Women in Peacekeeping
Expected Council Action
In April, there will be an open debate on women in peacekeeping. Secretary-General António Guterres and a civil society representative may brief.
Background and Key Recent Developments
There is widespread recognition of the importance of increasing women’s participation in peacekeeping operations and integrating gender perspectives into the work of these operations. In 2017, Canada launched the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peacekeeping to work with interested member states to foster the meaningful involvement of women in peace operations through funding and technical assistance. A contact group supporting this initiative consists of Canada, Argentina, France, the Netherlands, Ghana, Norway, Senegal, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, Sweden, the UK and Uruguay.
At a high-level meeting on his Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative on 25 September 2018 on the margins of the General Assembly, Guterres told member states that active steps were being pursued to enhance the role of women in peacekeeping, noting that “more women in peacekeeping means more effective peacekeeping.” The Secretary-General reiterated this point in his statement at the Council’s “strengthening of peacekeeping operations in Africa” debate on 20 November 2018. Similarly, the A4P Declaration of Shared Commitments, agreed to by 151 member states, recommits its supporters to “increasing the number of civilian and uniformed women in peacekeeping at all levels and in key positions” and to “integrating a gender perspective into all stages of analysis, planning, implementation and reporting.”
The Security Council has also pronounced itself on the importance of women’s participation in peacekeeping operations. Notable in this regard was the adoption of resolution 2242 in October 2015. The resolution urged the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Political Affairs “to ensure the necessary gender analysis and technical gender expertise” throughout the life-cycle of missions. It further “welcome[d] the Secretary-General’s commitment to prioritize the appointment of more women in senior United Nations leadership positions”, as well as “efforts to incentivize greater numbers of women in militaries and police deployed to United Nations peacekeeping operations”. In this regard, it called on the Secretary-General “to initiate, in collaboration with Member States, a revised strategy, within existing resources, to double the numbers of women in military and police contingents of UN peacekeeping operations over the next five years”. There is a dearth of women in UN peace operations; in October 2017, women constituted 28.3 percent of international staff serving in peace operations.
When the Council adopted resolution 2436 on peacekeeping performance in September 2018, the revised strategy for increasing women in peacekeeping operations had not been completed. Recalling resolution 2242, the peacekeeping performance resolution set a deadline of March 2019 for this strategy to be presented to the Council and requested that it ensure “the full, effective and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of peacekeeping”. This strategy has recently been completed, and its key findings might be presented to the Council prior to or during the open debate.
Key Issues and Options
The key issue is what the Council can do to encourage the increased participation of women in peacekeeping operations, including in specific roles and contexts. In this regard, the debate could provide an opportunity to consider what obstacles exist at the national and regional levels to increasing women’s participation in peacekeeping and how these could be best addressed. Once the strategy is presented, an option for the Council would be to request regular updates on its implementation. To keep the momentum, a further option would be to ask UN Women and the Department of Peace Operations to brief the Council on ways in which increasing female participation in peace operations enhances their effectiveness. Another option would be for the Council to pursue a presidential statement or resolution that encourages member states to increase their contribution of female peacekeepers and support the Secretariat’s efforts to recruit more women to serve in peacekeeping operations, including in leadership positions.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The open debate on women in peacekeeping is one of the key events of Germany’s presidency. The other open debate Germany is hosting in April is on sexual violence in conflict. The themes of these debates are consistent with one of the priorities that France and Germany outlined for their “joint presidencies” for March and April: the role of women in conflict situations, including their protection and their empowerment.
The importance of women’s participation in peacekeeping operations is highlighted by a wide range of member states both on and off the Council. These members recognise that women play a key role in integrating gender perspectives in peacekeeping operations, which enhances their effectiveness. During the Council’s most recent thematic debate on peacekeeping on 20 November 2018, which focused on strengthening peacekeeping operations in Africa, several member states—for example, Canada, Djibouti, Estonia, Namibia, Nigeria, Norway (speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries), Peru, and the Philippines—noted the importance of women’s participation in peacekeeping operations. However, in spite of broad support for increasing the percentage of women in peacekeeping, some member states have concerns that they may have difficulty meeting goals set by the revised strategy, given the composition of their armed forces.
UN DOCUMENTS ON WOMEN IN PEACEKEEPING
|Security Council Resolutions
|21 September 2018S/RES/2436
|This was a resolution on peacekeeping performance.
|29 March 2019
|Security Council Meeting Records
|20 November 2018S/PV.8407
|This was the open debate on strengthening peacekeeping operations in Africa, where Secretary-General António Guterres and Smaïl Chergui, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, briefed the Council.