Sunday

28th Nov 2021

Opinion

Why so few women in EU missions?

The proportion of women in leadership positions is only a small aspect of the question of how to increase the influence and significance of women in the field of peace and security - but it is a very visible one and therefore an important symbol.

As of Wednesday (1 July), Germany assumed the presidency of the Council of the European Union. As chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel will be chairing the council's meetings.

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She is only the seventh woman to do so.

Looking at the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the EU and its missions, it is striking that its focus has so far been quite limited when it comes to the visibility and promotion of women.

This is the only explanation for the fact that in 2020 there is no woman leading any of the current eleven European civilian missions (let alone one of the six military operations).

In general, only six of all the civilian missions so far have been led by a woman - but 64 by a man.

Women are also clearly underrepresented as deputy heads of mission - in only three of the 11 civilian missions (namely, EU Capacity Building Sahel Niger, European Union Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories and the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia) are women currently appointed as deputies.

Two of them are German.

In November 2018, the EU published the civilian CSDP compact. One of its aims is to increase the proportion of women at all levels of EU missions.

However, since the compact is to be implemented at the national level, each EU state can decide for itself what exactly better representation means - and not all member states seem very interested in having more women in crisis management missions.

The United Nations is in a better position compared to the EU: in the current list of UN leaders in peace operations and special envoys, a third of the leadership positions are held by women, and half of the deputy leadership positions – in fact, a woman leads a predominantly military peace operation in Cyprus.

This is mainly possible because the UN secretary-general already announced in his inaugural address in December 2016 that at the end of his term of office half of all senior positions (including special representatives and mission heads) would be filled by women.

UN action vs EU inaction?

October marks the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 "Women, Peace and Security" (WPS).

For the first time, a resolution called for the protection of women's rights in conflicts and the equal involvement of women in peace negotiations, conflict transformation and reconstruction.

This anniversary offers an opportunity to reflect on the extent to which women have actually been included in foreign and security policy ever since.

Looking at the CSDP, there is clearly a great deal of catching up to do, at least in terms of personnel policy.

Not only is there a lack of female personnel at the management level, the proportion of women in civilian crisis management missions of the EU must be further increased overall.

The proportion of women in such missions currently remains at very low 25 percent. With a share of 29 percent, Germany is only in the middle of the field. Sweden with 39 percent and Finland with 42 percent are performing much better.

With non-uniformed civilian personnel, Germany is in the top group with 41 percent women.

The lack of women in missions, especially in leadership positions, can often be explained by a lack of political will. As long as EU states propose almost exclusively men for such posts, there will be no significant improvement.

How about if EU states, in line with UN policy, announce that by 2025 (the 25th anniversary of resolution 1325) gender parity will be achieved in the leadership of CSDP missions?

Suitable female candidates could be found for the next top level vacancies in 2020 and 2021.

The high number of women in top positions in UN peacekeeping missions - some of them, incidentally, European women - clearly shows that there are enough suitable candidates. Of course, resolution 1325 is about more than just women in leadership positions.

However, representation at the executive level is an important aspect in order to ensure that the voice of women is included in decision-making processes. It is crucial to take the experience of women at all levels seriously and include women in all areas of foreign policy.

Author bio

Patricia Kruse works for the director of the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF), where Tobias Pietz is the deputy head of the analysis division.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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