Speakers Call for Greater Political Will, Incentives to Encourage Greater Numbers
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.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, recalled the launch of his gender parity strategy in 2017, saying its aim is to enhance women’s representation at all levels and in all areas across the United Nations system. A key priority is to increase the number of women in peacekeeping, in both civilian and uniformed capacity. “This is not just a question of numbers, but also of our effectiveness in fulfilling our mandates,” he emphasized, citing evidence that greater numbers of women peacekeepers lead to more credible protection responses that meet the needs of all members of local communities. Women in patrol units are better able to reach both men and women in areas of operation, he said, noting that the presence of women 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. Citing resolution 2242 (2015), he recalled that, by its terms, the Security Council called for doubling the number of women in military and police components of United Nations peacekeeping operations by 2020, and for reviewing barriers to their recruitment and advancement. More than 150 Member States signed on to his Action for Peacekeeping initiative, he said, adding that he launched the Gender-Responsive Peacekeeping Operations Policy in 2018. For civilian personnel, each field mission has developed its own gender parity strategies, and women now account for 40 per cent of leadership in the field, he said.
He went on to state that, in 2019, he rolled out the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy, which aims for 15 per cent to 35 per cent women’s representation by 2028, covering military, police, as well as justice and correction personnel. The number of female staff officers and military observers has almost doubled since the first Peacekeeping Ministerial Meeting in November 2017, with women now representing more than 13 per cent of deployed personnel, he said. Since that meeting, 27 countries which had previously not deployed any women at all now do so. He went on to ask Member States to increase their nominations of women officers, to place a greater focus on women in battalions and formed police units, and to meet the targets set out in the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy, not only through pledges, but more importantly through the sustained recruitment and deployment of women within national uniformed services.
KRISTIN LUND, Head of Mission and Chief of Staff, United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), recalled her appointment as Force Commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in 2014, and her surprise at how much power it entailed. She said that her first goal was to team up with Lisa Buttenheim, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Cyprus at the time, “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.
Noting that armed forces generally have a hard time getting women to commit to their careers for their entire working lives, she explained that, although there are many reasons for that, one of them is the male culture within military organizations. For example, most gyms have posters portraying half-naked women, she noted, questioning: “How many women do gym in bikinis?” Gym walls should have posters on how to exercise in normal outfits, she said, adding that, in Cyprus, “womanized posters vanished” and all military competitions had to include women in their teams. She said that, during weekly meetings of sector commanders, she used Headquarters directives on sexual exploitation and abuse and gender issues to underline their responsibilities.
She went on to state that, during those meetings, she also focused on commanders from troop-contributing countries in which prostitution is legal, in addition to discussing codes of conduct, HIV/AIDS, gender, sexual exploitation and abuse, and other issues during staff training sessions. She added that she also initiated a female military network — like the one in her native Norway’s armed forces — within which different issues could be addressed. She went on to emphasized that being a woman can open doors and that, in her present position, the proportion of female observers is up to 12 per cent, with gender at the top of her agenda. Stressing that troop- and police-contributing countries must do more and that every Chief of Defence has the power to undertake change, she declared: “We out in the field need to be able to reach out to the whole society,” adding: “Only you can make that happen.”
LORNA MEREKAJE, Secretary-General of the South Sudan Democratic Engagement Monitoring and Observation Programme and Women Representative of the National Constitution Amendment Committee, emphasized the importance of involving women at all levels of decision-making. 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, she said, adding that experience has demonstrated that women bring positive outcomes and have friendly interactions with local communities. She asked the Council to ensure, among other things, that standards and working conditions for women are periodically reviewed and improved, requesting also that the Council enhance the mandates of United Nations country missions to involve women and youth in the design of programmes to be implemented. She went on to call for greater accountability for sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeepers.
URSULA VON DER LEYEN, Federal Minister for Defence of Germany and Council President for April, spoke in her national capacity, saying that in her current position, she has met many female United Nations peacekeepers. She added that she was always impressed by their dedication, diligence and, most importantly, the ways in which they broadened the respective skill sets of their missions. “Women are no better peacekeepers than men, but they are different – and this diversity is strength,” she emphasized. 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”. In order to change that, there is need for female role models and mentors, she stressed.
She went on to state that Germany plans to establish a global female peacekeepers network that will support the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations with a contribution of up to €2 million. Deploying more women to peacekeeping missions requires the presence of more women in national armed forces, she said, noting in that regard that Germany is striving to increase the share of women in its own military. It is also carrying out an assessment of barriers to the presence of women in the armed forces and in peacekeeping operations, she said, inviting other Member States to share their experiences. Germany has enhanced its military observer training course to focus on the role of women in peacekeeping, and 22 women from 20 countries participated in 2018, she noted.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), speaking also on behalf of Equatorial Guinea and South Africa while associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the African Union delegation, said women’s participation remains a challenge in Africa, which hosts seven of the Organization’s peacekeeping operations, as well as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). He emphasized that deploying women not only contributes to gender equality and empowerment, but also helps the transformation of missions and security sector reform. Citing a joint African Union-United Nations fact-finding mission on women, peace and security, he said that it clearly established that women victims of conflict engage more with female peacekeepers.
