In 2011, President Obama signed Executive Order 13595, which created the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security and tasked U.S. government agencies to expand focus on the protection of women and girls in war torn areas and incorporate women into post-conflict relief and recovery efforts. One way the Department of State is working to implement the Action Plan is through the Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative. This initiative, known as GPOI, is working to expand training of female peacekeepers, including a focus on protecting vulnerable communities, including women and girls, struggling to recover and rebuild from war's devastation as well as those exposed to ongoing conflict.
Created in 2005, GPOI is a security-assistance program that enhances international capability to effectively conduct United Nations and regional peace operations. This is accomplished through three primary means. First, by training military and police units from among its 64 partner nations and two partner regional organizations to serve in peacekeeping missions. Second, by supplying peacekeeping forces with essential non-lethal equipment. And thirdly, by constructing or refurbishing peacekeeping training facilities.
Working in partnership with the Department of Defense, GPOI has directly trained 174,421 peacekeepers to date and enabled the training of an additional 49,192 peacekeeping personnel through the work of its program graduates. GPOI is currently working to build on this progress in "training-the-trainers," creating sustainable capabilities in partner nations that can self-sufficiently train their peacekeepers to meet the growing global demand for well-trained peacekeeping personnel.
GPOI and the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security have proven to be a natural fit, particularly in working to address sexual and gender-based violence, which remains a tragic scourge of war zones.
One of the National Action Plan's five pillars is "participation," which seeks to mitigate the occurrence of abuses and boost the protection of civilians through increasing the number of women involved in peacekeeping efforts. So far, GPOI has facilitated the training of nearly 3,500 female peacekeepers around the world. Having female peacekeepers on the ground helps achieve goals more difficult to reach with all-male peacekeeping units. For example, women in conflict and post-conflict zone are more likely to approach female peacekeepers and alert them to the occurrence of crimes against civilians, especially in cultures where women are not permitted to talk to men. By making it easier to report these intolerable acts, peacekeepers can better prevent and remediate incidents of abuse.
Another of the National Action Plan's five pillars is "protection," which goes to the heart of GPOI's mission. GPOI approaches this in multiple ways.
First, through GPOI training events conducted throughout the world that incorporate protection of civilians training for peacekeeping personnel. This includes GPOI's partnership with the Government of Italy's Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units (COESPU) to fund training for police units on sexual and gender-based violence issues, including proper investigation techniques.
Second, by supporting United Nations efforts to standardize training for peacekeeping units on both the importance of protecting vulnerable populations and preventing sexual and gender-based violence. By helping make sure that everyone serving in a UN mandated mission has received training based on the same standardized training materials, peacekeepers from all over the world can more effectively work together to mitigate the occurrence of abuses.
Third, GPOI is assisting in building capacity among its partner countries and regional organizations to self-sufficiently train their peacekeepers on protection of civilians issues through the employment of train-the-trainer methodologies and the provision of training materiel and facilities refurbishments.
GPOI's contributions to the implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security represents one of the important ways the Department of State seeks to empower women. By incorporating the National Action Plan into security processes in conflict-affected environments, the GPOI program is confronting the scourge sexual and gender based violence.