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Updated: 3 days 9 hours ago

Mental Health in UN Peace Operations: Addressing Stress, Trauma, and PTSD among Field Personnel

Wed, 23/12/2020 - 18:32

The challenging environments where many contemporary UN peace operations are deployed can take a toll on the mental health of both uniformed and civilian personnel. This has led to increased attention to questions around mental health in peace operations, and in 2018, the UN made mental health and well-being a system-wide priority. Yet two years later, much remains to be done to improve mental health in UN missions.

This paper looks at the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues among the military, police, and civilian personnel of UN peace operations. It analyzes the types of stressors and psychological factors affecting personnel in the field, explores the political and institutional challenges to instilling change, and reviews the UN’s response to the mental healthcare needs of field personnel. It concludes with recommendations for the UN to ensure its duty of care for field personnel:

  • Raising the profile of mental health in UN peace operations: The Secretariat and member states should shed light on the difficult conditions facing peacekeeping personnel and better assess the prevalence of mental health issues among staff; strive to reduce the stigma associated with mental health; and come to a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in supporting mental health needs.
  • Providing more pre-deployment support: There is a need to train and sensitize personnel on how to recognize mental health issues, symptoms, and coping mechanisms. Preparedness and pre-deployment training on PTSD, trauma, and mental health should be based on minimum standards so that all contingents are equally prepared and equipped.
  • Strengthening support during deployment: Both the Secretariat and member states should uphold their duty of care for personnel in missions, including by fostering a culture of care, offering adequate psychosocial support, and improving human resources arrangements.
  • Continuing to provide support post-deployment: The UN and member states should recognize that their duty of care does not end after field personnel return from deployment. They should continue following up with former personnel to ensure they are receiving the psychosocial support they need through dedicated structures and resources.

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Release of KPMG Forensic Review and IPI Probity Review

Tue, 22/12/2020 - 16:32

Statement by the International Peace Institute
22 December 2020

The International Peace Institute is an independent, not-for-profit think tank that has been instrumental in promoting peace, security and sustainable development by contributing to informed and effective international policy since it was established in partnership with United Nations Secretary General U Thant in 1970.

On October 29, 2020, the IPI Board accepted the resignation of its former president and CEO Terje Rød-Larsen.

At the same meeting, the Board decided to commission global accounting firm KPMG to undertake an independent forensic review to address its concerns about Mr. Rød-Larsen’s interactions with Jeffrey Epstein. These concerns included donations Mr. Rød-Larsen accepted from Epstein-affiliated foundations on IPI’s behalf, a short-term loan from Epstein to Mr. Rød-Larsen personally, and whether IPI was involved in other transactions related to Epstein.

The KPMG Forensic Review team was instructed to ensure IPI had fully accounted for all donations received from either Epstein or his entities, so that the total amount could be donated to support victims of human trafficking and sexual assault in accordance with the Board’s direction of December 4, 2019. In issuing this instruction, the Board was conscious that different Epstein-related foundations had made donations to dozens of non-profit institutions totaling tens of millions of dollars over many years.

KPMG was also asked to confirm IPI’s finding that the organization at no stage made any payments to Epstein.

The KPMG Forensic Review analyzed more than 152,000 transactions between January 2010 and October 2020 to identify any payments involving Epstein or 56 entities reportedly affiliated with him.

In summary, the KPMG Forensic Review found:

• No donations or reimbursements related to Epstein or his entities were received by IPI beyond those that have already been publicly disclosed by IPI;
• No payments were made by IPI to Epstein, either directly or to his entities;
• No transactions related to Mr. Rød-Larsen’s personal loan agreement;
• No IPI expenses related to Epstein, except for a $122 meal charge by Mr. Rød-Larsen in 2011; and
• All donations were properly disclosed to the US Internal Revenue Service.

We are releasing the KPMG Forensic Review in full so that IPI’s supporters, partners and staff can continue to have the same confidence in IPI that they have had for the past 50 years.

>>Download KPMG Forensic Review<<

All donations and reimbursements identified by the KPMG Forensic Review have been previously identified and publicly disclosed by IPI. They include five donations from Epstein-affiliated foundations totaling $650,000 between 2011 and 2019, reflecting approximately 0.9% of IPI’s total revenue over that period. IPI also paid the upfront cost of an airfare for economist Lawrence Summers during his engagement on an IPI project on the proviso that IPI was swiftly reimbursed. That reimbursement of $14,158 was made by an Epstein-affiliated entity.

In addition to the KPMG Forensic Review of IPI’s accounts, the Board requested a Probity Review to examine whether any IPI policies, regulations or laws had been breached, and to recommend how existing policies and procedures could be strengthened. This Probity Review was conducted by Mr. Cliff Perlman, Attorney-at-Law, who has more than 25 years’ expertise in the governance of non-profit institutions and serves as Treasurer on the IPI Board of Directors.

The Probity Review found:

• No evidence that any laws or regulations were breached in the course of IPI and Mr. Rød-Larsen’s contact with Epstein and his entities;
• No evidence of Epstein deriving any personal benefit from IPI in exchange for his donations; and that
• Mr. Rød-Larsen, while not technically breaching any IPI policies that existed at the time, should still have informed the Board of his decision to secure donations from Epstein-related entities and should not have taken a personal loan from him.

>>Download Probity Review<<

The Board has also directed IPI, based on this experience, to revise its policies and procedures over the past year. These include:

• A new Gift Acceptance Policy, adopted in December 2019, which requires IPI to consider whether potential donors are of sufficient good character;
• An updated Conflict of Interest Policy, which is being further updated to directly address reputational risk and any business dealings with donors and their affiliates;
• Updates to IPI’s Ethics Policy, Whistle-blower Policy and its new Anti-Fraud Policy; and
• Educating IPI’s staff and Board on how to recognize and respond to any future potential conflicts of interest.

As noted above, Mr. Rød-Larsen tendered his resignation as president and CEO on October 29, apologizing to the Board for his grave error of judgment.

We – the Board, management and staff of IPI – remain dismayed that a character as detestable as Epstein was permitted to associate himself with this proud and respected organization. Epstein’s crimes, which have destroyed so many lives, are inexcusable and reprehensible. They are in opposition to IPI’s core values.

It is our sincere hope that the institution will learn as much as possible from this disturbing episode and move forward with the essential work of supporting the international community to address the great challenges facing the peoples of the world and our planet in the decades ahead.

In this time of rising competition and growing division, IPI’s work to advance thinking on concrete ways to build and sustain peace, provide opportunities for dialogue, and generate objective, evidence-based research on issues of concern to the multilateral system has never been more necessary and important.

We look forward to continuing to work in partnership to realize our goal of creating a more peaceful and prosperous world now and in the years ahead.

For further information:
Dr. Adam Lupel
Acting President and CEO
media@ipinst.org

Launch of The Accountability System for the Protection of Civilians in UN Peacekeeping Report

Thu, 17/12/2020 - 17:30
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On December 17th, IPI together with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs cohosted a virtual policy forum on “The Accountability System for the Protection of Civilians in UN Peacekeeping.”

Protecting civilians from violence is a priority mandate for most current UN peacekeeping operations. The UN has established a robust normative framework to guide and professionalize the implementation of protection mandates in the field, and missions have developed a number of tools, mechanisms, and activities to strengthen their posture and preparedness to deliver on this core objective.

On a number of occasions, however, UN missions have failed to prevent or respond to attacks and abuse targeting civilians despite being aware of the risk, receiving adequate warning, or being in the immediate proximity of the incident. While many investigations have highlighted shortcomings in performance and called for more accountability, most have remained confidential, and the actions taken to address these failures have often escaped the public eye.

After two decades of policy developments to clarify the roles and responsibilities of peacekeepers to protect civilians and numerous efforts to refine operational approaches in the field, stronger accountability is urgently needed. IPI has undertaken a comprehensive research project to map and evaluate existing accountability tools and mechanisms at the UN, shift the debate around accountability beyond confrontational narratives, and build a culture of positive and proactive accountability for all actors involved in peacekeeping operations’ efforts to protect civilians.