Failure to take women into account can impact on reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts, he cautioned, emphasizing the need to eliminate cultural obstacles and policies that hamper the recruitment and deployment of female peacekeepers. It is vital to counter gender stereotypes and the United Nations must improve its peacekeeping infrastructure to address the specific needs of women peacekeepers, he stressed. Including women in peacekeeping operations is undeniably a responsibility shared between the troop- and police-contributing countries and the United Nations, he said, underlining the need for the former to mainstream a gender perspective into national recruiting processes. “Without a doubt, peace has a woman’s face,” he added.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), stressing that women contribute to peacekeeping performance at the operational level, said that increasing their presence at that level is key as they effectively interact with local communities, initiating changes. It is a necessity for the United Nations to appoint more women in leadership roles. Member States should also nominate more women at all levels, she said, underscoring also the importance of their role in addressing sexual exploitation and abuse, in particular their preventive roles and for proper investigations. Words make a difference when they are put into action. Poland introduced a national action 2018‑2021 on women, peace and security, with consultations with civil society.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the participation of women in peacekeeping is a necessity to increasing engagement with local communities. Troop- and police-contributing countries must also increase the participation of women and ensure that they are sufficiently trained. Kuwait is among the 150 countries that endorsed the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative, he said, stressing the need for the joint efforts of the Secretariat and Member States.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), emphasizing that the Council must remain united on the women, peace and security agenda, said that growing the number of women in peacekeeping is a central element of United Nations reform. Integrating the gender perspective paves the way for policies that recognize the impact of women in peace processes and their role therein, he said, adding that empowering women’s leadership and allowing them to advance proposals is also a powerful tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. He went on to call attention to Peru’s efforts to increase to 15 per cent the number of women in its peacekeeping contingents.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) expressed regret that budget cuts threaten initiatives to support the women, peace and security agenda. Gender-disaggregated data must be included in all mission reports, he said, calling also for strengthening the zero-tolerance policy against gender violence by United Nations peacekeeping personnel. The presence of women in peacekeeping operations increases the awareness of women’s problems, but it is also critical for improving the credibility of missions among local people, he pointed out. Noting that gender parity requires working closely with troop- and police-contributing countries, he underscored the need to improve the lives of women peacekeepers by, among other measures, providing appropriate sanitation facilities and access to sexual and reproductive health care.
MA ZHAOXU (China) said that his country deployed women peacekeepers around the world, including to Libya, South Sudan and Haiti, describing how they were remembered by locals. The main goal of peacekeeping is to forge a political settlement, and peacekeepers must serve this main goal, he noted, emphasizing that this requires the joint efforts of the Secretariat and troop- and police-contributing countries, as well as host States. China supports the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative, he said.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said global efforts to deploy gender advisers and women protection advisers in peacekeeping missions must continue, adding that “Blue Helmets” must receive the necessary training and equipment. It is well documented that women contribute to the effectiveness of operation across the spectrum, he noted, emphasizing: “No posts should be reserved for men.” Noting that 27 peacekeeping contingents are still without women, down from more than 40, he said it is up to troop- and police-contributing countries to increase their deployment of women. He went on to state that his country’s national army has achieved one of the world’s highest percentages of women representation, and also announced a diversity plan with the three objectives of recruiting more women, retaining them, and promoting diversity in the military.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States), recalling that his country was the first to translate the women, peace and security agenda into national law, said that increasing the number of women in peacekeeping lies at the heart of improving the performance of peacekeeping operations. Women can be important role models, but much work remains to increase their numbers, he cautioned. Calling attention to his country’s efforts to strengthen the capacities and capabilities of troop- and police-contributing countries, he noted that more than 11,000 women have participated in its peacekeeping training events. He encouraged all Members States to adopt national action plans to enhance the recruitment and deployment of women peacekeepers while addressing barriers to their participation.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) highlighted the importance of maintaining a strong national regulatory framework to increase the meaningful participation of women in peacekeeping. Indonesia’s strategy aims at deploying 4,000 peacekeepers between 2015 and 2019, with checklists to ensure the inclusion of women, he said. Noting that more than 3,000 Indonesian peacekeepers, including 86 women, are currently serving in eight missions, he emphasized the essential need for the political will needed to build capacities and pledge more women for deployment. He said that his country’s efforts include the incorporation of gender into the regular curriculum at the Indonesian Peacekeeping Training Centre. The Government is also in the process of deploying a formed police unit, 10 per cent of whom are female, to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), he said, adding that 81 officers, almost one third of them women, are also being deployed to various peacekeeping operations. Sound strategy is imperative, given existing structural and sociocultural challenges, including the fact that mission infrastructure is often less attractive to female personnel, he said, also underlining the need for adequate resources to support much-needed pre-deployment training and advanced gender-sensitive equipment, among other things. With like-minded countries, Indonesia will incorporate such perspectives into cost data to be collected and considered in the context of the next troop-cost review, he said. “Investing in women equals investing in peace,” he added.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), noting that only 4 per cent of Blue Helmets and 8 per cent of police personnel within United Nations peacekeeping are women, emphasized that this is not enough. Possible solutions include removing obstacles to the recruitment of women and providing good working conditions, such as better medical services, he said, adding that the role of gender advisers is crucial in this regard. Noting that only 8 per cent of his country’s 27,000 active armed forces personnel are women, he said the Government is creating a mixed gender engagement team within the Special Forces, to be ready by 2020. Belgium has also signed the United Nations Compact addressing sexual exploitation and abuse, he said, adding that the Security Council must reflect the demand for women in authorizing mandates.
DINA A. GILMUTDINOVA (Russian Federation) said that while she agrees with the positive role of women in the settlement of conflicts and in peacekeeping, increasing the number of women peacekeepers “should not be an end in itself”. Such efforts require sensible decisions, rather than artificial indicators, she said, warning against excessive use of temporary measures to attain targets because that may discriminate against men. She also stressed the need to take the specificity of countries into account, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of men and women. While women may do a great job in dealing with victims of sexual exploitation or violence, peacekeeping entails a military component that requires the use of physical strength, she pointed out. United Nations policy must also take into consideration the fact that women leave peacekeeping due to family concerns, as well as the principle of fair geographical representation when appointing high-level officials.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), noting that his country has exceeded United Nations targets for doubling female participation in peacekeeping by 2020, emphasized that growing the number of women peacekeepers is about effectiveness, not “ticking boxes”. There are real operational benefits on the ground from deploying more gender-balanced forces, he said, adding that asking peacekeeping missions to understand local conditions without women is like asking them to patrol with one eye closed. The United Kingdom shares the challenges faced by other Member States in achieving gender parity in their armed forces, he said, announcing that his country will contribute $1.3 million to the Elsie Fund. He went on to ask today’s briefers to identify the most urgent interventions that Member States should adopt to make peacekeeping missions more women-friendly.
PÉTER SZIJJÁRTÓ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said his country recently decided to increase to 1,200 the number of troops participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations, deploying an additional 60 troops to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Hungary also sees great opportunities for police to be involved in peacekeeping operations, he said, noting the experience of its officers in securing borders in the Western Balkans. With women making up 20 per cent of its military forces and 23 per cent of its police, Hungary is committed to implementing the women, peace and security agenda, he said, adding that the Government is currently drawing up guidelines for a national action plan.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) proposed several measures to overcome existing barriers to women’s participation, including fully analysing the situation, translating findings into action and matching efforts with training. More must be done to go beyond findings of a 2018 report by the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces detailing challenges to women’s participation. “We need to listen better to the real experts — women,” he said, recalling a story of women becoming dehydrated because they stopped drinking fluids to avoid a “risky night time trip” to the toilet. “We must work together to make these stories a thing of the past.” Commending the new Elsie Initiative Fund, he said actions must now turn research findings into results by, among other things, increasing efforts to recruit more women, appointing national gender advisers and providing adequate camp accommodation and equipment. Highlighting a need to change the current culture, he said tailored training can instil a gender‑responsive attitude across all mission pillars and personnel. To “get the numbers right” at the United Nations, the Netherlands has been supporting a female military officers course.
Responding to a question by the United Kingdom’s delegate, Ms. LUND said that the most important measures that can be taken are, first, to get the number of women up. “The number matters,” she said. Second, every contingent must deploy women and thirdly, men have to be the champions for promoting gender equality, she added.
Ms. MEREKAJE said that one of the most important things to do is to improve facilities to retain women already deployed in missions, and implement mentorship programmes for younger women, and revising national legislation to encourage younger women to join services.
LE HOAI TRUNG, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, underlining the unique, substantive contributions women make as key players and agents of peace, said female peacekeepers can have access to parts of the population usually closed off to men, providing a presence in communities that empowers girls and women alongside opportunities for the United Nations to address gender-specific issues. Increasing gender parity can also lead to a reduction in sexual exploitation and abuses, with a recent study showing that a small increase in female military personnel can more than halve abuse allegations. While commending the Organization’s efforts to increase gender equality, women in peace operations continue to face obstacles to fully reach their potential, including a lack of family-friendly policies, mechanisms to address their vulnerability when facing sexual harassment and exploitation, as well as adequate security and accommodation. To change this, resolution 2242 (2015) must be further implemented, the Secretary‑General should conduct research on country-specific barriers to women’s participation and developed nations should increase their support to the Elsie Initiative Fund to help to accelerate progress towards achieving hiring targets, he said, underlining a need for missions to abide by the principles of non‑interference into the internal affairs of States. For its part, Viet Nam strives towards recruiting more women peacekeepers.
OMAR CASTAÑEDA SOLARES (Guatemala) said that experience shows that women can make invaluable contributions to peacebuilding, particularly in local economic recovery, post-conflict planning and restoring governance. If women are not involved in drawing up national policies, societies will not move forward. Any action to ensure empowerment of women is a tool that increases the development of States. As a troop-contributing country, Guatemala has deployed over 300 women officers in United Nations peacekeeping operations, including in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and gives predeployment training on the protection, special needs and human rights of women and children.
FLOR DE LIS VASQUEZ MUÑOZ (Mexico), emphasizing that inequality and discrimination are exacerbated when women are absent from peace negotiations and processes, said the number of females in peacekeeping remains unacceptably low. Hopefully, the Secretary-General’s forthcoming strategy to address that issue will help. Since it resumed its participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations, Mexico has deployed nine women from its armed forces in Colombia, Western Sahara and Mali, thus achieving the 15 per cent target, and it intends to deploy more going forward, duly trained to United Nations standards.
RICHARD ARBEITER (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that “including women in United Nations peace operations is both the right and the smart thing to do”. The Group, a network of 57 interested Member States, applauds efforts undertaken by the Secretariat, notably the uniformed gender parity strategy. Efforts to reduce barriers to women’s participation, as well as developing institutional standards to promote their safety, are critical. All troop- and police-contributing countries should comprehensively review their criteria and procedures for deploying personnel to United Nations peace operations. This includes addressing persistent barriers facing women, such as recruitment, training, promotion initiatives, restrictions on occupations, access to development opportunities and intuitional challenges related to the structure of respective security services, as well as attitudinal constraints. “We simply cannot achieve success in United Nations peace operations without getting our own houses in order,” he said. To this end, national action plans and strategies on women, peace and security can serve as important tools to catalyse commitments.
