The role of female peacekeepers in law enforcement

3 Dec 2020

The role of female peacekeepers in law enforcement

Anna Khodos

UNFICYP Staff Officer-Personnel, UNPOL Headquarters

The need to recruit, train and promote more female police officers is receiving far more attention than ever before. Women are having a positive impact on law enforcement practices, not only serving in their native countries, but also being a part of different UN peacekeeping operations.

The encouraging momentum toward creating a more balanced public safety force is fueled in part by a growing appreciation of certain unique and valuable professional qualities that women often bring to law enforcement. Such qualities can enhance the ability of peacekeeping missions to make a positive impact on the communities they serve.

One of the most critical areas where female police officer can make a difference is in addressing sex crimes and violence against women and children. That is why it is vital to have enough women working in the police. For example, in sexual assault cases, the victim might want to talk to a woman. But that cannot always happen because there are not enough female officers in the unit and it ends up affecting the mission. The topic is an extremely sensitive and we need to be able to act humanely.

Access to the local population becomes particularly relevant when considering the current nature of conflicts in which UN peacekeepers find themselves. As women and children are the main victims of violence in such conflicts, particularly sexual violence, male officers can encounter limitations to cross social and cultural boundaries to build trust. This is where female peacekeepers can fill a gap by providing women and children with a greater sense of security, but also by being able to foster their trust and in the process gather valuable information.

I will speak up and continue to voice the need of more female peacekeepers to enhance the overall approach to current peacekeeping operations. More skilled and trained female peacekeepers can be a great asset to the future operations.

A watershed moment in the history of peacekeeping took place in 2014, when Major General Kristin Lund, the first female was appointed to serve as Force Commander in the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. That appointment marked an important stage of the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. The resolution which aims to shift the role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, negotiations, peacekeeping, humanitarian responses and post-conflict reconstruction.