Women in Peacekeeping
Statement by Karel van Oosterom
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations
New York, Thursday, 11 April 2019
Thank you Madam President,
In honor of the German Presidency let me try to say this in German:
Vielen Dank Frau Vorsitzende!
We align ourselves with the EU statement.
Let me start with commending Germany, as well as France, for making the Women, Peace and Security agenda a priority of their presidencies.
And Germany specifically for bringing more light and transparency to this august gathering by opening the curtains and its efforts for better timekeeping.
I also applaud the Secretary-General for his leadership and I want to thank him for giving equal participation prominence in his “Action for Peacekeeping”.
I am pleased that previous speakers and distinguished briefers confirm that we are no longer debating why more women should be involved in peace operations, but how.
Barriers to female participation differ; across missions and across T/PCCs. However, they concern us all.
In the Netherlands, we have just celebrated the 75th anniversary of female participation in the armed forces.
We have made a lot of progress in these 75 years, but still struggle to get the numbers right.
In addressing the “how-question”, I wish to focus on three elements:
- The need for full analysis of institutional and logistical barriers;
- The need to translate our findings into action; and
- The need to match action by training.
1. Barrier Analysis
My first point: we cannot act effectively, if we do not fully understand the barriers women are facing.
Last year, the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) issued a baseline study.
The study details the barriers faced by women in assuming military and police roles in UN peace operations.
This is a positive step, but more needs to be done.
We need to listen better to the real experts – women - when researching the obstruction to their participation.
I have heard stories of women becoming dehydrated because they stop drinking fluids after a certain time, to avoid a risky nighttime trip to the toilet.
We must work together to make these stories a thing of the past.
The recently launched Elsie Initiative Fund will allow for additional research into TCC and mission-specific barriers.
This will enable us to develop targeted policy and interventions in response.
The Netherlands is a proud supporter of the Elsie Initiative Fund and encourages other Member States to follow suit.
2. Translate findings into action
This brings me to my second point: We need to translate the findings of research into concrete action.
We need to bring down the barriers to equal participation: both at home and in-mission.
Moreover, it is not “rocket science”. A lot can be achieved by simple measures:
- Increasing efforts to recruit more women;
- Appointing national gender advisors;
- Gender-responsive criteria for deployment; and,
- Providing adequate camp accommodation and equipment.
We need a change in culture more than anything else.
A culture where we listen and are responsive to gender specific needs.
The Secretary-General is doing this through his Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy.
We welcome this Strategy and call on everyone to support it.
This brings me to my final point: in order to achieve the necessary change in culture, we need proper gender training, throughout the military curriculum, including pre-deployment and deployment training.
We need to instill a gender-responsive attitude across all mission pillars and personnel; both women and men.
In the Netherlands, we do this inter alia by means of a “Gender in Operations Course”.
Let us be honest, it is also about the numbers. To get the numbers right at the UN, the Kingdom of the Netherlands has been supporting the Female Military Officers Course.
We hope others will do the same.
In conclusion, improving our missions’ effectiveness through increasing female participation is vital, and crucial to our efforts to modernize UN peacekeeping.
Increasing female participation featured prominently in the Declaration of Shared Commitments that we signed up to last year. Let us redouble our efforts – as we pledged - to make it a reality.
It is time for us to walk the talk, and let us be inspired by role models like yourself, Madame President.