How to get more women involved in UN peacekeeping operations

women-un-peacekeepersIn a watershed moment, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution in 2000 urging the greater participation of women in United Nations peace and security efforts.

The rationales behind the goal are no mystery. As the Center for Global Development notes, “the presence of women peacekeepers has been associated with more successful operations overall.” In a situation that hinges on establishing rapport with the local civilian population, for example, women UN peacekeepers can meet a need that their male counterparts can’t for cultural and basic social reasons — such as engaging with women and girls victimized by sexual violence. Major Kristin Lund of Norway—the first woman Force Commander in a UN peacekeeping mission—summed it up the following way: “Being a female, from my recent deployment in Afghanistan, I had access to 100 percent of the population, not only 50 percent.” Moreover, there’s evidence showing that having more women peacekeepers around can help curb sexual abuse and exploitation by UN police and security forces overall.

Unfortunately, progress towards gender equality in UN peacekeeping missions has been slow. According to United Nations University, women were still only 3% of military and 10% of police personnel in UN peacekeeping operations in 2012. The proportion of women in the civilian UN corps is higher at 30%, but still far short of gender parity.

Given this crawling rate of improvements, simply exhorting UN member states to recruit and deploy more women peacekeepers clearly isn’t enough. In a new post, the Center for Global Development offers an idea that would spur countries to boost their ranks of women personnel—through supplemental payments from a pooled trust fund:

…There is evidence that the countries who provide peacekeeping troops respond to financial inducements when it comes to those troop commitments. There is also evidence that the block to increasing the female share of peacekeeping operations isn’t an absolute lack of female troops in sending countries but a reticence to deploy them. Money could help overcome that reticence.

The US, Japan, France, Germany, and the UK between them account for about 60 percent of the peacekeeping budget. If the US was to band together with major financing countries, it could set up a trust fund supplemental payments to major troop-contributing countries that provide women peacekeepers. The UN provides base compensation of $1,410 per month per peacekeeper to contributing countries. If the trust fund provided a 20 percent supplementary payment for women peacekeepers up to the point where women accounted for one fifth of those deployed on missions, that would add about one percent to annual peacekeeping dues—if the US paid into the trust fund in proportion to its share of peacekeeping dues with Japan, France, Germany, and the UK, its share would be around $30 million a year. That’s about one half of one percent of the State Department’s foreign military financing budget.

What’s worth explicitly flagging is that the amount of money in discussion really isn’t that much. As the proposal concludes, “If we’re to make real progress towards gender parity in peacekeeping, it is going to take money. The good news is that it is unlikely to take very much money.” For more information, see “Wanted: More Women Peacekeepers,” Center for Global Development (2016); “Why the United Nations Needs More Female Peacekeepers,” United Nations University (2014)