Celebrating 10 Years of Progress with Both Eyes on the Future

Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Kristine St-Pierre

In October 2010, the world will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security. The landmark Resolution, passed unanimously by the Security Council in 2000, recognized that women not only bear the brunt of armed conflicts, but are equally important agents of change. As such, the Resolution went beyond the traditional view of women as victims, calling for women's equal participation and full involvement at all levels of peace processes. The Resolution also demonstrated a clear commitment by the UN and its Member States to increase the number of women in peace operations, to incorporate a gender perspective into peace operations activities, and to include gender-sensitive, and sexual and gender-based violence training as part of pre-deployment and induction training.

A leader in this field

The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre is no stranger to these issues, having been one of the first peacekeeping organizations to begin to assess and analyze the role of women in peace operations. Following the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995, which set forth a comprehensive agenda for women's empowerment, we hosted a roundtable in Cornwallis that helped frame subsequent thinking and program development on the issue. For the Centre, this year not only marks the 10th anniversary of the passing of Resolution 1325, but showcases our ongoing work and progress towards the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women in peace and security.

Our work has led us to explore and highlight the operational advantage of having women participate in military, police and gendarmerie organizations at the country level and in peace operations in particular. At the same time, the PPC has also identified ways of overcoming barriers to women's participation in peace and security issues. In addition to women's lack of access to training and seminars, one of the main gaps we identified was the relative absence of women-specific fora for deliberation and mutual support for women working in and/or interested in peace operations.

As a response, the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre identified a number of objectives for promoting and supporting the effective participation of women in peace operations. These include advocating for the increased recruitment and deployment of women to peace operations, building the capacity of national institutions to recruit, train, retain, and deploy female police and military officers, sensitizing the peace operations community to the importance of women's contributions in peace and security, and helping women empower themselves to contribute more effectively to peace operations.

It is fair to say that as an institution, the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre has come a long way in ensuring that gender is mainstreamed in all our training and programs. Our work is changing rapidly to reflect new and diverse needs of our partners, including their requirement for more gender-sensitive training, specific seminars and capacity building workshops on gender mainstreaming, as well as their desire for all-female courses.

Sexual and gender-based training

One specific achievement in terms of the women, peace and security agenda worth mentioning is our training on sexual and gender-based violence. Since 2008, we have trained close to 250 women and 30 men police officers working in Sudan (both UNMIS and UNAMID, as well as Government of Sudan and South Sudan Police Service) on interviewing, mentoring and report writing skills to help them prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based crimes.

The experience to date has been a tremendous one. The courses provide us with a deeper appreciation of the work of police officers in Sudan and of the challenges they face on a daily basis. They also serve as catalyst for better understanding among different cultures and nationalities and for forging crucial partnerships between women and men actors of peace. Seeing the courses in action and participants' enthusiasm for learning and sharing their experiences also brought a great sense of satisfaction to the delivery team and the PPC at large.

In my opinion, the most important achievement of our courses and of this course in particular, is the ability to bring women and men participants together to share and discuss sensitive issues in a safe environment, and learn from each other. When asked to identify one thing they learned about SGBV, one female participant stood up and said, “I realized that I am not alone and that the situation in my camp is not unique.” In addition to enhancing their skills, the course enables men and women to connect with others who are doing the same work as them, to share experiences and to form lasting friendships that they will take back to the mission and beyond.

Encouraging women's participation

Other achievements worth highlighting include our ongoing work with partner countries to strengthen internal policies and procedures to allow for greater participation of women in the police and gendarmerie. For example, the Gendarmerie of Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso changed their policy to allow for the recruitment of women.

With this success in mind, we know how much more work remains to be done. The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre focuses on emerging trends, lessons learned and best practices in order to anticipate the needs of participants and donors. Through our work, we not only seek to advance international commitments on gender equality, but also seek to support our multiple partners in fulfilling their obligations on women, peace and security.

As the world is getting ready to celebrate the 10th anniversary of UN Resolution 1325, it is important to keep our eyes on the tasks ahead, with one foot in the past, one foot in the present and both eyes on the future.