THE SLOW RISE OF WOMEN PARTICATANTS IN UN PEACEKEEPIING:
UN Resolution 1325
In 2000, the UN adopted Resolution 1325, the first comprehensive call for the advancement of female participation in peacekeeping. Despite this, only two percent of current United Nations peacekeepers are women. Of these, only one percent has been placed in managerial and senior staff positions. As a result of this dismal record, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has come in for criticism from policymakers, practitioners, and advocacy groups alike. Involving women at all levels of policymaking and the military will facilitate an end to sexual exploitation, genocide, and many other crimes against humanity.
Since the early 1990s, a rising number of women have been subject to sexual harassment, rape, forced prostitution, and human trafficking as a result of armed conflict. The Beijing Platform for Action, at the 4th Annual Beijing Women’s Conference in 1995, introduced a socio-economic framework addressing violence against women in war torn regions. By bringing to light the reason why women should participate as peacekeepers, this framework formed the basis of the resolution.
In UN Mission to Haiti (1993-1996), the need for greater female representation increased as female uniformed peacekeepers were proven to be beneficial in conflict prevention and peace building. Compared to men, women peacekeepers posed less of a threat, provided a stronger sense of security, and communicated better with the local population, especially with women who were former rape victims. Women were also very useful for frisk searching since the majority in war torn areas are women and children.
Since 2000, the UN Inter-Agency Task Force to implement Resolution 1325 has coordinated an action plan meant to ensure the integration of gender perspectives in military and policy-decisions. Five years in, the number of women in war torn regions as victims continued to increase. Sexual exploitation and abuse cases by male peacekeepers in refugee camps become rampant. At the 2005 Security Council Debate on Women, Peace, and Security, Council President Minhea Loan Motac urged member states to accelerate the implementation of Resolution 1325, to reinforce women’s protection by ending the misconduct of male peacekeepers. Part of this problem is the fact that women are not visibly in peacekeeping policy. UN Deputy Secretary Jean noted that, “ on the ground, is a culture in which the overwhelming male peacekeepers are not trained to be sensitive to gender issues. Since the adoption, women have been marginalized by member states to participate as policymakers. Member states must double their efforts.” One success story can be seen in the UN Mission In Liberia, where women in leadership as policymakers helped to increase political participation in local elections. In 2007, Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf ensured that UN deployed its first all female military police to the country. So far, the presence of women uniformed peacekeepers has helped reduce rap crimes against and encourage more to take part in security reconstruction and join the Liberia National Police.
Despite the growing effort to increase female participation in peacekeeping, the current statistics do not represent significant improvement. For the past eight years, DPKO static’s indicate the tally of women participants remaining extremely low. As of April 2008, women accounted for only a small fraction of military personnel and police personnel combined, and less than one-third of international civilian staff members.
Recruitment and Retention Impediments: Gender Inequality and Discrimination
For the past several years, U.N. member states have continually failed to meet standards with regard to gender balance in the make-up of peacekeeping forces. Many have faulted the DPKO recruitment and retention system. The top contributing nations (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, & Nepal) have an extensive history of socio-economic, gender inequality. Traditional cultural and political values prohibit women from joining U.N. peacekeeping operations. The difficulty in recruitment stands from the traditional belief that women should be isolated from mainstream society, where they lack the opportunity to advance in political, social, educational, and cultural life. Women are taught to be subordinate to men and restricted to their households. For instance, Pakistani women (the second top contributing nation) have reported complaints that they are too isolated from the mainstream society. Cultural and political barriers prevent women from political participation and leadership, which also limits the amount of female applicants.
Gender discrimination is also a major issue for the retention system. For those women that are recruited in the system, the majority are likely to drop out before advancing from entry to mid-level positions. By the end of their duty, women are exhausted from gender discrimination. Many are too intimidated by the prospect of advancing in rank because of societal stigmatization. Few women advance to higher ranks or are appointed into senior staff positions. This year, only seven out of forty-seven women were appointed as Special Representative of Secretary-General Position (SRSG).
Increasing awareness through legislation mandating more recruitment missions is a great approach toward strengthening recruitment and retention. UN supporters and civil service groups must continue pressuring the Security Council to implement effective legislation that will guarantee female recruitment and encourage the Secretary-General to appoint more women to work as SRSGs and Special Advisors.
Funding is also an issue. Member states should provide the DPKO greater funding for recruitment deployments. Recruiters will work closely with local women-based groups to provide outreach programs that will promote more women in peacekeeping. Recruiters should advertise on popular radio and television programs, and highly surfed website pages. Public awareness should target all areas, especially women in rural areas that are at a great disadvantage with regards to access to technology. In rural areas, recruitment missions should provide open seminars in local communities, where they can circulate hard copy online applications.
To retain female employees, DPKO must increase awareness about all of the issues and challenges facing women within the organization as well as how to combat harassment and discrimination. If more women tend not advance after entry and mid level positions, a strong mentorship program will alleviate this trend. A mentorship program would provide the opportunity for women in higher ranks to work closely with lower level participants. Higher-ranking officials will provide effective guidance. Women in leadership positions can be looked upon as role models and can encourage more women to work confidently and with a peace of mind in the United Nations.