This policy forum provided an opportunity to present the main findings and recommendations of the policy paper authored by IPI’s Senior Fellow Dr. Namie Di Razza. Panelists discussed the recent efforts undertaken by the UN Secretariat, missions, and member states to promote performance accountability in peacekeeping, analyze the remaining gaps, and explore the way forward.

Opening Remarks
H.E. Ms. Yoka M. G. Brandt, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the UN
Ms. Bintou Keita, Assistant-Secretary-General, UN Department of Peace Operations and Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs

Speakers:
Dr. Namie Di Razza, IPI Senior Fellow and Head of Protection of Civilians
Mr. El-Ghassim Wane, Professor of International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs
Mr. Ludovic Grenouillon, Senior Military Strategic Partnership Officer, Office for Peacekeeping Strategic Partnership, UN Department of Peace Operations
Mr. Andrew Leyva, Permanent Mission of the United States to the UN
Mr. Yasser Halfaoui, Permanent Mission of Morocco to the UN

Moderator:
Mr. Jake Sherman, IPI Senior Director of Programs

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The Accountability System for the Protection of Civilians in UN Peacekeeping

Wed, 16/12/2020 - 17:13

Download the Report Download Case Studies: South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and Darfur. *Outlined tools can be activated in exceptional circumstances Author


, Head of IPI’s Protection of Civilians

dirazza@ipinst.org

Download Detailed Factsheets:
1. Force commander’s evaluation
2. OMA evaluation
3. Police evaluation
4. Risk premium
5. OPSP
6. Special investigation
7. OIOS
8. BOI
9. JPT/JAM/JET
10. Mission evaluation
11. CPAS
12. AAR
13. Medals
14. Conduct and discipline
15. Compact
16. e-Performance

Over the last two decades, UN peacekeeping operations have striven to protect civilians from physical violence. The protection of civilians (POC) is now based on a clear normative and policy framework, and its practical implementation relies on a number of innovative tools, tailored and multidimensional approaches, and the more proactive posture of peacekeepers. On a number of occasions, however, UN missions have failed to prevent or respond to threats despite being aware of the risk, receiving adequate warning of an attack, or being in the proximity when abuses were committed. Numerous reports and investigations into these incidents have highlighted shortcomings in performance and called for more accountability. Despite institutional ambitions, however, there is still limited accountability for the actors involved in protecting civilians.

To help address this challenge, IPI undertook a project to map how existing accountability mechanisms in the UN could be applied to peacekeeping missions with POC mandates. Through a combination of desk research and key informant interviews, IPI developed a set of tools to help guide the UN and its member states in building a robust, multi-actor, multilayer “system of accountability for POC.” These tools include:

  • A policy paper analyzing the concept of accountability, identifying accountability mechanisms that exist and those that are needed, reviewing recent initiatives by the UN Secretariat and member states to strengthen accountability mechanisms for POC, and recommending steps that could be taken to strengthen these mechanisms further;
  • An interactive graphic of the accountability mechanisms that can be or have been used to ensure accountability for the implementation of POC mandates by peacekeeping operations, with detailed fact sheets on each of these; and
  • Case studies on how UN accountability tools have—or have not—been used in response to specific POC incidents in four different UN peacekeeping missions.

Collectively, these tools point to the need for a culture of active accountability for all actors, based on a shared willingness and commitment to assume responsibility and be answerable for the effective delivery of protection mandates. Toward this end, the policy paper offers the following recommendations:

  • Working toward a more cohesive accountability structure by streamlining processes, improving coordination between accountability structures, broadening the scope of accountability tools to include all POC stakeholders, enhancing planning for POC, and tracking POC responses.
  • Strengthening independent, dedicated, and transparent accountability tools by using more independent investigative teams, strengthening the role of the Office for Peacekeeping Strategic Partnership, providing dedicated resources for POC accountability, and striking a balance between transparency and politics.
  • Enforcing consequences by following up on shortcomings in performance and considering POC in the force generation and selection processes, as well as going beyond punitive measures by developing incentives.
Detailed Factsheets for Selected Mechanisms (Click on each mechanism below for their detailed factsheet – desktop only)

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Parallel Tracks or Connected Pieces?: UN Peace Operations, Local Mediation, and Peace Processes

Thu, 10/12/2020 - 18:30

Track-1 mediation processes have increasingly struggled to deliver comprehensive peace agreements that address fragmented conflict dynamics and include local communities’ needs. As a result, local mediation has increasingly been a focus for the UN, including for UN peace operations. UN peace operations can play an important role in supporting local mediation initiatives, whether these initiatives are separate from, complementary to, or integrated into national processes.

This paper considers how local mediation fits into the broader political strategies of UN peace operations. Building on a series of country case studies published by IPI and the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs’ Mediation Support Unit, it provides preliminary answers to whether, when, where, and how the UN can engage in local mediation efforts. It explores what capacities the UN would need to increase its engagement in local mediation, what role it can play, and how it could better configure itself and engage in partnerships.

While this paper does not advocate for UN peace operations to engage more or less in local mediation processes, it concludes that missions ought to assess whether, when, and how short-term investments in local mediation can contribute to longer-term, sustainable conflict resolution. In each case, they should tailor their role based on informed strategic decisions and appropriate partnerships and as part of a broader effort to strengthen and foster greater coherence in national peace processes.

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The Future of UN Peacekeeping

Wed, 09/12/2020 - 16:15
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On December 9th, IPI together with the UN Department of Peace Operations cohosted a virtual event on “The Future of UN Peacekeeping.”

The panel event was part of a wider process led by the UN Department of Peace Operations (DPO) to anticipate changes, considered emerging strategic trends and possible future scenarios and their potential implications for UN peace operations.

Over the coming decade, existing and emerging trends are likely to continue and deepen. How should the UN prepare and adapt peace operations for these challenges to international peace and security? Geopolitical competition will have consequences for how the UN responds, and under what circumstances. Changes in prevailing conflict dynamics may further strain established UN tools, while also necessitating new approaches. Global economic downturn in the wake of Covid-19 is likely to have consequences for peace and stability and the financial wherewithal of the UN to respond. Meanwhile, climate change, disease, migration, and new technologies will shape the international peace and security challenges of the next decade—and the types of responses that will be required.

The discussion also reflected on how the UN should adapt its policies, practices, skills, and capabilities in order to continue to make an effective operational contribution to peace and security.

Panelists:
Ms. Rania Dagash, Chief, Policy and Best Practices Service, UN Department of Peace Operations
Dr. Paul Williams, Professor, Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University
Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, John C. Whitehead Visiting Fellow in International Diplomacy in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution, and Senior Fellow, UN Foundation
Mr. Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Distinguished Fellow, Brookings Institution
Ms. Laetitia Courtois, Permanent Observer to the UN & Head of Delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross

Moderator:
Mr. Jake Sherman, IPI Senior Director of Programs

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Prioritizing and Sequencing Peacekeeping Mandates in 2020: The Case of MONUSCO

Mon, 07/12/2020 - 19:03

The UN Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in December 2020. This comes as the UN begins to consider the eventual withdrawal of the mission. In October, the mission and the Congolese government submitted a “Joint Strategy on the Progressive and Phased Drawdown of MONUSCO” to the Security Council.

In this context, the International Peace Institute (IPI), the Stimson Center, and Security Council Report organized a workshop on November 12, 2020, to discuss the mandate and political strategy of MONUSCO. This workshop provided a forum for member states, UN stakeholders, and outside experts to share their assessment of the situation in the country. The discussion was intended to help the Security Council make more informed decisions with respect to the strategic orientation, prioritization, and sequencing of the mission’s mandate and actions on the ground.

