Towards the end of the Cold War, the Nobel Committee wished to indicate that the United Nations ought to have greater influence on international politics. It did so by awarding the Peace Prize to military personnel who had served as observers and UN soldiers.
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From to , over , persons from 53 states took part in the UN's peacekeeping operations. Of them, lost their lives. The units were under the command of the UN Secretary-General, and were made available voluntarily by member countries.
With the exception of the forces that were sent to the Congo, the troops were equipped with light arms for self-defense. UN peacekeeping has changed over the years along with the change in the nature of conflicts from inter-State to intra-State. Although the military remains the backbone of most peacekeeping operations, the many faces of peacekeeping now include administrators, economists, police officers, legal experts, de-miners, electoral observers, human rights monitors, specialists in civil affairs and governance, humanitarian workers and experts in communications and public information.
In recent times, the rising demand for increasingly complex peace operations has challenged the UN peacekeeping operations as never before.
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The new challenges and political realities have been met by the Organization by working vigorously to strengthen its capacity to manage and sustain field operations. Thus, peacekeeping has contributed to the most important function of the United Nations — maintaining international peace and security. At many other places around the world, UN peacekeeping missions are presently engaged in the process of building and maintaining peace. In these missions, more than , men and women serve as peacekeepers including military, police and civilian.
The police and military personnel are being contributed by countries which clearly demonstrate the widespread respect for, dependence on and confidence in United Nations peacekeeping. For the first time in an omnibus resolution, the Council recognized that women bear the brunt of armed conflicts, and should have a commensurate role in their prevention and resolution.
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Among its many recommendations, the resolution called for an expansion of the role and contribution of women in United Nations peacekeeping operations, including in military, police, and civilian roles, as well as in positions of leadership. Peacekeeping has evolved from its traditional role of monitoring ceasefire agreements and borders between sovereign States to carrying out large scale multi-dimensional peacekeeping operations often addressing civil wars.
The newer UN missions are mandated to facilitate political processes through the promotion of national dialogue and reconciliation; protect civilians; assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants; support the organization of elections; protect and promote human rights; promote reform of the domestic security sector; and assist in restoring the rule of law. These expanded responsibilities make the need for more women peacekeepers more pressing than ever.
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In all of these fields, women peacekeepers have proven that they can perform the same roles, to the same standards and under the same difficult conditions, as their male counterparts.
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