MAY 1, 2010: Security Council Faulted for Gender Hypocrisy

Security Council Faulted for Gender Hypocrisy
By Armin Rosen
Ten years after a United Nations Security Council resolution aimed at re-evaluating women's roles in U.N.-brokered peacekeeping efforts, women are still underrepresented in the peacekeeping process.
According to Human Rights Watch's Marianne Mollman, many U.N. negotiating teams do not include a single female member, while there is only one all-female division of peacekeepers in the entire U.N. system. Mollman urged the U.N. to hold itself to the benchmarks for women's participation set forth in resolution 1325 and to give women a larger role in peacekeeping.

Mollman says that there are several ways that the U.N. can give the peacekeeping process a greater focus on women's issues.

Working towards "U.N.-sponsored peace agreements that includes specific provisions for sexual violence" and "integrated peace building missions with mandates on sexual violence" is one of 1325's goals, as is increasing the percentage of women in peacekeeping, says Mollman.

"These are issues that signal the integration of women and their concerns at the peacekeeping level," she says.

Yet in a press release last week, Human Rights Watch criticised the Security Council's lack of accountability in their long-term efforts to increase female involvement in international peacekeeping efforts.

In 2000, Security Council resolution 1325 required the United Nations to make tangible efforts towards bringing more women into every level of the peacekeeping process. It established a series of benchmarks for gauging women's roles in peacekeeping, and required annual reports on the resolution's implementation.

But Human Rights Watch believes that the U.N. has been "inconsistent" in its review process, and has shown little progress in addressing some of the issues that resolution 1325 has raised.

"We want a way of holding the system accountable," says Mollman. "It cannot be that you can have missions that just don't deal with the women's part of their mandate."

Several U.N. peacekeeping missions have mandates that specifically deal with women's issues. For instance, MONUC, the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has a mandate for protecting "vulnerable groups, including women, children and demobilised child soldiers."

According to Mollman, a lack of women's involvement in peacekeeping means that such women-specific aspects of a mission's mandate might get overlooked.

This has already had an effect on peacekeeping efforts in the DRC. Mollman notes that the "terms of reference" for the Security Council's upcoming visit to the DRC say nothing about women's issues, despite the conflict's widespread instances of rape and sexual abuse.

The "terms of reference" represent an understanding between a host government and the Security Council as to the purpose and scope of the Council's visit. She points out that the terms of reference did include references to children and other civilian groups other threat.

"It's not like there was no mention of civilians," she says. "It's just mindboggling that they can negotiate a terms of reference that doesn't include women."

The Security Council is visiting the DRC this May, partly to negotiate the gradual withdrawal of the country's 20,000 peacekeepers, which form the largest U.N. peacekeeping contingent on earth. The DRC conflict has produced some of the highest rates of rape in the history of modern warfare, and Mollman believes that female involvement in discussing MONUC's future will be essential to the mission's responsible termination.

"I think it's particularly important right now as they're negotiating this to emphasise and insist on women's participation," she said.

The same could be said for the entire peacekeeping process, and Human Rights Watch fears that the tenth anniversary of 1325 could be marked by debates over the U.N.'s refusal to seriously consider the problems highlighted in the resolution, rather than a discussion of whether the Security Council has met the resolution's benchmarks.