News & Events
60 Years of Commitment: Egypt as a Peacekeeper (1)
20 July 2020

In 1960, Egypt began its involvement in the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations with two paratrooper companies deployed to the UN Operation in the Republic of Congo. Today, it’s one of the top troop- and police-contributing countries, with more than 3,000 men and women peacekeepers deployed in 7 operations in Africa. Egypt is also a critical player in shaping peacekeeping doctrinal and policy debates.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Egypt’s contribution to UN peacekeeping operations, today we are joined by UN Police Adviser Luís Carrilho in this first episode of online interviews.

Mr. Carrilho was appointed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in November 2017, having previously served as UN Police Commissioner in the Central African Republic, in Haiti and in Timor-Leste. In March 2012, Mr. Carrilho received a medal of merit from the President of Timor-Leste for efforts to consolidate peace and security. In 2019, UN Women announced Mr. Carrilho as its newest HeForShe Advocate supporting the movement for gender equality.

Mr. Carrilho, welcome. It’s a pleasure having you today with us.

L. Carrilho: Good morning. It’s my honor to be speaking on the 60th anniversary of Egypt as a UN peacekeeping member of the family and of course military, but in my particular case, I would like to thank the contribution of the women and men police officers from Egypt.

Particularly speaking to you Seba, let me extend my heart-felt appreciation for the work that Egypt does, and particularly CCCPA and my dear and very competent friend Ashraf Swelam.

Seba Issa: Thank you so much Mr. Carrilho. It’s hard to overlook the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on peacekeeping operations, but I am really interested in looking at how the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak are affecting UN Police, especially in countries already afflicted by years of conflict. Given your previous work as UN Police Commissioner in these countries and given your extensive experience as UN Police Adviser, how do you think the pandemic affected the ability of UN Police to deliver on its mandated tasks? And to what extent have the UN Police COVID-19 Operational Guidelines been useful in their daily operations, either during or in anticipation of the pandemic?

L. Carrilho: Egypt is one of the top contributing members to peacekeeping. Let me just say that in terms of police, it is one of the largest: 868 actually, including 44 women. Egyptian police officers clearly make a key contribution not only for training, capacity building, guidance, but also with quality and professionalism alongside their comrades in terms of the protection of civilians. So, I would like thank the government of Egypt.

The UN Police has around 11,000 police officers: women and men from more than 90 countries all over the world, deployed in 14 operations worldwide. During the pandemic, the work has gained greater importance because as we know, the police is one of the most visible faces of the state and in the case of the UN Police, one of the most visible faces of the UN. As front-liners, as first line responders, we cannot telecommute, and since we cannot telecommute, there are challenges in terms of the suspension of the rotations, the travel and movement restrictions, as well as the social or the physical distancing. However, I would like to say that due to the brave women and men that we have, we remain in the frontlines, protecting civilians, protecting the most vulnerable, in order to support the community directly or the host police to maintain law and order, to protect civilians, and in a certain way, to help the people of the countries where we are, and in the missions where we are, to have a quiet peaceful and orderly life.

In this time of the pandemic, some activities became very visible. Awareness raising within the communities, and community policing, is a key role that we play: the use of the mask and physical distancing. In some instances, we also provide PPE (personal protective equipment) together with UN agencies funds and programs as well as bilateral partners. This is because the security of the community is the security of the police, including the UN Police and vice versa. We are all in this together.

Also on the humanitarian side, we provide direct operational support to ensure that communities can have peace and development. I will not go too deep into that, but the 2030 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals are what guide us in terms of promoting a better world where the police also play a key role.

When it comes to peacekeeping, 60 years after the deployment of the first Egyptian peacekeepers, we also have the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) that is key to all of us. We are guided by the primacy of politics and centering the people. We need to enhance our performance leave with a good partnership, a good legacy in terms of peacebuilding.

