More women peacekeepers needed urges UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial speakers including Angelina Jolie Pitt

More women peacekeepers are urgently needed globally, speakers at the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial urged today including Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt.

UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt delivers her speech to the delegates at the UN Peacekeeping Conference at Lancaster House in London.
UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt delivers her speech to the delegates at the UN Peacekeeping Conference at Lancaster House in London.

With recent incidents being reported of UN peacekeepers perpetrating sexual violence, in addition to peacekeepers not responding to distress calls made by women being raped, the subject of increasing gender mix was a strong topic at the meeting.

There are currently 16 UN peacekeeping operations worldwide, which cover some of the world’s most unstable and violent countries.

Recently the UN has been investigating allegations in sexual exploitation and abuse by foreign peacekeepers in Central African Republic.

Furthermore, it was recently reported that UN peacekeepers in South Sudan allegedly ignored the rape and assaults of aid workers. Victims claimed that embassies, including the US embassy did not respond during the July attack of Juba residential compound in which a journalist was killed and women were rape along with one woman who claims to have been raped by 15 South Sudanese soldiers.

The impact of conflict on women was recognised 16 years ago with the adoption of UN security council resolution 1325, which at the time called for more women to be seated at the peacekeeping table.

In 2013 Jolie Pitt and William Hague joined forces to launch the preventing sexual violence initiative, which is now led by Foreign Office minister Lady Anelay. The initiative aims to highlight and take action against mass rapes in conflicts. Projects include shaming public officials into action to funding women’s clinics and dispatching forensic experts to the Syrian borders, Libya, Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt meets with representatives attending the UN Peacekeeping Conference at Lancaster House in London.
UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt meets with representatives attending the UN Peacekeeping Conference at Lancaster House in London.

The argument today stemmed from the idea that creating formal mechanisms for female peacekeepers would enable them to engage with local communities and understand the threats that women face, particularly in countries were women are frowned upon for talking to men outside of their families.

The Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon hosted today’s meeting at Lancaster House in London. It follows on from the Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping in September 2015 and aims to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to UN peacekeeping.

In his opening speech Fallon said: “It is an honour to welcome you all here this morning. As we are gathered here…some 125,000 peacekeepers are deployed around the world…holding the line between stability and disorder.”

Discussing the need to improve performance he said that more women are needed as peacekeepers: “Performance is also about participation. There are too few women peacekeepers…a gender mix of peacekeepers can have a major impact on operational effectiveness. Women in the military are a force multiplier…whose participation can really drive success.

“The UN needs to pursue opportunities for women peacekeepers to participate, which means Member States stepping up to provide women to these roles. So we must redouble our efforts to enable the participation of women in all aspects of peacekeeping. The UK has, this year, completed a comprehensive review of women in close ground combat…I am proud to say that all roles in the UK Armed Forces will be open to women.”

Below are several tweets highlighting today’s UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial.

 

Women peacekeepers

grimes
Major Rachel Grimes deployed as part of the United Nations’ Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) in 2014

Major Rachel Grimes deployed as part of the United Nations’ Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014.

In her role as the MONUSCO Military Gender Adviser in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Major l Grimes notice that Congolese women did not have a platform to engage with UN peacekeepers, so she provided basic training in engagement and dialogue for Swahili and French speaking women soldiers.

Those soldiers then met with women’s groups, who were not always included in dialogue with male peacekeepers, and they began to engage more with local women in what is now referred to as a “Mixed Engagement Capability”.

In a Ministry of Defense case study Grimes said: “Considering gender in a military plan is new to most military personnel. My current role is to ensure officers and soldiers understand how a gender perspective improves operational effect in UN peacekeeping.”

Lt Col Irena Dzisiewska recently deployed on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.

As a principal military planner in the MINUSMA Force Headquarters Dzisiewska is the principal planning liaison officer with the UN Headquarters in New York, reviewing mission progress and working within the headquarters to re

irena
Lt Col Irena Dzisiewska deployed on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali

commend the way forward for the new mission mandate in 2016. She was also the lead within the headquarters for policies related to countering improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Dzisiewska said: “With 53 contributory peacekeeping nations, alongside a diverse portfolio and a challenging mission, the UN stabilisation mission in Mali was a fascinating experience where I learned a great deal about working in a multinational environment with the civil and police pillars.

“I was fortunate enough to attend the Female Peacekeeping Course before my deployment and have since returned to brief on subsequent courses in India, China and Nairobi. It was a honour to serve within the UN and I would highly recommend the experience.”

 

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