Switching to his national capacity, he said Canada’s Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations seeks to change the status quo and accelerate progress. Canada and Norway are funding the creation of a barrier assessment methodology to gather the kind of empirical evidence that can help sharpen understanding of the systemic barriers confronting women peacekeepers. If elected for the 2021-2022 term on the Security Council, Canada will bring the approach of achieving the goals by continuing to listen and act.
MARI SKÅRE (Norway), speaking on behalf of Nordic countries, namely Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, said that Security Council mandates should be explicit about the need to deploy more women and ensure that they are represented in all categories of personnel. Mandates should also be explicit about the importance of ensuring the full participation of women in host communities in political processes. This is vital to the successful resolution of conflict and to enabling a successful transition from a peacekeeping presence to other forms of support. “As troop- and police-contributing countries, we all have a responsibility to deploy more women and to address barriers to women’s deployment, including through national action plans for the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security,” she said.
Training is key, both for increasing women’s participation and for enhancing all peacekeepers’ understanding of the gender perspective, she continued, adding that Member States should actively promote women to leadership positions. “This is important both to tap into the valuable resources that they represent, and to provide role models that can encourage more women to participate […] We are speaking from experience,” she added. The Nordic countries have provided women leaders to United Nations peacekeeping operations. Moreover, the establishment of different forms of women’s networks is a highly effective way of ensuring active outreach and enabling female peacekeepers to exchange experience.
KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that the recruitment of talented and motivated women is key to improving the performance of any organization, including United Nations peace operations. Troop- and police-contributing countries must ensure full and meaningful participation of women in their national military and police. One of Japan’s most notable achievements has been the lifting of all restrictions on women’s postings in the Self‑Defence Forces except in two units where maternal protection is required by law. “We have decided to allow women’s participation in infantry, reconnaissance, engineering, all types of aviation and even submarine units,” he added. This enables talented and motivated female personnel to pursue military careers. This significant policy change was driven by political leadership. “A holistic approach is important given that increasing women’s presence requires time and resources to implement solutions, from changing mindsets to building facilities for accommodation,” he emphasized.
MARIA ANGELA ZAPPIA (Italy), associating herself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, and noting that her nation is the leading troop-contributing country in the Western Group of Member States, said the Council must ensure that the gender perspective is always considered by addressing persistent barriers and challenges to the deployment of women. Italy’s experience in Lebanon and Afghanistan has shown that interaction between female peacekeepers and the local female population is fruitful and successful. She added that the creation of uniformed women’s networks will foster dialogue with women’s organizations in host countries while benefiting the female component of peacekeeping missions.
EENAM GAMBHIR (India) said her country’s landmark deployment in Liberia of the Organization’s first-ever female formed police unit served as a role model for local women to participate in policing and other aspects of the rule of law. This year, India 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, as well as an all-female formed police unit to United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). She added that, instead of supporting mixed-gender units as a means of increasing the overall number of women peacekeepers, the United Nations should incentivize troop- and police-contributing countries to deploy all-women units.
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece) said peacekeeping demands a higher degree of human sensitivity, diplomatic skills, cultural diversity and professional composure, making women sometimes better equipped to do the job. Achieving gender parity in peacekeeping missions, however, calls for further action to promote gender-positive training, facilities and human resources management, as well as increased protection against sexual harassment and gender-biased behaviours. Creating an operational environment for women in uniform that is free of gender bias and abuse should be a top consideration when allocating human and budgetary resources, she said, urging the Council to consistently follow up on the issue when discussing peacekeeping mandates.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said that, over the last five years, the number of female service personnel reached 10.6 per cent or about 25,000, with about 70 women in the rank of colonel serving in his country’s armed forces today. They have contributed much to peace operations in different hotspots around the world, and they even do so to protect their own land from foreign aggression in Donbas. Ukraine’s peacekeepers have upheld international peace and security by participating in United Nations missions, and it is time for the Organization to do the same by putting an end to the suffering of his country’s people, including through the possible deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission to resolve the Russian Federation-Ukraine conflict.
MARÍA BASSOLS DELGADO (Spain) said that her country is firmly committed to the agenda discussed today and is making progress. Together with the United Kingdom, Spain formed an informal group of experts to monitor implementation of gender policy on the ground. Spain is the third country in the world to adopt a national plan of action on women, peace and security. In her country, women started military careers in 1988, over 30 years ago. They are fully integrated into national armed forces and are considered equal to men in combat roles, as well. Spain participates in various initiatives, including capacity-building projects. Increasing the number of women in peace operations is not a question of quota or numbers, but a matter of their presence, participation and responsibility. She stressed the need to tear down social barriers to bring about a change and overcome inertia.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said his country’s national action plan incorporates emerging issues, trends and threats to peace and security. These include climate change, cybersecurity and trafficking in persons. The adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) has caused a shift towards awareness and a move to mainstreaming the involvement of women in areas related to peace and security. Several peacekeeping missions now have female police and military peacekeeper networks, and military and police gender advisers. Despite this, the representation of women among military troops and police officers remains unacceptably low, at 4 and 10 per cent, respectively. These numbers are at risk of further decreasing in the coming years through the imminent downsizing of several peacekeeping missions. Namibia’s police, correctional and military officers are currently deployed in three peacekeeping missions in Africa. In December 2018, Namibia also achieved the target of 15 per cent of women participating in peacekeeping missions.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia) said the modest increases seen in women’s participation are inadequate, and more must be done because at the current pace, it would take decades to reach levels outlined in resolution 2242 (2015). Slovakia has been an active troop- and police-contributing country, having served in 19 missions, and currently, servicewomen comprise nearly 12 per cent of its armed forces. In addition, a gender equality action plan aims at integrating the gender perspective into areas such as operation planning, education and training. In UNFICYP, Slovakia has already exceeded targets set in a uniformed gender parity strategy, with almost 10 per cent of military personnel and 80 per cent of police personnel being female. Resolution 2151 (2014) underscores the importance of women’s equal and effective participation and full involvement in security sector reform. As co-chair of the United Nations Group of Friends of Security Sector Reform, Slovakia participated in a meeting emphasizing that related efforts must be gender sensitive. United Nations peace operations — the most visible “face” of the Organization — must be representative of and responsive to the needs of both men and women, he said, calling for strengthening cooperation to accelerate progress towards reaching United Nations targets.
LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay) said his country has deployed military personnel to MONUSCO, with women undertaking efforts aimed at, among other things, tackling human rights operations. This experience confirms their unique capacities for interacting with local populations, particularly in situations involving women and children. Underlining the importance of developing national and global strategies, he commended the United Nations efforts to promote gender parity. Uruguay has taken a number of steps, including, with the United Kingdom, holding a preparatory meeting on issues pertaining to women, peace and security. At the domestic level, initiatives include adopting gender equality policies and increasing the number of female personnel in armed and police forces. Experience in missions also shows that empowering local women is a constructive step, as is providing personnel with proper predeployment training.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) said that despite gains, challenges remain in implementing resolutions, and efforts must continue to promote the role of women in peace and security at the national, regional and international level. Estonia has increased its level of ambition regarding female conscripts in the military, having tripled the number of women who can be called to serve. At the same time, all peacekeepers must be sensitized on gender aspects of operation, including thorough predeployment training and preventing and responding to conflict-related sexual violence. Indeed, gender advisers should be an integral part of all United Nations missions. Commending Canada for launching the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations, he said this kind of evidence-based approach can help all stakeholders to achieve the ambitious goals set at the United Nations.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that despite eight Council resolutions on women, peace and security, sexual abuse continues to be used as a tool of war. As one of the world’s leading troop-contributing countries, Pakistan has set the highest standards in fulfilling peacekeeping mandates, including the protection of vulnerable segments of the population and advocating the integration of the gender perspective into the peacebuilding paradigm. Citing accomplishments of Pakistan’s female peacekeepers and noting the recent achievement of reaching the 15-per cent benchmark for female participation in peacekeeping missions, she made several recommendations, including that their increased involvement helps in stabilization and reconstruction phases of conflicts. Incentivizing women’s participation merits serious consideration, including additional allowances, shorter rotation cycles, better-suited medical facilities and accommodations alongside improved communication with families they left behind to serve the cause of peace. National Governments must lead the way for improvements, with the international community providing support for these States. Commending the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, she said female peacekeepers must feel safe in their working environments.
GERTON VAN DEN AKKER, European Union delegation, pointed to UNFICYP — with women leading all its components, as well as a female Special Representative of the Secretary-General — as a concrete example of the United Nations efforts to advance women’s participation in peace operations. However, nearly 20 years since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), “we are still lagging behind” with the 15 per cent goal for female military observers and staff officers not met in 2018. The Union faces similar challenges, he said, with women composing 30 per cent of staff in its civilian missions and 5 per cent in its military missions and operations. While troop- and police-contributing countries bear primary responsibility to address barriers and improve deployment procedures, the bloc is working with the United Nations by, among other things, organizing a workshop in Brussels on engaging more women at all levels of peacekeeping and crisis management. Progress on women’s participation must go hand in hand with other aspects of the women, peace and security agenda, he added, with priority given to ensuring adequate financing, a minimum number of gender units and gender advisers for each mission, gender-sensitive training, the adoption of national action plans and the collection of data on the composition of all mission components.
FRANCISCO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal), associating himself with the European Union, said that progress has been achieved in the two decades since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000). Despite that, however, the world is still far from achieving the full and meaningful participation of female peacekeepers and a sufficient level of integration of a gender perspective in such operations. Portugal welcomes the new uniformed gender parity strategy, launched by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which sets out clear goals to advance female participation in peace operations. “Its timely implementation requires a strong synergy between the United Nations and Member States,” he added. Portugal remains interested in organizing training courses made up of 50 per cent men and 50 per cent women on capacity and leadership. He also highlighted that Portugal is, for the first time, deploying female soldiers to combat missions.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said that with more than 60 years of peacekeeping experience, her country knows the urgent need for increased female participation. Noting that the presence of women peacekeepers challenges traditional gender norms, she said it often means that local women find it easier to engage with peacekeepers, not least in preventing sexual exploitation and abuse. “That said, we recognize that our women peacekeepers are trained for the most dangerous of situations and it should not even be questioned that they are capable of performing the same tasks as their male colleagues,” she noted. While recognizing the persistence of inequality in peacekeeping – “you cannot just ‘add women and stir’” – she called for broader cultural shifts within security organizations. She went on to state that Ireland has implemented family-friendly policies, stressing that it will continue to advocate for the full value of women peacekeepers’ skills and training while ensuring that women peacekeepers are neither side-lined nor their work confined to so-called “women’s issues”.
