UN official calls for more women in peacekeeping efforts
MANILA, Philippines — A high-ranking official from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) called on nations, including the Philippines, to strengthen its efforts to have more women serve as peacekeepers around the world.
“I think [the] Philippines has so many fantastic women. So they (military and police) should send more (to UN peacekeeping operations). They should have more females in your defense forces…because it’s the soldiers that meet and interact most of the time with the locals, so they need to have more of them…they need to have women on the lower levels,” Norwegian Major General Kristin Lund told INQUIRER.net in a chance interview after the Women in Peacekeeping forum on Thursday.
Speaking at the discussion, Lund said that when women are involved in conflict resolution, “it’s much easier to have sustainable peace.”
“Being a woman, you reach out to a much wider audience, so in a way that a process—if it’s a peacekeeping—you need to address the whole society, you need to have a holistic approach. Only with women is that possible,” she added.
Being the first woman to serve as Force Commander in the history of the UN’s peacekeeping efforts and the highest ranking female representative in the UNTSO as Head of Mission, Lund said she has learned to empower women.
“I think that is something that I learned when I’m out there as Head of Mission…to empower the women in a way, and sometimes women need a little more pat on the shoulder to believe in themselves, and that’s where women have to support women. That’s what I’m trying to do,” she said.
Police Col. Portia Manalad, the first woman police director of Cotabato City and previously served in the UN peacekeeping in conflict areas of Kosovo and East Timor, cited figures during the discussion which showed the huge gap between the number of male and female police officers sent to UN peacekeeping efforts.
From 1992 to 2018, Manalad noted that out of the 3,203 personnel deployed by the Philippine National Police in mission areas, only 195 or six percent were female.
According to the UN, its peacekeepers—military, police or civilians—come from the organization’s member states and are deployed to the conflict-ridden parts of the world.
In 2017, UN Secretary-General António Gutteres has committed to ensuring that women “play a far more active role in peace operations.”
Meanwhile, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary Gloria Mercado underscored the role of women in conflict resolutions in the Philippines.
“In all the different context of conflicts in the Philippines, it can be said that there are always different roles for women,” Mercado said.
“On the one hand, it is true that women are the vulnerable ones, but on the other hand, women also prove to be pivotal in conflict transformation from policy to operational level,” she added. “It is by virtue of women being women that make crafting policy and execution of operational tactics effective in times of conflict.”
Mercado likewise called for strengthened participation of women in the formal security sector.
“As a way forward it is our very strong resolve that women participation be strengthened given the crucial role of women in the formal security sector,” she said.
Mercado ended her speech during the forum with a quote from Chile’s former president and now UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
“We simply can no longer afford to deny the full potential of one half of the population. The world needs to tap into the talent and wisdom of women. Whether the issue is food security, economic recovery, health, peace and security, the participation of women is needed more than ever,” she said quoting Bachelet.
The forum was organized by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila in partnership with the UN and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Norway has been a long term partner in the peace processes in the Philippines. (Editor: Eden Estopace)
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