One final word on the impact of COVID-19 and how we are shaping ourselves: We’ve developed some guidelines--together with the colleagues at the WHO, the UN agencies, funds and programs, as well as the partners--to help police officers be more prepared in dealing with the pandemic. Being it individually, in terms of the use of PPE, being it in terms of the normal police routine, or the action that we take. Our vector is first to protect the communities. We cannot be a vector of contamination. With our action, we need to enhance and improve the lives of others and of course implement our mandate. We must also contribute to the protection of the most vulnerable: the elderly, children, women, victims of crimes, internally displaced people, and of course refugees. Despite the pandemic, the UN Police is still able to deliver its mandate: to protect the communities directly, or together with the host state police.

Seba Issa: In light of what you said, and the critical role the police is playing in these challenging circumstances, my second question is about the future of peacekeeping: Mindful that the re-establishment of law and order, providing operational support to host-state police, and protecting civilians are among the essential conditions enabling the withdrawal of a multidimensional peacekeeping operations, in your opinion what are the factors shaping the future composition of UN peace operations? Do you think they will rely more on the military component or the police component? And how do the UN Police prepare for that possibility?

L. Carrilho: This is a very pertinent question. This year, UN Police is also celebrating 60 years of deployment to peacekeeping operations. We also commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN this year.

Egypt has clearly played a key role in UN policing. The world has changed in these 60 years and UN Police has also changed: the specific context, the environment and the threats have changed. Of course, we the police need not only to catch up, but be ahead of time to prevent. I believe UN Police will have an advanced role within the mandates that the Security Council or the mandates that as a system-wide provider, the UN Police can be called to play.

The United Nations Police is formed by police officers and police personnel of the member states. I would say that our core function will always be prevention. Prevention is key. As you know, all over the world, police in terms of community policing should be close to the people. Trust, even nowadays, trust with COVID-19 is clearly one word that links the police with the community. I also believe prevention, detection of crime and investigation--of course according to the mandate given to the UN Police. I also believe that one of our core functions will continue to be the protection of persons and property, particularly the most vulnerable. Third, I believe that the maintenance of public order and safety, or to restore the public order, will be one of our key areas.

Clearly, we play a role in terms of operational support and protection of civilians. We also have a key role to play because we can link and build on the expertise of police officers from over 90 countries—which are increasing, so this is a big wealth of expertise. Of course, police and military have distinct functions and I believe that there will be a role for all in the spirit of the A4P, Action for Peacekeeping, under and the primacy of politics.

Our Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, recently said, and I quote, “The future of peacekeeping operations is linked to UN police.” As a police officer and the Police Adviser, I also believe that UN Police will play a key role. A role that we can see through the lens of the new risks and threats that we witness in UN peace operations and in host countries e.g. organized crime, cyber-crime, climate insecurity and counterterrorism. I believe that these threats will continue to grow, so we need to have the skills that can enable us to first, through community policing, gain the trust of communities. We must also have policing approaches that are in accordance with human rights principles to make sure that we work within the security system and the justice system--to prevent and bring the perpetrators to justice, together with host states or in missions where only UN Police is present. In a certain way, we must also make sure that we offer the communities peace and security.

In the future, I also think we need to adapt consistently with partnerships. We have partnerships with the host states, UN agencies, funds and programs, our military colleagues, civilian counterparts, as well as Interpol. I believe that with the added value and comparative advantage that consistent partnerships can bring to the table, we can provide better and more security in our missions worldwide.

I would say that every UN police officer is a human rights officer—so, we can play a key role in supporting and helping communities through police reform, building completely host state police services, developing skills, and ensuring, of course, a consistent approach in terms of provision of security.

One final word on the Strategic Guidance Framework: Together with the member states and partners, we developed the Strategic Guidance Framework for International Policing or SGF. That is what we can call the police doctrine that we can apply worldwide. It was developed by all the member states and UN partners as a blue print for the future in terms of the support that we provide. A blue print that is internationally accepted, human rights-compliant, gender-responsive and evidence-based.

Once again, I believe that UN Police will have a big role in the future, and particularly after COVID. We can see that the police will emerge as the guarantor for trust in the communities and to make sure that everyone can enjoy their basic freedom and security.