FATIMA K. MOHAMMED, Permanent Observer for the African Union, pointed out that as of 31 December 2018, African States represented 18 of the top 30 contributors of uniformed personnel to peacekeeping operations. Almost 50 per cent of all uniformed peacekeepers come from African Union member States, she added. Despite the low global representation of women, the region has actually contributed 63.4 per cent of women in United Nations peacekeeping, she said, recalling that an African Union-United Nations fact-finding mission to several countries found that women who have been victims of war remain better engaged with female military and police than male officers. “If left unconsidered, this could negatively impact any reconciliation and peacebuilding process,” she warned.
She went on to say that the African Union continues to lead efforts to promote women’s leadership in conflict prevention, mediation and resolution, citing several initiatives such as “Femwise Africa”, a network of women engaged in mediation. These programmes are meant “to ensure women’s voices are heard and amplified”. The continent has adopted a code of conduct and a zero-tolerance policy that outlines the African Union’s position against sexual violence, exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers and military personnel, she said, noting that AMISOM already has a policy on sexual exploitation and abuse. The African Union has also redoubled efforts to combat stereotypes within peacekeeping missions, she added.
KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) stressed the need for transformative change across the United Nations in order to empower women as key catalysts and dynamic agents of change. “We have to work hard if we want to increase the number of women in military and police contingents by 2020,” he said, adding that they must be empowered not only in peacekeeping operations, but also in daily life through investment in development and education. Current statistics show that countries around the world deploy women to the United Nations at levels far lower than those reflecting women’s representation in domestic security forces, he noted, adding: “Many nations currently have women who are qualified to serve but are overlooked for training and field placement opportunities.” Pointing out the erroneous belief that the presence of women reduces cohesion due to the risk of sexual violence within units, he said that, in fact, it has been found that female peacekeepers improve unit performance. “To truly succeed, we need women’s empowerment in times of war and peace,” he stressed.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco), noting that his country worked hard to reach the 15 per cent target for representation of females in the military, said their increased participation has been proven to have a positive impact on peacekeeping and, moving forward, initiatives must seek their greater involvement. Incentives to increase women’s participation in peacekeeping operation could include shorter rotation periods, improved accommodation and enhanced gender-related training, he said. Today’s discussion also applies to prevention and mediation processes, he added, underlining that women should be involved in all areas. For its own part, Morocco has undertaken a joint initiative with Spain to strengthen the role of women mediators and to enhance their participation in various processes, he said.
ARIEL RODELAS PENARANDA (Philippines) said that 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 the India-Pakistan border, are women — well beyond the 15 per cent requirement for troop- and police-contributing countries. He also reviewed its progress since adopting a national action plan on women, peace and security, including efforts by the all-female “hijab troopers” to prevent violent extremism and promote reconciliation.
FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said the involvement of United Nations peacekeepers in sexual exploitation undermines the Organization’s credibility. The zero-tolerance policy should be strictly implemented and perpetrators punished until such disgraceful acts cease, he said, underscoring Turkey’s full support for the Secretary-General’s efforts in that regard. Emphasizing that the ultimate responsibility for advancing the women, peace and security agenda lies with individual countries, he said Turkey supports the empowerment and well-being of women and girls through its development assistance programmes, notably in Afghanistan and Somalia. Today’s debate indicates there remains room for serious improvement in getting women involved in conflict prevention and sustaining peace, he added.
BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said that in crisis situations, female leadership is often found in faith-based communities where women — because of their openness, religious formation, conviction and values — excel in dialogue, collaboration and non-violence. Such women engage in peacebuilding and the prevention of relapse into conflict, and their involvement normally brings large and lasting dividends. It is important not to overlook such a valuable contribution of civil society, but rather to seek ways to harness such efforts, he said, especially in those regions where religion has been manipulated to incite division or to prevent peace processes from taking root.
SATYENDRA PRASAD (Fiji), highlighting the critical roles of women in times of both peace and conflict, said they bear the brunt when development and political institutions fail, leaving them to seek out livelihoods and access to health care while pitching in when services collapse. The Secretary-General’s determination to bring peacebuilding, peacekeeping and development closer together is best reflected by realities on the ground, in which conflict over food, water and health services are weaponized long before guns and violence are unleashed, he noted. Because female peacekeepers are better at recognizing the slow weaponization of resources, they must be fully involved in peace processes and in the political settlement of conflict, he said, emphasizing that peace settlements are more likely to collapse when they are not. In addition to providing relevant predeployment training, Fiji’s experience demonstrates that women peacekeepers are better at defusing tensions at checkpoints, he said, adding that they are also far better at understanding the hidden dimensions of conflict and identifying signs of systematic sexual violence. Noting that women currently make up 21 per cent of staff officers in United Nations peace operations, he said 9.1 per cent of them are deployed in military contingents and 51 per cent as individual police officers, adding that more must be done to make further gains.
NOA FURMAN (Israel) said that, when women are on the front line of peacekeeping operations and participate in peacebuilding, they function as a catalyst of trust and cooperation, thus enhancing the United Nations ability to fulfil its peace and security mandates. Since the establishment of her State, women have been an integral part of the Israel Defense Forces. Citing the achievements of military pioneers, she said that, today, more than 85 per cent of positions in the armed forces are open to women and more than 30 per cent of officers are female. Commending gains to improve women’s participation in United Nations peacekeeping, she said more must be done to address an essential component that is missing — the adjustment of the environment and facilities in missions. “If we want more women to serve in the field, we must create an inclusive environment by ensuring their safety within the United Nations compounds and providing them with the facilities and services necessary,” she said, pointing out examples such as on-base women’s health services and accommodations for families. “The United Nations will only be able to reach its full potential when both halves of the world’s population are involved and contributing.”
