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Rede von Staatsminister Erler zur Eröffnung des 8. Internationalen Berlin Workshops des Zentrums für Internationale Friedenseinsätze (ZIF)

14.12.2006 - Rede

“International and Local Policing in Peace Operations”

Ladies and Gentlemen,
A year full of challenges for international peacekeeping is drawing to its end. Congo, Darfur, the Middle East and, lately, the Horn of Africa have been on our political agenda, and they will very likely remain on our minds during the coming months, if not years. Peacekeepers continue their duty in these and other regions of the world. Under the given, mostly difficult circumstances, soldiers, police officers and civilian staff are fulfilling an enormous task.

Germany’s participation in peacekeeping missions has increased: we have taken the lead of UNIFIL’s maritime task force off the coast of Lebanon and had provided the second largest contingent of EUFOR Congo. Our soldiers are returning home from Congo and Gabon these weeks after concluding a difficult, but successful mission.

Against this background, let me welcome you to Berlin and to the 8th Workshop organized by the Centre for International Peace Operations in cooperation with the Federal Foreign Office. We are meeting here this week to evaluate and discuss whether the institutional set-up in particular for police missions is giving the missions abroad and their beneficiaries – the local populations – the best possible basis for their work. Or do we need improvement in terms of training, political support or legal standards?

I am happy that we are able to host such a well-experienced audience of mission participants and decision makers. In particular, I would like to welcome Mr. Kroeker and Mr. Feller, responsible at the UN and EU Council secretariats, respectively, for police missions, and whose input helped us to set up this conference.

I appreciate having with us responsible officers of local police forces in mission areas. It will be our particular interest to follow your input on lessons learnt, and on perspectives for future deployments. I am convinced that your advice will help us to develop and further improve the efficiency of police operations in peacekeeping missions. Thank you all very much for making time and sharing your vast experience with us for the next two days.

Modern peacekeeping, with its multidimensional approach, has rapidly evolved since the beginning of the 1990s. We have moved away from one-dimensional missions whose main tasks focused on securing ceasefire lines and observing the separation of troops. International assistance is now more often needed to restabilize failed states or settle internal conflicts rather than to enforce ceasefires between states. The growing number of crises around the world demands from the international community comprehensive and sustainable solutions that reach far beyond the end of an armed conflict. Rebuilding or at least stabilizing statehood is often required.

At the same time, the development of more efficient regional political organizations with improved political foundations and strengthened operational capabilities can be increasingly instrumental in improving peacekeeping and conflict resolution.

They, too, will draw on our resources for police missions as much as on military capabilities, development input or political efforts.

International policing in peace operations is part of the evolving modern peacekeeping system. It is a capacity of peacekeeping that is still very young.

Germany for the first time sent police officers to Namibia right at the beginning of our UN peacekeeping engagement in 1989. Shortly after, we participated with Federal Border Police officers in the UNTAC mission in Cambodia in 1992. Until today, Germany has seconded more than 5,000 police officers to international missions lead by the United Nations, the European Union or the OSCE. At present, German officers are on duty in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, the Moldovan-Ukrainian border, Sudan, Liberia and Gaza, just to mention our multilateral commitments.

Since the early police missions, their mandates have rapidly developed from observation tasks toward a more sustainable mentoring, training and monitoring role for local police authorities. I have no doubt that this represents a welcome dynamism. It allows us to create longer-lasting effects in the host countries. Our seminar this week will give us a good opportunity to take stock of what has already been achieved, and to ponder the role of future police missions in the development of post-conflict societies.

It is difficult to make a clear-cut distinction between the work that, in international peacekeeping, is typically assigned to the police, on one hand, and the military, on the other hand. The main task of military peacekeepers is normally to establish a safe environment. They are the first ones to deploy in an area of conflict.

Police missions can build on this by bringing out the seeds for the establishment of a self-sustainable local security system. They prepare the field for gradual take over of local authorities from the peacekeepers. Although part of their task can be executive police work, they are playing an increasingly important role in the development of a post-conflict state structure.

How they can best fulfill this role deserves a thorough evaluation, which you will certainly conduct here during these two days. I would like to offer you just a few thoughts on what we may wish to put an emphasis on in the preparation of future police missions.

