Guest Column

A tribute to United Nations Peace Keepers and the Women of Peace in Myanmar

By Tone Tinnes 27 May 2020

The UN has chosen the theme “Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace” to mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The theme is also highlighted for this year’s International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on May 29. This day gives us a chance to pay tribute to the contributions of and honor the more than 3,900 peacekeepers who have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948. The challenges faced by our peacekeepers this year are even greater due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I would like to use the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers to shine a spotlight on the women who play a critical role in working for peace in Myanmar. During my four-year service as the Norwegian Ambassador to Myanmar, I have been fortunate to meet many of these remarkable women. They have left everlasting impressions of courage, wisdom and hope.

During my time in Myanmar, I have been fortunate to visit almost every part of this beautiful country. I have met many strong women who are the first responders in the aftermath of conflict and been impressed with how they broker harmony and peace in their communities.

The strong women’s organizations of Myanmar are documenting human rights abuses, providing services to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and negotiating ceasefires. In Norwegian foreign policy, Myanmar is given priority in terms of cooperation within the framework of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Norway is committed to continuing our support for this work. We also appreciate the government of Myanmar’s commitment to this global agenda, driving progress through its National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women.

Peacekeeping and the peace process are part of the same continuum. Cooperation with Myanmar on the promotion of women’s inclusion and meaningful participation in the peace process has been very rewarding. This is not only important work for the sake of equality, it is also necessary for peace processes: women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution improves outcomes—before, during and after conflict. Evidence tells us that if women’s organizations participate in peace agreement discussions, those agreements are 64 percent more likely to succeed.

Norway is a longstanding and consistent supporter of UN peacekeeping. Like Myanmar, Norway also had one of its nationals serving as UN secretary-general—Trygve Lie was the UN’s first secretary-general. Norway is now a candidate for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2021-22. If Norway is elected to the council in June, our commitment to global peacekeeping and women, peace and security will continue to progress. We want the UN to succeed in undertaking this increasingly challenging endeavour.

We also fully share the belief that mandatory implementation will lead to more female peacekeepers and a better gender balance at all levels. Norway is convinced that for UN member states to be able to deploy women internationally, a strong national base of female candidates is necessary. We have made this a priority for many years and seen clear results. We need to actively promote women for leadership positions, both nationally and for UN operations. This is important both to access the valuable resources that women represent and to provide role models that can encourage more women to follow suit.

On May 29, we express our gratitude for the hard work being done by UN peacekeepers. I would like to reinforce this gratitude with a special acknowledgment to the women in Myanmar who, at the grassroots and in their communities, continue to work for peace and reconciliation. Their contribution is invaluable and should be strengthened by including more women in the country’s peace and decision-making processes.

Tone Tinnes has served as the Norwegian Ambassador to Myanmar since 2016 and she will finish a four-year term in Myanmar in August. Norway is also a candidate this year for the UN Security Council in 2021-2022.

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