How Germany Can Contribute to a Better Representation of Women in Civilian CSDP Missions

22 July 2020   ·   Timo Smit

When EU member states established the civilian CSDP Compact in November 2018, they committed to promoting a better representation of women in civilian CSDP missions. The percentage of women in these missions has since decreased. Germany should use its Presidency of the Council of the EU to generate political support among member states for the effective implementation of this commitment, including by means of setting targets for women’s representation and developing gender parity strategies at the EU and national levels.

On 30 October 2020 it will be 20 years since the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Germany will be a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and at the same time hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU on this anniversary. As Hannah Neumann recently wrote on this blog, Berlin should leverage the Council presidency to generate genuine political will—beyond the usual lip service—for the advancement of the WPS agenda in the EU’s external action and support concrete initiatives to this end.

One of these initiatives should be the commitment to promote a better representation of women in civilian CSDP missions, which all EU member states signed up for when they established the civilian CSDP Compact in November 2018. Germany is well-positioned to push forward this issue during its presidency, being one of the initiators of the Compact and a key contributor to civilian CSDP. It is also one of the few member states that have recently managed to increase the number and share of women in their national contributions.

Efforts to Promote a Better Representation of Women Have Yet to Produce Results

So far, the results of these efforts to increase women’s representation in civilian CSDP missions have been disappointing. When the Compact was established, the EU deployed approximately 1100 personnel in 10 civilian CSDP missions of which 22 per cent were women. One-and-half years later, there are approximately 1200 personnel in 11 missions, of which 21 per cent are women. It is up to EU member states – which provide around two-thirds of the personnel in civilian CSDP missions – to walk the talk and turn this trend around.

In the Compact, EU member states commit to “actively promoting” a better representation of women in civilian CSDP missions “at all levels” and based on “increased national contributions.” The deadline for the implementation of the Compact is early summer 2023, when co-initiator Sweden will hold the Council presidency. Delivering meaningful progress on women’s representation by then is certainly possible but by no means self-evident. There are three key challenges that demand attention.

The Compact Is Not Concrete Enough When It Comes to Increasing Women’s Representation

First, actively promoting women’s representation sounds good but remains non-committal without benchmarks or targets, which are absent in the Compact. The language is sufficiently vague to leave member states enough wiggle room to deprioritize this commitment and dodge accountability if they fail to second more women to missions. By comparison, member states commit unequivocally in the Compact to increase their national contributions to civilian CSDP and raise the ratio between seconded and contracted personnel to at least 70:30. This is a concrete goal towards which member states can work and for which they can be held accountable.

If member states can opt out of the commitment to contribute to a better gender balance in missions at a relatively low cost, this increases the risk that not all will implement it. Although many member states mention in their National Implementation Plan (NIP) for the Compact that they aim to second more women to missions, some make no reference to this commitment at all. To this author’s knowledge, only Finland and Ireland have included a clear target for this in their national plan. The NIPs are important because they form the basis for the implementation of the Compact at the national level as well as the annual review thereof.

Increasing National Contributions Is Not Conducive to Increasing Women’s Representation

Second, research on peace operations suggests that increasing personnel deployments and reducing gender imbalances are difficult to achieve at the same time. When the proportion of female personnel in civilian CSDP missions increased from 14 per cent to 23 per cent between 2009 and 2015, this did not happen because member states were deploying more women, but because they were deploying fewer men. It also helped that fewer and fewer of those deployed were operational personnel (among which the proportion of women tends to be relatively low) and more and more of them were from countries such as Denmark, Finland, and Sweden (among which the proportion of women tends to be relatively high). The commitment of member states to provide more human resources to civilian CSDP and the desire to narrow the gap between minor and major contributors are therefore not necessarily conducive to increasing women’s representation in missions.

This has already become apparent since the establishment of the Compact. Whereas 16 member states increased their secondments between February 2019 and February 2020, the proportion of women decreased or remained low in most of these national contributions. Germany is one of few member states that managed to substantially increase both the number of secondees (from 70 to 83) in this period and the proportion of women among them (from 21 to 30 per cent). Germany and the Nordic member states are now seconding more women to civilian CSDP missions than all other member states combined.

Women Are Especially Under-Represented in Leadership Positions

Third, women are especially under-represented in those levels in missions where more women are most needed. None of the 11 ongoing civilian CSDP missions is currently led by a female Head of Mission (HoM). Only 18 per cent of operational staff – which carries out the mandates and engages with the host nation partners – are women. Meanwhile, women account for more than 40 per cent of support staff seconded by member states (excluding security and protection).

Appointing more women HoM’s and achieving gender parity in mission leadership really should not be that difficult. Given that there are only eleven civilian CSDP missions, this would only require five or six women HoMs. Increasing women’s representation among operational personnel – of which there are more than 650 – will be a greater challenge. As member states have committed to prioritize operational personnel in their contributions, this type of secondments is expected to increase the most. Moreover, such personnel is often recruited from civilian or military police services, which remain predominantly male in most countries. Indeed, since the Compact was established, member states have contributed more operational personnel, especially to EUAM Ukraine and EUMM Georgia. Most of these additional secondees are men. As a consequence, women's representation in these missions has gone down instead of up among the operational personnel.

Opportunities for the German Council Presidency

The second Annual Review Conference on the implementation of the civilian CSPD Compact, which takes stock of progress and sets priorities for the way ahead, is scheduled around the same time as the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325. Women’s representation received little attention during the first Annual Review Conference and was not included in the waypoints that were identified to guide the implementation of the Compact in 2020. Germany can ensure that the Women, Peace and Security agenda, including women’s representation, receives the attention it deserves in the upcoming conference. Failure to do so would not reflect well on the German Council presidency.

In particular, the German presidency should use the review conference and the months leading up to it to generate political support among the member states for a reinforced commitment to increase the representation of women in civilian CSDP missions. The 2019 Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security of the European External Action Service (EEAS) already identified two actions that would accomplish this: setting targets and developing a strategy for improved gender balances.

At minimum, member states should agree to achieve gender parity in the appointments of heads of missions and other key management positions. Member states should also review their national implementation plans and consider setting targets for improving the gender balance in their national contribution to civilian CSDP.

Member states should support the EEAS in the development of a Gender Parity Strategy for civilian CSDP. This strategy should include medium-term and long-term targets for women’s representation on the various levels of the missions, based on evidence-based analysis and taking into account different baselines and context-specific challenges. The UN and OSCE secretariats already have such gender parity strategies that cover civilian staff in their field operations.

Lastly, member states – including Germany – should consider developing national strategies based on country-specific and context-specific analyses of barriers to women’s participation in peace operations and crisis management missions, including civilian CSDP. The development of such strategies should also be included in the new National Action Plan for UN Security Council Resolution 1325 that the German Government will adopt later this year. Finally, as the founding member and host of the new Center of Excellence for Civilian Crisis Management, the German government should consider how the new center can support the EEAS and member states in identifying and reducing barriers to women’s representation in civilian CSDP missions.

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Timo Smit

Timo Smit is a researcher with the Peace Operations and Conflict Management Programme of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This blog entry was written in the context of SIPRI’s research project on the implementation of the civilian CSDP compact, which is supported and made possible by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. @Timosmit