How is peace-building implemented most effectively?


Peace-building is defined by ex UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali as ‘action to identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid relapse into conflict’ (Barnett, 2007, p 35). But, according to statistics ‘nearly 50 percent of all countries receiving assistance slide back into conflict within five years, and 72 percent of peace-building operations leave in place authoritarian regimes’ (Paul, 2003, p 233). Since the process is becoming less and less efficient, the question can be posed: What has gone wrong? Is the problem due to the concept, implementation, or due to misidentification of critical issues to be addressed in order to rebuild the peace on a solid foundation? This essay will assert that gender roles, if they are considered more seriously, can vastly contribute to the peace-building process. My main argument is that heeding gender roles could play a significant role in support of the peace-building process, raise the level of operational effectiveness in the field, improve situational awareness, and thus safety and security of our own forces. My second argument is that in order to achieve this, military personnel has to undergo appropriate training before deploying.

Before delving into discussion of we need to understand what is meant by peace-building. A crucial piece of information when one speaks about peace-building is that peace-building is an external intervention. In other words, peace-building is planned and conducted by someone who is not familiar, or not familiar enough, with the local culture, tradition, habits, conviction and beliefs. Peace-building is understood here as a process which lasts after a conflict is over, until host nation institutions are able to take over full responsibilities of the wellbeing of their own citizens. Several officials and thinkers argue that peace-building is over as soon as a conflict is over. For example ex-USA President George W. Bush at the conclusion of Operation Iraqi freedom stated ‘we don’t do nation building’ (George W. Bush, 2003). Yet, this approach is too narrow.

As argued above, peace-building should restore conditions for peace and stability and enhance people’s ability to deal with crisis and rebuild society (Kristellys, 2010).

It is often discussed whether this should be a job for the military at all. However, it is often only the intervening militaries that could achieve such tasks in a volatile post-conflict situation. This brings us back to the gender roles, which, of late, gender roles have become a ‘specific security concern’ (BI-SCD, 2012, p 3), One of the major tasks of peacebuilding forces is to ensure protection of the most vulnerable in the society and learning about the gender roles in that society could greatly enhance our understanding of who needs protection.

In order to advance these arguments, the first part of this Essay will be dedicated to gender roles in general and why they matter. The second part will examine why peace-building is implemented more effectively if gender roles are considered, while the final part of this essay will pinpoint some bad examples and recommendations when we are talking about implementation of gender perspectives into military operations, paying special attention to education and training. In the second and third part of the essay the concerns of the critics of incorporation of gender dimension will be addressed, such as that gender roles are just a tool to easily gain political support and ethical justification for military operations and actions abroad in the Western society.

Why gender matters

Since the very beginning of its adoption into official UN language, the word gender1 has been misinterpreted. It is therefore important to explain this term before going into deeper discussion. First, we should distinguish between “gender” and “sex”. “Sex” refers to biological differences between a man and woman; whereas “gender” refers to socially constructed role among individuals divided by sex, age or some other characteristics and can thus vary from society to society.

There are thus many gender categories, and military personnel are expected to deal with at least those: man, woman, boys and girls. Gender roles are formed for each category depending on how each role is expected to behave (according to law, culture, tradition, beliefs, convictions, etc.) and how to behave (limitations, rights, obligations, duties, etc.). For example, woman in Slovakia and Pakistan have the same sex but perform gender roles differently. The issue can also be applied chronologically: an English woman born in the 17th century will have different gender roles from woman born in the 21st century.

As seen from these examples, gender roles change through time and space and are unique for each society. By understanding gender roles, one can be in a better position to interpret the conflict itself and better plan actions aimed at addressing the needs of real victims. As soon as we understand that our culture, tradition and beliefs build lenses through which we see the world around us, blinding us to some important issues, the sooner we will understand that same construction material is not used everywhere in the world. Our actions should be gender sensitive in order not to work against us or against someone that we should protect. Ultimately, gender roles must be considered in order to protect basic (fundamental) human rights and the protection of victims.

