Through the Joint Peacekeeping Operations Center (CECOPAC, in Spanish), the Chilean Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded 2018 with a course addressing the role of women in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions. The international course Women, Peace, and Security: Gender Integration in Peacekeeping Operations was conducted December 3-7, at CECOPAC in Santiago, Chile.
Forty-five units from security and armed forces of the region, including representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, the United States, and Uruguay, took part in the course. Participants learned about gender issues, cultural diversity, human rights, and negotiation, among other topics.
The objective of the activity was to share basic and fundamental knowledge on gender perspectives in peacekeeping missions to provide the proper tools and skills to the personnel deployed in these operations. The course also emphasized the role of peacekeeping personnel as protectors of the most vulnerable members of the population—women and children.
“In the last two years, this has been a particularly relevant issue for us,” Chilean Navy Captain Marco Villegas Zanón, CECOPAC director, told Diálogo. “Basically, the course’s purpose and focus is to prepare monitors in these fields.”
The course was conducted as part of the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), a program of the U.S. Department of State that seeks to reinforce partner nations’ capabilities in the execution of peacekeeping operations. CECOPAC conducted the third edition of the course with the support of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) through the Security Cooperation Office at the U.S. Embassy in Chile.
“U.S. involvement is present in all areas,” said Capt. Villegas. “Professors come from the United States; they’re involved in the coordination of activities and program design, logistics, and the possibility of bringing foreign students to the country.”
The course is the result of a partnership among GPOI, SOUTHCOM, the U.S. Navy’s Naval Postgraduate School, and CECOPAC that dates back to 2013. The activity also supports UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, and is a requirement for troops that deploy in peacekeeping operations.
“[Resolution 1325] extends the traditional concept of security to include more citizens, especially women and people who weren’t traditionally considered part of the security structure that a country was supposed to provide,” said Guillermo Holzmann, a Chilean defense and international affairs analyst. “It suggests who should provide those conditions, and who should be the participants, and this is where it advises on the inclusion of women [...], in humanitarian situations requiring security conditions that will be much more efficient and effective when the gender perspective is addressed.”
The course was taught in a conference format, with several modules distributed over the course of five days. Activities included lectures on concepts of organizational change, stress management, and intercultural communication, among others.
“The course addresses a full range of risks, from marginalization of women to sexual and gender-based violence,” Alex Concepción, GPOI assistant program manager at SOUTHCOM, told Diálogo. “We take the perspective that peacekeepers who understand the risks to women develop intervention skills and apply those skills to realistic scenarios. They are better prepared to act morally and effectively when they encounter a genuine threat in a conflict situation.”
According to Concepción, CECOPAC played an important role throughout the initiative and demonstrated its regional leadership in preparing security and armed forces on women’s empowerment issues. He added that Chile showed great interest in helping regional countries to deploy in peacekeeping missions.
“At a regional level, Chile is very progressive in these areas,” Concepción said. “Chile was the first country in Latin America to create and develop a National Action Plan for Women, Security, and Peace, which has inspired other countries in the region, [such as] El Salvador and Paraguay, to work on their own plan.”
“I would like to emphasize the opportunity that the GPOI initiative gives us to teach these topics to national and foreign personnel,” Capt. Villegas concluded. “Also, [I want to emphasize] the fact that we can contribute to training people throughout Latin America.”
The course was first taught in Uruguay, in 2015. It was carried out twice more in 2018, in Peru in May and in Chile in December. CECOPAC plans to conduct the same course in El Salvador in 2019.