A case study for gender parity – The Diplomat
In traditionally patriarchal sectors – such as the military, police and security forces – women around the world have faced political, social and cultural barriers for centuries. Since the 1950s, United Nations operations have led and promoted the inclusion of women in global missions. However, to date, the number of women in senior ranks and leadership positions remains disappointing. The experience of Mongolian female peacekeepers can illustrate these global shortcomings.
Throughout history, women from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds have served as warriors, wartime strategists, and quiet contributors to modern history. Unfortunately, in modern times, the roles of women when serving in the armed forces have been replaced by support functions, such as nursing, cooking, caring, and administration. These roles, in turn, prevent women from receiving promotions, preventing them from advancing in their careers and ranks due to their lack of experience in other areas of the security sector.
In 1957, female peacekeepers were introduced into the UN. However, from 1957 to 1979, he were only five women out of a total of 6,250 soldiers. From 1980 to 1989, the number increased to 15 women out of approximately 13,750 military personnel, and these women “served primarily as nurses in medical units.” The early 2000s showed steady growth in the number of female soldiers, bringing the number to 1,034 women out of 71,673 soldiers in 2007, eventually crossing the 1% mark. From 2020, the The UN reports that “Of approximately 95,000 peacekeepers, women make up 4.8% of military contingents,” and has set a goal of increasing that figure to 15% by 2028.
The end of the Cold War has ushered in a new era of UN involvement in global and regional peace and security efforts. Many countries have begun to participate in these efforts, as have women.
The United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) was established in 1992. Two years later, in 1994, the General Assembly set itself the goal of achieving gender parity – 50 % men and 50% women – in peacekeeping operations by the year 2000. To implement this goal in UN missions, the Secretary General widened the goal of all “field mission and mission replacement positions” in 1995. From the UN side, there has been constant pressure for the inclusion of women in peacekeeping missions. peace. To accelerate this goal, in 2000 the UN’s commitment to gender equality was reinforced by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325). It was the first time that the UNSC discussed and promoted the participation of women in the promotion of peace and security.
Since UNSCR 1325, DPKO has called Member States to “double the number of female peacekeepers in uniform each year for the next few years”. A year later, in January 2007, India’s first All Female Police Unit (FFPU) was shipped in Liberia. The FFPU has played an important security role in Liberia, and its presence has encouraged Liberian women to to rejoin the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the National Police. India’s mission in Liberia has become a model for women around the world serving in the military and security forces, including in Mongolia.
Although Mongolia joined the UN in 1961, it was not until 1996 that Mongolia expressed interest in contributing to UN peacekeeping operations. In 1999, Mongolia and the UN sign a Memorandum of Understanding regarding contributions to United Nations stand-by agreements. In 2002, Mongolia adopted a “law on the participation of military and police personnel in United Nations peacekeeping operations and other international operations” and began sending military observers to United Nations peacekeeping missions.
Since joining UN peacekeeping operations, Mongolia has successfully advanced a foreign policy aimed at developing the state’s military capacity through multilateral cooperation in international military operations. Since 2002, Mongolia has deployed more than 19,000 peacekeepers in United Nations peacekeeping operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Chad, Sudan, Western Sahara, Congo, Ethiopia and Georgia. In addition, Mongolian military observers work in Congo, Western Sahara and South Sudan. Since August 2021, Mongolia class 24th out of 117 troop-contributing countries to the UN and had sent 62 female and 824 male soldiers to UN operations.
Mongolia’s first female soldier joined a United Nations peacekeeping mission in 2006, as an unarmed military observer with the United Nations Referendum Mission in Western Sahara. Two years later, in 2008, Mongolia sent the first six female peacekeepers with the military contingent to Sierra Leone. In 2010, the first female staff officer was stationed at the Force Headquarters (FHQ) of the MINURCAT Chad mission, in the Central African Republic.
In 2013, Bolor Ganbold (one of the authors of this article) was the first female Section Chief (Chief J6) at UNMISS FHQ, South Sudan. After serving in UNMISS, she was the first woman to be deployed as a Peacekeeping Affairs Officer at UN Headquarters in New York. In the same year, Mongolia deployed the first female contingent Commander of Level II Hospital to UMAMID in Sudan. The following years saw an increase in the participation of Mongolian women in global forces such as in Sudan. In 2019, the first female troops from Mongolia also participated as part of the German Joint Forces, which took part in NATO’s Operation Enduring Support in Afghanistan.
As of 2021, more than 900 Mongolian women have served as military observers, staff officers and members of military contingents in United Nations peacekeeping operations and NATO coalition forces. The successful deployment and accomplishment of their missions have a significant influence and promote the participation of women in the army and security forces. These achievements should be recognized internationally.
As a next step, female peacekeepers should be considered for senior positions within the UN, not just as contingent members. However, several challenges prevent women from rapidly advancing to positions or senior positions within United Nations peacekeeping operations.
In UN peacekeeping missions, most women are doctors, nurses, cooks, laundresses or administrators. In interviews conducted by Bolor Ganbold, for example, Mongolian female peacekeepers said there are many levels of barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential as peacekeepers.
For example, one of the significant problems faced by female peacekeepers in all fields, but especially in military contingents, was that they could not leave the compound to interact with locals. Having access to local communities is particularly important for the roles envisioned for female peacekeepers, but in practice it is impossible to inspire, assist and engage with the local community of women in the compound. .
Another problem is the gaps in education and training – including in the study of languages. Mongolian female peacekeepers do not have the opportunity to study at the Mongolian Army Command Staff College before being selected and deployed, and this lack of access is a significant barrier blocking their career path as a whole. More female officers of the Mongolian Army Command Staff College should receive special education and specific training. In this case, female soldiers will have a chance to hold leadership positions in the Mongolian Armed Forces and overseas peacekeeping operations. Therefore, it is crucial that the government invests in female soldiers, training both key officers and non-commissioned officers. In the past, only a few English-speaking women officers from Mongolia had the opportunity to study abroad in the United States, Australia or India and had the chance to work in the selected UN missions.
Today, United Nations peacekeeping operations continue to see a slow improvement in gender parity. Although it is difficult to cope with the situation in the contingents, the goal of the Office of Military Affairs (OMA) is to reach 25% women by 2028. To overcome these challenges and find a visible solution , critical UN operations and missions must increase the number of women in leadership and decision-making positions. Along with these changes, it would have a direct impact if UN missions were to deploy all-female contingents to global missions and integrate them into mixed-gender settings. Finally, international coalition missions must deploy women who are prepared to bring about substantial change in the peacekeeping environment.
The challenges ahead concern not only Mongolian women peacekeepers, but also all women in the armed and security forces of the world who possess the strength, knowledge and dedication to service. UNSCR 1325 is quite explicit in urging the Secretary General to seek to expand the role and contribution of women in United Nations field operations, particularly among military observers, civilian police, human rights and the humanitarian staff. From a military perspective, increasing the contribution of women immensely strengthens both the UN missions and the serving country and its female population.