Women in UN Peacekeeping
Answering some of the objectives laid down in UN Security Council Resolution 1325
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) asks for more women among the peacekeepers:
Point 5: “Expresses its willingness to incorporate a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations, and urge s the Secretary-General to ensure that, where appropriate, field operations include a gender component”
This objective was reaffirmed in UN Security Council Resolution 1889 (2009), from the first point:
“Urges Member States, international and regional organisations to take further measures to improve women’s participation during all stages of peace processes, particularly in conflict resolution, post-conflict planning and peacebuilding, including by enhancing their engagement in political and economic decision-making at early stages of recovery processes, through inter alia promoting women’s leadership and capacity to engage in aid management and planning, supporting women’s organizations, and countering negative societal attitudes about women’s capacity to participate equally”
These two UN Security Council resolutions point that the gender approach in peacebuilding operations takes place on two fields:
- Including more women into the UN peacekeepers
- Taking into consideration the specific needs of women and girls during the war recovery.
Women represent a very small part of the UN peacekeeping forces, constituting 3% of the military personnel and 9% of police personnel. However, this data is on the rise, women representing only 1% of the forces in 1993. Furthermore, they constitute about 30% of the civilian staff working on peacekeeping missions.
Incentives and Challenges for Women Peacekeepers
In his working paper “Women with a Blue Helmet – The integration of women and gender issues in UN Peacekeeping missions”, Francesco Bertolazzi reports the results of a survey identifying the five main reasons why women join the UN Peacekeeping forces:
- Economic benefits
- Altruistic, value-driven goal of bringing peace to a war-torn society
- Sharing experiences and meeting persons from other countries
- Opportunity to work and live in a demanding, international environment
But in spite of these incentives, many women are reluctant to join the UN Peacekeeping forces. The main challenge faced by women peacekeepers is managing a family life. Most of the women peacekeepers are single, divorced and/or have no children. Furthermore, many are afraid of sexual harassment or gender discriminations, as underlined in many reports. However, it is essential to recruit more and more women as Blue Helmets, and that is why the Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DKPO) has developed a gender approach.
The gender approach followed by the Department of Peace Keeping Operation
- Appointing Gender Advisers in missions;
- Supporting strategies to increase female deployment in peacekeeping operations;
- Providing gender training to peacekeeping personnel 
Ensuring gender equality among the UN peacekeeping forces takes its roots in the idea of ensuring gender equality in all of the UN institutions but it also has the objective of better answering the needs of girls and women victims of a conflict.
In November 2006, DPKO wrote a Policy Directive on Gender Equality in UN Peacekeeping Operations . Section D.3 is dedicated to “Recruitment and retention of high quality personnel” and it advocates for “the adoption of gender sensitive policies which support the increased recruitment and deployment of uniformed women to peacekeeping”. The policy directive also advocates for improvements in the hiring process, with a greater focus on gender equality in the vacancy announcements.
Why Women are Essential in Peacekeeping Operations
In his working paper, Francesco Bertolazzi underlines that the introduction of women in the peacekeeping forces is essential because they have an easier access to the female populations. And yet, they often are the first targets during a conflict. But mainly, the reason why women have to be part of the peacekeeping missions is to reflect the society with which they interact to build peace.
Furthermore, Bertolazzi underlines that the best force will be a mixed one, but that
- The teams should be equally mixed (have a ratio closer to 1/1 than 1/10)
- Women should not be limited to support staff roles (cooking, cleaning).
Gerard DeGroot reports the results of a UN survey showing that the number of rapes decrease when female soldiers are present on the field. The journalist also advocates for an increased number of women in the peacekeeping forces for the simple reason that women “are not men” and that, as a result, they are less likely to rape the local populations and they are also better to ensure peace. This argument on the “particularities” of women should be left open to debate.
- ↑ UN Security Council Resolution 1325
- ↑ UN Security Council Resolution 1889
- ↑ DPKO/OMA Statistical Report on Female Military and Police Personnel in UN Peacekeeping Operations Prepared for the 10th Anniversary of the SCR 1325
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Francesco Bertolazzi, “Women with a Blue Helmet – The integration of women and gender issues in UN Peacekeeping missions”, working paper published as part of the Gender, Peace and Security Working Paper Series of UN-INSTRAW, retrieved on UN-INSTRAW.org
- ↑ UN Peacekeeping's website: section on gender issues
- ↑ DPKO Policy Directive on Gender Equality in UN Peacekeeping Operations
- ↑ Gerard DeGroot, “Women in Blue Helmets - Female soldiers can improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations for the simple reason that they are not men” in The Guardian, May 11, 2008.