United Nations Police Evolution: Present Capacity and Future Tasks

United Nations policing in the context of peace operations evolved rapidly during the 1990s after three decades of serving as a minor adjunct to the principal, military, purposes of UN peacekeeping. After the end of the Cold War, UN policing became a recognized component of operations, but lacked doctrine, administrative structure, quality assurance in recruitment or adequate training. Each is being addressed with some urgency at present, as UN police deployments head toward 15,000 officers. Although Headquarters police support capacity has grown, the United Nations still has proportionately far fewer people at Headquarters supporting deployed personnel than do developed states, such as Australia, that deploy international police contingents. The objectives of UN police operations meanwhile remain a matter of debate: to stabilize post-conflict public security while others rebuild local police capacity or to engage actively in capacity-building and associated institutional reform.

UN police support programs need to partner with development institutions that can offer the budget support for local infrastructure, equipment, and salaries that UN peacekeeping budgets cannot fund. UN programs also may need to take more account of extensive “informal” justice and security institutions in many of the post-conflict states where they work.

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