A center for sensitization to the role and important of gender in peacekeeping.
When thinking about peacekeeping operations, it is common to relate gender with specific offices or professional staff that are tasked to deal with it: Gender Advisers and Gender Offices, Sexual Violence in Conflict Unit, Women Protection Advisers. However, gender is a task that should affect everyone in a peacekeeping mission: from Blue Helmet, to civilian staff, police etc. This implies working in an environment composed of both men and women, which accepts and promotes equal and interdependent roles, in order to create the conditions under which women can participate in peacekeeping missions. It also entails the adoption of a gender approach in the strategies of protection of civilians and resolution of conflict. In practical terms, it involves:
- specific strategies to protect local women. In conflict settings women are exposed to sexual violence more than men (although men are also victims of violations, but to a lesser extent). Sexual assaults occur during daily activities, which is why peacekeepers should adopt a gender approach in identifying, together with local women, strategies of prevention and protection. For example: escorting women to the local market.
- ways to relate with local women, in order to understand in which way they can actively contribute to conflict prevention and resolution. In many peacekeeping scenarios, local women have fewer opportunities than men to have contact with peacekeeping actors. Culturally official exchanges are indeed conducted by men. As such the challenge is to find strategies that ensure the inclusion local women’s voices and proposals in prevention, mediation, resolution of conflict and post-conflict reconstruction. Respecting the cultural norms of each local context is a responsibility of all peacekeepers, military, civilian and police.
To accomplish these tasks, the presence of female peacekeepers is essential, seeing as they are more approachable and can become role models. Nonetheless their presence is not exhaustive, nor does it exonerate male peacekeepers from being actively involved in gender promotion.
Promoting a gender perspective in peacekeeping missions is not an aim only for women, whether military or civilian staff. All peacekeepers need to jointly work to achieve it and in order to do so, they need to be provided with adequate tools. This is when gender training comes into play.
Why is training important?
In peacekeeping contexts, gender is a crucial element of conflict resolution. A reinforced gender approach, alongside with promotion and protection of human rights, and adequate response to human rights violations, make up the peacekeepers’ strategies for civilian protection and conflict resolution. Training on gender helps peacekeepers understand that everyone is part of gender promotion. For gender has an interconnected nature, it influences the evolution of a conflict and each sphere of the society, and that is why all peacekeepers need to contribute to its endorsement. Gender Offices, SVCU, WPAs have the expertise on this subject, yet they cannot have an effective impact if they are the only bodies working with, and paying attention to, gender. All domains of peace settlement must promote and adopt a gender perspective: from physical protection of vulnerable people (military peacekeepers), to restoration of state authority (civilian peacekeepers), support in reforming local security forces (police), etc.
In peacekeeping mission contexts, gender training proves to be, in addition, particularly important due to the multi-cultural environment in which the different actors find themselves. Gender is culturally defined and, as such, it is necessary for international peacekeeping bodies to be aware of the diversity of social norms that exist both within the peacekeeping missions, and with regard to the local understanding of gender relations.
Finally, gender training provides peacekeepers with tools that improve conflict solution strategies and contribute to a lasting peace. For instance, in many society women represent the essential engine for social reconstruction in post-conflict situations: they help rebuild the local economy in adopting the roles of market-sellers, provide for the education of children, care for the daily well-being of their families etc. Women are strong pillars that consolidate relations both within and between communities, consequently promoting reconciliation after conflict. Avoiding gender training in a conflict resolution strategy would be a crucial mistake that would impede reconstruction and a lasting peace.
How is training implemented?
In peacekeeping contexts, gender training are usually organized and provided for the military component of the mission. The Security Council Resolution 2106 (2013) is the last of a series of resolutions that urged for the implementation of pre-deployment training on gender promotion to troop contributing countries (TCC), before their arrival in the mission area.
According to United Nations, each TCC has the responsibility to provide officers and soldiers participating to peacekeeping mission with full pre-deployment courses. Only during the last years those courses started to include gender aspects, but not in a constant manner. Indeed, usually each TCC has a recognized military training institution that provides pre-deployment courses, but not all TCCs have experts that can present provide gender training.
