The United Nations (UN) was established to pioneer international security and cooperation among nations. It performs some law enforcement functions to foster harmony, majorly among member countries. It has five chief organs: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat; they carry out its mandate. The UN Security Council is the organ that primarily handles the law enforcement function. Law enforcement implies the government or relevant authorities providing security for their citizens and intervening to prevent a breach of the law, respecting human rights and the rule of law. It is done majorly by the police, which maintains law and order, and protects state members from crime. The UN funds operations concerning law enforcement, and where the need arises, it gathers law enforcement agents of its member states to conduct peacekeeping missions. In addition, it also offers policy advisory to member countries on their public resources, policing, and mechanisms of preventing crime or civil unrest. The UN, through its agencies, has successfully promoted law enforcement among nations globally.
The UN uses the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations Police (UNPOL), the United Nations Environment Program’s World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC), and the UN Peacekeeping missions to promote enforcement of law in the fields of policing public administration, and maritime law. Despite claims that the UN misuses its power, it has helped nations control crime, trafficking, and abductions, maintain maritime sovereignty and border control, restore order, and indeed, it has been an effective law enforcement agent.
The UN Charter
The United Nations has always aimed to promote security and peace globally. According to Mingst et al., it achieves its mandate through the UN Charter; it encourages peace through Article 2, which urges all member states to cooperate by pursuing peaceful solutions rather than force (115). Ideally, members are not permitted to use coercion for territorial conquests; it is illegitimate, as witnessed when UN member states condemned Iraq and Russia when they invaded Kuwait and Crimea. The Security Council organ of the UN is mainly responsible for enhancing peace, primarily through peacekeeping missions and the delegitimization of force in disputes (Mingst et al. 116). The UN Charter comprehensively covers actions required of nations when there is a violation of peace or instances of aggression. The Security Council usually analyzes international conflicts to identify the perpetrators, after which member nations have to prepare their armed forces.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
The UNODC specializes in crime and drugs; it helps UN member states combat organized crimes through coordinated investigation. According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, it also offers judicial officers, crime analysts, customs officials, law enforcement officers, drug enforcement officers, and crime experts. Furthermore, it researches organized crime trends, the ability of nations to counter crime and drug-related cartels, and forecast possible trends in crime and drug patterns.
Effective Border Control
The Border Liaison Officer (BLO) project promotes coordination in communication among border officers and their counterparts from the neighboring country. The UN acknowledges its central role as the first team that responds to organized crime and usually arrests the criminals; therefore, protecting the victims. In addition, it provides resources required for adequate border management, for example, computers and motorbikes, to enhance the levels of responsiveness among the officers responsible. Consequently, control of inter-state borders is sustainable, and joint surveillance has increased.
Criminal intelligence is an essential resource for fighting organized crime. It is fundamental since all major crimes use similar approaches and techniques; thus, learning the methodology of criminal intelligence is necessary. The UNODC promotes operations of law enforcement agencies by providing policy consultancy, crime analysis training, evaluation of operation gaps, and use of criminal intelligence publications to train frontline law enforcement officers. It also encourages international cooperation to counter organized crime and transnational investigations successfully. Moreover, it provides nations with guidelines on understanding crime better and dealing with threats to their state of law and order. To further its intelligence promotion agenda, it supports regional coordination centers, for example, the Joint Planning Cell (JPC), the Gulf Council Intelligence Centre (GCIC), the Transnational Crime Units, and the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre (CARICC).
Freight containers are a fundamental tool in international trade to transport goods between different parts of the world. In organized crime, containers carry weapons, illegal drugs, contraband items, and explosives. The UN seeks to enhance the capacity of nations to effectively carry out their trade and promote security at the borders and ports; therefore, it ensures authorities curb illegal activity involving containers. It facilitates the training of customs officials to sharpen their skills of inspecting high-risk cargo without interfering with business operations. It involves specialized units such as criminal intelligence teams and risk analysts.
Handling Abductions and Kidnapping
The UN treats kidnapping by organized criminals and terrorists as a felony. Organized crime perpetrators use kidnappings to source funds for their grave crimes such as money laundering and trafficking drugs, firearms, and people. According to Canton, the UNODC promotes research on innovative ways of dealing with crime (241). The UNODC encourages cooperation between nations when fighting kidnappings to make the operations more effective and efficient. It also published a Counter-kidnapping Manual, which guides national authorities on the best means to avoid or handle kidnapping cases.
The United Nations Police (UNPOL)
In times of crisis, the UN engages in peacekeeping within member states to deal with conflict during and after moments of crisis to restore law, peace, and order. The United Nations Police (UNPOL) builds states’ policing capacities to maintain public harmony, protect human lives, secure properties, and handle crime (Billow). According to United Nations Peacekeeping, nearly nine thousand highly-skilled police officers from 94 countries support countries in crisis to maintain their basic national order by patrolling, restoring the rule of law, community policing, and advisory to local police units. UNPOL also deals with gender-related conflicts, sexual violence, electoral security.
