions on policing are informed by the actual experiences of Police Components in the field. And it makes the case for the Secretary-General's forthcoming strategic review of peace operations to deal with policing issues.

Policing is an integral part of the UN's peacekeeping and peacebuilding work. Importantly, the development of effective, accountable and community-focused policing institutions is an integral part of responsible exit strategies for peacekeeping operations. It is Australia's objective that today's meeting and resolution make a practical contribution to enduring peace, security and stability.

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