As peacekeeping has evolved to reflect the populations we serve, women have become increasingly part of the peacekeeping family – making operations more effective.
Women are deployed in all areas – police, military and civilian – and have made a positive impact on peacekeeping environments, including in supporting the role of women in building peace and protecting women's rights.
In all fields of peacekeeping, women peacekeepers have proven that they can perform the same roles, to the same standards and under the same difficult conditions, as their male counterparts. It is an operational imperative that we recruit and retain female peacekeepers.
In 1993, women made up 1% of deployed uniformed personnel. In 2020, out of approximately 95,000 peacekeepers, women constitute 4.8% of military contingents and 10.9% of formed police units and 34% of justice and corrections government-provided personnel in UN Peacekeeping missions. While the UN encourages and advocates for the deployment of women to uniformed functions, the responsibility for deployment of women in the police and military lies with Member States. UN Police Division launched 'the Global Effort' to recruit more female police officers into national police services and into UN police operations around the world. The 2028 target for women serving in military contingents is 15%, and 25% for military observers and staff officers. The 2028 target for women serving in formed police units is 20%, and 30% for individual police officers.
Find out more in our gender statistics section to download a monthly breakdown of the number of male and female uniformed personnel working across our missions.
Why is it important to have women peacekeepers?
More women in peacekeeping means more effective peacekeeping. Women peacekeepers improve overall peacekeeping performance, have greater access to communities, help in promoting human rights and the protection of civilians, and encourage women to become a meaningful part of peace and political processes.
- Improved operations and performance: Greater diversity and a broadened skillset means improved decision‐making, planning and results, leading to greater operational effectiveness and performance.
- Better access: Women peacekeepers can better access the population, including women and children - for example, by interviewing and supporting survivors of gender-based violence and violence against children - thereby generating critical information that would otherwise be difficult to reach.
- Reflecting the communities we serve: Diversity in United Nations peacekeepers allows engagement with all members of the communities we are there to protect.
- Building trust and confidence: Women peacekeepers are essential enablers to build trust and confidence with local communities and help improving access and support for local women, for example, by interacting with women in societies where women are prohibited from speaking to men.
- Help prevent and reduce conflict and confrontation: Diversity in peacekeeping helps to address the disproportionately negative effect that conflict has on the livelihood of women and bring new perspectives and solutions to the table by effectively addressing the needs of women in conflict and post-conflict settings, including those of women ex-combatants and child soldiers during the process of demobilizing and reintegration into civilian life.
- Inspiring and creating role models: Women peacekeepers serve as powerful mentors and role models for women and girls in post-conflict settings in the host community, setting examples for them to advocate for their own rights and pursue non‐traditional careers.
Women peacekeepers in the COVID-19 response
UN Peacekeepers are facing one of their greatest challenges yet - the COVID-19 pandemic. Peacekeepers are assisting governments and local communities in the response to the pandemic and continuing to adapt their activities to execute their mandates, including protecting vulnerable communities.
Women peacekeepers are on the front lines in this fight and are an integral part of the COVID-19 response as well as in implementing mission mandates, within current constraints and while taking all precautionary measures.
Key initiatives in the Department of Peace Operations
- Member States are now requested to nominate a minimum of 20% women for individual police officer positions and 30% for justice and corrections government‐provided personnel.
- Qualified women personnel are prioritized for individual staff military positions at UNHQ and field missions, as well as justice and corrections government‐provided personnel.
- Priority is being given to Formed Police Units that include women, and UN Military is introducing Engagement Platoons comprising at least 50% women. Justice and Corrections Service is supporting a series of pre‐deployment trainings specifically for women corrections officers.
- The Police Division is working on a proposed Secretary General’s Voluntary Gender Compact for Advancing Gender Parity in the United Nations Police which contains provisions for commitments by Member States / PCCs to embark on much-needed structural (policy and legislation), environmental and infrastructural changes to ensure increased recruitment of women in host-State police institutions
- There is a strong leadership commitment to appoint women to senior leadership positions.
- On the uniformed side, UN Military have recently deployed a record number of women into the most senior military roles in UN peace operations ‐ with one woman Force Commander and two women Deputy Force Commanders now serving in the field.
- The Police Division established the United Nations police (UNPOL) Female Police Command Cadre as a talent pipeline to increase the nominations of women police officers in leadership positions, launched a Female Senior Police Officer Command Development Course in support of it, and put in place an all-women Senior Police Leadership Roster for P5 to D2 posts. Today, seven women are serving as Heads and Deputy Heads of UN Police components in UNISFA, UNFICYP, UNMISS, MONUSCO, MINUSMA, UNOCA and Standing Police Capacity in Brindisi.
- On the civilian side, as of August 2020, eight women were serving as female Heads and Deputy Heads of DPO and DOS-led missions (equivalent to 35 percent). Two core initiatives were the conduct of a second Global Call for nominations for generic D/HoMs positions and the implementation of the leadership partnering initiative, a mentoring program for newly appointed D/HoMs.
- In June 2019, the Secretary-General launched a second round of global outreach campaign “the Global Call”, following a first successful iteration in 2017, aimed at increasing the pool of candidates and improving women’s representation and geographical balance in peace operations at the United Nations top civilian senior leadership level. Both Calls generated a rich pool of diverse candidates.
- Also, as of October 2020, 50% of Senior Corrections Officers in the field are women.
Women, Peace and Security is a key commitment of the Action for Peacekeeping initiative
Through UN Security Council resolution 1325 (UNSCR1325), ensuing resolutions, as well as the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) Declaration of Shared Commitments, the UN has called for an expansion of the role and contribution of women in its operations, including of uniformed women peacekeepers. In this context, promoting the participation of women, both in peacekeeping and within the societies in which we serve, is at the centre of our efforts.
- The Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative views the Women, Peace and Security agenda as critical to enhancing peacekeeping operations’ performance through supporting women’s full participation in peace processes and making peacekeeping more gender-responsive, including through increasing the number of civilian and uniformed women in peacekeeping at all levels and in key positions.
- A4P has been signed by 152 Member States, a number of which have come forward to specifically champion implementation of A4P’s WPS commitment: Bangladesh, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
- We are grateful to the Member States who champion the WPS agenda and encourage others to join this effort.
Call to action for Member States
Achieving Gender Parity depends on the continued collective efforts of the United Nations and Member States. In line with the Action for Peacekeeping Declaration of Shared Commitments calling for uniformed women’s participation in peacekeeping, progress can be supported by Member States to ensure that:
- Information on deployment opportunities reaches decision‐makers and women officers in national services.
- More women are recruited and trained in national services to be available to deploy to peace operations, as well as helping national services perform better at home.
- All nominations and deployments to UN peace operations meet or exceed the uniformed gender parity targets.
Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award
Military Observer Major Winnet Zharare, a Zimbabwean Chief Military Information Officer who was deployed to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), received the Military Gender Advocate of the Year award during a ceremony in New York presided over by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers on Thursday, 26 May 2022. Read more about the award here.
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