The UN-deployed teams promote professional ethics such as accountability in their operations. They also account for how they exercise power vested upon them. For instance, the UNODC respects the Charter of the UN; thus, it honors international human rights. The UN peacekeeping teams seek public trust by prosecuting organized crime, corruption, and terrorism cases, without engaging in attempted bribery. In addition, they work together with local law enforcement teams to restructure and reform them in line with the criminal justice standard.
The UN’s Pragmatic Policing Approach
In the early 2000s, the UN developed a standard objective policing approach. As the dispatched more police officers to peacekeeping missions, following the broadening of its operations, it had to create a rationale for the policing technique it generally adopted in countries it operated. Its policing methodology widened from being an instrument of controlling crowds only to promoting the essence and functionality of the state. It enhanced the rule of law and respect to human rights in any nation it served, considering the world works in a democratic scene. Policing within countries is expected to protect and respect human rights. According to the UN Charter of Human Rights, the International Humanitarian framework regulates coercive force and policing in general. Moreover, the UN generated the Strategic Guidance Framework (SGF) for International Policing in 2014 to guide a uniform application of the policing process among member states; thus, enhancing harmony and consistency in global policing (Billow). The SGF encompasses frameworks on policing intelligence, community policing, police missions, police bureaucracy, police management, and police capacity development.
The UN recognizes that communal problems require community-oriented ideas and solutions for effectiveness and minima resistance to policies. It supports local police with enough resources to establish an effective community-based policing style. Essentially, this approach acknowledges the general public as partners in solving communal crime and enhancing law, order, and general security. The UN has already used this method in some nations; for example, it reformed Camden’s police (in the US), which generally improved its relationship with the local community. Consequently, residents of Camden were more willing to share information with the police on matters regarding crime; hence, improving the police force’s performance (Billow). In war-torn countries, the UN mobilizes local populations and responds to their needs after consulting them and offering solutions to their problems.
The United Nations has worked with law enforcement organizations and spearheaded policy reform. As much as every police unit or law enforcement agency works uniquely, it is possible to restructure them to operate better and more adequately in their mandate- particularly by categorically assessing the requisite factors of policing. Essentially, the police need trust from the public they serve diligently; they are usually the most open government’s responsiveness in national matters. The police have a chance to build or rebuild the trust for an enhanced rapport with their country’s people when they involve people at the local level.
The Need to Demilitarize Police
Civil societies raised the alarm on the amount of coercive force the UNPOL deploys in its missions; although, the UN has advocated for countries globally to demilitarize their police. They also claimed that the UN had not restored order in areas they have operated, despite the violence. The UNPOL, for several decades, had used military combat and ammunition in war-ravaged regions, applying an idea that excessive force was necessary for taming the crises. Many countries also issue their police with military equipment and power to use extreme coercion against their citizens in riots. Militarization of police comes with its challenges; for instance, the police adapt army techniques in their operations. The military combats armed militias while police deal with civilians; thus, using military force on such a population is disastrous (Billow). When the UN or a particular country deploys the military to tackle civil strife or demonstrations, it often happens, usually causing damages. However, the UN opts to use heavily-armed police to restore order in areas with rowdy crowds; since all factors held constant, it remains the best option. Some mobs are usually too unruly to be tamed using diplomatic means.
Objective Creation of the Desired Police Service
The SGF subjects policing to the public, the law, and civilian oversight agencies, for whom they are accountable for effectiveness and harmony in their duty. Police officers ought not to violate any human rights and are in line with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights statutes. The UN encourages policing built on the ethical tenets of representativeness, responsiveness, and accountability.
Representativeness in policing terminology implies that police service should mirror the community it manages; it should be its notable reflection. Achieving representativeness begins with recruiting and evaluating officers joining the police team. The UN helps countries attain all-inclusiveness by ascertaining that the recruitment or promotion processes are just and without discrimination based on sex, race, language, culture, social caste, religion, or minority status (Billow). Responsiveness is the aspect of policing ensuring that it caters to all the needs and expectations of its local community. The local community has legal ground to expect that the money they pay through taxes will fund government services that the authorities have to effectively and efficiently manage to attain maximum value for the people.
Transparency and accountability in the policing mandates are fundamental in enhancing reformed police; the SGF clearly outlines the two. Oversight agencies need policing to be transparent, and that also builds on police gaining trust from the general public. The UN discourages corruption and administrative malpractices among policing units, for they lower their competitiveness and reduce the level of cooperation and trust from citizens. There are many criminal and civil unrest cases where the police force is not accountable to its people since the local population neither acknowledges nor trusts their police service. On the other hand, police forces that are transparent and responsible gain more trust from the citizens, who report the crime to them, and thus they achieve responsiveness and effectiveness in their mandate.
