Participation of female troops ‘essential’ to modern peacekeeping operations

Minister for Defence says UN operations now ‘more complex and less resourced’ than in past

Minister Defence Simon Coveney said modern peacekeeping missions are operating with more complex mandates, fewer resources and in harsher and more remote operating environments. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Minister Defence Simon Coveney said modern peacekeeping missions are operating with more complex mandates, fewer resources and in harsher and more remote operating environments. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

 

The participation of female troops in peacekeeping missions is essential for the protection of civilians and human rights, the new head of the Defence Forces has said.

Lt Gen Seán Clancy said the Defence Forces has learned that female peacekeepers “improve overall peacekeeping performance” and can provide critical humanitarian information through contact with women and children in host countries.

The Chief of Staff, who took up the role two weeks ago, was speaking at a seminar on the topic of Building Peace in Complex Environments organised by Ireland, Norway and the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA).

The event heard from Norwegian and Irish officials on how climate change is set to drastically alter peacekeeping operations and how the involvement of women will be critical to addressing this.

Female peacekeepers “help to promote human rights and protection of civilians and encourage women to become a meaningful and, I would argue, an essential piece of peace and political processes,” Lt Gen Clancy said.

Currently women make up about 7 per cent of the Defence Forces and have completed about 1,400 individual peacekeeping tours.

Improved decisions

Greater diversity brings with it a wider skill set, which translates into “improved decision making, improved planning and improved results, Lt Gen Clancy said.

“Female peacekeepers can better access the population, including women and children, thereby providing critical humanitarian information that would otherwise be difficult to reach.”

He said the Defence Forces has used female peacekeepers as part of local liaison teams, medical teams and civil-military cooperation teams “to great effect”.

Conflicts disproportionately impact women and children, including those of female ex-combatants and child soldiers. Women peacekeepers bring new perspectives and solutions to addressing these issues, he said.

Lt Gen Clancy called the participation of women an “operational imperative” for peacekeeping in “today’s complex and evolving peacekeeping environment”.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney said modern peacekeeping missions are operating with more complex mandates, fewer resources and in harsher and more remote operating environments.

He said a priority for Ireland’s term on the UN Security Council is to link climate change discussions with discussions on women, peace and security.

Threat multiplier

The Minister cited former president Mary Robinson’s view that climate change is a “threat multiplier” which “fuels insecurity and exacerbates conflict”.

Of the 15 countries hosting UN mandated peacekeeping operations, eight have been identified as the most susceptible in the world to the risks of climate change.

“Where these dual risks occur, conflict can be lengthier and harsher,” Mr Coveney said.

“Climate action alone will not deliver peace but without climate action, we will have a less sustainable peace in many parts of the world.”

He also said extreme weather events will impact the operations of peacekeeping missions themselves, and this was something that the UN must plan for.

“Given that it’s likely that future operations will deploy into challenging climatic environments, the UN needs to consider how it can deploy and sustain deployments in these scenarios without adversely exacerbating the environmental conditions in the operating theatre itself.”

He said it is Ireland’s position that the UN should consider including environmental impact assessments as part of planning for a mission, which would serve to reduce the overall environmental footprint of UN operations.