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Today, the UN and Canada are launching the Elsie Initiative Fund for Uniformed Women in Peace Operations. The fund will accelerate the deployment of trained and qualified women in peacekeeping. It is a fantastic goal and the fund has an exciting design. To take each in turn:
There is considerable research suggesting UN peacekeeping operations that involve more women peacekeepers see better outcomes. In particular, missions with more women personnel are more likely to meet their mandate and bring sustainable peace, and a greater presence of women in peacekeeping operations appears to be associated with lower rates of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers themselves. But progress in meeting UN targets to increase the numbers of women in operations has been far too slow—we’re a far way off meeting a goal to double the number of women in operations between 2015-2020. That’s why the Elsie Initiative is so important.
The Elsie fund has two financing streams to help deliver more women in more prominent positions in peacekeeping:
Flexible project funding to support troop- or police-contributing countries to deploy a gender-strong unit through the provision of training or equipment, and to support UN organizations to test innovations aimed at enhancing the meaningful participation of uniformed women deployed in UN peace operations.
The second is particularly exciting: it supports financial premiums to troop- or police-contributing countries for the deployment of gender-strong units that meet the following criteria: include substantial representation of women overall and in positions in authority; have provided gender-equity training to all unit members; and have adequate material to ensure parity of deployment conditions for women and men peacekeepers. In the first year the premium would equal 20 percent of the United Nations’ troop/police cost reimbursement rate for 20 percent of the unit’s personnel, payable upon completion of deployment.
It will be interesting to see how specific targets are developed for “substantial representation,” but the thrust of the proposal is great: cash on delivery for providing the type of peacekeeping units that are associated with greater success. It’s an idea that was first floated by UN Women in 2015 and one that CGD colleagues including Tanvi Jaluka and I have been proselytizing for since 2017—and it is great to see it come to life. The initial target for the Fund is only $40 million USD, so I hope Canada and its partners rapidly fill the coffers.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.
A few months ago, I wrote a note calling for financial incentives to increase the number of women in (military) peacekeeping operations from its current level of about 4 percent closer to the UN Security Council target of about 20 percent. This post includes some more thoughts about the idea, around what to use financial incentives for, and how to fund that.
It would take the UN 337 years to reach gender parity in peacekeeping operations. We have an idea about how to speed up this progress, but before that, it’s important to understand the very real and evidence-based reasons why more women peacekeepers would be a good thing.