The three-day Expert Group Meeting on Policing Urban Spaces has ended at the ECOWAS Secretariat in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, setting the stage for the launching of a new global platform for addressing the rising crime wave in the world’s cities.
The meeting, hosted at the instance of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Nigeria Police, was a prelude to the forthcoming Police Platform for urban Development scheduled for Barcelona, Spain in November 2009, at which an international Handbook on the Role of Police in Urban Spaces will be unveiled.
Rising crime wave and related problems of insecurity in urban centres have undermined sustainable urban development and social inclusion, and adversely affected the ability of cities to facilitate socio-economic development and access to urban services, opportunities and social activities for urban residents.
Under its Safer Cities Programme, UN Habitat been working to develop a better understanding of the role of enforcement agencies in the prevention of crime and insecurity, and has identified the role of the Police in urban governance.
The Safer Cities Programme also focuses on building the capacity of local actors for establishing multi-stakeholders dialogue on issues of security, defining locally appropriate strategies addressing priority issues and supporting their implementation and replication/scaling up.
The Abuja meeting was therefore part of the on-going effort to explore further areas of collaboration with the Police with the view to developing a specific work plan, targeted partnerships and a process leading to the establishment of a Platform for Police Engagement in Sustainable Urbanisation under the UN Habitat Strategic Plan.
No fewer than 70 international participants, drawn from 18 countries, joined more than 200 Nigerian officers comprising Police chiefs, directors of intelligence, and experts in the work of policing urban spaces from civil society organisations, research institutions, local governments and UN agencies attended the meeting.
During the closing session of the three day expert group meeting, experts reported on the four point outcome from the thematics session:
1. Community/Municipal Policing Governance of Safety in Urban Spaces:
Institutional Arrangements (Policies), Actors and Activities
2. Problem-Oriented Policing: Role of National Police and Researchers
3.Policing Public Spaces: Balance between Social Control and Public Patrols
4.Urban Planning: Design and Effective Policing; Approaches and Impacts
The group reported that there should be balance between patrolling public spaces and social spaces and that it is necessary to equip the police with the necessary facilities so as to uphold Police work. Human rights issues must be put into consideration.
“This meeting was a pleasurable event for all members of the Nigeria Police who ;participated, as we have never has such a scintillating and illuminating forum to discuss common problems in the area of Policing urban spaces with our colleagues from other parts of the world,” said Mr. Beltan Uzoma, Deputy Inspector General of the Nigeria Police who represented Inspector General Ogbonna Onovo at the closing session.
At the closing Press Conference addressed by Mr. Alioune Badiane, Director UN Habitat Regional Office for Africa and Arab States; Mr. Slawomir Redo, of the Justice and Integrity Unit, UNODC, Mr. John Haruna, Commissioner of Police for the Fedral Capital Territory, Abuja and Nigerian youth representative, Ms Olafiyinfoluwa Taiwo. Mr. Badiane listed among major achievements of the meeting:
● the widespread interest it drew through representation from diverse nations, with some representatives traveling for up to 50 hours to attend the meeting;
● extensive discussions were held on the contents and operational framework of the Draft Handbook on the Role of Police in Urban Spaces to be launched as part of the common international Police Platform in Barcelona, Spain in November this year;
● the sharing of knowledge, experiences and networking/assistance opportunities among the participating officers;
● the laying of the groundwork for developing a website and database on Police organizations worldwide that would further facilitate the exchange of Best Practices and operational interactions.
“Prevention is the first imperative of Justice,” said Mr. Redo of UNODC, quoting the former UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan in his report to the General assembly in 2004.