There was strong agreement that the mission’s existing strategic priorities—the protection of civilians and support to stabilization and the strengthening of state institutions—should continue to provide an overarching framework for the UN’s engagement across the country. In addition, participants expressed the importance of focused engagement with local actors, including local government officials and civil society representatives. Participants also encouraged the UN to develop a transition plan that lays out a shared political vision for the future of the UN’s engagement in the country. They discussed the transition in terms of defining an “end state” rather than an “end date,” with a gradual drawdown that is based on realistic and measurable benchmarks, fosters national ownership, and ensures an integrated UN approach.

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Revitalizing Efforts in Preventing Violent Extremism

Mon, 30/11/2020 - 20:11

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Experts from Norway, Lebanon, and Egypt called for revitalized efforts to combat violent extremism in the current context of multilayered crises. The call was made during a webinar entitled “Countering Violent Extremism During Times of Crises,” hosted by IPI MENA on November 30th.

Moderating the panel, IPI MENA Director Nejib Friji, pointed to recommendations from IPI’s key report, the Independent Commission on Multilateralism (ICM), particularly the “need for concerted multilateral approaches in developing a new narrative to neutralize and dilute extremist ideologies.”

“Such narratives can be developed by a new task force or ad hoc committee comprising religious leaders, individuals from civil society and the private sector, and, above all, youth actors from around the globe,” he stressed.

In her opening remarks, IPI MENA Research Intern Eliza Cheah reiterated the crucial role of education, the need to leverage the use of new and traditional media, as well as the inclusion of youth and women in tackling violent extremism. She said that we “as a global community, must take a dynamic and multilateral approach that matches the fluidity of extremism. An approach that involves the whole of societies, in order to counter and ultimately prevent violent extremism.”

Professor Fadi Daou (Lebanon), Chairperson and CEO of Adyan (Religions) Foundation, underlined his entity’s “theory of change” analysis as a method that informs on their practice and implementation of PCVE policies. “The best result is when you provide isolated individuals who are vulnerable to extremism, with the capacity to influence their societies, to become change-makers,” he stated, while highlighting the impact of the ongoing global public health crisis on vulnerable communities and the new types of challenges that actors across all levels are facing.

Dr. Cathrine Thorleifsson, (Norway), Researcher at the Centre for Research on Extremism, University of Oslo, pointed to the role of digital subcultures in driving the new pattern of right-wing extremism, which has gradually increased on the global level. She highlighted the challenges governments face when forming policies to counter anonymous, leaderless, and transnational movements in the online realm. “In the next 10 years, we will see much more cyber-governance incorporated between states and tech companies in the online space,” Dr. Thorleifsson projected.

Ms. May Salem, (Egypt) Program Manager at Cairo Regional Center for Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping in Africa, elaborated on how COVID-19 has affected global terrorism trends, and how these trends have been manifesting in the African context. She provided case studies of the different approaches taken by terrorist groups toward the pandemic. “It is imperative to invest in prevention [of violent extremism] and shift toward a resilience paradigm,” she stressed.

IPI MENA Policy Analyst, Ms. Dalya Al Alawi emphasized the need to incorporate, build, and reinforce gendered frameworks towards the development of any PCVE strategies and policies. “Frameworks can be created for collaboration between civil society, national and international NGOs that link to good practices led by women and women’s organizations at the local level,” she stated. She pointed to several grass-root women-led interfaith organizations that target radicalized youth through religion and education as key examples of women’s vital roles in building communities’ resilience against extremism.

Community Engagement in UN Peacekeeping Operations: A People-Centered Approach to Protecting Civilians

Tue, 24/11/2020 - 17:08

As the practice of the protection of civilians (POC) has evolved in peacekeeping missions, the UN has increasingly focused on “people-centered” approaches. As a result, community engagement has emerged as a core component of POC efforts. By engaging with communities, missions can build trust, gather information, and build a protective environment, ultimately improving their ability to protect civilians.

This paper examines the positive implications and impact of this increased focus on community engagement, as well as the challenges and risks it can pose for communities and missions. It analyzes the community engagement activities of the military, police, and civilian components of the UN missions in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, and South Sudan. The paper concludes with recommendations for these four missions, the UN Secretariat, and UN member states on the Security Council:

  • UN member states should continue to refine the language on community engagement in peacekeeping mandates.
  • The UN Secretariat should develop more in-depth modules on community engagement in relevant training materials.
  • Relevant UN stakeholders should explore how missions’ military personnel can improve their community engagement.
  • The UN Secretariat and missions should optimize their use of community liaison assistants.
  • The UN Department of Peace Operations should continue to explore where the unarmed civilian protection methodology could complement community engagement by UN missions.

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Planning UN Peace Operations: Recent UN Reforms and Their Implications

Thu, 19/11/2020 - 16:05
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On November 19th, IPI together with the French Ministry of the Armed Forces cohosted the launch of IPI’s policy paper entitled “UN Reform and Mission Planning: Too Great Expectations?” authored by Marc Jacquand.

Since 2017, the UN system has undergone a historic process of reform at several levels and across many entities. Several of these reforms have either directly aimed at improving the planning of UN peace operations or included elements that have a significant bearing on mission planning.

The reorganization of the peace and security pillar has created shared regional divisions between the Department of Peace Operations (DPO) and the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), streamlining communication and providing field operations a single point of entry. The reform has also brought greater attention to peacebuilding during planning processes. The management reform has made missions more flexible and efficient by delegating greater authority to mission leaders, and has centralized operational planning capacity. Likewise, the development system reform has enhanced country teams’ analysis and planning processes, supporting longer-term peacebuilding. Other initiatives—from the secretary-general’s use of independent strategic reviews of peace operations to increased attention to data-based performance monitoring of peacekeeping—have also impacted how missions are designed.

As the focus shifts from designing to implementing these reforms, this public virtual panel discussion will take stock of the various strands of UN reform and explore their impact on the planning of UN missions, drawing on the recent establishment of UN political missions in Colombia, Haiti, Hodeidah, Yemen, and Sudan—whether alongside or to succeed preexisting political missions, or in parallel with the drawdown of long-standing peacekeeping operations.

Opening remarks:
Brig. Gen. Roland Margueritte, Head of the Defense Mission, Permanent Mission of France to the UN

Panelists:
Mr. Marc Jacquand, Independent Consultant and Author of the IPI paper, “UN Reform and Mission Planning: Too Great Expectations?”
Ms. Laura Flores, Director, Americas Division, UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs/Department of Peace Operations
Mr. Steven Siqueira, Chief of Staff, a.i., UN Integrated Transition Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS)
Mr. David Haeri, Director, Division of Policy, Evaluation and Training, UN Department of Peace Operations
Mr. Ian Martin, former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and member of the HIPPO panel

Moderator:
Mr. Jake Sherman, IPI Senior Director of Programs

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Exploring Masculinities in the Context of Counter-terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism

Thu, 19/11/2020 - 01:48

On November 16, 17, and 18, IPI and the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) jointly hosted a series of consultations to
explore if and how a focus on masculinities can allow for a more comprehensive approach to integrating gender considerations in counter-terrorism (CT) and countering violent extremism (CVE). The series aimed to identify specific policy implications of such an approach, as well as potential challenges and pitfalls.

At the Open Briefing of the Counter-Terrorism Committee on “integrating
gender into CT and CVE,” held on November 1, 2019, several Member States acknowledged the need to consider masculinities and requested CTED to give due regard to this issue.

The CTED-IPI consultations were held as four thematic sessions structured around a set of specific questions for each theme. Participants included academics, civil society experts and practitioners from different regions of the world, along with relevant United Nations partner entities.

Discussions centered on the following questions:

  • What does the concept of “masculinity” mean in the context of CT/CVE?
  • Why does it matter to consider masculinities in CT/CVE? What is the objective in doing so?
  • What are the practical implications for policy?
  • What are some of the challenges and potential adverse effects?

