Growing the Number of Women in Peacekeeping Through the U.S. Department of State’s Global Peace Operations Initiative

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Salvadoran Captain Sandra Hernandez flies her MD-500E helicopter over Mali as part of the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission.
Salvadoran Captain Sandra Hernandez flies her MD-500E helicopter over Mali as part of the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission.

Growing the Number of Women in Peacekeeping Through the U.S. Department of State’s Global Peace Operations Initiative

Studies have shown that the participation of women in peace operations, especially in leadership positions, widen the perspective on conflict management and improve international peacebuilding strategies. Women in conflict-affected regions have achieved significant success in stabilizing societies by enhancing the effectiveness of security services, peacekeeping efforts, institutions, and decision-making processes. Yet, around the world, women remain under-represented in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and post-conflict peace building efforts. As Women’s History Month draws to a close, we recognize the important role women play in peace operations, and note that the United States is firmly committed to promoting women, peace, and security objectives through our Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI).

GPOI is managed by the Department of State, in partnership with the Department of Defense, and works with 54 active partner countries around the world to enhance international capacity to effectively conduct UN and regional peace operations.  Promoting the role of women and gender integration in peacekeeping is a key program objective in GPOI’s strategy.

Malaysian women peacekeepers of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) at a medal ceremony in Kawkaba, south Lebanon.

GPOI activities work to increase the meaningful participation of women in international peacekeeping operations by:

  • Diplomatically engaging partner countries to promote women’s participation and gender integration. GPOI program managers, implementers, and other stakeholders consistently encourage increased recruitment, training, and deployment of uniformed women from partner countries to peace operations, particularly in leadership roles.  They also encourage partner countries to increase the employment of female instructors at their peacekeeping training institutions.
  • Removing barriers to women’s participation in training through facility upgrades. GPOI supports gender inclusive facility upgrades at partner countries peacekeeping training centers.  Upgrades often include the development of female barracks, latrines, and other necessary accommodations to ensure women are able to participate in peacekeeping training events.
  • Increasing women’s participation in peacekeeping training and peacekeeping deployments. Since 2007, more than 8,800 female peacekeepers have participated in GPOI training events.  Moreover, since 2010, GPOI partners have increased the number of deployed female military peacekeepers by 89 percent, as compared with non-GPOI partners who have increased their numbers by seven percent.
  • Conducting courses on gender integration in peace operations. In one example, GPOI, through U.S. Southern Command, partnered with the Chilean Joint Peacekeeping Operations Training Center (CECOPAC) to export a Mobile Training Team (MTT) to teach a course on “Women, Peace, and Security:  Gender Integration in Peacekeeping Operations.” The course was first taught in Uruguay in 2015 and was conducted twice more in 2018 – Peru in May and Chile in December. CECOPAC plans to conduct a fourth course in El Salvador in June 2019 during which El Salvador can share their experience from deployments to MINUSMA (Mali).  The program of instruction is interactive and addresses UN requirements for Women, Peace and Security training for all deployable contingents.
  • Supporting the UN’s development of women, peace, and security-related training materials for peacekeeping training. GPOI funds supported the UN in developing 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.
  • Incorporating women, peace, and security-related topics into peacekeeping training activities. In Fiscal Year 2018, GPOI supported 120 training events that included training on women, peace, and security and other gender related topics. 

A female member of the Ethiopian battalion of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) joins the military observers in a parade after receiving medals in recognition of their contribution to the mission. (Photo courtesy of the UN)

GPOI activities will continue to promote women, peace, and security as an important means of improving operational effectiveness in peacekeeping.  We look forward to continuing the international conversation on this important issue at the 2019 United Nations Peacekeeping Ministerial in New York.  

About the Author: Varshabhanavi Williams works on the Global Peace Operations Initiative program in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs' Office of Global Programs and Initiatives.