Women in UN Peacekeeping Operations


Sabrina Karim. 2019. "Women in UN Peacekeeping Operations." In Women and Gender Perspectives in the Military: An International Comparison, edited by Robert Egnell and Mayesha Alam, 23-40. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Author: Sabrina Karim


"This chapter explores the UN’s implementation of a gender perspective by asking three main questions. First, why were decisions made in the UN to include a gender perspective in peacekeeping operations? And who were the key decision makers in making changes in missions? Here the key insight is that attempts to bring attention to the women, peace, and security (WPS) agenda started in the 1990s, but the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 in 2000 set the stage for UN peacekeeping operations to ensure a gender perspective in all peacekeeping missions. Next, what does the integration of women and gender perspectives look like when it is operationalized in peacekeeping missions? DPKO has implemented UNSCR 1325 mainly through two mechanisms: gender balancing and gender mainstreaming. While gender mainstreaming may be a more holistic way to ensure that missions adopt a gender perspective, gender balancing has been a more popular route owing to expedience. Nevertheless, there are drawbacks to this approach, mainly that female peacekeepers are not able to reach their full potential because of the gendered structures that exist both in contributing country militaries and within the peacekeeping mission. While gender mainstreaming is perhaps a preferable tool, it suffers from inadequate conceptualization and has not been effective because of a pervasive male dominance within peacekeeping culture. 
Moving forward, an assessment of DPKO’s past strategy, achievements, and shortcomings is necessary to evaluate the potential for peacekeeping missions to lead in promoting gender issues globally. Because of its comparative advantage in implementing a gender perspective, the UN is regarded as a model for WPS efforts in the militaries of individual countries. Thus, to understand how the UN has implemented a gender perspective and the effects of such implementation, this chapter first explores the evolution of integrating a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations and provides an understanding of why decisions were made to include a gender perspective in peacekeeping operations in the 2000s. This historical tracing helps us understand how gender perspectives might be brought to national militaries. The chapter then demonstrates that the UN, policymakers, and some scholars opted to take an instrumentalist approach in justifying why a gendered approach was necessary. The next part of the chapter highlights how implementation occurred; the UN implemented both gender balancing and gender mainstreaming but has perhaps prioritized gender balancing because it is easier to measure. The chapter concludes with some of the existing challenges that remain to more fully integrate a gender perspective in peacekeeping operations." (Karim 2019, 23-24)

Topics: Gender, Gender Balance, Gender Mainstreaming, International Organizations, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Peacekeeping, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS, UNSCR 1325

Year: 2019

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