Seba Issa: I would now like to turn to a statement you said, and I’m quoting, “More women in police peacekeeping is simply more effective peacekeeping.” As you know, Egypt is continuously deploying more and more female police to UN operations, a total of 60 to date. So, Mr. Carrilho as the HeForShe Advocate for Gender Equality, how can we foster collaboration on gender-responsive policing between UN entities to ensure high quality police and justice response?

L. Carrilho: Women police officers make a key contribution in peace operations. I will repeat. Women police officers make a decisive key contribution in peace operations. We can witness in our own states that police are an asset, particularly women police officers because they play a role with women in the most vulnerable communities--the children, elderly, victims of crimes, internally displaced people, refugees. Basically, everyone that is in need, including of course those, who for one reason or another, are less fortunate in life. In UN peace operations, either peacekeeping or special political missions, we can see that women play a key role.

​Through CCCPA and this interview, I would like to thank Egypt, and also thank and exhort all the member states to continue to support us with women police officers who are skilled to deal with the less fortunate in the missions where we serve and where we are. As you said, Egypt is one of the top women police contributors, and we hope that this will even enhance and increase in the future.

Internally, let me tell you that we, the Department of Peace Operations and the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions, together with the Police Division and the Office of the Military Affairs, have developed the uniform gender parity strategy.
Unfortunately, police services worldwide don’t always have the numbers that we can recruit, or they aren’t available for deployment. Through the uniform gender parity strategy, we can consistently be able to increase UN Police. But our call, our call is even more to the host state and to the national police services to have campaigns and to increase the number of women police officers in their structures, so then we can of course recruit more.

Let me tell you that clearly women police officers play a key role, and particularly in terms of addressing the difficulties that we have in some missions e.g. protection of civilians sites, conflicts that radicalized and we need to bring law and order, and we also need the people to believe in the society and new social contract in these countries. Women play a key role in almost all of the UN Police but also as the host state. They play a key role with the civil society and with the communities and schools, with the protection of civilian sites and in neighborhoods where sometimes the only person they see as a leading role is the women police officer. So, our women police officers not only bring trust, but they bring hope—they bring hope to those communities.

Let me tell you that these are not just words because in the UN Police and at all levels, women and men alike play a key role in three of our main missions: in South Sudan-UNMISS, in Abyei-UNISFA, and in UNFICYP-Cyprus. They are headed by three women police officers who lead by example, and play a key role in supporting the communities or in working with host states. As I told you, the mandates are different, so they engage at the most strategic and political levels. Our women police officers also engage at the tactical level. They are able to lead, and to lead by example, for others in the missions where we serve.

I was very happy when you spoke about UN Women--it’s one of our main partners. We are clearly in on the HeForShe Campaign. With the support of several member states, working in the peace operations, in special political missions, and also worldwide, we have been working on enhancing some standby women police officers for key positions. We hope that this number will increase more and more.

In some of our peace operations, we have women at all levels playing a key role in terms of not only their leadership role but addressing gender-sensitive issues e.g. addressing cases of sexual gender-based violence and working with vulnerable and marginalized groups including those mentioned before.

As you know, we also have gender advisers. Here in New York in the Police Division, we have one gender adviser doing a terrific job. In the peace operations, we have more than one gender adviser doing great work. And needless to say, I know that we are commemorating the 60th anniversary of the contribution of Egypt to peacekeeping, but this year we are also celebrating the Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and of course gender mainstreaming is key. For us, it’s critically important to be gender-responsive when it comes to policing.  

During this pandemic, I believe vulnerable populations in our host states were most affected, including women. So once again, the deployment of women police officers plays a key role. We must of course always ensure that UN Police or our policing activities remain representative, responsive and accountable to the communities that we have sworn to protect and serve. I believe that at that level, the relevance, credibility and impact of the UN Police in the eyes of the people will be even bigger everyday as we deploy more women police officers, who side by side with men police officers can make a positive impact in the life of the communities that we serve.

Seba Issa: That was Mr. Luís Carrilho, UN Police Adviser speaking to CCCPA in its online campaign celebrating the 60th anniversary of Egypt’s contribution to peacekeeping operations. Thank you so much Mr. Carrilho for your time. It’s been a great pleasure to have you with us today.

Photo Credit: UN photo

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