Samoa to mark 21 years of U.N. peacekeeping
In June, Samoa will mark its 21st anniversary of deploying Police officers to foreign nations on United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The date of the forthcoming anniversary is contained in a special report published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (A.S.P.I.).
Samoa first deployed police officers to Timor-Leste in 2000 and most recently, there were 19 police officers deployed in October 2020.
“Samoa deployed to its first U.N. peacekeeping mission in June 2000, when it sent 25 police to […] Timor-Leste. Over the past 20 years, it has deployed to a total of eight different U.N. peace operations in four countries,” the report states.
Four of those missions were in Timor-Leste; the other four were in Africa in Liberia, Sudan, Darfur and South Sudan.
Samoa’s contributions to UN peace operations peaked between October to December 2006, when it had 50 peacekeepers deployed in three missions.
Its largest commitment to one mission was 40 police personnel to Timor Leste between July and December 2001.
Nineteen peacekeepers were deployed in October 2020.
The report notes that Samoa does not have a military and the Samoa Police Service is the primary security force in the country.
“Samoa has given 20 years of uninterrupted service to U.N. peacekeeping missions. This is facilitated through a selection and testing process. At this stage, U.N. representatives come to Samoa every two years to conduct that process,” says the report.
At the first stage, an expression of interest is requested and is currently limited to officers who have served for at least five years.
It’s a very competitive process; one round of selection for peacekeeping deployment attracted more than 100 candidates, of whom only eight were ultimately selected.
Preparation for testing is now also facilitated for those interested in deploying, which has greatly increased the number of personnel passing the selection process.
The efforts of Samoa have its challenges and barriers, the report notes.
In an interview with a Samoan police official, it was noted that not having a dedicated officer or adviser for peacekeeping based in New York hampered access to opportunities that could be taken by Samoan police personnel.
Some returned personnel noted that there wasn’t adequate support during and after deployment. For example, one returnee noted that the price of accommodation in Darfur was high, and it was difficult to cover the remuneration she was provided.
Another returnee noted that she was left out-of-pocket by the UN after missing a connecting flight in Hong Kong, as the UN didn’t see that as its responsibility after her deployment had ended.
A Samoan official noted that there needed to be greater support after returning from deployment, such as an exit program or better health checks by the UN before repatriation.
Australia and New Zealand are key partners of the Samoa Police Service; it is noted in the report. It was also noted that an informal connection has been made between Fijian personnel co-located with Samoan personnel while deployed.
Future plans and opportunities. In previous statements to UN General Assembly debates in 2012 and 2013, Samoa expressed its intention to increase its contribution of police personnel to UN peacekeeping missions.
In an interview, a Samoan police official expressed interest in expanding the mission footprint of Samoan personnel and deploying Samoan personnel to other missions.
The Samoan Police Service has a strength of 609 personnel, of which 25.58 percent are women, according to the report.
In the report’s executive summary, it states that there is a long and proud history of peacekeeping in the Pacific.
“Countries in the region have hosted missions, and contributed to them, to support their neighbours, resolve conflicts and maintain a more secure and peaceful region. They have also sent personnel abroad to contribute to global efforts to maintain international peace and security,” says the report.
“Yet, this is an area that’s less explored and understood. The Pacific is frequently viewed as a beneficiary of peacekeeping rather than as a substantive contributor. In this report, we attempt to address that gap, drawing on interviews and discussions with government officials and returned peacekeepers in seven case-study countries (Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu).”
The report offers recommendations for Pacific countries, as well as the Australian Government, about opportunities for further partnerships to support the engagement of countries in the region in U.N. peacekeeping.