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More women needed to join, sensitize UN missions

More women needed to join, sensitize UN missions, Security Council told

With women making up only 4 per cent of civilian police in United Nations peacekeeping missions, a senior UN official appealed to Member States today to assign more women police and military personnel to international forces.

“We need to lead by example,” Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) told the Security Council in an open meeting on women and peace and security. “DPKO often finds itself in the awkward position of advocating for more women in national police forces than it has in its own ranks.”

In October 2000, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1325, which urged an enhanced role for women in preventing conflict, promoting peace and assisting in post-conflict reconstruction within UN operations.

Mr. Guéhenno urged member governments to recommend men and women with experience in gender-based crimes “to help us address the high rates of violence against women that are common in post-conflict situations” and noted that HIV/AIDS policy officers were deployed in four field missions.

DPKO has expanded its recruiting by targeting women’s associations. As a result, “in the 15 peacekeeping missions, women currently represent one-third of all professional staff” and more would be recruited in the coming year, he said.

Numbers were only part of the solution, however, Mr. Guéhenno said. DPKO also sought to put gender dimensions in the programmes it manages.

“In the past, adult male combatants were the focus of our attention. They were the ones registered and given a package of benefits to help them return to civilian life,” he said. “This meant that women who were either ex-combatants, or working in support roles – such as cooks, wives, or even girls abducted and forced to work as sexual slaves – were being left out of the picture.

“Now our help is also directed towards these women and girls and is tailored to meet such special needs as trauma counselling for abducted girls who worked as sexual slaves.”

DPKO has multi-dimensional missions, with gender advisers or specialists, in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Timor-Leste and Afghanistan, Mr. Guéhenno said. In addition, gender adviser posts have been created for Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.

In Kosovo the gender adviser helped the transitional government draft a law on gender equality, leaving a positive impact on the lives of women and girls even after the mission left, he said.

Grave allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation of refugees and internally displaced women by some humanitarian and peacekeeping forces strengthened DPKO’s resolve to uphold a “zero-tolerance” stance on the problem, which not only violates human rights but undermines the very core of peacekeeping, Mr. Guéhenno said.

Next year, each mission will appoint an officer to receive complaints of misconduct by peacekeeping personnel, he said. He also called on personnel-contributing governments, however, to brief their nationals on the high standards of integrity they would be expected to uphold while on mission.

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