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) said his country adopted a national action plan in February to streamline implementation of resolution 1325 (2000). The document prioritizes enhancement of training and career development possibilities for women and aims to increase their participation in peacekeeping activities. The involvement of women in peacekeeping missions is among the priorities of reforms implemented by the armed forces of Armenia. His country has already deployed women peacekeepers to United Nations and United Nations-mandated peacekeeping operations. More women will soon be deployed to United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to ensure compliance with the 15 per cent target set by the Organization. He also spotlighted the role of civil society organizations in empowering females, noting that women have been instrumental in humanitarian demining missions in the conflict‑affected areas of Nagorno-Karabakh.
GEORG SPARBER (Liechtenstein) said women’s representation in peacekeeping contingents must be increased rapidly. Their participation in the security sector is associated with fewer misconduct complaints and improved citizens’ perceptions of force integrity. They also help mainstream a gender perspective throughout a mission, disrupt harmful gender stereotypes, gain access to women in conflict and serve as role models. While supporting the measures laid out in the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy, he said more consistent mission mandates are needed on issues pertaining to women, peace and security. In particular, he said missions should better incorporate gender advisers into their work and provide them with all necessary resources to carry out their functions.
ION JINGA (Romania), associating himself with the European Union, stressed the need for more women in command positions. Ensuring equal participation of women in peacekeeping, particularly at the decision-making level, is critical to securing the capacity of Blue Helmets to deliver on their mandates. Expressing support for the Elsie Initiative and the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, he said Romania is increasing the number of security personnel trained to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence. It is also supporting the Office of the Special Coordinator on improving the United Nations response to sexual exploitation and abuse with an expert in military law.
HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that the grouping provides 86 per cent of all peacekeeping troops. Emphasizing that peacekeeping operations must be deployed in full compliance with principles laid out in the Charter of the United Nations, he said that respect for these principles is crucial “if we are to ensure success of these operations”. Tasks entrusted to peacekeeping operations must be implemented in accordance with parallel political processes that enjoy international support, he said, while stressing that peacekeeping operations must not be used to address the root causes of conflict.
He went on to underline the essential importance of collective action in seeking to improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations, expressing support for the initiatives laid out in the Cairo Road Map. The Movement remains committed to increasing the number of women security personnel in peacekeeping operations, he reiterated, saying women must be included in all stages of peace processes. The Movement pays tribute to both men and women peacekeeping personnel who continue to work in very difficult circumstances and to put their lives at risk defending the United Nations flag, he added.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), noting the gradual increase in the number of his country’s female peacekeepers, said it currently has more than 1,600, including two full contingents of all-female formed police units. Indeed, women peacekeepers can play a very effective role in winning the hearts and minds of communities in which they work, he noted. While working towards greater female participation, efforts must be made to ensure their inclusion at all levels, he said. Bangladesh is in the process of drafting a national action plan on women, peace and security, and has lifted all prohibitions against women joining combat forces, he added. In addition, predeployment training includes a component on addressing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers. Going forward, Member States could bring new ideas and proposals to the Security Council so as to provide further incentives for female peacekeepers, he suggested, citing adequate facilities, a six-month rotation cycle and childcare support at home.
ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) said his country has extended the implementation period of its national action plan so it can continue its advance towards fulfilling the goals of resolution 1325 (2000). “Brazil’s commitment to increase the presence of uniformed women in peacekeeping is a long-term project,” he added. In 2017, the Brazilian Army Academy admitted, for the first time, 34 women to train for combat careers, he recalled, saying Brazil remains committed to increasing the number of women officers in the military and police. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sought to increase awareness among women of opportunities available in United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions, he said, adding that it also seeks to ensure women are adequately represented in matters relating to international peace and security. “While we recognize the positive results, we must acknowledge that the challenges ahead are several and significant,” he stressed.
SOVANN KE (Cambodia) said that increasing women’s representation in peacekeeping can help reduce the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, improve policing on the ground, contribute to intelligence gathering and improve dispute settlement among local populations. Cambodia now has 42 uniformed women deployed in four United Nations peacekeeping operations and the Government is determined to gradually increase that number. He emphasized the need for financial and technical assistance to promote gender parity, as well as the importance of English language training to enable female peacekeepers to effectively communicate.
MILICA PEJANOVIĆ‑ĐURIŠIĆ (Montenegro), associating herself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security and the European Union, said that in many countries, including her own, women are not adequately involved in the armed forces, particularly at the command and decision-making levels. By actively promoting women’s participation in foreign military academies, the number of females in once typically male-held positions has increased. “We now have a woman pilot, commander of navigational ship squad … as well as a deputy commander of the Air Force operational centre,” she added. At the regional level, Montenegro participates in strengthening cooperation to integrate the gender perspective into the security sector. Women’s participation and career advancement is important for more efficient and responsible armed forces, while their participation in peacekeeping missions contributes to ensuring that peace processes are effective.
AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal), noting that his country has met United Nations targets for the participation of female staff officers, military observers and police officers in peacekeeping operations, said troop- and police-contributing countries should be supported with capacity-building, with special emphasis on the deployment of female peacekeepers. The safety, security and dignity of female peacekeepers should be adequately ensured, alongside an encouraging working environment and shorter deployment periods. Partnerships with civil society, regional organizations and local communities should also be ensured to incorporate gender perspectives in peace operations, he said.