There is growing awareness that integrating gender in CT and CVE must include a focus on masculinities. This is reflected in a growing body of research into the relevance of masculinity for various aspects of terrorism and counter-terrorism, as well as the importance of avoiding a one-dimensional conception of gender. However, the bridge from that research to policy, as well as the bridge from policy to practical implementation, remains weak.

An issue brief on this topic is forthcoming.

Download consultations agenda>>

Prioritizing and Sequencing Peacekeeping Mandates in 2020: The Case of MINUSCA

Mon, 09/11/2020 - 17:21

The UN Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) in November 2020. In 2019, the mission’s mandate and strategic engagement in the Central African Republic (CAR) shifted to supporting the implementation of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation signed earlier that year. Nearly one year later, the presidential, legislative, and local elections are seen as another pivotal moment in the country’s political process and offer the mission another opportunity to refine its support to the country.

In this context, the International Peace Institute (IPI), the Stimson Center, and Security Council Report organized a workshop on October 8, 2020, to discuss the mandate and political strategy of MINUSCA. This workshop provided a forum for member states, UN stakeholders, and outside experts to share their assessment of the situation in the country. The discussion was intended to help the Security Council make more informed decisions with respect to the strategic orientation, prioritization, and sequencing of the mission’s mandate and actions on the ground.

Participants largely agreed that MINUSCA’s current mandate remains relevant and encompasses the areas necessary to facilitate the mission’s effective engagement on political, security, and peacebuilding issues, including the upcoming elections. Recognizing the fluidity of the country’s political situation, they cautioned against major changes to the mandate. Instead, they encouraged the mission to continue balancing between supporting the electoral process and encouraging full implementation of the peace agreement, on the one hand, and responding to humanitarian needs and protecting civilians, on the other.

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Creatives Join IPI MENA in Advocating the Arts for Building Youth Resilience

Thu, 05/11/2020 - 21:47
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In a webinar hosted by IPI MENA on November 5th entitled “Building Youth Resilience,” young authors, filmmakers, and artists called for greater awareness of the benefits of using the arts to build peace and resilience among the Arab youth.

IPI MENA’s Director Nejib Friji and Policy Analyst, Dalya Al Alawi underlined the importance of this at a time when sentiments of hate, violence, and despair are heightened. Ms. Al Alawi highlighted the possibility of youth as being agents of peace and that schools could act as focal points to promote the culture of peace.

Reem Saleh, the Associate Director of External Relations for the Arts Center, NYU Abu Dhabi spoke about the barriers youth are facing in contributing to culture in Arab social spaces and emphasized that culture should be more tailored and aimed at the Arab youth population to foster more participation.

Tanya Shamil, an 18-year old Omani artist and filmmaker, shared the tools she used to create and disseminate her work, which helped her engage more and learn from her community and beyond.

Sara Ghannoum, the author of the “Tom Alien” series, spoke about the healing properties of reading and playing, which helps children express themselves and in turn contributes to their mental and physical wellbeing.

The two youngest panelists, Adam Kadia, author of Hakeem the Adventurer and The 17SDGs, and Yara Khazindar, a young poet, praised the platform for being a great example of how the arts can be a useful tool in building long-lasting resilience among youth.

The event concluded in a collective acknowledgment that youth are agents of peace and builders of resilience, no matter what tool they chose to accomplish this.

UN Reform and Mission Planning: Too Great Expectations?

Wed, 04/11/2020 - 21:48

Since 2017, the UN system has undergone a historic process of reform at several levels and across many entities. Several of these reforms have either directly aimed at improving the planning of UN missions or included elements that have a significant bearing on mission planning. As the focus shifts from designing to implementing these reforms, it is possible to begin reflecting on whether these aims have been met.

This paper takes stock of the various strands of UN reform and explores their impact on the planning of UN missions, drawing on the experiences of four missions that have recently started or transitioned. In addition to the peace and security, management, and development system reforms, it looks at the impact of several other recent initiatives. These include the launch of a series of independent strategic reviews of peace operations, the reinvigorated use of the secretary-general’s transition planning directives, the rollout of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment System, and the establishment of the Executive Committee.

The paper concludes by recommending that the UN consider:

  • Tying together the strands of reform related to planning to prevent fragmentation;
  • Making increased and better use of peace and security management mechanisms at the initial stages of planning to ensure that UN leaders have a unified tone and vision;
  • More formally and transparently involving the Security Council in strategic reviews;
  • Clarifying and strengthening the role of all relevant departments and the shared regional divisions in the mission budget process;
  • Repositioning DPO’s planning cell in the Office of Shared Services to move toward a shared planning capacity; and
  • Incentivizing lateral movement of personnel across departments and entities to broaden their perspectives.

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Taking Stock of Recent Operational Reform and Adaptation in UN Peacekeeping

Wed, 28/10/2020 - 15:00
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Several United Nations peacekeeping missions are deployed in highly complex environments, marked by stalled political agreements, significant protection challenges, direct threats to the security of peacekeepers, vast theaters of operations, and a range of partners. Many of the challenges faced by these missions underscore how contemporary armed conflict is evolving. In response, peacekeeping has had to evolve.

On October 28th, IPI, with cosponsors the Permanent Missions of Sweden and Egypt to the UN, held a virtual panel discussion on how the operational capabilities of contemporary UN peacekeeping are changing; whether these reforms are yielding the desired effects; what impact these changes have on peace operations’ ability to effectively deliver on their mandates; and what more needs to be done to maintain momentum for reform.

Anna Karin Enestrøm, the Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN, acknowledged that “significant efforts” were already underway to reform peacekeeping in doctrine and in resourcing missions with funding, personal equipment, and technology. But lagging behind, she said, were actions expanding the participation of women. “We must act now to increase the number of civilian and uniformed women in peacekeeping at all levels and in key positions. As of May 2020, only 5.4 % of the United Nations military and 15.1% of the police personnel were women, compared to 3% and 10%, respectively, in 2015. This pace is simply too slow. We must redouble our effort to implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda in peacekeeping.”

Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the UN, spoke of how the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted peacekeeping and made even more urgent the need for reforms. “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the peacemaking reality and worsened the already complex environments where peacekeepers are deployed. This new reality requires collective efforts from all peacekeeping stakeholders to adapt and further advance A4P (Action for Peacekeeping) implementation.”

General Dennis Gyllensporre, Force Commander, UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said there were two rationales behind the adaptation in his mission. “The first one is the threat situation that we experience in the country to the civilian population, but also to the personnel of MINUSMA, where we are a target for some of these illegal armed groups, and also more recently, the very fluid situation that we have at the political level with the coup in August, translating, in some respects, to unrest on the ground.

“The second reason why the adaptation was necessary for us was the fact that the Security Council decided in its most recent mandate renewal that we would have another additional strategic priority to focus on the center of the country in addition to supporting the implementation of the peace accord. Basically, we have to do more with the same resources because there was no added resource that came with this priority. The Security Council also outlined the need for doing a mission-wide adaptation, and it’s not just the military part, but all the pillars of the mission. And now we are in the process of implementing the COVID-19 situation—obviously an obstacle, a delaying factor. Nevertheless, we’ve taken steps forward.”

He explained that those steps dealt with the three pillars: protection, posture, and partnering. On the posture, he reported that in addition to performing its traditional peacekeeping role with infantry battalions providing area coverage and trying to understand what’s happening on the ground, the mission had added a mobile component to the force so it could concentrate forces in certain areas for limited periods. “From that point of view, we are also in the process of generating and getting new capabilities, more aviation, more intelligence collection assets to make sure the composition reflects this new posture.” General Gyllensporre said that in addition to the change in composition, this represented “a change in mindset for us to conduct our operations more proactively and engaging with the population, engaging with other stakeholders, and leading the way if needed.”

As for protection, he said the mission had an approach that was more “population-centric.” In military terms, he explained, that meant acting from temporary operating bases to ensure that there are soldiers present continuously in the vicinity of exposed villages and areas where the threat to the population is thought to be imminent. “And we also make sure that we employ intelligence as a driving factor for operations. The ability to protect has to start with a good intelligence assessment from all components of the mission.”

