Increasing the participation of uniformed women in peace operations is a “key priority” for the United Nations, the head of peacekeeping told a High-Level Launch Event on Wednesday.
“It is one of our commitments to implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda under the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping Initiative (A4P) and will remain a priority” during the next phase of A4P and A4P+, said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations (DPO).
He was speaking at the launch of the UN Elsie Initiative Fund, where it was announced that Liberia, Mexico, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone will receive financial support to increase the participation of women military personnel and police in peace operations.
“Women can fill any position in peacekeeping as well or better than men”, he said.
One way of promoting participation is by recognizing their contributions in different roles and positions throughout UN missions, including steering the public discussion away from so-called “women’s added value”, which he said “often silently places a burden of justification on women”.
To improve the way UN missions operate, Mr. Lacroix underscored the importance of diverse teams in which both women and men can “contribute their skills, experiences and perspectives to the fullest”.
“When our operations reflect the diversity of the communities we serve, we are more successful at building trust with them and at understanding the different security needs of the men, women, boys and girls that are part of these communities”, he explained.
Moreover, he argued that it is critical in protecting civilians and implementing peacekeeping’s mandate overall.
Since the launch of the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy in 2018, DPO has made good progress in meeting its targets, according to the peacekeeping chief.
He said that from 2018 to 2021, the number of women Staff Officers and Military Observers had increased from 12.3 to 17.8 per cent; the number of women Individual Police Officers from 22.3 to 30.4 per cent; and women in Formed Police Units went from 9 to 14.8 per cent.
And a newly introduced requirement that all Infantry Units deploy with Engagement Platoons, a minimum of 50 per cent women, should also improve that situation.
But increasing the number of women deployed is not enough, underscored Mr. Lacroix, saying: “We need to transform our institutions to ensure that women can participate and contribute fully as part of our peace operations”.
He lauded the Elsie Initiative as “an essential partner” in providing support and resources to achieve this goal, both to Troop and Police Contributing Countries and UN-led initiatives.
In the framework of the Elsie Initiative Project for Field Missions’ Facilities and Infrastructures, he gave the example of DPO’s work with the Department of Operational Support (DOS) on a “200-person conceptual camp design that incorporates design improvements for women in our missions”.
Maintaining ‘fragile gains’
Yet, despite good progress, the peacekeeping chief said that more must be done to “maintain these fragile gains” and continue supporting women’s meaningful participation in peace operations.
In partnership with Troop and Police Contributing Countries and other Member States, he stressed that everyone must “work even harder on this shared commitment”.
Full partnership ‘essential’
Meanwhile, Executive Director of UN Women and Fund Co-Chair Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka upheld that accelerating women’s full and equal participation in security institutions is “essential to ensuring they are representative, responsive and accountable to all”.
Outlining that it would take 30 years to reach gender parity for military troops; 12 for formed police units; eight for individual police officers and seven for military observers and staff officers, she spelled out: “Women cannot afford to wait this long”.
“Institutional transformation is only possible when it is driven by leaders who create an enabling environment for women and who commit firmly to zero tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and abuse, and an end to impunity for perpetrators” she said.
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