What's In Blue

Women in Peacekeeping Operations: Adoption of a Resolution

Tomorrow afternoon (28 August), the Security Council president (Indonesia) is expected to announce the result of the voting on a draft resolution on women in peacekeeping operations, initiated by Indonesia.


Peacekeeping is one of Indonesia’s priorities during its 2019-2020 term on the Council. When it held its first presidency in 2019, Indonesia organised a high-level open debate on 7 May titled “Investing in Peace: Delivering Quality Training and Capacity Building to Improve Safety and Security and Performance of UN Peacekeepers”. Retno L. P. Marsudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, emphasised the importance of making “peacekeeping more conducive to the inclusion of female peacekeepers” in her speech. Indonesia also initiated a presidential statement, adopted as S/PRST/2019/4, at that same meeting.

According to the Department of Peace Operations (DPO), as of 30 June, Indonesia was the ninth biggest contributor out of the 120 troop-contributing countries (including police, staff officers, UN military experts on mission, and troops) to UN peacekeeping. Its 2840 troops, 158 of them female, make it the biggest overall troop contributor in the Council at present. Out of the permanent members of the Council, China places tenth (2534 troops, 85 of them female), France places 31st (683 troops, 65 of them female), the UK places 48th (271 troops, 27 of them female), Russia places 73rd (69 troops, 9 of them female) and the US places 85th (29 troops, 3 of them female). Out of the non-permanent members of the Council, South Africa places 17th (1145 troops, 186 of them female); Niger places 21st (972 troops, 48 of them female); Germany places 36th (512 troops, 35 of them female); Tunisia places 62nd (162 troops, 14 of them female); Viet Nam places 71st (73 troops, 12 of them female); Belgium places 75th (39 troops, 7 of them female); Estonia places 105th (8 troops, one of them female); and the Dominican Republic places 108th (5 troops, 2 of them female).

Although Germany convened an open debate on women in peacekeeping during its April 2019 Council presidency, this will be the first resolution focused on this issue, combining elements of the peacekeeping agenda and the women, peace and security agenda.

Draft Resolution and Negotiations

It seems that the first draft of the resolution was circulated by Indonesia on 3 August and the first meeting of Council members on the draft took place on 7 August. Two more meetings took place, and on 23 August, Indonesia put the third revised version of the draft resolution under silence until 25 August. Silence was broken by Russia. An amended version of the draft resolution was placed under silence by Indonesia on the same day until 26 August. Silence was not broken, the draft resolution was put in blue and voting started this morning. The draft resolution is open for co-sponsorship by the wider UN membership.

It appears that there was no opposition by any Council member to having a resolution on women in peacekeeping operations and a unanimous adoption is expected. However, it also seems that some Council members, as well as stakeholders outside of the Council, questioned the value added by a resolution on the matter, arguing that the existing normative framework is sufficient and that its implementation should be prioritised. Another concern was that outlining detailed tasks in a resolution to be taken up by the UN Secretariat and member states would open the peacekeeping and women, peace and security agendas up for potentially difficult discussion. The negotiations on presidential statement S/PRST/2019/4 in May 2019 on peacekeeping training and capacity-building were difficult, and the draft proposed by Indonesia had to be significantly shortened in order to achieve consensus, which is required for the adoption of a presidential statement. The parts taken out included language on women, peace and security. Similar dynamics have taken place around these issues in the General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.

In its preambular part, the draft in blue references the Secretary-General’s “Action for Peacekeeping” declaration with which the endorsing states, inter-alia, committed “to implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda […] by ensuring full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all stages of the peace process and by systematically integrating a gender perspective into all stages of analysis, planning, implementation and reporting.” The Council further recommitted “to increasing the number of civilian and uniformed women in peacekeeping at all levels and in key positions.”

The draft also recalls resolution 2242 of 13 October 2015 which called “upon 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”. It stresses “the need to continue the efforts to increase participation of women in peacekeeping operations”. In that regard, the draft welcomes efforts by member states and the UN, emphasises that work is still required by all member states and the UN secretariat and “should be supported with appropriate resources”.

