Panel debate on female peacekeepers

Statement on behalf of Norway by Deputy Military Adviser O'Connor in panel on female peacekeepers, 16 March 2018.

  • Thank you ambassador for inviting me here today to speak at this important event and giving me the chance to share my country - Norway’s views and actions on this topic. Thank you also to Indonesia for keeping this high on the agenda.
  • Increasing the number of female officers back home as well as increasing the number of UN female peacekeepers is a key priority for Norway.
  • We fully support the Secretary-General’s goals to double the numbers of female peacekeepers by 2020 and to have 15% female officers and 20% female police officers in UN operations.
  • Why is this so important to us? Because Norway strongly believes that an increase in female peacekeepers will have a positive effect on UN operations and UN peacebuilding efforts in general and particularly for the purposes of protecting civilians and empowering local women and girls.
  • So how do we go about increasing the number of female peacekeepers and why does this necessarily lead to the empowerment of local women and girls?
  • First of all the work to increase the number of female UN peacekeepers must start at the national level. Without a good basis nationally the UN will have difficulties achieving its goals. So let me say a few words about what we have done and are doing in Norway on this:
  • In Norway women gained access to military service in 1976 and all branches have been open for both women and men, including combat positions, since 1985.
  • In 2016 we implemented universal conscription (military service). The reason was obvious - in order to pick the best soldiers and future officers we cannot limit our selection base to only half of the population. Furthermore, military service is no longer regarded as just a man’s job but rather a job for capable, smart and motivated men and women who have received adequate training, equipment and guidance. Around 9 000 out of 60 000 youth are called in for service every year.
  • Today 11,6% of our officers and almost one quarter - 24% - of our conscripts are female. Around 13% of our UN peacekeepers today, serving in Mali, South Sudan and the Middle East, are female.
  • Our latest national effort include an all-female conscript ranger troop which is part of the Norwegian Special Forces. Quite an innovative undertaking and something we are very proud of.
  • So why does an increase in female peacekeepers contribute to the empowerment of local women and girls?
  • Let me very quickly mention four quite different examples of empowerment:
    • First the empowerment of local women that occurred under the leadership of Force Commander and Major General Kristin Lund in the UN mission in Cyprus in 2014-2016. She established a network of influential local women across the Greek-Turkish divide both to reinforce women’s influence and to create a dialogue on a different level and on other issues than had previously been done. This might have proven more challenging for a male Force Commander if he would have at all seen this group as an essential piece in the road towards peace.
    • Secondly the training of female police officers of the Afghan police Crisis Response Unit by the Norwegian Special Forces. This support has reinforced the empowerment of the female police officers and facilitated their acceptance into the Afghan police.
  • Third. It could also be argued that female peacekeepers approach conflicts and their victims in a different way or at least with a different perspective and can for example more easily identify themselves with women and children who have been subject to crimes and conflict, including sexual violence. This is perhaps particularly important when it comes to Security Sector Reform and rebuilding trust in the local police and the judicial system - essential to achieve reconciliation and a sustainable peace.  
  • The last example: Female peacekeepers are role models for local women but perhaps especially for little girls. Through female leaders and female peacekeepers they can see that anything is possible and that they can become who they want to be.

Thank you very much for your attention.