We hear from our staff members in international police missions that expectations of their local partners to obtain advice and guidance for their work are very high. This applies, in general, to executive police missions as much as to those mandated for advisory functions and training only. We can conclude that police missions offer a unique opportunity to introduce not only modern police techniques, but, politically more important, to set standards for local police services to operate on the basis of the rule of law.

Many internal conflicts that are to be settled through an international peacekeeping effort have been caused by a blatant disregard of human or minority rights, or religious freedom. Often enough, local police forces have themselves played a negative role during these conflicts. In such situations, in particular, the establishment of rule of law is an indispensable precondition for renewed legitimacy and credibility of local police in the aftermath of an internal conflict.

A priority in our discussions should be the question: how much can a police mission achieve without accompanying support in strengthening the judiciary and the penal system? Usually, neither of these sectors can work efficiently without the other. However, deploying the full scope of ‘law and order’ functions by an international mission could very likely cause capacity problems, at least in terms of seconded personnel. Still, the issue needs to find our attention.

Besides responding to local expectations and setting internationally accepted legal parameters, establishing a secure environment for economic activity remains a critical task for international policing. Growth and the generation of income is urgently required for a stable social development next to the introduction of principles of democracy and rule of law. Investors will not take any risk if they are not offered a sufficient degree of security and, again, justice. Police missions will have to focus on this aspect in their executive functions as much as in preparing local capacities to combat financial and economic crimes.

In some crisis regions, we may find difficulties reaching out to local communities, and acceptance for international standards may be limited. The lack of acceptance could refer to both leadership and broader society. Reasons could lie in a different culture of government, or in religious traditions that guide the life of a community and, in particular, their justice system. The legitimacy of an international mission could be at stake. The inclusion of regional institutions in international missions can be an advantage in such cases; in particular, they might find an easier approach to regional cultural standards, and thus could help to make an international police mission more acceptable to the local community.

On the side of the local security authorities, community-based policing could offer the necessary level of participation in areas where the population is suspicious of a purely international engagement.

In this context, there have been examples of bilateral support in building up new police organizations in post-conflict situations – one well-known example being Afghanistan. Germany is one of the major bilateral actors in police reform there, and we are conducting similar programmes for the Iraqi police and in Lebanon. One of the advantages of the bilateral approach could be an easier adaptation of a reform structure along the national system of the donor country. However, the involvement of other donors is almost certain and also necessary in terms of personnel and funding. Questions of coordination, common standards and efficiency may arise. We should, therefore, weigh the advantages of bilateral against multilateral support efforts and see how both can be best applied.

An important point of concern for local police reform is the role that individual local officers have played in the past. A reform represented by policemen and women perceived to be responsible for the previous conflict bears a high risk not to succeed. Relieving officials from or keeping them in executive positions represents a verdict that easily reflects on their ethnic affiliation. This issue requires a cautious approach – in planning a mission, but also on the ground through international police experts. I wonder whether universal guidelines for reviewing the role of the local police in the conflict that preceded the mission should be developed and applied.

In my view, creating and setting standards for international police missions should be a continuing task. It should be lead by those international organizations who are actively seconding such missions, and there is a need to coordinate and adapt these standards among all these organizations. We need to ensure that activities of police advisors and procedures followed by international police in an executive role follow common standards. The design of standards should be two-fold: first, they should reflect universal standards, such as human rights and basic democratic values. Second, on the more technical side, elementary criminological techniques should be made coherent in all missions.

All in all, the population in an area of operation of a police mission should benefit from efficient police work that prevents and, where necessary, thoroughly investigates crime. Additionally, the missions often have to prepare and guarantee a safe environment able to reassure displaced victims of conflict that it is possible to return to their homes in dignity. Citizens must experience that the police is working for and not against them. In many conflict zones the perception of police remains one of a militia system rather than a civilian citizen’s police. The public appearance of international and local police officers needs to overcome this perception.

I would like to close here and leave you with these thoughts for discussion. You will have noticed that I personally, and also the German Federal government in general, attach great importance to successful police missions in international peacekeeping. We consider them not only an obligation, but much more an opportunity.

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