Interventions Abroad Must Take Account of Gender

Peace and security for all people require sustainable concepts. Wars and violent conflicts can only be successfully prevented if human rights are protected worldwide and if women participate equally in the planning and implementation of peace and security policy. Promoting non-violent forms of conflict resolution and preventing violations of human rights in conflict situations were stated objectives of the Action Platform of the Beijing Conference on Women. To achieve this, the governments of the signatory nations, as well as international and regional organizations, are to adopt measures to ensure that gender concerns are taken into account when developing training programs in the field of international humanitarian law and that relevant staff are instructed about human rights. Staff involved in UN peacekeeping and humanitarian aid should also receive such training, with a view to preventing violence against women.

The UN Security Council also believes that a gender perspective has to be an integral part of training and education for military as well as police peacekeepers. Points 6 and 7 of Resolution 1325 request the “Secretary General to provide to Member States training guidelines and materials on the protection, rights, and particular needs of women, as well as on the importance of involving women in all peacekeeping and peacebuilding measures, invites Member States to incorporate these elements … into their national training programs for military and civil police personnel in preparation for deployment and further requests the Secretary General to ensure that civil personnel of peacekeeping operations receive similar training.” And it “urges Member States to increase their voluntary financial, technical, and logistical support for gender-sensitive training efforts…” Various international organizations have meanwhile recognized the importance of gender aspects in their work in crisis areas, have developed specific measures for further training, and have published the relevant materials, mostly online. One positive example is the “Gender and Peace Support Operations” training course developed in 2000 by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and the British Department for International Development (DFID), which was also posted online. This course is designed for both civil and military personnel on peacekeeping missions, and suggests gender sensitive approaches as well as providing information about treaties on human rights and women’s rights.

Building on these materials, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) developed the “Gender and Peacekeeping Operations In-Mission Training” program. This course was designed for participants in UN foreign operations, as well as for military personnel and civil police at the national level. It was tested in a pilot project and then optimized. For UN peacekeeping missions, personnel are now trained on site by mobile “Mission Training Cells” staffed by military instructors. DKPO course material has been included in the introductory program for new peacekeeping personnel in operations in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), Eritrea (UNMEE), East Timor (UNTEAT), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC).

Read Practical Gender Training in East Timor and Eritrea 

The UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) also offers three-day seminars for civil staff entitled Training for Civilian Personnel in Peacekeeping Operations on the Special Needs of Women and Children in and after Conflict. These have so far been held once each for UN missions in Bosnia (UNMIBH), Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), Kosovo (UNMIK), East Timor (UNTEAT), Afghanistan (UNAMA), Haiti (MINUSTAH), Burundi (ONUB), and Cambodia. Gender activists in the United Nations do not want, at least in theory, to keep on providing separate courses on gender, but would rather like to make a gender perspective part of all programs for further training. They view further training as an essential instrument of gender mainstreaming, to develop “gender sensitivity” and “gender expertise.”

The development of gender expertise rests on three levels of education and further training: motivation, knowledge, and skills. The first task, therefore, is to build motivation, namely for participants to view equality as a goal of their own work. This requires an awareness of (potentially) discriminatory structures. The second step is for them to become knowledgeable about gender issues in their own area of work. Third, the participants must acquire the skills to act in a way that promotes equality. Most of the gender training programs currently available have been designed as separate modules, with an emphasis on raising awareness and acquiring knowledge. For gender mainstreaming to be implemented in a sustainable manner, however, it is precisely the third step that is needed, namely the skills to promote gender equality in practice, regardless of whether those skills are applied to providing initial humanitarian assistance, re-establishing “public order” and structures of the state or civil society, or instituting long-term development cooperation.

UN member states such as Germany are far from having achieved the goal of thoroughly integrating a gender perspective into the education and further training of military and civil peacekeeping personnel. In 2004, in its first report to the UN Secretary General on implementing Resolution 1325, the German government stated that it had complied with the request by the Security Council to provide voluntary financial support for gender sensitivity training, by funding the DPKO project on “Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Multidimensional Peace Operations” in 2002.

The first and also the second reports of the German government (2004 and 2007) on implementing Resolution 1325, show, however, that DPKO materials have yet to be adequately used in Germany. The government, according to its own statements, does use gender training at the international and EU levels, yet scarcely in Germany itself. The only training program it mentions is a working paper published in 2003 by the Center for Internal Leadership of the Bundeswehr, entitled Making Decisions and Taking Responsibility – Conflict Situations in Operations Abroad. The seminar material is intended to promote “confident behavior on the part of male and female soldiers” in crisis situations abroad. The concept of gender conveyed here and reproduced in public, is as a marginal feature of training (if it exists at all), suggesting very deficient implementation and a lack of gender awareness on the part of most of those responsible. However there are good examples in Germany of active groups such as ZIVIK, which are making efforts to integrate gender into their regular education and further training programs. However, the criteria ZIVIK provides for evaluating projects remain gender blind.