Every year on May 29, the International Day of UN Peacekeepers recognizes the service and sacrifice of those who have served in UN peacekeeping missions over the past 72 years, working to help create the space for peace and resolution of some of the world’s most complex and dynamic conflicts. This year’s theme, “Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace” marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, which recognizes that more women in peacekeeping equals more women empowered; and more women and girls free from violence as peace efforts are more durable and long-lasting. As the world’s leading financial contributor to peacekeeping, as well as a leading provider of training and equipment to partner nations willing to take on the challenges of peace operations, the United States is proud to support thousands of women today serving on the front lines of conflict resolution, and we are firmly committed to expanding opportunities for women around the world dedicated to the fight for peace.
Around the world and throughout history, wars adversely and disproportionately affected women and girls, yet women remain under-represented in efforts to prevent and resolve conflict, as well as in post-conflict peace-building. We recognize the diverse roles women play as agents of change in preventing and resolving conflict, countering terrorism and violent extremism, and building post conflict peace and stability. Studies repeatedly demonstrate full and meaningful participation of women in peace operations, especially in leadership positions, widens perspectives on conflict management, opens doors for more inclusive political resolutions, and ultimately improves international peacebuilding strategies. There is also evidence of direct correlation between the meaningful participation of women in peacekeeping and the performance and effectiveness of peacekeeping units
President Trump signed the Women, Peace, and Security Act in 2017, and with the launch of the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security in 2019, this Administration underscored firm support for the comprehensive integration of women into conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peacebuilding, justice, and disaster recovery efforts worldwide. By doing so, the United States became the first government in the world with a comprehensive law requiring a government-wide strategy to promote the participation of women in overseas conflict prevention, management, and resolution, as well as post-conflict relief and recovery efforts.
Under the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), the world’s largest peace operations capacity building program, the Department of State, in collaboration with our colleagues at the U.S. Department of Defense, work with 55 active security cooperation partner countries around the world to enhance international capacity to effectively conduct UN and regional peace operations. Women in conflict-affected regions have achieved significant success in stabilizing societies by enhancing the effectiveness of security services, peacekeeping efforts, institutions, and decision-making processes. Accordingly, furthering this trend by promoting the role of women and gender integration in peacekeeping is among our top GPOI program objectives.
Here’s how GPOI is working every day to boost the meaningful participation of women in international peacekeeping:
- Since 2007, GPOI trained more than 10,000 women and facilitated the increased deployment of women peacekeepers. Since 2010, GPOI partner nations demonstrated our shared commitment to women, peace, and security by increasing the number of deployed female military peacekeepers by 117 percent, as compared with non-GPOI nations, who increased their numbers by 37 percent.
- Removing barriers to women’s participation in training through facility upgrades. GPOI supports gender inclusive facility upgrades at partner countries peacekeeping training centers. Upgrades often include the development of female barracks, latrines, and other necessary accommodations to ensure women can participate in peacekeeping training events.
- Diplomatically engaging partner countries to promote women’s participation and gender integration. GPOI program managers, implementers, and other stakeholders consistently encourage increased recruitment, training, and deployment of uniformed women from partner countries to peace operations, particularly in leadership roles. They also encourage partner countries to increase the employment of female instructors at their peacekeeping training institutions.
- Incorporating women, peace, and security-related topics into peacekeeping training activities. GPOI funds supported developing training manuals to incorporate gender responsive requirements and tasks, as well as sex and age disaggregated reporting into the standards of performance expected by each type of military unit that deploys to UN peace operations.
- Working to ensure the UN is accountable and addresses failures to protect civilian populations and pursues accountability and disciplinary actions when peacekeepers sexually exploit or abuse the very populations they are deployed to protect. Peacekeeping contributors must reinforce their commitment to uphold a zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse. To support this accountability effort, in 2018, we began working with the UN to fund and coordinate the first joint U.S.-UN National Investigation Officer (NIO) course to train the officers who investigate conduct and discipline issues, including allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against military personnel serving with an UN peacekeeping operation. We continue our support for the NIO course, with seven iterations conducted over the last two years, including participants from 33 countries in the Africa, Latin America, and Indo-Pacific regions.
More women in peacekeeping leads to more effective peacekeeping. Working closely with like-minded countries and the UN to develop and deliver training and drawing on the expertise of civil society organizations, GPOI is making tangible contributions toward international peace and security. GPOI continues to promote women, peace, and security as an important means of improving accountable and operational effectiveness in peacekeeping.
About the Author: Jennifer Pulliam is a Deputy Director in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Global Programs and Initiatives at the U.S. Department of State. Jennifer manages the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI).