Women are pivotal in ending conflicts and promoting sustainable peace and security. Because women and men experience conflict differently and understand peace differently, both need to be involved in peace and security efforts. Recognizing the significant impact of conflict on women and the important role that they play in peace operations, the United States is committed to promoting women, peace, and security objectives through our Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI).
The integration of a greater number of female peacekeepers can strengthen the effectiveness of peace operations by helping to: address the needs of female ex-combatants during the process of demobilization and reintegration into civilian life; interview survivors of gender-based violence; make the peacekeeping force more approachable to the entire population. In addition, women peacekeepers can help gain a fuller perspective on local women’s concerns and needs and they can serve as role models to empower local women.
GPOI is managed by the Department of State, in partnership with the Department of Defense, and works with 53 active partner countries around the world to enhance international capacity to effectively conduct United Nations (UN) and regional peace operations. GPOI is enhancing the role of women in peace and security by:
- Diplomatically engaging partner countries to promote women’s participation and gender integration. GPOI helps partners recognize the positive impact women can have in peace operations.Five GPOI partner countries -- Bangladesh, Croatia, Indonesia, Nepal, and Rwanda -- made pledges to promote women’s participation at a 2015 summit on this issue.
- Enabling women’s participation in training through facilities refurbishments. This includes the development of female barracks, latrines, and other necessary accommodations. These steps remove barriers to women’s effective inclusion in training.
- Increasing women’s participation in peacekeeping training. Since GPOI’s establishment in 2005, more than 6,500 female peacekeepers have participated in GPOI training events. While much work remains to be done, the United States will continue encouraging countries to integrate more females into peacekeeping training activities.
- Increasing women’s participation in peacekeeping deployments. Over the past five years, GPOI partner countries have increased the number of female military peacekeepers deployed to UN peace operations by 62 percent, as compared with non-partners, who have decreased their numbers by 24 percent.
- Conducting courses on gender integration in peace operations. In one example, through U.S. Africa Command and in partnership with the Governments of the Netherlands and Spain, GPOI co-sponsors a course that is taught by male and female gender experts from academia, civil society and government organizations, as well as experienced senior peacekeepers. The course teaches peacekeepers how to apply gender concepts across all activities associated with peace operations.
- Supporting the UN’s development of women, peace, and security-related training materials for peacekeeping training. GPOI funded the UN to develop manuals that incorporate gender related requirements, tasks, and reporting into the standards of performance expected by each type of military unit that deploys to UN peace operations. They also funded materials focused on protection of civilians and prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence. The United States is also partnering with the Government of Japan to jointly fund the UN’s development of a course to train Women Protection Advisors who deploy to UN peace operations.
- Incorporating women, peace, and security-related topics into peacekeeping training activities. For example, GPOI hosts one of the world’s largest multinational peacekeeping exercises every year through U.S. Pacific Command. UN training materials, which include women, peace, and security-related topics are incorporated throughout the exercise.
- Train peacekeepers on the prevention and consequences of sexual exploitation and abuse. While the majority of peacekeepers have maintained high standards of conduct, unfortunately, some have engaged in acts of sexual exploitation and abuse against the very people they are meant to protect. Prevention and consequences of sexual exploitation and abuse is incorporated in all GPOI training events or exercises utilizing a variety of trainers, including from civil society and international organizations. GPOI works to ensure that bad actors do not benefit from our assistance by vetting personnel before they receive assistance and by seeking assurances from partner countries that they will not allow anyone with pending or substantiated allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse to participate in GPOI-funded training.
GPOI promotes women, peace, and security with all our 53 partner countries. Working closely with like-minded countries and the UN to develop and deliver training and by drawing on the expertise of civil society organizations, GPOI is making tangible contributions to international peace and security.
About the Author: Dana Houk works on the Global Peace Operations Initiative program in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs' Office of Global Programs and Initiatives.
Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.