On 7 July 2016, I was invited to a closed seminar on protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, organized by an umbrella organization working on child protection Keeping Children Safe. I attended the seminar as a thematic expert on UN internal mechanisms dealing with allegations of serious misconduct. There were representatives of civil society organizations working on child protection, academics and donor representatives. I was particularly impressed with the presence of four representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
How the UN deals with sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) cases internally, as well as how it follows up with member States that send their personnel to serve in UN Peace Operations, is one of the areas that I looked into in depth in my research. I provided information as to how it works and how I recommend the civil society, including Keeping Children Safe and its member organizations, to contribute to a better accountability of individual wrongdoers. Keeping Children Safe is in fact more focused and interested in the protection side of SEA cases, and it advocates for all organizations to abide by the International Child Safeguarding Standards. My research is focused on individual criminal accountability. It was interesting to see the crossroad between the two, as all the participants acknowledged, because accountability is also part of prevention.
My recommendation was for the civil society to play a continuous and more systematic role in monitoring and tracking cases, which would work as a good pressure on the UN and member States to take an appropriate action in a timely manner. Currently there are human rights organizations that report some SEA cases, some of which are making a good impact, but the data are too limited to have a sense of the scale of the issue.
I hope that with the current momentum to address the SEA issue, we will be able to make a real change with no return.
Between 16 and 18 June, I attended the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) annual meeting in New York. The ACUNS is a forum where a large number of academics researching on the UN, as well as UN practitioners, gather to work together on the UN.
My presentation was on the Formed Police Units (FPUs), which form a part of United Nations Police. I questioned reasons behind the rapid rise of FPUs since the first unit in 1999, now composing around 70% of the UN Police.
I presented my paper “Needed or Bargained – The Rise of Formed Police Units in UN Peace Operations” in Workshop Panel 4. Below is the abstract of my paper.
Ai Kihara-Hunt, PhD, University of Essex
The UN police is the fastest growing component of UN Peace Operations. Its functions have evolved: from monitoring, to law enforcement tasks, capacity building and institutional reform, and to newer ‘rule of law’ tasks. Situations in which it is deployed have also changed: initially benign environment, but increasingly in more volatile situations. Formed Police Units (FPUs) were first deployed in 1999. They are part of the UN police, who are given specific tasks requiring a formed response and involving a higher security risk. They have rapidly increased, and currently consist almost 70 percent of the UN police. This article questions whether their significant rise is proportional to the increased demand for their functions. One aspect of FPUs is their mode of selection and deployment. Unlike individually selected officers (Individual Police Officers, IPOs), FPU officers are selected virtually exclusively by their contributing States and deployed as national units in bulk, and the UN pays the cost to their contributing States. This enables the UN to save time and for contributing States to receive money. If that is the real reason for the rise of FPUs, this needs to be discussed transparently at the UN’s political organs
I am representing Japan in the UN Police Strategic Guidance Framework meeting this week. It is on police administration, and this guidance document that is under development will be an important document that guides the UN Police, in particular the people at the top level in UN peace missions, in their activities related to administration – recruitment, selection, deployment; logistics; budget; code of conduct and discipline; and coordination within the police and other mission components.
For me, the biggest thing that I would like to contribute, and where I believe lies the biggest challenge for the UN Police operations, is how we can improve the recruitment, selection, deployment and discipline: 1. to get sufficient number of UN police personnel with adequate skills; and 2. to keep discipline and hold individuals accountable for their actions.
What is coming out is, as expected, a lot of difficulties. One high-ranking police personnel mentioned: ‘if you want us to conduct arrests, give us means to effect arrests’. I completely share that view. UN Police has an ever challenging job with such limited resources, both human and others. The division between the UN’s political organ that creates impossible mandates and the capacity of those people who are deployed, including the issue of whether or not they have the right skillsets and whether or not they are sufficiently equipped, must be solved. This shall be discussed transparently at the UN’s political organ. When making a mandate, available resources must be taken into account. They can not decide to protect civilians in quasi-combat situations without providing means for the people who are tasked to deliver the mandate.
The UN is facing big challenges. They can not be solved if the UN can not mitigate the gap between the decision-makers and people on the ground.