Peacekeeper Profile: Lauren McAlister
A Gender Affairs Officer with the United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Lauren McAlister hails from the West Coast of Canada and has worked with the Mission since December 2017. Lauren’s professional association with the Organization started in 2008 with a United Nations Volunteer assignment at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the past decade, she has served in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Mission in Kosovo as well as several nongovernmental organizations. This is Lauren’s first peacekeeping Mission and, in this short interview, she tells us why she feels strongly about building gender-responsive workplaces that contribute to sustainable social transformation.
Q: Tell us a bit about your work with UNFICYP.
As a Gender Affairs Officer with UNFICYP, my role is to support the Mission’s work in advancing gender equality and support gender mainstreaming across all Mission components, as well as liaise with external partners on gender-related issues.
Q: What, do you feel, are some of your biggest achievements in your career with UN peacekeeping?
Well, I’m quite new to peacekeeping, but I think that I’ve been able to help strengthen a conversation within UNFICYP on the benefits on gender-responsive peacekeeping operations and how that applies across the Mission’s work. I believe that it is important to advance gender equality through holistic ways that can also contribute to real, sustainable social transformation, and this applies as well to my approach within peacekeeping.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about the challenges faced and sacrifices made by peacekeepers across the globe?
Peacekeepers often face significant challenges across the globe, including threats to their own personal security and often operate under very difficult conditions. Over the 70 years that the UN has had peacekeeping operations, more than 3,700 men and women have lost their lives while serving in peacekeeping operations. It is important to take stock and reflect on the important contributions that peacekeepers make every day in the Missions in which they serve.
Q: Would you encourage more women to join peacekeeping operations worldwide? If yes, why?
I absolutely would encourage more women to join peacekeeping operations worldwide! I think that through the involvement of more women, peacekeeping operations are able to better respond to the concerns of the populations they serve and can also contribute to new ways of approaching peacekeeping than in the past. In order to encourage more women to join peacekeeping operations, the UN also needs to ensure that women don’t face any unintended barriers to their full, effective participation, and that peacekeeping operations are gender responsive, reflecting the particular needs and concerns that women may have within Missions.