UN Policing – Legal Basis, Status and Directives on the Use of Force


On 20 November 2014 the United Nations (UN) Security Council (SC) held its first-ever Council meeting dedicated to policing issues. The meeting, convened upon Australian initiative, discussed „Peacekeeping operations: the role of policing in peacekeeping and post-conflict peacebuilding”. The meeting included a briefing of the Council by Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and three United Nations Police Commissioners. In conclusion, the Council adopted Resolution 2185 (2014).

This resolution is the first and still only resolution exclusively addressing policing in UN peacekeeping operations and UN special political missions. Given that the UN has deployed police in peacekeeping operations since the 1960s, this may be surprising; however, since then the significance of UN policing has changed considerably, both in quantitative as well as qualitative terms. Whereas there were only 44 civilian police officers serving in pertinent UN missions in 1990, the UN counted 13,122 individuals in twelve missions in 2015. The number of police officers involved extended from 6 to 3,165. All this has stimulated growing interest in and awareness of UN policing by the international community.

Currently the UN endeavours to improve UN policing through a variety of strategies and instruments. Crucial is the evolution of a “Strategic Guidance Framework for International Police Peacekeeping (SGF)”. Work on the SGF began in 2010, the UN thereby responding to the growing complexity of policing as part of peace operations and special political missions. Such developments call for a parallel academic debate.

Research Project

The research project “UN Policing. Legal Basis, Status and Directives on the Use of Force” is funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research and is implemented by the Justus Liebig University Giessen in cooperation with the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF). Its threefold objectives are (1) to identify and critically review the current legal basis of UN policing under public international law, (2) to clarify the status of police officers in pertinent missions, and (3) to critically review rules of engagement/directives on the use of force, in particular in respect of the power to detain and to use force.

The research project aims at enhancing clarity by providing a systematic overview of the legal framework applicable to UN policing, critically reflecting about the adequacy of applicable legal rules, and developing perspectives for future policing. Among others, the following questions will be addressed:

  • What is the background of UN SC Resolution 2185 (2014) and pertinent UN policies?
  • What are the specific features of police components in UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions?
  • What are the factual and legal differences between police, the military and the civilian component
  • Has policing become an autonomous part of peacekeeping?
  • If so, how does this affect the legal framework of UN policing?
  • What are the differences in rules of engagement respectively directives on the use of force applicable to police, the military and the civilian component?
Project director:
  • Thorn, Judith
Menschenrechte im Rahmen von Auslandseinsätzen der deutschen Polizei | 2019

Marauhn, Thilo / Thorn, Judith (2019): Menschenrechte im Rahmen von Auslandseinsätzen der deutschen Polizei, in: Kugelman, Daniel (Hg.), Polizei und Menschenrechte, Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 222-236.

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German Foundation for peace Research (DSF)
German Foundation for peace Research (DSF)