By Ruchita Beri
India is all set to deploy a platoon of women peacekeepers as part of the Indian battalion in the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) on January 6, 2023. Abyei, is a disputed border region between Sudan and South Sudan. This is India’s largest deployment of women peacekeepers in a United Nation (UN) mission after the first deployment of women contingent in the UN Mission in Liberia (2007). This crucial step reflects India’s exemplary efforts towards mainstreaming gender in UN peacekeeping deployments and continuous support for the UN Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda.
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In recent years, the UN has advocated that gender mainstreaming is essential for the effectiveness of peacekeeping missions across the world. The United Nations has increased the number of women in peacekeeping missions, citing the latter’s unique contributions that improve peacekeeping unit’s operational efficiency and the human security of vulnerable communities. The UN Agenda on Women, Peace and Security can be traced back to the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000. This was the first resolution that recognised the unique impact of armed conflict on women, acknowledged the contributions women make towards conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and highlighted the importance of their participation in ensuring peace and security. This path breaking resolution and subsequent nine UNSC resolutions 1820 &1888 (2008), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 & 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015), 2467 &2493 (2019) form the normative framework on women, peace and security related issues at the UN.
India’s contribution to the UN peacekeeping efforts is enormous. Since 1948, it has participated in 49 out of 71 UN peacekeeping missions and contributed over 2, 50,000 troops. India is widely recognised as a champion of gender mainstreaming in UN peacekeeping. It was the first country to deploy an all women police unit in the UN peacekeeping history, to Liberia (2007-20016). The Indian all women formed police battalion work in Liberia was much appreciated. It has served as a role model to the local women to join the security sector. Since 2019, it has also deployed a Female Engagement Team in the UN Mission Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO). In 2016, India became the first country to contribute to the UN Trust Fund in support of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA). In 2020, India was elected as a member of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, a body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This election endorses India’s commitment to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
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Apart from deploying women peacekeepers, India has been active in training future peacekeepers on gender sensitive issues. Established in the year 2000, the regional Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping (CUNPK) in New Delhi is the key agency for United Nation pre-deployment training in India. It organises training programmes for officers from Indian Armed Forces, Police force and Friendly Foreign Countries (FFCs). It has trained several officers from India and abroad. Apart from general training session that is open to both male and female troops, the CUNPK also conducts periodic training designed exclusively for women military officers, and the course has covered conflict-related sexual violence since 2015. The CUNPK trains female peacekeepers with the support of UN Women to understand the sheer complexity and difficulties that a UN peacekeeping activity faces. This includes, identifying the risks and vulnerabilities facing women, or any other vulnerable groups, the role of peacekeepers in supporting protection activities, assistance on gender and sexual violence, as well as the key cross-cutting issues that affect all peacekeepers, such as, the code of conduct, culture, and security.
Hence, deployment of women peacekeepers in Abeyi and other parts of the world along with the meticulously planned peacekeeping training modules demonstrate India’s commitment towards mainstreaming the role of women in peacekeeping.
Author is Senior Research Associate & Coordinator, Africa, LAC & UN Centre — Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
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