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Women still sidelined in peacekeeping efforts, U.N. Women report finds

Women make their presence felt at the Bangui National Forum in May. Abuse allegations have been leveled at peacekeepers and French troops in Central African Republic. (Credit: Catianne Tijerina/U.N. Photo)

Women play a crucial role in creating and sustaining peace, but investments in achieving gender equality remain low, according to a new report. The 400-page review commissioned by U.N. Women details progress made on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325, which ensured that women would have equal participation in efforts to maintain and promote peace and security. Early gains leveled off in the 15 years since the resolution was adopted. The participation of women in peace talks are still in the single digits, according to the report.

“The evidence shows us unequivocally that women need to be full participants at the peace tables, as negotiators and decision-makers in a much more inclusive process. Women have to be able to control where resources are needed, for example to overcome trauma and the scars of war, or directing practical recovery matters like restitution of property and fields,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, U.N. undersecretary-general and executive director of U.N. Women.

The report also argues that the U.N. should set up a special international tribunal to address serious crimes committed by peacekeepers. Cases of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic have recently emerged. The slow process of investigation and prosecution has exposed major gaps in abuse prevention and justice for victims.

The report, written by Radhika Coomaraswamy, former U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict, presents alternative justice mechanisms including hybrid tribunals and stronger rules forcing countries to bring accused peacekeepers to trial. Coomaraswamy sees the special tribunal as the best option.

“The issue of sexual abuse by peacekeepers and humanitarian workers still remains a problem for the U.N. that requires effective and strong action,” the report states. “It is truly a frightening phenomenon when your protector becomes a predator. It is crucial that the U.N. signal a determined commitment to address this issue once and for all.”

Three members of the peacekeeping unit in the Central African Republic were accused of rape in August. The unit has been accused of abuse before – there have been more than a dozen accusations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers during the yearlong deployment. Earlier in the year, soldiers from France, Equatorial Guinea and Chad were accused of sexually assaulting and raping several boys. The slow mechanisms for accountability in the cases caught global attention and in many ways inform the report’s recommendations.

While the recommendations on justice for abuse victims might be the detail that gets a lot of attention, the main thrust of the report is to hold the U.N. accountable on its promises to be more inclusive of women. U.N. Women says that there are too few women serving in military peacekeeping missions, making up just 3 percent of the forces.

“This is a space that is in need of role models,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka, in prepared remarks to the U.N. Security Council. “We need many more women in police forces, military forces and our peacekeeping operations to enhance our operations and peace efforts.”

And it goes beyond U.N. personnel. Women are key to building peace, especially in places where extremism has a strong hold. A commitment to earmark 15 percent of funds for women for peace-building programs will go a long way. At the forefront should be the needs of the people served by the U.N. – particularly women. Putting locals first and including women, the authors of the argue, will help realize the lofty goals set forward by the very creation of the U.N.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]