The operative part of the draft resolution outlines several ways member states can promote the increased participation of women in peacekeeping. Among them are: deploying female personnel, making available training and information about opportunities for female troops, creating databases of female troops, identifying any barriers women might be facing and addressing them, and providing incentives for women to deploy.

The draft resolution also encourages greater cooperation among states, the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations as well as networking opportunities among female peacekeepers. It “urges peacekeeping operations to promote full, effective and meaningful participation of women in all components and functions and at all levels at headquarters and in the field […] and increased involvement of women peacekeepers in components and functions where they are underrepresented”.

It appears that there were concerns by a number of Council members, including the like-minded European countries and the Dominican Republic, that some of the language proposed in the zero draft perpetuated stereotypes about women in general and female peacekeepers in particular. That language—which was ultimately revised in later drafts—referred to female peacekeeper’s indispensable role, “including by building trust with local population through community engagement, providing better protection response, particularly for women and children”. Members critical of that language argued that these were the responsibilities of all peacekeepers, male and female, and might strengthen the perception that female peacekeepers are better at “soft” issues and should primarily be deployed in such capacities. They further argued that these responsibilities should not be conflated with the tasks assigned to women’s protection advisers or gender advisers. The draft in blue addresses these concerns. The Council recognises “the indispensable role of women in increasing the overall performance and effectiveness of peacekeeping operations, further recognising that the presence of women and better balance between men and women among peacekeepers contribute to, among others, greater credibility of the missions among the population, more effective community engagement, and enhanced protection responses.”

Some discussion seems to have taken place regarding the Secretary-General’s “System-Wide Strategy on Gender Parity” as well as his “Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy 2018-2028”. It appears that Russia, supported by China, restated its position that documents that were not agreed upon by member states should not be referenced. Other Council members argued that the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy 2018-2028 had been requested by the Council in resolution 2242. The draft in blue mentions both strategies in the preambular and operative parts.

It seems that some members, including China, cautioned against language that was too prescriptive regarding member states’ actions on a national level, arguing the Council was not the place for this. This resulted in compromise formulations such as the encouragement for states to “consider[ing] ways, as appropriate, to increase the participation of women in national militaries and police.”

Some members seemed to have argued that the Council should also avoid directing too many requests to the UN Secretariat on issues such as the training of troops, arguing that these are first and foremost the responsibility of member states.

The zero draft of the resolution had requested that the Secretary-General report on the implementation of the resolution and related aspects. Russia, supported by China, opposed this formulation, maintaining that this might be interpreted as requesting a separate report from the Secretary-General. Indonesia accommodated this concern, and the draft in blue now requests the Secretary-General to integrate such information into his annual comprehensive reporting on peacekeeping to the Council. This appears to have been acceptable to all Council members.

A paragraph in the zero draft of the resolution referenced the problem of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by peacekeepers. Some Council members were of the opinion that such a reference in a resolution on women in peacekeeping operations was not appropriate, as the issue of SEA refers to crimes committed by male peacekeepers against local populations. The final draft therefore does not contain language on SEA.

When Russia broke silence, it had two main concerns. Throughout the negotiations, it had argued—and was initially supported by China—in favour of adding qualifiers in places where the draft referred to an increase of women in leadership positions. For example, one paragraph requesting an increase in female representation in middle management and senior leadership by the Secretary-General had in different versions of the draft included language on merit-based recruitment and geographical representation. The draft under silence did not include these qualifiers and Russia requested it to be reinserted. In a sentence in the same paragraph encouraging member states to nominate women for leadership positions, Russia suggested adding that the women had to be “qualified”. Other members were critical of that suggestion, arguing that such language is not used when referring to male peacekeepers, asking for it to be taken out. In the end, Indonesia chose to delete the entire paragraph. However, language supporting an increase of female peacekeepers in senior leadership positions can be found in several paragraphs both in the preambular and operative parts of the draft resolution in blue.

The other addition proposed by Russia was in a paragraph addressing sexual harassment in peacekeeping operations. Regarding a request to address and prevent it directed at the Secretary-General, Russia suggested adding “in close cooperation with member states and relevant UN intergovernmental bodies.” Some members did not agree to that formulation. In an effort to accommodate the different positions, Indonesia changed the phrase to “in close cooperation and consultation with Member States”.

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