1 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, 1995

Gender roles are sometimes a question of life and death, freedom or slavery, humiliation or decent life. The most important issue is the fact that neglecting gender roles could cause more damage than good, both for us and for someone else. This can be better understood from the following example:

While operating in Afghanistan2, the British contingent Officer in Charge (OiC) decided that an equal amount of money should be reimbursed to the locals for every life lost as a consequence of combat operations conducted by British troops the area. Previously, larger amounts were allocated for adults than for children. Led by ethical reasoning (a life is a life) the OiC allocated the same amount for both categories. Suddenly, the OiC was faced with an increased number of female children being reported as collateral victims of combat operations between British troops and the Taliban. Girls were brought by family members, usually parents, in front of the main gate of the compound, with shots being fired in the back. Parents then claimed reimbursement for them. It was obvious that female children were more valuable dead than alive to them.

Consequently, gender roles must be analysed in order to better understand society as a whole, the root causes of the conflict, and to better identify which measures should be applied during the process of peace-building addressing particular gender category while having in mind that each of them are stricken by the conflict in different way. In other words, gender perspectives must be incorporated in all our plans, actions and tasks in order to be able to fulfil our missions.

Peter Lee named one of the chapters in his book “gendering war” while speaking about ‘Afghanistan high authority intention to firstly sacrifice women’s rights for sake of peace with Taliban’ (Lee, 2014). This is an example of social interactions being influenced by gender roles and how important they are for local communities.

2 This example was presented by chief of the British Stabilisation Unit in Afghanistan during the Building Integrity Course for Senior Officials at UK Defence Academy from 13 to 15 March 2013.

Even if it is obvious that, now when coalition troops are about to be withdrawn, peace with Taliban should be established, it should not be established at any price. I want to say that we have duty and requirement to interfere with the local culture if the aim is to protect basic human rights and values.

Incorporation of gender perspectives is important for us, for the affected population and it is easy to incorporate it if we want it. When we are about to build a school in Afghanistan and we think of gender perspectives in our plans, the only condition must be posed to the local community is that access to the school and education is granted to girls as well as boys.

Why peace-building is implemented most effectively if gender roles are considered

As stated in the previous section, without an understanding of gender roles, we are not able to completely understand core values of particular societies and address the need of the victims properly. Women and children are particularly vulnerable, not because they are weak, but because their gender roles limit their access to the public domain. They usually remain “invisible”, their wounds do not hurt much, they are just numbers and only when these numbers become drastic do we (the international community) decide to get involved. According to UN data, all conflicts that have been conducted from 1945 to 1998 have resulted in a total number of victims of about 80 million. In deeper analysis, more than 90 percent of the victims are civilians. Going further, a greater percentage of the victims were women and children than soldiers. It seems that the safest place to be during war is in military.

According to UN data, 93,9% of Liberian women were victims of gender based violence3 during the civil wars in that country. More than 70% of the 93,9% were raped, turned into sexual slaves or forced to become prostitutes. Sexually based violence has become a weapon of war, which is fortunately now recognized as a war crime and is listed under the Rome Statute’s list of crimes for which the International Criminal Court has authority. It is, however, important to note that recognizing sex crimes as a war crime by international community started only after some cases of mass men’s rape during the civil war in Bosnia and Hercegovina from 1991 to 1995.

These examples emphasize the importance to look at conflict from victim’s perspective and understand their special needs. In that respect, the DDR4 process is very important. This process is aimed to identify ex combatants, collect their weapons and help them to reintegrate into society. The identification process is followed by giving them some reimbursement for each weapon that they hand over. Additional training is offered to them as well. Majority of projects realised by peace-building mission are aimed to give them an alternative job from which they can earn a living. In other words, the task is to take from them one form of power (weapon) and give them another form of power (economic).