Official manuals on gender promotion have been elaborated by the United Nations, but in several cases gender aspects continued to be referred exclusively to women, approached only as vulnerable subject to protect, and very rarely as the element to promote protection.
1) "Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. An Analytical Inventory of Peacekeeping Practice", UNWomen, October 2012
2) "Review of Scenario-based Trainings for Military Peacekeepers on Prevention and Response to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence", Susanne Axmacher, December 2013
3) Website for all pre-deployment training UN DPKO: http://peacekeepingresourcehub.unlb.org/PBPS/Pages/Public/library.aspx?ot=2&scat=394&menukey=_4_5_4
Regional training centers:
• Peacekeeping Best practices UN Hub, http://peacekeepingresourcehub.unlb.org/PBPS/Pages/Public/Home.aspx
• ENOPU (Escuela Nacional de Operaciones de Paz del Uruguay) - http://www.ejercito.mil.uy/comsocial/enopu/historia.html,
• Brazilian Peacekeeping Joint Center (CCOPAB), http://www.ccopab.eb.mil.br/index.php/en/ccopab/criacao-do-centro
• Association of Latin American Peacekeeping Training Centres (ALCOPAZ),
• E-Learning for Peacekeepers from Latin America and the Caribbean (ELPLAC)
• Centro Argentino de Entrenamiento Conjunto Para Operaciones de Paz (CAECOPAZ),
• Joint Peace Operations Training Centre of Peru (CECOPAZ-Peru), http://www.peaceopstraining.org/programs/cecopaz-peru/
• Comando Regional de Entrenamiento de Operaciones de Mantenimiento de Paz (CREOMPAZ),
• Regional peacekeeping Training center South Africa (SADC) - http://www.sadc.int/sadc-secretariat/services-centres/rptc/
In the field training
The contexts of peacekeeping missions are multiple: each mission presents its own specificities, and highly differs from one another. As such, it is very useful to add to the pre-deployment gender training, some specific “in the field training” once the troops have arrived to the mission area.
This would allow for the proposed training to be adapted to the context and the organisation of the specific mission. For instance, in contexts influenced by religious aspects it is worth developing cultural awareness and sensitive approaches in dealing with local women. Another example is training on gender related human rights violations in areas where violation is particularly spread. Such a training can be offered to officers and troops, depending on its context and scope, or it can be directly provided by the sections of the peacekeeping mission that have the expertise in the domain, such as Gender Offices or the Sexual Violence Unit. An example of the latter case is the training proposed to the military Force and the Community Liaison Assistants (CLAs) in the South Kivu province in DRCongo, MONUSCO, by the SVCU and Gender Office on Prevention, Response and Reporting of sexual violence cases. Between 2012 and 2013, more than 120 MONUSCO military officers, and more than 30 CLAs, received these training sessions. The sessions provided them with guidance on how to respect the confidentiality of victims when reporting cases of conflict-related sexual violence. They also passed on the basic tools to deal with victims, such as the lists of local health structures that are able to assist sexual violence victims. In that way, peacekeepers were able to orientate the cases to the right services. Moreover, the Force understood the importance of fighting against sexual violence, making it clear that it was crucial to solve other domains of the conflict.
How to introduce Gender Approaches to military peacekeepers: contributing to stronger approaches
Official training addressed to all contingents of military peacekeeping Forces prior to their deployment in the mission areas are going to be implemented in many Countries, as requested by the Security Council Resolutions 2106, but not yet as a systematic practice. In order to improve the preparation of peacekeeping military Forces, these training sessions should be provided to each contingent prior to the deployment, and of course be adapted to the context and cultural sensitivity of each of them. Moreover, the training should be practical enough for it to clarify what is possible to apply, and what is expected from the contingents once in the field. Guidelines for military peacekeepers on how to react when faced with cases of human rights violation that bears elements of gender discrimination (such as sexual violence), and how to report them, should be disseminated. The training should also underline the necessary cooperation with civilian sections, and thoroughly explain the connections between gender and conflict, in order to accustom the practice of considering gender as an essential element in analysis of strategies for protection of civilians. Moreover, such a training would need to be repeated in the mission area, and adapted to the context and the organisation of the specific mission. It would be also very important for civilian personnel to have the opportunity of being provided with a training adapted to their role.