Assessing barriers and opportunities for women’s participation in peacekeeping

The United Nations has set a target for women to make up 20% of police contributions and 15% of military contributions to peace operations by 2020. However, in 2017 the proportion of female police and military peacekeepers remained well below target, oscillating between 2% and 4% for military personnel and between 6% and 10% for police personnel. In November of that year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau launched the Elsie Initiative, an ambitious five-year international project aimed at helping overcome the barriers to increasing women’s meaningful participation in peace operations. At present, there is a lack of solid and widely shared evidence base of what constitutes the barriers, leaving the UN and its Member States to largely rely on anecdotal evidence or individual testimonies in decision-making and policy development with regards to women’s participation in peace operations.

DCAF, with financial support from Global Affairs Canada and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, is developing and piloting a Barrier Assessment Methodology under the research component of Elsie Initiative, which aims to develop innovative measures in order to incentivize transformational change. An initial Baseline Study published by DCAF in 2018 identified a set of 14 barriers to women’s participation in peace operations and since further research has reduced and combined those barriers into 10; eligible pool, deployment selection, deployment criteria, household constraints, top down leadership, inadequate accommodation and equipment, negative experiences, disincentives to redeploy, stereotypical gender roles, and social exclusion.

The Barrier Assessment Methodology that DCAF is developing in partnership with Cornell University provides a systematic and comprehensive framework that allows researchers in Troop- and Police-Contributing Countries (TPCCs) to support national institutions in identifying which barriers are present in their specific context, and which have the largest negative overall impact on the deployment of women. The assessment is designed to provide TPCCs with actionable recommendations to overcome these barriers, increase the representation of uniformed women in UN deployments and maximise their impact. Once finalised in 2020, the Barrier Assessment Methodology will be made publicly available for any research organisation or security institution to use freely to assess barriers in any country that wishes to change its policies or practices to increase women’s participation in peace operations.

DCAF, together with Cornell University (overseeing the quality and statistical significance of the research) and national partners (responsible for data collection), is piloting the methodology in eight countries, specially selected for their prominence as contributors of male and female military and police personnel. A comparative report with specific country chapters will be released in 2020.

The Barrier Assessment Methodology is also instrumental for the Elsie Initiative Fund launched in March 2019, another key component of the Elsie Initiative. The Multi Donor Trust Fund will provide TPCCs, as well as UN organizations, with flexible funding to support evidence-based activities that aim to accelerate progress towards achieving UN targets on the meaningful participation of uniformed women in peace operations. Institutions wishing to access the fund will first need to undergo an assessment based on the Barrier Assessment Methodology.

DCAF - Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance Solene Brabant Project officer at the gender and security division