8508th Security Council Meeting: Women in Peacekeeping - Part 2

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11-Apr-2019 02:16:35
Deployment of female personnel boosts effectiveness, says Secretary-General, as Security Council holds open debate on women in peacekeeping at 8508th meeting.

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Deploying female personnel in United Nations peace operations is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing because they can win the hearts and minds of the local people with whom they work, speakers said during an open debate of the Security Council today.

“This is not just a question of numbers, but also of our effectiveness in fulfilling our mandates,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized in opening remarks. Citing evidence that greater numbers of women peacekeepers lead to more credible protection responses that meet the needs of all members of local communities, he said women in patrol units are better able to reach both men and women, and that the female presence at checkpoints has been credited with promoting a less confrontational atmosphere.

The presence of more women in troop contingents is also credited with higher reporting of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as lower incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse, he continued. He went on to recall the roll-out of his Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy earlier in 2019, saying it aims to reach target of 15 per cent to 35 per cent for women’s representation by 2028, and to cover military and police, as well as justice and correction personnel. The Strategy focuses on four key areas: recruitment and training; communications and outreach; leadership and accountability; and creating enabling environments for gender parity.

Also briefing the Council was Kristin Lund, Head of Mission and Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), who recalled her appointment as Force Commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in 2014. She said that her first goal at the time was to team up with Lisa Buttenheim, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Cyprus, “and for once I did not need to convince my boss that gender was important”. Together, they put gender at the top of the agenda, doubling the participation of women in UNFICYP to 8 per cent and increasing their presence in the United Nations Police to 25 per cent, she said, adding that, by the time she left the mission, all 26 positions operating “24/7” could accommodate both men and women.

Lorna Merekaje, Secretary-General of the South Sudan Democratic Engagement Monitoring and Observation Programme, as well as the Women’s Representative to the National Constitution Amendment Committee, emphasized that the challenges of deploying women can be addressed if there is adequate will on the part of troop- and police-contributing countries, host countries and Security Council members. Experience has demonstrated that women bring positive outcomes and have friendly interactions with local communities, she added.

With nearly 60 delegates and observers expressing their views on how to increase female participation in peacekeeping, many Member States, including major troop- and police-contributing countries, expressed support for United Nations efforts to ensure gender parity in peacekeeping, sharing how their respective countries are seeking to increase the presence of women in their national forces.

India’s delegate suggested that, instead of supporting mixed-gender units as a way to increasing the overall number of women peacekeepers, the United Nations should incentivize troop- and police-contributing countries to deploy all-women units. India’s landmark deployment of the first-ever female formed police unit to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) served as a role model for local women to participate in policing and other aspects of the rule of law, she noted. The country will contribute a 22-member female engagement team to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) rapid deployment battalion in 2019, as well as an all-female formed police unit to the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS).

The representative of the Philippines said women make up more than 50 per cent of his country’s total deployed peacekeeping personnel serving in United Nations missions in South Sudan, Darfur, Central African Republic, Haiti, Mali and on the India-Pakistan border — well beyond the 15 per cent target for troop- and police-contributing countries.

Canada’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security – a network of 57 interested Member States – said that “including women in United Nations peace operations is both the right and the smart thing to do”. He urged all troop and police contributors to comprehensively review their criteria and procedures for deploying personnel to United Nations peace operations, including by addressing barriers facing women, such as recruitment, training, restrictions on occupations, access to development opportunities, and attitudinal constraints. “We simply cannot achieve success in United Nations peace operations without getting our own houses in order,” he said, stressing the need for national action plans and strategies. Speaking in his national capacity, he said Canada’s Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations seeks to change the status quo and accelerate progress.

The Russian Federation’s representative, however, cautioned that increasing the number of women peacekeepers “should not be an end in itself”. Such efforts require sensible decisions, rather than artificial indicators, she added, warning against excessive use of temporary measures to attain targets because that might amount to discrimination against men.

Germany’s Federal Minister for Defence emphasized that “women are no better peacekeepers than men, but they are different – and this diversity is strength”. However, nearly 20 years after the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, “we are still far from full, effective and meaningful participation of women in peace operations”. Female role models and mentors are needed in order to change that, she stressed.

Japan lifted all restrictions on women’s postings in its Self-Defence Forces except in two units where maternal protection is required by law, that country’s representative said. “We have decided to allow women’s participation in infantry, reconnaissance, engineering, all types of aviation and even submarine units,” he added.

Several delegations called attention to some challenges to the deployment of women, such as the notion that military tasks are for men alone. Ireland’s representative said her country’s women peacekeepers are trained for the most dangerous of situations, emphasizing that their capability in performing the same tasks as their male colleagues should never be questioned.

Kenya’s representative said the ability of female peacekeepers to “make a difference” is sometimes limited by their small numbers, lack of training on gender-related challenges facing local women, inability to speak local languages, little understanding of local cultures, and other social and cultural barriers. In the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, for instance, Kiswahili speakers are more effective in enhancing interactions between local women and peacekeepers, thereby improving situational awareness and influencing local women by acting as role models, he noted.

The Dominican Republic’s representative expressed regret that budget cuts threaten initiatives to support the women, peace and security agenda. Noting that the presence of women in peacekeeping operations increases awareness of female problems, he pointed out that it is also critical for improving the credibility of missions among local people.

Also speaking today were representatives of Côte d’Ivoire (also for Equatorial Guinea and South Africa), Poland, Kuwait, Peru, China, France, United States, Indonesia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Hungary, Netherlands, Viet Nam, Guatemala, Mexico, Norway (for Nordic countries), Italy, Greece, Spain, Ukraine, Namibia, Slovakia, Uruguay, Estonia, Pakistan, Portugal, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Turkey, Fiji, Israel, Armenia, Liechtenstein, Romania, Venezuela (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Montenegro, Nepal, Ethiopia, Senegal, Ecuador, El Salvador, Australia, Lebanon and Egypt.

Others delivering statements were observers for the European Union, the African Union and the Holy See.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 4:05 p.m.

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