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"Send me your female troops, your police, your civilian personnel and your senior diplomats and I will ensure that they are all considered; that qualified candidates are rostered; and that the maximum number is deployed to the field as quickly as humanly possible," was a call from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2008,and continues to have important implications for the United States, whose comparative surplus of qualified women staff would be an excellent resource for peacekeeping missions.
Thus, in conjunction with my blog from last week, about the national need for improved numbers of women in the security sector, I would like to address this week, based on my presentation at the Partnership for Effective Peacekeeping and Citizens for Global Solutions forum on U.S. Leadership in International Peacekeeping, the global perspective for improved inclusion of women in the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), specifically through the United States contribution of military personnel.
The good news is, through looking at their impact on physical security, the primary goal of Peacekeeping Operations, we are finally having evidence-based discussions on the operational impact of women as peacekeepers (a recent study out of Norway makes an excellent follow-up: read full report). So far we have found evidence to illustrate a substantive impact for women peacekeepers in:
• Improving inclusivity of intelligence gathering through a community based perspective;
• Providing additional attention and resources for both prevention and response to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV);
• Enforcing a zero tolerance for Sexual Abuse and Exploitation;
• Introducing a stronger role of women in the emerging national Security Sector;
• Serving as role models for women and girls from the community interested in security careers.
Furthermore, consider also the Women and Children Protection Centers, created by the women peacekeepers in UNAMID, as additional evidence of their quantitative impact. Not only did they provide attention for women who were victims of SGBV, but also training and capacity building for local police women to carry out the mandate of protection long after the mission completed. For more examples, see the UNPOL network on the Women Peacekeepers' page.
In light of these successes, the UN has launched programs, such as the Global Initiative, as a ‘pull’ for more qualified women personnel. Unfortunately, the number of women in peacekeeping missions remains low, ultimately reflecting the sparse number of women in the military and police forces across Troop and Police Contributing Countries (TCCs and PCCs), including the United States. There are currently about 100 Americans serving DPKO, with women comprising less than 10 percent .
With that statistic in mind, how can we begin to ensure that these skills reach the global effort? I believe the forthcoming United States National Action Plan (NAP)on Women Peace and Security is a key inception point for change. We can see examples of how including a preference for women peacekeepers has made an impact in other countries; for instance in 2009, Chile’s NAP focused almost exclusively on the participation of women in the armed forces, putting particular emphasis on the role of Chilean troops in peace support operations. As a result, Chile increased its numbers of women in peacekeeping operations.
Here in the US we have strong, qualified women personnel, who have served in military, police and civilian responses to humanitarian crises, with great professionalism. From Army Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan, to civilian women working to implement USAID’s work against SGBV in the Congo, it is evident our civilian and military female personnel have a wide range of impressive skills and experiences. The interagency must work together to evaluate, collect and contribute these talents to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping. As US policy develops, we must look toward going beyond merely material resources to becoming a contribution of skillful, valuable human resources.