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The Benefits of Female UN Peacekeepers

Last year, the UN’s first-ever all-female police unit deployed to Liberia. In this video, which is featured on the front page of the Better World Campaign, Shirin Tahir-Kheli, Senior Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State for Women’s Empowerment, describes the successes that this deployment brought to Liberia (check out a longer video here).

This unit was so successful, in fact, that the UN has deployed another such contingent, as reported by Voice of America last week:

A second Indian all-female contingent has been deployed in Liberia for a few months now, showing that women can become the norm for peacekeeping operations. They are also inspiring Liberian women to become part of the country’s security reconstruction.

The increase in Liberian women joining their country’s police force is only one of the benefits that the presence of female police officers has brought to Liberia. In addition to backing up Liberia’s police and contributing to the overall security situation, the female peacekeepers, according to Tahir-Kheli, have directly contributed to improved reporting of instances of violence against women and to a corresponding decrease in the actual number of instances of such violence.Comfort Lamptey, a UN adviser on gender, attests to the advantages that women police officers bring to cultures in which even reporting rape is stigmatized.

“I think that in a lot of countries women who have been subject to gender-based violence feel more comfortable talking to a woman,” she said. “In many countries where women have been raped by men in uniform, they are more comfortable talking to another woman than men in uniforms. Having women in the field who are well-trained may be able to respond to women who have been violated.”

This is exactly the reason that an all-female police contingent is needed in places like DR Congo and Darfur, where rape continues unchecked and unpunished.

As an additional benefit, the presence of women in the ranks of peacekeepers has also effectively served to police the behavior of peacekeepers themselves. In Lamptey’s words, “the presence of more women can actually help dilute a macho approach to peacekeeping,” which can in turn help combat the problem of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) among peacekeepers. In Liberia, for example, the number of reported SEA violations decreased from 45 in 2005, to 30 in 2006, to just nine allegations in 2007.

While the UN has a long way to go toward bridging the gender gap among peacekeepers, doing so will do more than simply improve the male-female ratio. The increased use of female peacekeepers will clearly improve UN peacekeeping qualitatively, making it more efficient and expanding the realm of what it can achieve.

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State Department Wittingly Letting Terrorists onto US Soil?

Delegates from a State Department designated foreign terrorist organization, the Lord’s Resistance Army, have been granted U.S. visas so they can travel to New York to meet the Security Council. Some background: The LRA is a militia that has terrorized the population of northern Uganda for nearly two decades. A peace deal, however, is in the works–and could even be signed by the LRA’s notorious leader as early as Thursday. One sticking point in the peace deal are what to do about the International Criminal Court indictments on the LRA’s leadership, and the delegates are hoping to press the Security Council to stay those indictments in the interest of peace.

The State Department’s decision to grant LRA delegates visas seems to signal that the United States is willing to at least countenance lifting the indictments. This is not entirely unreasonable. One possible solution to the justice v peace dilemma emerging from the peace talks in Northern Uganda, after all, is to exile Kony and his top lieutenants and temporarily lift the indictments in return for full compliance with the peace accord. This solution may make the ICC Prosecutor cringe, but it shows how politically useful these indictments can be as mechanisms to enforce a peace.

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State Department Wittingly Letting Terrorists onto US Soil?

Delegates from a State Department designated foreign terrorist organization, the Lord’s Resistance Army, have been granted U.S. visas so they can travel to New York to meet the Security Council. Some background: The LRA is a militia that has terrorized the population of northern Uganda for nearly two decades. A peace deal, however, is in the works–and could even be signed by the LRA’s notorious leader as early as Thursday. One sticking point in the peace deal are what to do about the International Criminal Court indictments on the LRA’s leadership, and the delegates are hoping to press the Security Council to stay those indictments in the interest of peace.

The State Department’s decision to grant LRA delegates visas seems to signal that the United States is willing to at least countenance lifting the indictments. This is not entirely unreasonable. One possible solution to the justice v peace dilemma emerging from the peace talks in Northern Uganda, after all, is to exile Kony and his top lieutenants and temporarily lift the indictments in return for full compliance with the peace accord. This solution may make the ICC Prosecutor cringe, but it shows how politically useful these indictments can be as mechanisms to enforce a peace.

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Tuesday Morning Coffee

Congratulations Washington Post reporter Steve Fainaru for winning this year’s Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (full list). UN Dispatch expects to at least be nominated next year.

Top Stories

>>Olympics – Over 3,000 French police officers were unable to stop protesters along the route of the Olympic torch ceremony in Paris, the last leg of which has now been canceled. The torch, on a 58-day journey through 21 nations, was extinguished three times, and some Olympic officials have openly wondered whether that agenda should be cut short. China has vowed to continue. Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, said the executive board will decide on Friday whether the relay will continue. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has called for a boycott of the opening ceremonies.

>>Iran – President Ahmadenijad announced on Iran’s “national nuclear day” that the nation is installing 6,000 new centrifuges at its Natanz facility, which would triple the number. Iran maintains that it is enriching uranium for civilian purposes.

>>Iraq – As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker prepare to deliver a progress report on Iraq to Congress today, Moqtada al-Sadr has agreed to disband his 60,000-strong al-Mahdi army if Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and other clergy based in Iran say he should. Al-Sadr’s spokesman said that he sought a similar ruling last year and was told to keep his militia intact. The announcement was unexpected given recent clashes between the Mahdi army and Iraqi security forces.

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Tuesday Morning Coffee

Congratulations Washington Post reporter Steve Fainaru for winning this year’s Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (full list). UN Dispatch expects to at least be nominated next year.

Top Stories

>>Olympics – Over 3,000 French police officers were unable to stop protesters along the route of the Olympic torch ceremony in Paris, the last leg of which has now been canceled. The torch, on a 58-day journey through 21 nations, was extinguished three times, and some Olympic officials have openly wondered whether that agenda should be cut short. China has vowed to continue. Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, said the executive board will decide on Friday whether the relay will continue. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has called for a boycott of the opening ceremonies.

>>Iran – President Ahmadenijad announced on Iran’s “national nuclear day” that the nation is installing 6,000 new centrifuges at its Natanz facility, which would triple the number. Iran maintains that it is enriching uranium for civilian purposes.

>>Iraq – As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker prepare to deliver a progress report on Iraq to Congress today, Moqtada al-Sadr has agreed to disband his 60,000-strong al-Mahdi army if Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and other clergy based in Iran say he should. Al-Sadr’s spokesman said that he sought a similar ruling last year and was told to keep his militia intact. The announcement was unexpected given recent clashes between the Mahdi army and Iraqi security forces.

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A Step Toward Peace in Cote d’Ivoire

In the world of UN peacekeeping, a successful mission is one that gradually moves toward its own dissolution. In that light, there is good news coming out of Cote d’Ivoire. From the UN News Centre:

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire has now dismantled almost all of its military observation posts in the former zone of confidence separating the Government-held and rebel-controlled areas of the country as part of last year’s accord ending active hostilities between the two sides.

Only two of the original 17 observation posts built inside the zone in the West African country remain operational, according to Colonel Mustapha Dafir, the military spokesperson for the mission, which is known as UNOCI.

This follows the UN’s handover of disarmament responsibilities to the Ivorian national government and represents another step toward securing the full peace and reconciliation that UNOCI is tasked with helping the country achieve. In meeting the benchmarks set out in a 2007 peace accord, UNOCI provides a good example of the path that UN peacekeeping missions aim to follow — a path that includes forming a transitional government and holding elections later this year and that will lead to the drawing down, and eventual departure, of the peacekeeping force.

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