On 5 December at the Peace Keeping Ministerial Meeting in Accra, Ghana, a side-event was organized by Sweden as Chair of the WPS CHODs Network together with the UN Department of Peace Operations, on ”Enhancing Women’s Participation in UN Peacekeeping: The Role of Gender-responsive Leaders”. The purpose of the side-event was to exchange best practices to enable recruitment and retainment of women, but also to strengthen the discussion on the WPS Agenda on the highest level.

Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix opened the meeting, stressing that women´s participation in United Nations Peace operations was a necessity to succeed and leaders carry a strong responsibility as role models. Barriers that prevent the recruitment of women and their carrier opportunities must be abolished. On operations, the use of METs (mixed-engagement teams) were of high value, for example in order to improve information gathering to ensure appropriate situational awareness. Despite substantial efforts, only approximately 7% of uniformed peace keepers are women. This must increase, e. g. through providing adequate infrastructure for men and women on operations, support networks for dialogue for female peace keepers and through campaigning and training.

Swedish Armed Forces Chief Joint Operations, Lt Gen Carl-Johan Edström, was the Key Note Speaker on behalf of Swedish CHOD General Micaael Bydén, who with short notice unfortunately was not able to participate. Before the meeting, General Bydén discussed his statement´s main focus with the members of the WPS CHODs Network Executive Committee Jamaica, Ireland and Bangladesh.

Lt Gen Edström´s full speech:

Esteemed Ministers,
Distinguished Generals, Excellencies,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we gather here today to reflect on the remarkable journey of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda, I am deeply moved by the commitment made 23 years ago by the
Security Council through the unanimous adoption of resolution 1325. This historic moment marked the international recognition of the indispensable role women play in conflict prevention, resolution, and peacebuilding. The resolution was a collective pledge to ensure that women and girls are not only considered in prevention and protection efforts but are actively involved in shaping and participating in peace processes. Over the years, this commitment has been embraced by over a hundred UN Member States, solidifying the WPS agenda as a pivotal element across various United Nations programs and efforts, including peacekeeping mandates and operations.

While celebrating the strides made in advancing the WPS agenda, it is crucial to acknowledge the challenges that persist and demand our unwavering attention. The latest report from the Secretary-General paints a concerning picture of negative trends regarding women’s participation in essential peace- and political processes. Despite the acknowledged benefits of having diverse police- and military contingents, the participation of women in multilateral peacekeeping efforts remains dishearteningly low. This stark reality compels us to introspect and recognize that the transformation we seek globally must begin within our own ranks. Armed Forces characterized by a lack of gender diversity impede the effective performance of peace operations. As leaders in the defense and security sectors, we carry a unique responsibility to ensure the robust implementation of WPS commitments and to pave the way for increased participation of women in our organizations.

Allow me to express my profound honor as I stand here, representing the Swedish Chairperson of the WPS Chief of Defense Network, General Micael Bydén, who, unfortunately, could not join us today. Since its inception in 2017, the Network has served as a unifying force, bringing together Chiefs of Defense from over 60 nations and organizations. Our common objective is to propel the WPS agenda forward within our defense forces. Having assumed the role of Chair in June, Sweden has been inspired by the dedication and collaborative spirit displayed by our Network colleagues. Chiefs of Defense and leaders within our respective organizations hold the ultimate responsibility to lead by example, translating our shared commitment into tangible actions. Allow me to delve deeper into key areas that demand the focused attention of the Network, coupled with practical tools for solutions. As leaders, we possess the influence to effect meaningful change.

Firstly, I advocate for the initiation of internal gender equality surveys within our organizations. These surveys should encompass various aspects of service life, including questions addressing discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment. Regular surveys, conducted anonymously, serve as a foundational tool, allowing us to gauge the organization’s current status, identify trends, and address areas of concern. This ongoing process ensures that our Armed Forces remain not only a formidable force but also an attractive and inclusive employer, fostering recruitment and retaining current personnel.
Secondly, we must actively confront and mitigate gender biases that undermine women’s opportunities. Recognizing that biases exist within us all, targeted training, seminars, and the expertise of Gender Advisors and Focal Points can collectively contribute to treating men and women equitably.
Thirdly, the establishment of structured feedback mechanisms and forums for both men and women in the Armed Forces is imperative. This cultivates a culture of open dialogue that goes beyond traditional hierarchies, enabling us to address barriers that hinder women’s full potential in serving their countries. Such forums, organized at different levels, should encourage reflection on how we, as leaders, can foster gender equality within our organizations.

