Strong Gender Focus Needed During UN Peacekeeping Discussions

By Gabrielle Belli

Between budget cuts and ongoing UN reforms, a lot of attention is being placed on UN peacekeeping missions, and how to make them more effective and responsive to the needs of local communities.

On the morning of 28 March 2018, a Security Council Open Debate will be held on the theme “Collective action to improve United Nations peacekeeping operations,” under the presidency of the Netherlands, which has called this event “a launching platform for improvement of peacekeeping operations.” During the debate itself and throughout broader conversations about peacekeeping, it is critically important that there is strong emphasis on the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda and the need for gender to be mainstreamed in peacekeeping missions.

The NGOWG has long called for gender mainstreaming in peacekeeping missions, rooted in the commitments made by the UN Security Council in WPS resolutions, most recently SCR 2242 (2015) and corroborated by the 2015 High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO).

Gender mainstreaming should entail: gender analysis based on regular consultations with women and women’s organizations informing every mission phase; considering gender a cross-cutting issue; holding mission leadership accountable for WPS obligations; and adequately resourcing gender functions in missions.

HIPPO concluded that the commitment to the WPS agenda is “uneven…at the most senior levels and within the ranks of all mission personnel – civilian and uniformed – and at Headquarters; there is a failure to understand the integration of gender and the advancement of the Women, Peace and Security agenda as a responsibility of all staff” (para. 239).

Our analysis reveals that there is a clear correlative relationship between mandates, gender expertise, and reports that include information and analysis on WPS. Hence, there is an ongoing need for the Security Council to explicitly integrate WPS provisions in the mandates of peacekeeping operations, including gender mainstreaming across a mission, and in component-specific provisions such as protection of civilians, security sector reform and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

Mandates should call for necessary gender analysis and technical gender expertise, ensuring the needs and participation of women are integrated in all sequenced stages of mission mandates and components, which should also encompass regular consultations with civil society including women’s organizations. WPS should be integrated throughout all stages of mission planning, mandate development, review and mission drawdown.

To continue carrying out important gender mainstreaming duties in an integrated, intersectional and cross-cutting manner, the gender functions across peacekeeping missions must be appropriately resourced and provided with the necessary political support. Concerningly, gender functions across peacekeeping missions have been disproportionately impacted by UN peacekeeping budget cuts, despite the importance of gender advisors outlined in HIPPO and multiple Security Council Resolutions. Security Council members and other Member States must continue expressing strong support for dedicated gender expertise within missions.

While gender advisors need to be deployed at the strategic level to ensure gender perspectives are integrated into mission activities, the responsibility for mainstreaming gender and WPS commitments set by the Security Council must lie with the mission leadership.

Terms of Reference and Compacts for peacekeeping mission leadership should include indicators related to gender, as called for by the Security Council in 2015, but so far, has not been implemented. HIPPO recommended three specific qualitative and quantitative indicators to strengthen accountability, including on gender mainstreaming as well as on gender parity (para. 243).

Senior mission leadership should also be holding regular consultations with civil society, including women’s organizations, soon after their deployment and then establish a regular schedule for consultations that include specific and thematic outreach with women leaders and women civil society organizations representing different ethnic, faith and minority groups. How these diverse consultations with women’s organizations have helped shape various phases of a mission should be reported on by mission leadership.

Decisions made during deliberations both at UN Headquarters and in the field should reflect the needs and recommendations of local communities. To ensure this, all missions and security council members should increase participation of diverse women civil society representatives during deliberations and systematize these consultations, as called for in Security Council resolutions.

Mainstreaming gender in peacekeeping missions is tantamount to improving UN peacekeeping. At the WPS Open Debate in October 2017, the importance of gender in peacekeeping missions was mentioned by 35 different speakers, 20 of which specified importance of maintaining gender expertise. Meetings on peacekeeping operations cannot happen without addressing these issues.


“We as civil society need this meeting to be solution based meeting because we have seen numerous such meetings that end up with position papers that are not action-oriented.”
Betty Sunday, Coordinator of the Women’s Monthly Forum on the Peace Process in South Sudan, speaking to the UN Security Council on 23 March 2017.