The UN as Role Model in Policing
The UN defined its policing role and broke down its administrative structure to achieve a defined state of policing in the various nations. It conducts its functions in diverse conditions such as varying geographical localities, organizational structures, and dispute histories. It was necessary to define its policing mandate since some of the regions it worked in have low adherence to the rule of law, police functionality, and justice; therefore, it had to illustrate its crucial function to the societies it served. As a result, the standard, conduct, and value result of the basic policing structure were similar in all nations, allowing only minimal difference.
The SGF equally offered a standard meaning of policing, which it defined as the entirety of protecting people with their property by preventing, detecting, and investigating crime; thus, maintaining public order. It also emphasizes that law enforcement agencies, including the police and crime experts, respect fundamental human rights such as life, security, and liberty (Billow). The UN also promotes and facilitates policing to embrace efficiency, trust, accountability, and responsiveness, operating in conflict or post-conflict scenarios.
Managing Communicable Diseases
The UN seeks to enforce policies to ensure a minimized spread of infectious diseases. According to Aguirre et al., the UN head of biodiversity asserted that countries should ban wet markets from preventing pandemics (259). Essentially, the UN sensitizes the masses on unseen problems arising from meat traded in wet markets. Such markets quickly spread zoonotic ailments among wildlife and eventually to the human population in the markets. Owing to the speculations about bats having been central to the spread of coronavirus disease and rodents having played a role in the bubonic plague, the UN educates the public on how live animals in the wet market possibly transmit infections to the human population (Aguirre et al. 262). People are also encouraged to respect animal habitats, for the animals experience more stress when seeking new habitats. They would interact with livestock that vendors would later sell for human consumption during such moments.
Maritime Law Enforcement
The UN also promotes maritime law internationally by giving guidelines on ocean waters’ policy frameworks. It had a goal of protecting ten percent of the global ocean in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2020. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 enhances that commitment by diversifying the ecological conservation and human welfare mandate. As a result, many countries have completed larger MPAs, increasing the size from the initial less than 0.1 percent of ocean cover (Sala et al. 11). The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Program’s World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC) claimed that protected areas covered nearly seven percent of the ocean.
The UN is equally concerned with regulating maritime activities, especially to promote the marine sovereignty of nations and their security. For instance, the UN works with the Indonesian authorities to revive its law enforcement regarding ocean water. The country is an island nation incapable of protecting its marine resources from criminal activities (Lewerissa and Ashri 31). According to Lewerissa and Ashri (32), fisheries authorities encounter criminal activities such as Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing (32). The UN aids the country in protecting its marine resource and ocean activities; thus, protecting it from illegal activities.
The United Nations (UN) was created to enhance global security and peace. It runs its operation through its five principal arms: the UN General Assembly, the UN Secretariat, the UN Security Council, the UN International Court of Justice, and the UN Economic and Security Council. Subsidiary agencies of the UN include the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations Police (UNPOL), and the World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC) of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The subsidiary agencies mentioned above have a mandate of supporting law enforcement in UN member states. The UN has achieved much in supporting law enforcement in member countries. The UNODC has aided UN members to gain maximum border and freight container control, reduced organized crime, minimized abductions and kidnappings, and enhanced criminal intelligence. The UNPOL has acted as a role model in policing, offering a framework of effectiveness, accountability, and trust. In addition, it provides advice to local police in host nations and helps them reform their police forces to achieve community-oriented policing.
In political unrest, the UN has always deployed police from its member countries to conduct peacekeeping missions to restore law and order. The UN has also promoted maritime law enforcement among nations, as with Indonesia, it helped attain full marine sovereignty and security from illegal fisheries. The UN has been accused of disregarding human rights in their peacekeeping operations, particularly when they militarize the UNPOL; it has, however, encouraged demilitarized police working within a humanitarian framework. Furthermore, the UN conducts its operations strictly according to the UN Charter, promoting respect for human rights and liberties; it encourages member nations to respect humanitarian laws equally. Indeed, the United Nations (UN) has facilitated the promotion of the rule of law in member countries and helped them enforce laws; thus, it is an effective law enforcement organ.
Aguirre, A. Alonso, et al. “Illicit wildlife trade, wet markets, and COVID‐19: preventing future pandemics.” World Medical & Health Policy 12.3 (2020): 256-265. Web.
Billow, J. “What we can learn from the United Nations about reforming the police.” IPI Global Observatory (2020). Web.
Canton, Helen. “United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime—UNODC.” The Europa Directory of International Organizations 2021. Routledge, 2021. 240-244. Web.
Lewerissa, Y. A., and M. Ashri. “Law enforcement criminal acts in fisheries.” AYER. Vol. 27 No. 2 (2020):30-40.
Mingst, Karen A., Margaret P. Karns, and Alynna J. Lyon. The United Nations in the 21st century. 5th Ed. Routledge, 2018.
Sala, Enric, et al. “Assessing real progress towards effective ocean protection.” Marine Policy 91 (2018): 11-13.
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