by Daniel Juliao, El Mundo (Expository)
SPECPOL welcomed numerous speakers to present their views on the issues regarding peacekeeping operations. The first speaker was Jamille Bigio who has substantial experience in foreign relations and women’s rights across the world. She currently serves as an adjunct senior fellow in the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations. She also served in the Obama administration as director for human rights and gender on the White House National Security Council, as well as senior advisor to the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues. All of this was cited from her biography page on the Council on Foreign Relations website.
She brought to light the tragic epidemic of rape perpetrated by peacekeepers. The main idea was the idea of holding peacekeepers accountable for their foul and heinous actions as well as preventing further incidents from occurring.
She began the discussion with a brief introduction on the current state of the situation and methods taken by the United Nations to prevent this from occurring. Following multiple instances of sexual exploitation in the Central African Republic, the Security Council passed a resolution. This resolution sought to place penalties on peacekeepers found guilty of taking advantage of women in their respective assigned country. The most powerful punishment is the removal of payments to countries found to have sent peacekeepers that sexually exploit women. This castigation not only punishes those committing the action, but the countries who send the power on part of the security council and the results may possibly remain unchanged. A better penalty could be the idea of being sent back which she discussed later on.
Jamille Bigio concluded her speech with thoughts for the future and why the current method is failing. One sentence from her speech stands out above all other. “Change name from peacekeeping missions to peace missions so our missions reflect our goals”. This quote reflects a belief of optimism and hope for change. Grammatically, peacekeeping missions do not align with the current goals of the United Nations as peacekeepers are sent to war-stricken and devastated nations where no such peace is present to be kept. Calling them peace missions offers a message of spreading peace to areas that lack it, while sounding less menacing to the sovereignty of the country than peacekeeping.
Now the question that remains is how can peace missions result in less sexual exploitation on part of the peacekeepers? Jamille Bigio argues that this is too large of a challenge to be tackled by the United Nations independently. She strongly advocated for more substantive involvement by the African Union, which is currently seeking a strong partnership role. Since various of peacekeeping missions take place in Africa, having assistance from the African Union only serves as a beneficial partnership. The African Union provides a new level of knowledge that a body driven by primarily western nations lacks.
Her two solutions to decreasing the occurrence of sexual exploitation were increasing the presence of women as peacekeepers and more substantial penalties to defer peacekeepers from acting on such primal urges. The idea of increasing women is a valuable idea, but seems unfeasible. The lack of women in peacekeepers stem from lower number of women in member military nations, and this must be resolved on a per country basis and not on an international basis. Her second solution was sending violators home and removing the financial benefits of serving as peacekeeper immediately. As most peacekeepers volunteer for the financial benefits, the threat of losing them may serve as a constructive deterrent.
SPECPOL welcomed Jamille Bigio and her expertise may prove of the utmost essence to delegates constructing working papers and resolutions. Hopefully SPECPOL took advantage of her wisdom to produce solutions that reduce the repugnant acts transpiring across the world by those sent to spread peace.