Fourthly, promoting gender-responsive leadership training for all commanding officers is a cornerstone in developing effective leadership. Our commitment to this training ensures that leaders consistently reflect on gender issues, fostering an environment where diversity and inclusion are integral to decision-making processes. In Sweden, all high-ranking officers undergo gender responsiveness training, and many participate in Gender Coach Programs, which provide both group and individual sessions over several months.

Another critical action point is the elimination of unnecessary obstacles and prejudices in selection processes. This spans recruitment, career development, and promotion procedures. Implementing gender-neutral questionnaires for job applications and interviews, along with avoiding arbitrary standards that disqualify women from certain positions, is paramount. An illustrative example from Sweden involves a review of the conscript selection process, where adjustments were made to physical strength test requirements to ensure inclusivity without compromising the necessary competencies for relevant tasks.

The final area I wish to emphasize is the necessity to ensure that all personnel, regardless of gender, have access to fit-for-purpose equipment. Providing appropriately sized equipment, such as body armor, helmets, and weapons, acknowledges the unique needs of female soldiers, ensuring their safety and enhancing their ability to serve to their full potential. In the coming months, the Executive Committee of the Network, in collaboration with distinguished colleagues from Bangladesh, Ireland, and Jamaica, will continue to convene, exchanging ideas and best practices to further improve the areas I have outlined. Our aim is to make available tools and resources on the Network’s homepage, accessible to the public, to support the integration of gender perspectives and WPS commitments in the military.

In closing, I extend my sincere appreciation to the United Nations and Ghana for organizing and hosting this high-level event. My gratitude also goes to my counterparts for their unwavering commitment to the WPS CHOD Network. As leaders, we share a particular responsibility to hold each other accountable. Our actions must transcend rhetoric, exemplifying a commitment to diversity and inclusion in the highest echelons of leadership. By doing so, we not only inspire future generations but also strengthen our organizations by leveraging the unique skills, knowledge, and experiences of every individual.

Thank you for your attention, and I eagerly anticipate the enriching discussions today.

A panel with participants from the Netherlands MoD, Brigadier General Bolor Ganbold of Mongolia, Brigadier General Anita Asmah of Ghana and Deputy Army Commander and Chief of Staff, Major General Geoffrey Choongo Zyeele from Zambia discussed national experiences, efforts and goals. It was noted that the number of women in Defence Forces must increase in order to improve participation in Peace Operations. Numbers were however not everything, but also their abiliy to conduct meaningful tasks msut be ensured. General Amash stated that Ghana has 17% women in its ranks and that this is reflected also in the international troop contributions. Zambia claimed to be the first country to deploy so-called FETs (Female Engagement Teams) in UN operations which was seen as “women as force multipliers”.

In the following discussion, nations ensured their strong support for the WPS Agenda and presented their contributions and efforts, including endorsing National Actions Plans. However, it was also mentioned that the implementation of the different Security Council Resolutions takes too long. The “Report of the Secretary-General on Women and Peace and Security, 28 Sept 2023 (S/2023/725)” was worrying, showing that women´s participation in peace processes actually have declined the latest years. Pam Damoff, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, closed the meeting by informing about the Elsie initiative and Ghanas vice defence minister reiterated the countries engagement in this area and stressed that women´s participation in Peace Operations not only was a moral, but also a strategic, issue.

 

The Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre LaCroix gave an opening speech when the Peace Keeping Ministerial in Ghana commenced, stressing the importance of Peace Operations but also the necessity to adjust and develop them in accordance with future requirements.

 

Chief Joint Operations of the Swedish Armed Forces, Lt Gen Carl-Johan Edström, replaced Swedish CHOD General Micael Bydén, the current Chairperson of the WPS CHODs Network.  As a Key Note Speaker, Lt Gen Edström high-lighted different issues of concern regarding women serving in Armed Forces.

 

The side-event aroused great interest with participants from all over the world.

 

The high level panel provided most insightful and valuable perspectives on a variety of gender equality aspects.

Andrew Tihonov Designer

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.