While this is important for stopping violence this process ignores the victims and their perspectives. Until recently, women did not qualify for this process unless they took a direct part in the hostilities. Eventually, this was also recognized as an issue and UN Resolution 1325 also

3 Gender based violence is all kind of violence based on differences among the gender categories. For example domestic violence and all kind of sexual based violence as well.
4 Disarmament, Demobilisation, Repatriation, Reintegration and (or) Resettlement addresses this problem. Women should be entitled to participate to this process, whether as dependants of ex-fighters or as women who were forced to join organized armed groups. This will allow women to be provided with an opportunity to acquire new skills and confidence. One cannot build peace successfully if they do not consider this issue seriously. Even more, they should aim their efforts of fighting discrimination that existed in the society prior to the conflict, because all bad things that happened during the conflict existed prior to it and only became more visible during the crisis. By neglecting this aspect one will just strengthen discrimination among the different gender categories and serves to perpetuate victimization. The best way to do this is to identify specific needs, address them and serve as a role model for promoting gender equality.

As previously stated this is extremely easy to do. I personally experienced this during my deployment to the Ivory Coast as a military observer. I was appointed at the team site Man, close to the Liberian border for almost seven months in 2009, when a female officer from Ethiopia came to serve with us. We performed a common patrol in one village which some of us had previously visited several times. As a part of preparation for the patrol, we read previous reports and realised that no security concerns were reported by the Chief of the village for the last couple of years. Upon reaching the village we looked for the Chief and started to fill questionnaire. Suddenly, some local women approached to us and spoke to my female colleague. Next moment I was able to speak to them and ask them the same questions that had been posed to the Chief previously. Contrary to Chief’s answers, they reported some serious security concerns. Some of reports involved women that were killed when passing through certain areas, while some of them were raped. The problem was that the UN had built water pump in a remote place, requiring the women to walk three kilometres through a wooded area in order to get to the water. This was not previously reported, as male members of society did not see it as a concern since they were not affected. Thanks to my female colleague I was able to identify this issue and address it to higher command who reacted promptly by building a new water pump next to the village. This is a simple example how promotion of gender equality can influence our effectiveness and why gender roles should be treated as specific security concerns.

But one need to have in mind another approach as well which claims that actualization of gender roles in the recent time in the Western society is just the way to justify something which cannot be based on national or international law. It can be said that there are enormous examples which could be used to prove this statement. One of the leaders in this field was ex-British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Due to lack of more reliable arguments he frequently used gender based arguments in order to gain political points and public support for military operations. This was a significant part of his speeches wherever UK forces intervene abroad during his mandates. For example, after the NATO campaign was launched against ex-Federal Republic of Yugoslavia5, he stated on 24 April 1999: ‘the full extent of the horrific repression by Serb forces in Kosovo is only emerging now. There has been organized systematic rape of women, usually in front of husbands and children’ (Blair, 1999)6.

Of course, this statement was given without any evidence, but served as a justification for intervention since that campaign was conducted without UN Security Council Resolution. From such or similar cases could be seen how, so called “protagonists of gender equality” are trying to exploit population sensitivity to gender based violence. But this should not discourage us from future work on incorporation of gender perspective, even more, this should be kept in mind in order to be prepared to react properly.

5 Air campaign was launched on 24 March 1999

Another demand posed by incorporation of gender perspectives serves as an enabler for many other requirements that are supposed to be fulfilled and that is increasing number of women involved in peace-building operations. Besides serving as role models for local communities, they are able to identify specific needs of affected populations, particularly women, and how to resolve them. Positive effects of using Mixed Engagement Teams (MET)7 in Afghanistan are clearly visible, simply because now teams in the field are able to speak with both local men and women. This significantly contributed to the situational awareness and security in the field for both local community and our troops.

Having in mind everything previously mentioned, peace-building will be much more successful if we tuned up our sensors more for this specific issue. Of course, there is always a question to what extent military should deal with this. There is no right answer for that, but definitely much more than we are dealing with now. We should realize that this would increase a level of our operational effectiveness in the field, allowing achieving easier our mission and forming better foundation for sustained and long lasting peace.

Implementation of gender perspectives – challenges and recommendations

‘The only thing harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is to get an old one out’8 (Liddell-hart, 1944)

So far this Liddell-Hart’s thought can be identified as the biggest challenge, but of course it is not the only one. Peace-building is always a

7 Small military unit composed of men and women 8 Sir Basil H. Liddell-hart, Thoughts on War, 1944 multinational project and includes people with different educational, training and cultural background. A common language is difficult to find, even for most commonly used terms where very often the term peace- building itself is understood differently. This is why education and training becomes a key to success.

