Peacekeeping operations are a significant part of the work of the United Nations and the Security Council in relation to conflict situations. For activities to support and build peace to be successful, an understanding of gender issues is critical. It is imperative for peacekeeping personnel to respond appropriately to the different ways that women, men, girls and boys are affected by armed conflict and its aftermath. It is important to note that “gender and peacekeeping” cannot be reduced to the question of how many women are recruited as peacekeepers. This often results in tacit acceptance of increased militarism of societies through encouraging militarization of women. More significant is considering the particular needs and interests of women when designing and implementing peace support operations. It is vital that peacekeepers do not abuse the trust placed in them by the populations they are meant to protect – in particular, sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers must be addressed. The Security Council mandates most peacekeeping operations through its resolutions and the majority are run by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
The Security Council is responsible for the establishment of peace support operations – usually in the context of UN sponsored peace agreements. The UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) bears primary responsibility for managing peacekeeping operations. As of April 2010 the missions mandated by the Security Council and run by DPKO numbered 16. The UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA) manages missions for situations that are no longer in immediate danger for lapsing back into conflict. There are several peace support operations in which the operations of DPKO are integrated with the operations of other UN agencies – this is usually the case in relation to countries that have stabilized and in which the development and other activities of the United Nations are taking place.
With the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 on 31 October 2000, the United Nations and Member States expressed commitment to incorporating gender perspectives into peacekeeping operations through several actions including: ensuring that UN field operations include a gender component (OP5);, training peacekeeping personnel on gender (OP6); and increasing the number of women in peacekeeping (OP6). In addition, the resolution requests that the Secretary-General include in reporting on peacekeeping missions information on the progress of gender mainstreaming within each operation (OP17).
Security Council resolution 1820 (2008) emphasizes the role peacekeeping missions in preventing and addressing sexual violence. In particular, SCR 1820 requests that trainings for peacekeeping personnel (both pre-deployment and once on the ground) help them better prevent, recognize and respond to sexual violence (OP6). The resolution also addresses the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers of civilians through encouraging troop contributing countries to implement trainings of their own troops and ensuring that there is accountability for misconduct within the troop-contributing country (OP7; OP8).