Peacekeeping and women’s role in peace and security

I Gede Sumertha KY,

At the end of the Cold War, internal armed conflicts constitute the vast majority of today’s wars. Many of these conflicts take place in the world’s poorest countries, where state capacity may be weak and where belligerents may be motivated by economic gain.

Situations like this make a government unable to deliver basic needs for the people and can cause a state of emergency.

These conflicts can destroy the normal economy and the majority of the population typically lives under very difficult economic conditions to begin with.

With many male relatives killed, injured or displaced by the conflicts, women take on additional responsibilities to care for and feed their families.

Yet traditionally, women and girls tend to have less access than men to education, skills and credit and fewer prospects for employment. In such an environment, exchanging sex for money or food is often a means of economic survival for many women and their families.

Populations in post-conflict environments — especially women and children — are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse.

In response, the United Nations Security Council issued resolution No. 1325 on Women and Peace and Security on Oct. 31, 2000.

The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in maintaining and promoting peace and security.

It also calls on all parties in conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence — particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse — during armed conflicts.

The resolution provides a number of important operational mandates with implications for member states and entities in the UN system.

Historically, the practice of peacekeeping began in 1948 when the first UN military observers were deployed to the Middle East.

During the ensuing Cold War, the goals of the UN’s peacekeeping mission were limited to maintaining cease-fires and stabilizing situations on the ground.

Several of the UN longstanding peacekeeping operations fit this “traditional” model.

With the end of the Cold War, the strategic context for UN peacekeeping changed dramatically and the Security Council began to work more actively to promote the containment and peaceful resolution of regional conflicts.

The transformation of the international environment has given rise to a new generation of “multi-dimensional” UN peacekeeping operations.

These operations are typically deployed in the dangerous aftermath of violent internal conflicts and may employ a mix of military, police and civilian capabilities to support the implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement.

UN integrated missions are usually mandated to deliver a wide range of functions, including support to the peace process, facilitation of humanitarian and development assistance, human rights monitoring, protection of civilians, disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reinsertion and reintegration and security sector reform under a single, over-arching management arrangement, i.e. under the authority of a Special Representative of Secretary-General/Head of a Military Component.

Therefore, in the multidimensional peacekeeping operation known as an integrated mission, the main task of the military component of the UN is demanding the cooperation between the military component of the civilian component in terms of humanitarian aid and protection for civilians.

The activities of the peacekeeping operations for multidimensional peace processes represent the initial stages of the transition process, namely the state of war to peace conditions.

The continuation of the peace process was followed by a number of humanitarian aid activities and efforts that support the development and peace building.

Respect for human rights was one of the main reasons for founding the UN. The UN Charter requires all member states to promote and encourage respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.

In order to meet the challenges posed by Security Council Resolution No. 1325, the Peacekeeping Center of the Indonesian Military, which was established on Jan. 29, 2007, has been providing TNI soldiers, male and female, who will conduct UN missions with gender equality materials in their pre-deployment training.

The TNI’s Peacekeeping Center is committed to promoting international human rights law, especially in disseminating its content to military personnel who will conduct UN missions.

There are four subjects delivered in predeployment training: human rights in peacekeeping, child protection, prevention of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, and Security Council Resolution No. 1325 on Women and Peace and Security.

Based on that resolution, the TNI has attempted to meet the number of women personnel in its UN peacekeeping mission as regulated by the UN of a maximum of 10 percent of a total contingent.

But, in practice, it has never been fulfilled because of two reasons: first, many women candidates have failed in the recruitment process because of minimal English skills and second, many of them are married and cannot get their husbands’ permission to join in a UN peacekeeping operation.

However, despite remaining at the minimum, there is an increasing number of female soldiers participating in UN peacekeeping operations, from three participants in 2007/2008 to 24 participants in 2010/2011.

The writer is the chief of the Indonesian Military’s Peacekeeping Center.

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