- Mandated with the protection of civilians, peacekeepers can play an important role in prevention of and response to violence against women and girls during armed conflict. That said, the ability of peacekeeping missions to understand and address VAWG is sometimes limited and, in some cases, peacekeepers themselves commit violence against women and girls. In order to mobilize peacekeepers to meet their VAWG-related responsibilities, programs must include initiatives to strengthen their capacity (and gender representation) in the contexts in which they are deployed.
- Peacekeepers should be trained to recognise and respond to symptoms of trauma, and to operate according to survivor-centered principles. These principles should be reflected in all peacekeepers' interactions with the community, including in protocols for conducting searches, at checkpoints and in consultation processes. Sensitivity to violence against women and girls is essential to ensuring good relations between peacekeepers and host communities.
- Peacekeeping missions should coordinate and collaborate closely with civil society organizations, including women’s groups. These groups can assist in identifying and addressing women’s and girls’ security needs and inform peacekeepers about particular areas of risk.
- Peacekeeping missions should have the mandate, funds and expertise to support local civil society organisations that provide assistance and protection services to and advocate on behalf of survivors. Peacekeeping missions must ensure a ‘zero tolerance policy’ for sexual exploitation and abuse and create measures for enforcement (adapted from Bastick et al, 2007).
- In addition, emphasis should be placed on the full and equal participation of women in peacekeeping forces. Experience in the field has shown that the inclusion of female peacekeepers is critical to improving the capacity of peacekeeping operations, because female peacekeepers can provide critical on-the-ground services, including: screening of female ex-combatants; contributing to intelligence gathering; performing the cordon and search of women; and assisting in the aftermath of sexual violence. The presence of women peacekeepers can also set a positive precedent for women’s inclusion in security forces, thus encouraging greater numbers of local women to join the security sector in the aftermath of conflict. Women peacekeepers may be better able to gain the trust of civilians, especially women, who would be more likely to report abuse (adapted from Valasek, 2008).
- Peacekeepers can be important resources in terms of security monitoring in the early stages of emergency response. In some settings, peacekeepers have been responsible for establishing security patrols for firewood collection that have improved security and generated lessons learned. Some of these lessons include:
- In order to build transparency and trust, form “firewood patrol committees” consisting of leaders from the participant groups (such as IDP women leaders), representatives from the patrolling forces (female wherever possible) and an intermediary, such as a UN agency or NGO. Committees should together develop guidelines on timing, frequency, route selection, distance, and the details of how the patrols will be carried out. They should also meet regularly to address any concerns that arise during the patrols.
- A clear protection mandate of the patrolling force, whether soldiers, civilian police or local authorities, must be established and agreed upon by all parties before the patrols begin. In particular, the role of the host government’s security forces (in refugee settings) and the local government’s security forces (in IDP settings) must be clarified before the patrols begin.
- Where necessary, a translator – female wherever possible – should accompany all patrols in order to facilitate communication between community members and patrollers.
- The commander of the patrolling force must be supportive of the firewood patrols, committed to following the guidelines and willing to conduct patrols on a regular and predictable basis (excerpted from Bastick et al, 2007, pg. 170).
- Despite the positive evidence for engaging peacekeepers in security monitoring, it is important that all actors understand and anticipate potential risks. In camp settings, for example, an increase of peacekeepers may increase the presence of other armed actors or increase the militarization of the camps. Any military personnel carrying out patrols must adhere to international best practices and guidelines in peacekeeping and civilian protection (IRC, 2012, pg. 87).
Example: African Union firewood patrols in Darfur
. For displaced women and girls in some conflict-affected contexts, collecting firewood puts them at particular risk of rape, abduction and murder. To protect women collecting firewood in Darfur, African Union Civilian Police and Ceasefire Committee (CFC: the African Union protection force in Darfur) soldiers began firewood patrols, primarily in the western and southern regions. Generally, the patrols consisted of two or three large pickup trucks that followed approximately 100-200 metres behind a group of women along a predetermined route to a firewood collection location. The trucks carried a patrol force comprising 3 to 5 civilian police personnel up front and 6 to 8 noticeably heavily-armed CFC soldiers riding open air in the back of the vehicle. The Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children reported that the firewood patrols proved highly effective (excerpted from Bastick
et al, Box 5, p. 170).
Security Sector Reform and Gender (Bastick, M & Valasek, K. (eds.) Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit. Geneva: DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR, and UN-INSTRAW, 2008) This Practice Note is based on a longer tool, and both are part of the Gender and SSR Toolkit. Designed to provide an introduction to gender issues for SSR practitioners andpolicymakers, the Toolkit includes 12 Tools with corresponding Practice Notes. Available in English.
Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: An Analytical Inventory of Peacekeeping Practice (UNIFEM & UNDPKO. 2010). Available in English.