On the subject of partnering, he said, “This is the way to leverage the efforts of the mission, making sure that the Malian authorities, civilians and military, are stepping up and extending their responsibilities in the areas that are threatened.” He added that the mission had a mandate to provide support for “partner forces” like the Malian armed forces and the G5 Sahel. He said that though the reform process was in its early stages, he was encouraged by the positive response from the local population and local leaders. “When we are able to come in quick, insert soldiers and provide some assistance, that is a good indicator that this adaptation is indeed the right way to go.”

Rania Dagash, Chief of the Policy and Best Practices Service, Department of Peace Operations, shared details of adaptations at three UN missions. She said that MINUSMA had developed an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) on early warning and rapid response, “two mechanisms that help us respond better. A rapid verification and dissemination of early warning information is critical based on what the Force Commander just said about the constantly shifting nature of the threat.”

She said that MINUSCA, the UN mission in the Central African Republic, has created joint special security units to demobilize armed group combatants. “What this joint special security unit does is establish mixed units, including CAR’s military and armed group elements to jointly carry out security. The training of these units has been completed, and they have already been dispatched to boost protection.” In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she said, MONUSCO has increased connections between its far-flung field offices. “What this has led to is increased coordination on threat analysis and response between field missions, and a senior management group on provincial protection was held.”

Major General Jai Shanker Menon, Director, Office for Peacekeeping Strategic Partnerships, pointed out that the reforms decentralize the management of resources to senior managers in the field who have mandate implementation responsibilities and direct responsibility for the safety and security of peacekeepers. He pronounced this “a positive development that can have an impact on the ground.

Now, for this to be effective, definitely the mindset of those in UN headquarters needs to shift from one of directing missions to one of truly acting in a support role to the missions.”

General Menon said his own experience of commanding missions had taught him the value of leadership and decisive decision-making. “In my opinion, there should be absolutely no procrastination. Decisions must be given after due thought, but they must be capped with the limit of time and information. A bad decision may be better than no decision at all. In my present job, I often see a lot of systemic issues in the mission like trauma care, base defense, integrated offices not working together, and these often stem from a lack of giving simple and clear-cut decisions.”

The two essential talents that UN mission leaders must have, he said, were “political acumen” and managerial ability. “Leaders must be multi-skilled to run a multi-dimensional peacekeeping operation and must possess managerial skills. Leaders must preferably have previous UN experience to understand the organization, its functioning, and the myriad policies, rules and regulations. Trust me, it can be overwhelming the number of policies, rules and regulations that come flying at you when you’re trying to run a mission.” He lamented that the UN didn’t have enough job mobility and clear career paths to better develop more seasoned leaders and weed out potential failures.

Ihab Awad, Deputy Foreign Minister of Egypt, chose to focus on MINUSMA where Egypt is a major troop-contributing country. “The MINUSMA adaptation plan was an important step forward to reorient the focus and operational capabilities of the mission, but it’s still a work in progress and, given the recent turmoil in Mali following the election, perhaps there is a need to continue to ensure that the adaptation plan is actually adapted to the emerging political and operational challenges facing the mission. So while there is a plan in place, I would like to really call on adapting this adaptation to the version of the realities.”

Ambassador Awad brought up the great variances in the country contexts in which UN missions operate. “This is where the reforms of peacekeeping will actually make a difference, and those are different contexts that require different context-specific adaptation of both the mandate, operation capabilities, and resources.”

In the question and answer period, General Menon had what sounded like the last word. “What the organization, what we need to do is to adapt faster. More flexibility, more adaptability. We need to get the capabilities faster, otherwise the situation and the environment will keep changing. And your force adaptation plan, like someone said, will have to be further adapted.”

Moderating the discussion was Jake Sherman, IPI Senior Director of Programs.

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Youth, Peace, and Climate Action

Thu, 22/10/2020 - 17:00
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Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, young people have emerged as a powerful force calling for transformative change on climate action. The United Nations’ “Youth 2030 Strategy” calls for expanded and systematic youth engagement in all arenas, and the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the UN recognizes that “youth is the missing piece between development and peace.”

The practical steps and challenges of engaging youth in peace and climate action was the subject of an October 22nd virtual policy forum cosponsored by IPI, the Governments of Singapore and Sweden, the Office of the United Nations Secretary- General’s Envoy on Youth, the UN Office for Partnerships, the Office of the Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Action, the Global Challenges Foundation, the United Network of Young Peacebuilders, and the UN75 Campaign.

In opening remarks, Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders, First Woman President of Ireland, and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that COVID-19 had aggravated the devastating cost in human lives, and to economic growth, political momentum, and social inequality. “COVID-19 has exposed the interconnections between health, economic, and political risks of inaction and neglect.”

She declared, “Now is our opportunity to make change happen by design, and to realize this new design, we will have to listen to the voices of young people, and in the climate sphere, they are telling us to listen to the science, and listen we must.”

Jimena Leiva Roesch, IPI Senior Fellow and Head of the Peace and Sustainable Development Program, prompted the discussion with a general question to the young participants and diplomats. Did they think that the youth, peace, and security agendas were compatible?

Pedro Cunha, Regional Facilitator at Latin America and the Caribbean Engagement Mechanisms for the Society (LACEMOS) and member of United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNOY) said the agendas were “more than compatible, they are complementary and co-dependent, as they are built on the same foundation of meaningful and inclusive participation of young people in decision-making and strong democratic governance.”

He said that from his conversations with peace and environmental activists in Latin America, he had concluded that there had to be a new category of international crime against peace, which he identified as “ecocide.”

“Right now there are four crimes against peace: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression,” he said. “All protect peoples and civilization, but we miss a key foundation of peace, to protect the earth and all its living beings. We are missing this fifth category of crimes against peace, and that is ecocide.”

Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said, “we all know from our work and our experience that youth, peace and climate are very much interlinked.” She mentioned two examples to make the point. “One is that seven of the ten peacekeeping missions that we have are actually based in countries that are most susceptible to climate change. And the second statistic is that these seven countries are some of the most youthful populations in the world.” She said that in countries like Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Mali, up to 80 percent of the population was under the age of 30. “And we see these countries on the lists of those countries that are the most susceptible to violence and most vulnerable to climate change, and I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think this shows that young people are disproportionately affected by both conflict and by climate action.”

Nisreen Elsaim, Chair of both the Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group and the Sudan Youth Organization on Climate Change, offered up her own life experience as exemplifying the linkages. “I’m a climate change activist, I’m a young person, and I’m coming from a country that has suffered from civil wars for 40 years and a conflict over natural resources for 20 years.”

Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN, commented, “We know that we can’t transform the world in the way we need to, the way we set out to in the 2030 agenda unless we look at the interlinkages between the issues, the movements, and, I would argue, between the generations. So I know that the young people on the screen with us this morning are ready to help shape the world that they want. And we need to give them a voice in order to do that. But for all of that to happen, we have to recognize that the linkages between these agendas are as true for the Youth, Peace, and Security agenda as they are for the climate action movement.”

Ireland is joining the Security Council in January, and Ambassador Byrne Nason said that though climate change was contributing to all of the root causes of the conflicts that the Council deals with, there is “big resistance” on the Council to acting on it. And as for youth, she said, “It’s a very one-dimensional view of young people that we employ here at the UN. We want to see young people sitting at the Security Council during the debates, we want to see youth shape the way, and not just as custodians of the future and peace, we want to see youth shape the way we talk about issues that are currently on the table.” She promised, “You can rely on us to do that. I mean, let’s be clear, there are few issues that really affect young people more than the damaging impacts of climate change.”

Magnus Lennartsson, Deputy Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN, said, “It is impossible to keep these agendas apart. They are, and should be, closely interlinked. The leadership of young women and men of different backgrounds is absolutely key in our search for a long term climate solution. Youth in decision-making is the way to ensure ambition and progress.”

