The ELSIE Initiative
April 10, 2023
The ELSIE Initiative
Gender parity and the meaningful participation of women in peacekeeping missions has been deemed to be essential to improving their effectiveness.[i] Yet, despite frequent calls for states to take measures to remove barriers preventing women from participating in peacekeeping in the Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, women currently represent only 8% of deployed personnel in peace operations.[ii]
One of the key initiatives that has emerged in an attempt to change this, is the ELSIE Initiative for Women in Peace Operations. Launched by Canada in 2017, this initiative has the core goal of helping to increase the meaningful participation of women in peacekeeping missions. The initiative seeks not only to reach gender parity in uniformed roles, but to move beyond a sole focus on numbers, to one focused on ensuring that women have the opportunity to participate in impactful and wide-reaching roles across the security and peacekeeping sectors.
Recognising that this is not something that one country can change alone, the initiative has relied on partnerships with the UN troop-contributing countries, and think-tanks. Examples of the work done by the initiative includes a collaboration with the Ghana Armed Forces, the Senegalese Ministry of the Armed Forces and the Zambia Police Service utilised to identify and test possible solutions to overcome barriers to women’s participation in peace operations.[iii]
One of the most significant developments linked to this initiative was the launching of the ‘Elsie Initiative Fund for Uniformed Women in Peace Efforts’ in 2019. This fund is intended to incentivise and support efforts to increase the number and impact of women in peace operations. Since its creation the EIF has awarded over 17 million US dollars to 20 projects across the world.[iv]
The funding is awarded to projects under three possible streams:
· Flexible Project Funding – this enables states to seek funds to support evidence-based activities that will increase the participation of trained women in uniformed roles
· Premiums for Gender-Strong Units – this stream provides financial premiums to police or troop contributing states who deploy gender-strong units (GSUs). GSUs are defined as requiring a substantial presence of women across ranks and in authority, the provision of gender equity training, as well as having adequate equipment to ensure that uniformed men and women have the same experience of deployment
· Barrier Assessments – this final stream provides funding for states to assess the barriers that stand in the way of women’s ability to join police and military institutions
An example of a recent project funded by the EIF is the provision of funds to MINUSMA (the ongoing UN stabilisation mission in Mali) with the aim of ‘creating an enabling and inclusive environment for women police peacekeepers.’ The funds will be used to improve the working and living conditions for women, in response to the efforts by Nigeria, Tongo and Senegal to increase and sustain the deployment of women in their formed police units.The building of seven accommodation units and nineteen hygiene facilities will not only increase the numerical capacity for women to be involved in the peacekeeping mission, but will also ensure that they have the same opportunity to complete daily tasks on equal footing with their male counterparts.[v]
A further example is the provision of funds to the Senegalese National Gendarmerie, which has since deployed two gender strong units consisting of 16% women and who have also had their first woman commander of a front policing unit. As such, the fund has already had a positive impact on women’s participation in peacekeeping.
For more on the projects supported by the fund see the 2021 Annual Report: 2021 Annual Narrative and Financial Report_Elsie Fund.pdf (undp.org)
The work done by the Elsie Fund continues and on the 30thMarch 2023, the Elsie Fund launched their third round of programming calling for new funding proposals from states and UN projects. Given the results demonstrated thus far, and the continued financial contributions to the fund from nine states, the Elsie initiative has the potential to continue to drive efforts towards securing the meaningful participation of women in uniformed peacekeeping roles.
[i] Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UNWomen, <Women in peacekeeping: UN Fund calls fornew ideas and investment | UN News > accessed April 2023
[ii] The Elsie Initiative Fund(elsiefund.org)
[iii] Elsie Initiative for Women in PeaceOperations (international.gc.ca)
[iv] The Elsie Initiative Fund launches newcall for proposals to continue investing in women’s meaningful participation inpeacekeeping | United Nations Peacekeeping
[v] TheUnited Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Malireceives funding from the Elsie Initiative Fund to support inclusivepeacekeeping | United Nations Peacekeeping
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