But, since training and education are national responsibilities, they depend on the sending nation and usually military personnel do not receive gender training before deploying. We are witnessing that while some nations have developed specialised centres to educate and train their personnel on gender issues, others have not included a single module in their training and education system. This is the main problem with having the training and education strictly under TCC and TCN9 responsibilities.

There are a lot of bad examples of how implementation of gender perspectives should not be conducted. I will mention two which reflect the most commonly practised approach. There are a lot of states who are trying to reach “percentage” without quality. For example, India was the first country that sent all-women Formed Police Units (FPU) to one PSO10. However, this was performed for the sake of being first. In order to be first, India announced its intention for deployment of the all-women unit in September 2006, with deployment occurring in January 2007. The haste in deploying the team resulted in inadequate training, and team members were not properly selected to conduct tasks at the requisite level. This resulted in enhancing of prejudice among males toward women in uniform and contributed to misunderstanding of importance of this issue.

9 Troop Contributing Nations and Troop Contributing Countries
10 UN Peace support Operation in Liberia – UNMIL, Liberia, 2007.

The second example displays the inability of a single unit or department to deal with such a complex issue. As a part of its core function, CIMIC11 officers deliver Theatre Civil Assessment (TSA) to Joint Forces Commands. This is done through a CIMIC liaison architecture: CIMIC maintains liaison with local officials and organizations represented in the theatre (IO, GO, NGO). However, CIMIC liaison officers are not aware of civil society relationships and do not liaise with unofficial leaders (religious and tribal leaders for example) or particular groups within the larger population (women, children, elderly etc.). Given these shortcomings, it is no wonder that CIMIC was not aware at all what would happen in Kosovo in March 2004. They were not able to identify indicators of a pogrom12. In this “action” more than 50.000 Albanians were involved in well prepared and led attacks on Serbs and Serbian heritage in Kosovo. It happened in front of the eyes of more than 50.000 peacekeepers and international security forces. After this event, all CIMIC personnel and CIMIC structure were dismissed and new structure (with local liaison teams) was established. The problem was not the CIMIC officers, and my intention is not to pinpoint shortcomings of CIMIC, but to show how understanding of gender roles can contribute to mission accomplishment and mitigate misguided expectations. Without proper training, education and without addressing the right people, threats cannot be identified properly. In addition, this should not be the job just for CIMIC, Gender Advisers, Gender Field Advisers or Gender Focal points; this is a job for every soldier. Previously mentioned personnel are there just to facilitate the process. Having one liaison team and 10.000 troops on the ground in constant interaction with the population, it is obvious from which of them we could get more. Having them sensitive enough to be able to convey the message to the right people and take from them what is needed is of outmost importance.

11 Civil-Military Cooperation
12 This violent riot, aimed at massacre of an ethnic group, happened in Kosovo on 21 Mart 2004. More than 150 churches and monastery were burnt, thousands of Serbian houses were destroyed, more than 4.000 people were forced to leave their homes, public buildings were destroyed… Aim was to cleanse Serbs from Kosovo at all.

This is why education and training is the key for success. Education is needed for every level, same in the military and the civilian domain. A recent statement by the Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan that ’women are not equal to men’ (Erdogan, 2014) sends the wrong mesage and has huge consequences at the teatre level.


Incorporation of gender perspectives is a task military forces are responsible for, requiring that education and training are keys to success. Military personnel must incorporate gender considerations into all actions for the sake of protection of basic human rights, operational effectiveness, situational awareness and security of troops and local populations. Peace- building, as one of the most complicated processes that must to be performed by military forces, will be more effective when socially constructed phenomena of affected population are taken into consideration. Gender roles play a more significant role than has been previously imagined. Judgment and critical thinking are needed when it comes to incorporation of gender perspectives as well. It is always good to have public opinion very sensitive about this issue, but at the same time the room for manipulation with it is opened. One should be aware of it, because this is the only way how one can incorporate a gender perspective properly. There is only one demand posed in front of us: to consider gender roles at least equally important as they are considered by enemies of all that we are standing for, and those are universal human values, liberty and equality. This can be done only by education.


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