TAYE ATSKESELASSIE AMDE (Ethiopia) said that 800 women peacekeepers from his country have been deployed to United Nations peacekeeping missions. Although Ethiopia is a leading contributor of peacekeepers, it also recognizes that much remains to be done, he said. “We absolutely agree with the views that underscore that long-term peace and stability will be achieved when the international community is able to make sure women enjoy equal opportunities.” Ethiopia is working for gender parity within its uniformed personnel, a policy that aligns with the United Nations Gender Parity Strategy, he noted. Highlighting the growing risk of violence against women, threats to their physical safety and their exposure to sexual abuse in conflict situations, he emphasized that they must be addressed with the utmost urgency. He went on to stress that the cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations is instrumental to integrating a regional approach to implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.
LAZURUS AMAYO (Kenya) said that despite progress, women’s deployment and effectiveness in peacekeeping still face many challenges. The ability of female peacekeepers to “make a difference” is sometimes limited by their small numbers, a lack of training on gender-related challenges facing local women, lack of language skills and little understanding of local cultures, as well as other social and cultural barriers. Noting that female peacekeepers are more effective where they are familiar with gender-related challenges and can speak the local language, he cited operations in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Swahili 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. The deployment of women is also affected by communities who view the “profession of arms” as one for men only, he said, suggesting that Governments “fast track” gender mainstreaming in national security organizations. He added that mission-specific training on gender-related issues is essential, and that certain factors – including shorter deployment periods – should be considered before the decision is made to deploy female peacekeepers. He went on to point out that women make up 19 per cent of Kenyans deployed on peacekeeping duty, which surpasses the 15 per cent United Nations target.
ABDOULAYE BARRO (Senegal) said the success of the Secretary-General’s initiative depends on the full involvement of Member States and on dialogue between the Secretariat on the one hand and troop- and police-contributing countries on the other. Noting that the integration of women into Senegal’s defence and security forces is relatively new, he emphasized the need to take their specific needs into account; for instance, in determining the duration of their peacekeeping tours. He went on to propose the introduction of financial incentives to lift the number of female peacekeepers, while underlining the urgent need to combat sexual exploitation and abuse.
LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) underscored his country’s political commitment to increasing the number and presence of women peacekeepers and observers. Besides economic and political empowerment, Ecuador is striving to put women on an equal footing with men in all spheres, he emphasized. That includes ensuring decent work for women, giving them a voice in decision-making and reducing gaps in pay. Ecuador is also on a crusade against discrimination and violence against women, he said, pointing out that women now make up 2.11 per cent of Ecuador’s armed forces. The Government also seeks to increase their numbers within the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), he added.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador) said that women play a crucial role in peacekeeping, including through strengthening the defence of human rights, as they bring different perspectives and priorities to the table in peace negotiations. However, more must be done to ensure that they fully participate in all such processes and to further the cause of gender equality. For its part, El Salvador currently has 287 women in its armed forces and contributes to seven United Nations peacekeeping missions. Despite this progress, greater efforts are needed at the national level to meet the United Nations targets because “it is the right thing to do”. Welcoming the Elsie Initiative, he said this tool can expedite related efforts. However, more analysis for female peacekeepers is needed to shed light on the barriers to increasing women’s participation. For instance, women with families must be able to serve as peacekeepers, just as men do, he said, expressing support for the Secretary-General’s gender parity strategy.
GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said women comprise half the world’s population, suffer disproportionately in conflict and have in-depth knowledge of local contexts and community needs, and yet they only make up 4 per cent of military and 10 per cent of police personnel in United Nations peace operations. This reality compromises efforts to engage with local communities, limits situational awareness and inhibits the protection mandate of missions. Commending the Elsie Initiative and other such efforts including UNFICYP becoming the first ever peacekeeping operation to be led by a female Special Representative, Force Commander and Senior Police Adviser, she regretted to note that while the latter marks a milestone, “to take 70 years to achieve this is far too long”. Few women are deployed to United Nations missions because they are underrepresented in security forces worldwide. While Member States are working to increase the “number” of women in their armed forces, a cultural and organizational change must also take place to remove gender restrictions on all occupations, introduce flexible employment options and reduce stereotyping and sexual harassment. For its part, Australia has exceeded the targets for female uniformed personnel, provides gender advisers to peacekeeping missions and funds the participation of female peacekeepers at United Nations training courses. Evidence shows that men and women serve better together, and the United Nations must lead by example.
BACHIR SALEH AZZAM (Lebanon), acknowledging the importance of peacekeeping for international security, expressed support for initiatives aimed at improving operations, including those that recognize the role women can play. Highlighting the gap in women’s representation in mission personnel, he said efforts must work towards gender parity, which would be a victory for peacekeeping. Strengthening the role of women means enhancing the mission itself, as their presence improves and deepens relations with local communities. Voicing appreciation for UNIFIL and its contributing countries, he said the mission recently created a support team that handles communications with local communities and is making strides in strengthening cooperation on the ground among the population, Lebanon’s armed forces and mission personnel. Underlining the important role women play, he said working towards gender parity among personnel translates into a long-term investment for strengthening peacekeeping.
MOHAMED OMAR MOHAMED GAD (Egypt), highlighting the role of the Cairo road map on the international issue of women and peacekeeping, said the international community must guarantee that the Secretariat consider a study on trends and factors affecting women’s full and meaningful participation in peacekeeping missions. Member States and the Secretariat should also consider targeted training support for females in uniformed components, encourage innovative partnerships such as the Elsie Initiative and adopt concrete strategies to support the increased deployment of uniformed women in military and police roles, including leadership positions.