Germany is campaigning to increase the number of women peacekeepers in UN peace operations. The Federal Ministry of Defence has therefore commissioned a scientific study on the barriers encountered by female military personnel of the Bundeswehr. The results of the Barrier Assessment have now been published.
A higher number of women serving in UN peacekeeping missions can contribute to enhancing mission effectiveness and credibility, and thus to implementing the mandate more successfully. The United Nations’ Women, Peace and Security agenda based on UN Resolution 1325 from the year 2000 is therefore committed to increasing participation of women in peacekeeping, and raising the share of women in UN peace operations.
Yet, the number of uniformed women in UN missions is slow to grow. In July 2021, their share across all UN contingents was only 5.3 percent. The proportion of women among military observers and staff officers, at least, was 17.9 percent.
In their Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy, the United Nations have set the goal of increasing the share of female military personnel in contingents to 15 percent, and the share of female staff officers and military observers to 25 percent by 2028.
So far, Germany has not reached the United Nations’ targets for women in UN peace operations. In July, the share of women in force contingents was 7.9 percent, and 12.1 percent among military observers and staff officers. The Ministry of Defence has therefore commissioned a study on the barriers faced by women in the Bundeswehr precluding their increased participation in UN operations. A summary of the study results has now been published. The English and French versions can be downloaded below.
The external study contractors were able to identify twelve barriers preventing the deployment of more uniformed women to UN peace operations. For one thing, the Barrier Assessment found that there were too few trained women UN military observers and UN staff officers in the Bundeswehr in general. For another thing, too little information was provided on UN operations. Another point was the lack of opportunities for sharing experiences.
Furthermore, the study found that long absences from family and friends as well as negative experiences such as discrimination or sexual harassment discouraged some women from applying for UN peace operations. Some study participants also stated that participating in a UN peace operation presented no career advantages and was given little priority by superiors.
Others stated that they had to convince superiors and fellow soldiers – both within the Bundeswehr and on the mission – that their military training was sufficient for the operation. It was also claimed that female personnel often had to fulfil tasks stereotypically assigned to women such as social or care tasks. In the context of the study, 765 female and male Bundeswehr personnel with and without UN operational experience were interviewed. 34 experts also participated in interviews.
The Federal Ministry of Defence is now planning to implement measures to reduce the barriers that have been identified through the national assessment. More information is, for example, to be made available on the possibility of deployment to UN missions, and more training opportunities are to be offered to women to become UN military observers and UN staff officers.
Germany is one of the first countries to investigate barriers for women in peacekeeping by means of a national Barrier Assessment. For this reason, the Ministry of Defence has made plans from the start to share the results of the study and the insights gained from the study process with the United Nations and with interested UN member states.
The barrier study had been announced by Germany in the UN Security Council in spring 2019. During its tenure as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2019 and 2020, Germany had made it its priority to help strengthen women in peacekeeping.
As part of the UN’s reform initiative Action for Peacekeeping (A4P), Germany in its capacity as an A4P champion in the area of “Women, Peace and Security” continues to work for raising the share of women in UN peace missions.
In order to guarantee the comparability of study results, the German Barrier Assessment was conducted based on the internationally renowned MOWIP (Measuring Opportunities for Women in Peace Operations) methodology.
The MOWIP methodology was developed by the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance to help troop- and police-contributing countries to identify barriers in their respective national environments as well as to evaluate which barriers have the greatest negative impact on the deployment of female personnel.
In addition, the methodology provides recommendations on how to reduce these barriers.
UN Resolution 1325
On 31 October 2000, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325. It demands that women in armed conflicts be better protected against violence, that violations of their rights be prevented and that they be involved in peace negotiations on equal terms. To achieve these goals, a gender equality perspective is to be integrated in all aspects of peace operations and the role and contribution of women in UN missions is to be expanded.
Nine follow-up resolutions to Resolution 1325 have so far been adopted. In addition, the UNSCR passed Resolution 2538 in 2020, which focuses on women in peacekeeping. This resolution demands concrete measures to reduce barriers to equal participation of women in peace operations.
The English and French versions of the study's summary can be downloaded here.