Ambassador Lennartsson said that Sweden’s recent two-year service on the Security Council had convinced him that “it is simply not possible to have a serious discussion about what the world should or will look like tomorrow without including and listening to young women and men. It is, after all, the young people who will live longer in the world that we build together today. We know that in places where the impact of climate change is most severe, like the Sahel, like East Africa, the population is very young. And it is therefore not surprising that the strongest activism for climate action comes from the younger generation.”

Joan Cedano, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to the UN, said that her country’s almost two years on the Security Council had shown her that the Council didn’t fully appreciate the linkages between the agendas. “The Council has recognized climate change as one major driver of conflict; however, it has not yet made the connection in terms of how this specifically and fundamentally affects young people living in conflict.” She implored young people to keep pressing for participation in the Council’s deliberations. “Young people will continue to make points to the Council and to us member states, the points that we are not making on our own. And please don’t stop doing it. You need to continue to be that voice that calls on policy-makers and the international community to do their jobs.”

In closing remarks, Ambassador Lennartsson asserted, “Youth are the agents of change, and they have a key stake in the jobs, the environment, and the economy of the future, and they have clearly demonstrated that, through activist movements, they have a sincere interest and willingness to support a rapid shift towards sustainable consumption and production.”

In closing the event, Ms. Leiva Roesch highlighted that the Tweet Chat preceding the event had received millions of impressions, underscoring the relevance of the topic. See our one-pager for outcomes from the Tweet Chat.

Ms. Leiva Roesch moderated the discussion.

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Military Women Discuss Taboos and Stigmas They Face in UN Peace Operations

Tue, 20/10/2020 - 16:30
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Only 6 percent of all uniformed military, police, justice, and correctional personnel in United Nations field missions are women, and IPI Vice President Adam Lupel asked, “After 20 years and ten Security Council resolutions, why is it still so hard to increase the participation of uniformed women?”

Dr. Lupel was speaking to an October 20th IPI event co-sponsored with the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations and featuring a virtual discussion exploring answers to that question and launching the IPI policy paper “Woman First, Soldier Second: Taboos and Stigmas Facing Military Women in UN Peace Operations.” The paper is a product of IPI’s Women in Peace Operations Project, which is supported by the Government of Canada.

Jody Thomas, Deputy Minister of the Department of National Defence, Canada, introduced the discussion with an account of her own personal experience as a beginning officer. “I went aboard my first ship completely confident in my ability to be an excellent and equal shipmate. Not everyone agreed. There were some who were adamant that my gender was a weakness that they were being forced to accommodate, and they were angry about it. Their words and actions reinforced that I was not welcome, that there was something wrong with me actually wanting to be on a ship.

“That behavior was and is a reflection of a deeply rooted stigma that it is somehow wrong and inappropriate for women to serve in uniform. This kind of resistance to women in service—words, actions, attitudes—persists, and all that is rooted in the same stigma and taboos: women should not serve in combat roles; they should be out of the way; serving in ways that are not dangerous. Our country and our armed forces have made a lot of progress since those days, and it was a long time ago, in terms of our policy and our approach, but we have more to do to fight stigmas here in Canada and in countries around the world.”

Deputy Minister Thomas reported that Canada and Norway had pioneered a new barrier assessment methodology for police and military organizations and that the Canadian Armed Forces would be undergoing this assessment in the coming months.

Lotte Vermeij, Senior Adviser to the Norwegian Armed Forces and author of the report, said she had interviewed 142 women from 53 countries across 11 UN missions ranging in rank from private to major general. She said she addressed three levels: (1) the individual and community levels (2) within national defense structures and (3) during deployments to UN Peace Operations.

As an example of the mindset they face, Dr. Vermeij said, “Women are often seen as less feminine and less marriageable by their communities.” She quoted a military woman deployed to the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who had told her, “The community sees us as masculine, angry, and more aggressive than normal civilian women as we are trying to fit in with a male-dominated culture. At the same time, single women may be seen as promiscuous, while mothers are often perceived as neglecting their families.”

Another military woman told her, “I witnessed multiple cases of inappropriate behavior that made me feel more unsafe within the walls of the mission than outside.”

Dr. Vermeij said that women’s lack of authority and their minority status within the force made it very difficult for them to report and address these issues. “Women who did speak up were often discouraged from making official complaints and were sometimes even bullied and isolated.”

In pushing back, Dr. Vermeij said, “Women use a range of strategies, including sharing information with their families and friends, working harder to prove themselves and sometimes isolating themselves during deployments to avoid certain situations. They also turn to formal and informal support structures.”

“Unfortunately,” she added, “the burden of change often falls on individual women themselves rather than on institutions. Not surprisingly, these dynamics perpetuate the underrepresentation of women, military peacekeepers in UN missions.”

Among the recommendations she said the interviewed military women made were “the UN Department of Peace Operations should strengthen narratives on the importance of female peacekeepers in mission, ensure that all peacekeepers respect UN values, develop mission-specific general strategies and plans, engage more firmly with troop-contributing countries, make recruitment and selection processes more gender-sensitive, hold personnel accountable for discriminatory and sexualized behavior, and establish in-mission support systems.”

Major Kristy Hudson, Military Training Officer, UN Department of Peace Operations, said that women had to be alert to signs of discrimination, even seemingly small ones, and to signal their robust refusal to tolerate it. “This isn’t just about overt harassment, this is about the tiny moments that leaders let go past every day, and there’s a great saying that I love, ‘The standard that you walk by is the standard that you accept.’ If you are silent when a woman is dismissed as a leader, you are telling the team a woman can be ignored. So let this ‘bystander effect’ drive leadership in missions from the junior leader to the most senior leaders, and we will tackle a lot of these stigmas.”

Major Hudson said that women were wrongfully suspected of resisting deployment. “If someone says they don’t want to deploy, it won’t be because they don’t want to deploy, it would be because there is a barrier. Find out what that barrier is and what your organization is doing about it. In most cases, it’s actually about parenting issues that men and women both need support with. So address that. Consider unconscious bias because a lot of the decisions we make are not intentional, we just haven’t thought about it from the other side whether it’s an intersectional issue or a gender issue.”

Dr. Vermeij said her research bore out the view that women wanted to deploy, and not just in reduced roles. “We sometimes hear this argument that women don’t want to deploy. From the interviews, I can tell you that they do want to be deployed in those roles and they certainly want to be deployed, for example, at military observer sites.”

Major General Kristin Lund, formerly Head of Mission, UN Truce Supervision Organization, and Force Commander, UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, also dismissed the notion that women were not willing to deploy. “When it comes to ‘females don’t want to be deployed,’ I think that’s a myth. When Norwegians deployed to Afghanistan, they came back and said, ‘We need them, we cannot solve the problems out there without the women.’ It has to be shown that these women are able and capable of doing what men are doing.” She pointed out that career advancement often depended on it. “In your career, you need to be deployed if you went to have a future.”

Major Hudson brought up an area where women’s needs were exasperatingly not taken into account. “Only yesterday, I had a so-called military expert argue with me that it was a waste of time to make sure that military equipment was adapted to meet the requirements of women. His view, and I’ve heard it many times before, was that it was unreasonable that a female soldier should expect to have vital protective equipment, in this case, a helmet that actually fit her sufficiently to protect her skull while not slipping down and obscuring her vision and preventing her from performing her duties as a soldier. And that blows my mind.”

Wing Commander Llani Kennealy, Military Liaison Officer – Peacekeeping, UN Women, had a terse rejoinder to this kind of thinking. “Male clothing and equipment are not well suited to women’s bodies, and calling equipment unisex doesn’t cut it.”

