More Women in Peacekeeping Improves Protection Responses, Secretary-General Tells Security Council, Highlighting Successes, Challenges of Gender Equality Strategy

SG/SM/19542-SC/13774-PKO/778
11 April 2019

More Women in Peacekeeping Improves Protection Responses, Secretary-General Tells Security Council, Highlighting Successes, Challenges of Gender Equality Strategy

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council meeting on women in peacekeeping, in New York today:

I welcome this debate on women in peacekeeping as we strive for progress on a key element in the maintenance of international peace and security.

With the launch of the Strategy on Gender Parity in 2017, the United Nations has embarked on an ambitious and essential system-wide effort to enhance women’s representation at all levels and in all arenas.

A key priority is to increase the number of women in peacekeeping — both civilian and uniformed, which is where we need the most improvement.  This is not just a question of numbers — but also of our effectiveness in fulfilling our mandates.

Evidence shows that greater numbers of women peacekeepers leads to protection responses that are more credible and 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, accessing critical intelligence and providing a more holistic view of the security challenges.

The presence of women at checkpoints has been credited with promoting a less confrontational atmosphere, and more women in troop contingents is credited with higher reporting of sexual and gender-based violence and lower incidences of sexual exploitation and abuse.  Equally, access to women’s networks can enable female peacekeepers to consult with a broader section of the population who may have very different requirements and perspectives on sustainable peace.

This lays the ground for another shared goal — more representative and inclusive peace processes.

As we approach the twentieth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, we need to do far more to ensure that women’s rights, women’s voices and women’s participation are at the centre of peacekeeping decision-making.  This is central to sustainable solutions in all the contexts in which we work.

Through resolution 2242 on women peace and security, adopted in 2015, this Council called on us to double the numbers of women in military and police components of United Nations peacekeeping operations by 2020, and to review the barriers to their recruitment and advancement.  We are pressing forward on these goals.

The Action for Peacekeeping initiative calls for the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all stages of peace processes, as well as the integration of a gender perspective into all stages of analysis, planning, implementation and reporting.  I thank the more than 150 Member States who have signed on to this commitment.

I also thank those Member States who launched the Elsie Initiative at last week’s Ministerial on Peacekeeping to overcome barriers to increasing women’s meaningful participation in peace operations.

Action for Peacekeeping builds on the United Nations numerous policies and strategies aimed at strengthening performance, accountability and the implementation of women, peace and security mandates.

In support of our commitments in these areas, we have undertaken a range of actions to support and promote women’s involvement in our operations.  Last year, we launched the Gender-Responsive Peacekeeping Operations Policy, which commits us to promoting leadership and accountability both for gender equality and for the women, peace and security agenda.  For civilian personnel, each field mission has developed its own gender‑parity strategies, and our leadership in the field is over 40 per cent female.

I have also established a working group on emergency measures for gender parity in peace operations, to tackle some of the specific challenges we have identified in recruiting and retaining women in field environments, including in our rules and regulations.  These include addressing conditions in missions to include more suitable accommodation, facilities, lighting and health facilities.

We must also strive to ensure that the rosters from which we recruit are gender-balanced and that the gains we have secured in recruitment in recent years are not eroded during the downsizing of missions.  A set of proposals was already presented to the General Assembly, to the Fifth Committee.

This year, we rolled out the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy.  The Strategy builds on the commitment established in resolution 2242 (2015) and goes further, calling for more than just a doubling of numbers.

Targets for women’s representation range from 15 per cent to 35 per cent by 2028, inclusive of military, police and justice and corrections personnel.  The achievement of these targets will represent a significant step towards parity.  Since December 2015, the number of women in uniform has increased by approximately 1 per cent.  This is clearly not enough.  But, there are some notable gains on which we can build.

The number of women staff officers and military observers has almost doubled since the first Peacekeeping Ministerial in November 2017, with women now representing more than 13 per cent of deployed personnel.  Also, since that first Ministerial, 27 countries which had previously not deployed any women at all now do so.  And 30 more countries have deployed more than 15 per cent women military observers and staff officers, bringing the total number of countries to 48.

Among police personnel, the representation of women has increased by 300 — more than 3 per cent — since the 2017 Ministerial.  Now, 9 per cent of personnel in formed police units are women.  Furthermore, the number of female heads of United Nations police components in the field has increased, including in Abyei, Cyprus, Darfur and South Sudan.  Our Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy also sets targets for uniformed corrections and justice officers in the field.

However, this area has been more challenging.  We in the Secretariat will continue to press ahead in all these areas.  But, to keep on track, we need assistance from you, the Member States.  First, through the increased nomination of women officers, and second, a greater focus on women in battalions and formed police units.  I also appeal to you, and to your capitals, to do your utmost to meet the targets in the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy, not only through pledges, but more importantly through the sustained recruitment and deployment of women within your national services.

I am pleased that we are very close to gender parity in the senior leadership of the United Nations for the first time in the history of the Organization, and well ahead of my 2021 commitment.  But, this is an area where I can decide alone.

I am committed to sustaining this progress, which makes clear that what is needed ultimately is political will and persistence.  We need to bring the same spirit to our peace operations.  This is crucial for our effectiveness, credibility and reputation.

We count on your sustained support and we thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.