In post-conflict societies, security systems and women are often at odds. Police and military may have acted as perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence during and after conflict. Displaced and refugee women are particularly at risk with the erosion of social, cultural and formal legal protection mechanisms. Consider, for example, the recent HRW report
from Kenya, which identified abuses committed by local camp police. Haiti also provides a compelling example. Last year my colleagues found that there was little attention paid to SGBV in camps by the security authorities and called for improved partnerships
between camp committees and camp security committees, which would link them with the UN police (UNPOL) and the Haitian National Police.
Last week, I attended an event at the Department of State on the topic of women in Security Sector Reform, featuring Ms. Seema Dhundia, commander for the first all-female Formed Police Unit in the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The topic is important to me – having worked for UNMIL and seeing first-hand the impact that the all-Indian police battalion has on the local population (specifically, improving the security of a complicated post-conflict environment). The event also served as a reminder that international and national bodies have a long way to go to fully address the need for more women within security sector institutions, including the US Government (USG).
One approach for addressing gender concerns within the overarching security issues is to bring more women into emerging national systems and international systems. As a country’s national police and military institutions evolve to include more women, they gain credibility. In post-conflict Liberia, the National Police Force is now is comprised of nearly 20% women (as the result of both the presence of women peacekeepers, as well as formal national policy on recruitment). Higher gender integration of institutions has lead to enhanced transparency decreased rates of corruption, and more positive interaction with communities. Hopefully this will go on to improve overall national stability in the transition to peace.
It’s a complicated task. In conservative societies, women who join traditionally all-male institutions face social stigmas and resistance. In Liberia, policy changes (including the National Action Plan (NAP) on UNSCR 1325
) helped to push security sector institutions forward in spite of community or cultural resistance by requiring women’s inclusion in those institutions and calling for novel recruitment programs. Liberia’s West Africa neighbor- Côte d’Ivoire’s used its NAP
to call for integration of gender into all aspects of peacetime community structures— including the national police. Policy inclusion is the first step in the right direction and sets a priority for an all of government response to address the needs of women and girls throughout all of its work.
At the moment, the USG is in the process of developing its own National Action Plan on women, peace and security— a document that will have widespread relevance for women in security institutions abroad as well as in the United States. The NAP must closely examine the specific needs of women and girls within national security policy, border control, Congressional oversight on security sector spending, justice and defense structures and, finally, the evaluation of progress of development and diplomacy work abroad. Partnerships, such as the Department of State’s work alongside Indian women peacekeepers, are significant in bringing together experts and civil society in a dialogue around this policy development process. But the conversation must advance towards meaningful policy on Security Sector Reform that is actionable.
Here at RI, we will continue to support this process. Check back next week for my post from the Citizens for Global Solutions
roundtable on U.S. Leadership in International Peacekeeping , where I will be speaking on the impact of a gender-balanced UN Department of Peacekeeping.
September 20, 2011
| Tagged as: Africa, Liberia, Protection & Security, Women & Children