Leadership in the Americas: Regional Partnerships Increase Women’s Roles in Peace Operations

Posted by Stefanie Purdie
June 14, 2016
Colonel Juan Luis Hurtado Lopez from Guatemala and Lieutenant Colonel Luis Cavero from Peru coach one of the groups at the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Workshop in Uruguay. [Photo courtesy of NPS]

Last fall, a team of U.S. and Latin American experts on gender issues, human rights, organizational development, and peacekeeping took to the road holding a regional workshop in Uruguay to train more than 50 men and women peacekeepers. The workshop focused both on enhancing the role of women in deploying peacekeeping forces and training peacekeepers to better interact and engage with the women in the societies they are charged to serve and protect.

The workshop was held at the Uruguayan School for Peacekeeping (ENOPU), with participants -- nearly half of whom are women -- from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. This latest workshop was the cumulative effort of a three-year program to build a regional mobile training team. The program began in 2013 when the Chilean Peace Operations Training Center (CECOPAC) and NPS faculty developed and led a two-week workshop for peacekeeping instructors from several Latin American countries. This established a knowledge base that was developed through subsequent phases of instructor preparation. Since 2013, the team from NPS has worked hand-in-hand with instructors from Chile, Guatemala, Peru, and Uruguay to build institutional capacity throughout Latin American to train United Nations peacekeepers.

During workshops like this, as the conversations start to flow, the training takes root, and ideas begin to grow. You can imagine the range and depth of expertise in the room when peacekeepers and trainers from eight different countries with institutional peacekeeping experience dating back to the late 1940s come together. The setting was ripe for creating a shared understanding of how to expand women’s role in this field, ensure women’s involvement throughout the peace process, and teach peacekeepers how to engage and interact with women in a range of circumstances in post-conflict societies.

Mr. Jorge Canales from the Chilean Peace Operations Training Center talks about protecting civilians in peacekeeping operations during the WPS workshop in Uruguay. [Photo courtesy of NPS]

“The development of realistic solutions for actual problems from the field contributes to the workshop’s success – first hand stories touch hearts so that those involved are internally motivated,” said workshop instructor and Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Associate Professor Deborah Gibbons.  She explained, “Once they understand the importance of the issues, peacekeepers need to learn social and organizational skills that enable them to take effective action on inclusion and protection of women. All three components are necessary for long-term initiative implementation:  information, motivation, and social-organizational capabilities.”

The training team is a regional partnership supported by the U.S. Department of State, through the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) managed by the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, and implemented by United States Southern Command. According to Nathan Christensen, NPS Faculty Associate, the effort has had resounding success in “promoting regional collaboration, consistent training, and building rapport.”

“The regional representation gives the team credibility, and the expertise and professionalism of the U.S. partner instructors opens trainees up to the ideas,” said Colonel Juan Luis Hurtado, a mobile training team instructor from Guatemala.  Colonel Hurtado has been involved since the program’s inception.  He is dedicated to human rights and gender issues, and his leadership has been instrumental in building the multilateral training team and mobilizing it to share the curriculum across the region. 

Through GPOI, the United States has partnered with more than 50 countries to deliver the training and tools needed to help stabilize countries in conflict and set the stage for peace.  A key tenet of GPOI is to support efforts to create institutional capability and capacity aimed at engaging, consulting, and protecting women in all aspects of peace operations. Since 2005, GPOI has facilitated the deployment of nearly 200,000 personnel to peace operations worldwide, and supported the training of more than 6,000 female peacekeepers. Latin American nations have a long history in peacekeeping operations and their continued contributions and commitment to enhancing the role of women in these operations makes them ideal partners.

Regional partnerships are crucial to expanding the role of women in peace operations. United Nations peacekeeping forces are diverse, comprised of more than 100,000 peacekeepers from more than 120 nations.  While working to address the growing global demand for peacekeepers, the United States remains steadfast in the effort to increase the participation of women as peacekeepers as well as expanding their role and leveraging their perspective -- all of which help protect other women in some of the world’s most challenging global hotspots.  By encouraging and supporting collaborative training initiatives with leading peacekeeping contributors, we build upon our partners’ historical peacekeeping perspectives and create an avenue through which to exchange expertise, experiences, and ideas, which in turn creates more credible and effective peacekeepers.

About the Author:  Stefanie Purdie, a Major in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, is a Department of State Veterans Innovation Partnership (VIP) Program Fellow in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs where she serves as a Program Analyst for Strategy. She previously served on active duty as an Instructor Combat Systems Officer.

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