More Women in Peacekeeping: UN Resolution
On August 28, 2020, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on its member states to increase the number of women in military and civilian positions across all levels of the UN’s peacekeeping operations. Reaffirming the participation pillar in the WPS Agenda, the resolution recognizes “the indispensable role of women in increasing the overall performance and effectiveness of peacekeeping operations,” and emphasizes that a better balance between men and women will lend “greater credibility” to the UN’s peacekeeping missions among the communities they are mandated to protect.
Arriving ahead of the 20th Anniversary of the WPS Agenda at the Security Council and the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, this Indonesian-sponsored resolution is the eleventh in the series of Security Council Resolutions constituting the WPS Agenda. The resolution highlights the major disparity between men and women in the current framework of UN Peacekeeping operations.
The Gender Imbalance
Despite several decades of efforts to arrive at a gender balance in peacekeeping, there is still a gender imbalance as seen manifesting in the 13 peacekeeping operations currently in force under the aegis of the UN. In 1993, women comprised only 1% of the uniformed personnel deployed in peacekeeping operations (UNDPKO). A solid 27 years since, only 6% of all military, police, justice, and corrections personnel in field missions are women. In 2019, among the 95,000 peacekeepers deployed on ground, only 4.7% of the military contingents and 10.8% of all police units deployed as part of UN peacekeeping missions were women (UNDPKO).
Earlier, Resolution 2242 (2015) specifically highlighted the need to double the number of women engaged in uniformed peace operations by 2028. With eight years to go for the target to be achieved, one wonders whether these efforts will bear fruition. Following this, the UN has deployed “a record number of women into the most senior military roles in UN peace operations – with one force commander and two deputy force commanders now serving in the field.” Further, member countries are expected to nominate at least 20% women for the position of individual police officers.
The bigger picture
Even as the idea of increasing the participation of women addresses the lack of accessibility of certain positions and jobs for women, the key challenge remains addressing the larger goal, namely ending war and violent conflict in itself. There have been arguments in favour of including women into the peacekeeping process on the ground that their inclusion would enable improved operations and performance, in building trust and confidence, and in creating role models among other reasons (UNDPKO). However, a combination of essentialist arguments and a war-centric agenda rather than one that includes women as equals without having to ground it in justification and a peace-centric agenda, cannot typically culminate in sustainable peace.
While the inclusion of women will enable the inclusion of perspectives and narratives of lived experiences that are unique to them, in defining futures of and approaches to sustainable peace, augmenting military prowess will not move in the same direction. The prioritization of conflict transformation, community trauma healing, and sustainable approaches to peace should start from a commitment to looking at ways to bring violent conflict to an end and prioritizing peaceful approaches to peace.
Even as resolution after resolution in the WPS Agenda call for the inclusion of women in peacekeeping initiatives, a part of operationalizing the WPS Agenda is also about understanding the root causes of armed conflict, as mentioned in Resolutions 2122 (2013) and 2467 (2019). The focus here should be dedicated to addressing a way to transform violent armed conflict involving women and non-binary persons in the process, in order to pave the way for a future of sustainable peace.