Women in UN Peacekeeping
Highlighted in Millennium Development Goal #3, Gender equality is one of the goals pursued by the United Nations. Trying to ensure gender equality in our societies, the UN also does everything possible to ensure it in its agencies and institutions. As a consequence, the UN has been working for the past ten years in increasing the number of female soldiers among UN peacekeepers.
Answering some of the objectives laid down in UN Security Council Resolution 1325
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) asks for a higher proportion of women among peacekeepers:
Point 5: “Expresses its willingness to incorporate a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations, and urges the Secretary-General to ensure that, where appropriate, field operations include a gender component”
This objective was reaffirmed in UN Security Council Resolution 1889 (2009), from the first point:
“Urges Member States, international and regional organisations to take further measures to improve women’s participation during all stages of peace processes, particularly in conflict resolution, post-conflict planning and peacebuilding, including by enhancing their engagement in political and economic decision-making at early stages of recovery processes, through inter alia promoting women’s leadership and capacity to engage in aid management and planning, supporting women’s organizations, and countering negative societal attitudes about women’s capacity to participate equally.”
These two UN Security Council resolutions point that the gender approach in peacebuilding operations takes place on two levels:
- Including more women among the UN peacekeepers
- In countries recovering from war, taking into consideration the specific needs of women and girls.
Women represent a very small part of the UN peacekeeping forces, constituting 3% of the military personnel and 9% of police personnel. However, this data is on the rise, as women represented only 1% of the forces in 1993. Furthermore, they constitute about 30% of the civilian staff working on peacekeeping missions. Finally, three all-female police units are deployed around the world: Indian in Liberia, Bangladeshi in Haiti and Samoan in Timor.
Incentives and challenges for women Peacekeepers
In his working paper “Women with a Blue Helmet – The integration of women and gender issues in UN Peacekeeping missions”, Francesco Bertolazzi reports the results of a survey identifying the five main reasons why women join the UN Peacekeeping forces:
- Economic benefits
- Altruistic, value-driven goal of bringing peace to a war-torn society
- Sharing experiences and meeting persons from other countries
- Opportunity to work and live in a demanding, international environment
But in spite of these incentives, many women are reluctant to join the UN Peacekeeping forces. The main challenge faced by women peacekeepers is managing a family life. Most women peacekeepers are single, divorced and/or have no children. Furthermore, many are afraid of sexual harassment or gender discriminations, as underlined in many reports. However, it is essential to recruit more and more women as Blue Helmets and this is why the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has developed a gender approach.
The gender approach followed by the Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO)
- Appointing Gender Advisers in missions
- Supporting strategies to increase female deployment in peacekeeping operations
- Providing gender training to peacekeeping personnel.
Ensuring gender equality among UN peacekeeping forces takes its roots in the idea of ensuring gender equality in all of the UN institutions; it also has the objective of better answering the needs of girls and women victims of a conflict. In November 2006, the DPKO wrote a Policy Directive on Gender Equality in UN Peacekeeping Operations. Section D.3 is dedicated to the “Recruitment and retention of high quality personnel” and advocates for “the adoption of gender sensitive policies which support the increased recruitment and deployment of uniformed women to peacekeeping”. The policy directive also advocates for improvements in the hiring process, with a greater focus on gender equality in the vacancy announcements.
Why women are essential in Peacekeeping Operations
In his working paper, Francesco Bertolazzi underlines thae fact that introducing women in peacekeeping forces is essential because they have a privileged access to female populations. And yet, they are often the first targets during a conflict. But the main reason why women need to be part of peacekeeping missions is to better reflect the society with which they interact, so that lasting peace can be built.
Furthermore, Bertolazzi highlights that the best force will be a mixed one, but:
- the teams should be equally mixed (have a ratio closer to 1/1 than 1/10)
- women should not be limited to support staff roles.
Gerard DeGroot reports the results of a UN survey showing that the number of rapes decreases when female soldiers are present in the field. The journalist advocates for an increased number of women in the peacekeeping forces, since their presence reduces the incidence of gender-based violence and they are therefore better placed to ensure peace.
- UN Security Council Resolution 1325
- UN Security Council Resolution 1889
- Women, Peace and Security
- Gender and Peacebuilding Initiative
- ↑ UN Security Council Resolution 1325
- ↑ UN Security Council Resolution 1889
- ↑ DPKO/OMA Statistical Report on Female Military and Police Personnel in UN Peacekeeping Operations Prepared for the 10th Anniversary of the SCR 1325
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Francesco Bertolazzi, “Women with a Blue Helmet – The integration of women and gender issues in UN Peacekeeping missions”, working paper published as part of the Gender, Peace and Security Working Paper Series of UN-INSTRAW, retrieved on UN-INSTRAW.org
- ↑ UN Peacekeeping's website: section on gender issues
- ↑ DPKO Policy Directive on Gender Equality in UN Peacekeeping Operations
- ↑ Gerard DeGroot, “Women in Blue Helmets - Female soldiers can improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations for the simple reason that they are not men” in The Guardian, May 11, 2008.