Major General Lund outlined the challenges that military women faced in becoming leaders. “For me, now a retired major general in the Norwegian Army, it took me 15 years to find my leader philosophy. Why? Well, your only role models were men, and you saw what kind of values they appreciated to get you promoted. But by hard work, I got stronger and wiser and managed to lead the way I wanted to be led.”

She illustrated how the particular challenges for a woman leader remain even once you’ve assumed responsibility. ‘When I was Force Commander in Cyprus, I had to check, for example, which were the troop- contributing countries where prostitution was illegal. For me, that was an indicator of men’s attitudes towards women. And I had to pay more attention to give guidelines to those contingents and their commanders. I changed that, providing doors to lavatories, curtains in front of the urinals, and separation walls in containers, small simple changes that you can make. The sub-commanders understood my intention and removed inappropriate posters in the gyms.”

Major Hudson called for more attention from the UN and troop-contributing countries to the recruitment and training of military women. ”If a country is to be serious about deploying women and treating them with respect, they must deliberately seek to grow this cadre using the same care and attention they use to grow the male workforce. That is in training, career development, in coaching and mentoring, and that means building from the ground. And if we want female sector commanders and force commanders, we need to start recruitment. Countries must show that women are taken seriously as military personnel, and that they’re not being deployed merely as quotas to be met.”

Wing Commander Kennealy said that military women had developed among themselves successful informal means of being effective and independent in a male-dominated world. “Women, experiencing the stigmas and taboos highlighted in this research identified that in the first instance, rather than raise issues with their chain of command, they often seek assistance from talking to other women through informal networks. This highlights that leadership and networks in no way operate independently of each other. These networks will often develop out of necessity driven by women as a result of a lack of leadership or the inadequacy of systems and policies that support a diverse work force.”

Ms. Kennealy theorized a general reason why there was a need for these networks. “Military organizations are by their very nature striving for uniformity, and they have generally been designed on a male career model that doesn’t allow for the flexibility of career breaks or other policy interventions that help to support and maintain women in their careers alongside their male cohorts.” At the same time, she cautioned against overdependence on these informal networks. “It is critical that through these associations, we do not perpetuate the idea that the need for the structural change to improve the conditions and experiences of our women is just women’s business as this simply is not correct. It is the responsibility of commanders and capability managers to seek policy changes to achieve enabling capability and mission success.”

Lieutenant Colonel Nomthandazo Ditire is a former military intelligence officer for the South African National Defense Force who now serves as a military planning officer at the Military Planning Service of the Office of Military Affairs (OMA) at the UN Department of Peace Operations. She is concerned at the relatively few numbers of women in the higher ranks.

“We still see more women as non-ranking cadre members, we see them as platoon commanders, however, we haven’t seen much more in the sense of company commanders, battalion commanders, sector commanders and also making sure that the force commanders, sector commanders are also recruited. OMA also needs to integrate women so that we know that this will cascade down to the field.

“And mission-specific gender strategies should be more than simply having a woman on a planning team or in a decision-making role, but should look to the benefits of women at all levels in the mission across the different functions and within the military contingents themselves. Women should not just be doing medical or logical or logistical or administrative work, but also can be effectively training combat readiness and also in engagements. Women should be playing a vital role in intelligence gathering and also patrols and physical operations.”

Wing Commander Llani Kennealy underlined the importance of continuing to push for change. “Change will require strong, committed leadership at all levels of decision-making, but just as critical, change will require ongoing advocacy, activism and encouragement by military women and for military women.”

After hearing from the other military women on the panel, she remarked that it could have been depressing listening to the personal accounts of the damaging effect that taboos and stigmas had on women, but that instead she had come away inspired by what she had heard.

“Potentially this commonality of experience could be perceived as deflating – that the issues of stigmas and taboos are too widespread and too ingrained in military culture to change. However, I look at this unity of experience and understanding reported by these women as something very different, and in fact, I see this commonality of awareness as a real opportunity.

“Through this unity of experience comes a unity of purpose. Our commonality of experiences will lead directly to a unity for change.”

Gretchen Baldwin, IPI Senior Policy Analyst for Women, Peace, and Security, moderated the discussion.

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Woman First, Soldier Second: Taboos and Stigmas Facing Military Women in UN Peace Operations

Tue, 20/10/2020 - 00:33

Demographics, taboos and stigmas facing military women at the individual and community levels. Click for full graphic.

Deployment, taboos and stigmas facing military women within national defense structures. Click for full graphic.

Despite efforts to increase the participation of women uniformed peacekeepers, military women continue to face taboos and stigmas that are barriers to their inclusion and successful deployment. These range from gender stereotypes that cause military women to face more scrutiny than their male counterparts to difficulties speaking up about discriminatory and sexualized behavior, including racism, sexual harassment, and assault. Being confronted with persistent taboos and stigmas can have far-reaching consequences for military women before, during, and after deployment.

This paper, which is based on interviews with 142 military women from fifty-three countries, assesses the taboos and stigmas facing military women at three levels: (1) at the individual and community levels; (2) within their national defense structures; and (3) during deployment to UN peace operations. It also looks at the strategies women use to mitigate these taboos and stigmas and the formal and informal support structures they turn to.

The paper concludes with recommendations for national defense structures and the UN:

  • For national defense structures, it recommends improving standards of behavior and accountability, educating men and women on taboos and stigmas, recruiting and retaining more women, proactively reaching out to and selecting women for deployment to peace operations, providing women the support they need, and designing equipment that better suits women’s needs.
  • For the UN Department of Peace Operations, it recommends strengthening narratives on the importance of female peacekeepers, ensuring that all peacekeepers respect UN values, developing mission-specific gender strategies and plans, engaging more firmly with troop-contributing countries, making recruitment and selection processes more gender-sensitive, holding personnel accountable for discriminatory and sexualized behavior, and establishing in-mission support systems.

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Bouncing Back from Rock Bottom: A New Era for the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations?

Wed, 14/10/2020 - 19:45

The 2020 report of the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C-34) marked the culmination of nearly a decade of efforts to improve the committee’s working methods and deliver a more relevant report. Because the report was restructured around the eight thematic priorities of the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, it also helped translate the initiative’s Declaration of Shared Commitments into practice. This was an especially noteworthy achievement considering that the committee had failed to reach consensus on a report just one year prior.

This paper explores previous efforts to reform the C-34 and the process of agreeing to reform the working methods and report structure in 2019. It also assesses the contribution of the report’s revised structure and substance to ongoing efforts to support and advance peacekeeping reform. It concludes with lessons that could guide other UN reform initiatives: timing and circumstances matter, there must be an appetite for reform, those leading the reform process must listen and be impartial arbiters, and delegations must be patient and have realistic expectations.

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Governance that Centers Communities: Lessons from Afghanistan and Sierra Leone

Wed, 14/10/2020 - 16:40
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With the world struggling with a global pandemic, increasing attention is being paid to the potential of community-owned and -led initiatives to address poverty, mobilize crisis response, and increase human security and well-being in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On October 14th, IPI, with co-sponsors Catalyst for Peace, the Institute for State Effectiveness, the Government of Sierra Leone, and the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the UN, held a virtual policy forum to discuss the on-the-ground experiences of two countries that are integrating community-centered initiatives into national government policy, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.

Introducing the subject, Jimena Leiva Roesch, IPI Senior Fellow and Head of the Peace and Sustainable Development Program, explained, “We ask for these inclusive and leave-no-one behind frameworks that center on community, both as the heart of the 2030 Agenda and in the Sustaining Peace resolutions. So at the global policy level, we know that this is our aspiration, but we rarely find examples in the field of how you transform these aspirations into reality. And of course, the local level is a lot more complicated than these aspirations. When you get to work and roll up your sleeves, it’s not as lofty.”

Francess Piagie Alghali, Minister of State for the Office of the Vice President, Government of Sierra Leone, said that one of the main drivers of conflict in her country had been “the lack of inclusive dialogue platforms at the community level, and the lack of participation. People feel that they don’t belong to these communities when they lose their livelihoods, and there is nowhere where they can address some of these issues, and then the next thing that they do is turn to violence.”

