[Dateline: New York | Author: DPKO]
The largest conference ever organized by the United Nations with a focus on prisons as part of rule of law stabilization - with more than 500 participants from 80 countries - concluded in Ghent, Belgium on 27 October.
Held in conjunction with the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) annual conference, the meeting included participation from Her Royal Highness, Princess Matilda of Belgium, Mr. Hans Meurisse, the Director General of the Belgium Federal Prison Service, Mr. Tony Cameron the President of ICPA and the Belgian Minister of Justice Mr. Stefaan De Clerck.
Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions , Mr. Dmitry Titov, lead the DPKO delegation.
Many United Nations Corrections Contributing Countries, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, non-governmental organizations and prison personnel participated in the debates and plenary sessions. The aim of the conference was to describe the work and lessons learned in corrections work in DPKO and the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) missions; highlight areas of needed support; share lessons learned; consider modalities for the formation of a Group of Friends of Corrections in peacekeeping settings; consider the impact that the secondment of corrections officers has on the prison systems of the participating States and develop recommendations on how to increase the support that United Nations peacekeeping operations are able to provide to host countries.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations places great emphasis on raising the profile of this often neglected sector. On the eve of this meeting DPKO published its Corrections Update Volume 2 highlighting the important work that is being done in 11 peace missions (three political missions and eight peacekeeping operations). In the Foreword to this publication Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon wrote:
“The work of the United Nations to ensure proper conditions for detainees and prisoners in post-conflict settings is led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. UN peacekeepers work to relieve overcrowding; provide sanitation, food and medical care; establish rehabilitation programmes and facilities; and help host Governments build up their capacity to uphold minimum standards of incarceration.”
Key presentations made at the conference were reports from UN missions, observations from some Corrections Contributing Countries, and overviews of work and innovations from UNDP, UNODC and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Also as a great honour for DPKO the ICPA Management and Staff Training Award for 2010 was jointly won by the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the Southern Sudan Prisons Service. In acknowledging receipt of the award, Mr. Robert Leggat, UNMIS Prisons Coordinator for Southern Sudan, thanked the UNODC and the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform (ICCLR) of Canada and the various donors that made it possible for them to carry out the programme to strengthen the Southern Sudan Prisons Service.
In his opening remarks, Assistant Secretary-General Titov described the importance of rule of law in peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes and emphasized the need to have functional prisons and corrections facilities. He urged all stakeholders to work together to improve corrections and prisons services especially in post-conflict countries and to deliver “a holistic approach to rule of law programmes”. Mr. Titov highlighted the expansion of corrections work in peacekeeping, stating that the Security Council has almost doubled the number of seconded corrections officers in Haiti and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and he made it clear that DPKO would “continue to push forward the corrections agenda on the international platform”.
Presentations were also made on the “rapidly deployable prison” concept. This is a concept that makes for modular prisons to be assembled within 180 days when needed, which is especially suitable at early stages on peacekeeping operations and in emergency situations. Other presentations were made by DPKO and DPA missions with participation from BINUB, BINUCA, MINUSTAH, MONUSCO, UNAMA, UNMIL and UNMIS, seven of the 11 countries where UN Corrections Officers are working.
Preceding the conference was a two-day Africa Prison Leadership Seminar, organised by ICPA which resolved to set-up an African Prisons Leadership Academy, under the auspices of the African Correctional Services Association (ACSA) and supported by ICPA, DPKO and the African Union.
The conference concluded with a declaration on how to move prison conditions in a coherent manner in peacekeeping settings and how prison professionals can work together with United Nations agencies and others on prison reform agenda in post-conflict settings. A number of countries including Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, South Africa and Saudi Arabia pledged to offer both financial and personnel support for corrections work in peacekeeping.
The third United Nations International Conference on Corrections in Peacekeeping Settings will be jointly organized in 2011 by DPA, UNDP and UNODC and lead by DPKO. It will be hosted by Canada and UNPOL and the Justice Team of OROLSI will participate.