She said that her government reasoned that the best way to avert some of these violent incidents was to strengthen local governments and the decentralization process. “We believe that local councils, local governments know and understand their communities better and are well placed to implement initiatives to build social cohesion and to reap the resulting benefits of stronger, more resilient and productive communities.”

The government has now incorporated a people’s planning model called the Wan Fambul Framework for Inclusive Governance and Local Development, an instrument not only for economic development but also to build peace, social cohesion, and inclusion. “It’s a unique model,” Minister Alghali said. “It sparks the imagination of communities. It makes the communities feel that they are part of the development. It engenders leadership and inclusivity. And one unique component of this framework is that it gives prominence to women and former groups that have not been included in the conversation in the communities, like disabled people, like youths. Those people feel that they have a say in the way their communities are being run.”

She said that the community structures that had been developed using the Wan Fambul framework had helped the country cope with current crises. “For example, we used these frameworks to address the Ebola pandemic that we recently went through. We use these frameworks to address natural disasters. We are using this framework to address the COVID pandemic now, in unique and innovative ways, like sending the message of hand washing and spreading the message of socially distanced gatherings. These are the governance structures that we use, and they have worked quite well.”

The Wan Fambul framework is now being legislated into law, giving it permanence in the structure and governance of Sierra Leone. “Once it is legislated, it makes any government that comes to power obliged to follow this framework, and it also means it must be part of the budget allocation for the government.”

Sierra Leone is applying the lesson of Wan Fambul to its fulfillment of the SDGs, Ms. Alghali said. “As a country, we believe that the first step in achieving the SDGs by 2030 is for us to be able to sustain peace and national cohesion, which is the bedrock of any form of development. Without peace, without cohesion, there is not going to be development, and in order to do that, we have to strengthen governance at the community level by putting communities at the center of the planning process. This is what we have done in Sierra Leone as a model by incorporating the Wan Fambul Framework in our governance and structure. And we hope that other countries will emulate this good example.”

Adela Raz, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN, recounted how the country had pursued its community-driven development using its people- centric Citizens’ Charter National Priority Program. “Through our Citizens’ Charter, we have empowered Afghan communities to identify, plan, manage, and monitor development projects.” She said that projects have been “democratized” through a process in which locally elected Community Development Councils prioritized projects and applied to receive funding for their implementation. “The program success was evident in its very positive impact in over 35, 000 communities which included greater access to public services and then overall acceptance of the democratic process and the people-centered approaches.”

Ambassador Raz said that the Citizens’ Charter program deepened the relationship between the government and its citizens and expanded the responsibility of the Community Development Councils through an inter-ministerial collaboration for better citizen-centric delivery of services, including universal access to clean drinking water, quality education, health services and infrastructure. “This has translated into 12,800 completed projects and more than 13 million people benefited. This model, of course, originated from collaboration between the international and the national. And as a government, we found ourselves in the middle of this partnership, and we adopted it and held it with two hands.”

She pointed out that the government had also taken a community-led approach to the SDGs. “The government has worked to nationalize the SDGs by identifying the most relevant targets and indicators to develop the Afghanistan Sustainable Development Goals. Of course in Afghanistan, when we are talking about community-led efforts, we cannot discuss this without the element of peace. The government has also emphasized that Afghans from all segments of society should have a say in the peace process. It called a Loya Jirga, our format for our grand assembly, with 3,200 delegates from all 34 provinces that prioritized our objective for peace and the formation of an inclusive negotiating team. Following the lead of the Jirga, the government in August took the very difficult decision to release 400 remaining Taliban prisoners as part of the commitment from the government’s side to start the peace talks.

“The government is also empowering women to engage in track two and track three peace processes through community-led initiatives. The second phase of our Women, Peace, and Security National Action Plan emphasizes the localization of the plan and close consultation with stakeholders around the country. This has led to the development of local action plans which has strengthened community leadership and further amplified local ownership of the National Action Plan I think this is the environment we should strive for with these important initiatives and building more people-centric governments and processes and initiatives that leads to greater ownership of the local communities.”

Her fellow Afghan, Rasoul Rasouli, CDD Operations and Development Expert and former Director General, Citizens’ Charter, Afghanistan, said the overall national project aimed at putting in place sustainable systems to reduce poverty and bind people to the government. It was now in its first phase, he said, and on a path to reach 40,000 villages in the country. “Community-driven development programs encourage the notion of participation and voluntary reason. It is quite feasible to expand the program fast and give more coverage. The bottom-up development gives a way for citizens through the different platforms of community participation, to participate in monitoring, social audit, score cards, and a comprehensive grievance redress mechanism linking the beneficiaries at the primary level to the government officials from the local all the way up to the national level to register their complaints.”

The Fambul Tok project in Sierra Leone shared a similar goal of community involvement with the Afghan Citizens’ Charter movement but proceeded on a different mindset, said John Caulker, Executive Director of Fambul Tok International, ”We don’t’ say ‘bottom up,’ we say ‘inside out’ because with all due respect, we believe that people should not be seen as the bottom. People have their answers to the problems, solutions to look out for, and that is the key. We don’t go to communities to solve their problems, we go to communities to facilitate a conversation.”

He explained that the Creole language phrase Fambul Tok means “family talks” and evolved in Sierra Leone in the aftermath of the country’s devastating and divisive civil war. “So the initial concept was to address gaps to work on reconciliation, get the people who suffered during the conflict to sit around to talk about what went wrong. ‘We used to be one big family. Your mother is my mother, and your father is my father, your child is my child. It takes a village to raise a child. What went wrong?’ So that was the initial idea, why we had Fambul Tok, and as the name implies, it’s a national conversation.”

When the Ebola crisis hit five years ago, Sierra Leone profited from this earlier experience with community-centered development. “We realized that it’s important to have a trusted relationship, which we had already forged, and because of that trusted relationship, we were able to lead a conversation at the community level. We were able to get stakeholders to listen to communities.”

Libby Hoffman, President of Catalyst for Peace, spoke of working with Mr. Caulker in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak and a lesson she gleaned from that experience. She recalled that Mr. Caulker was frustrated by the response of the international community which he found replicative of the errors in the outside world’s response to the country’s post-civil war needs years earlier. “He said something that I found so inspiring that I wrote it down, and it’s become a keystone for me. Referring to international donors, he said, ‘They think they can just come in and pour resources at the problem to fix it. They don’t even see the community where the problem is happening.’ And that community is like a bowl, and it’s cracked. And if you pour water into a cracked bowl, it just goes right through, and if you keep pouring, it only makes the cracks bigger.”

Continuing her bowl metaphor, she said the way that Fambul Tok worked was “not about pouring water into the cup of the community, it was about repairing the cup through a community mobilization and engagement process so that it could hold the water itself and then it could generate its own activity and lead in its own reconciliation and development.” Holding up a model of concentric bowls to illustrate her point, she said, “You’ll see that there is no up or down. Depending on where you’re located, it’s a whole system, and the role of each level outside is to create the space that allows the resources in the level inside to be seen, motivated, and magnified. So this is what we mean when we say communities in the center, not separated and hierarchal but all together with distinct roles and responsibilities as part of a larger whole.”

Clare Lockhart, Director, Institute for State Effectiveness, said that the kinds of layered platform designs being discussed varied from place to place and had to be context-specific. “But one of the most important principles that we’ve heard today is that among the decisions, rights or responsibilities, the leadership for planning is vested in the community. And this can sometimes be quite hard for governments or NGOs to let go of when they got used to making the decisions. But it’s really important that shift about understanding that the community will be making the decision and plans for what happens in their community.”

On the crucial issue of financial support, she said that a “single window framework” was key to engaging donors. “From the perspective of donors with these often fragmented programs, having a single set of rules for operation and community development can be so crucial.”

Jimena Leiva-Roesch moderated the discussion.

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