International Symposium: The Role of Women and Prevention of COVID-19 Pandemic in Peacekeeping Operations

Opening Remarks by Kamal Malhotra, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Viet Nam

  • H.E. Senior Lieutenant General Hoang Xuan Chien, Deputy Minister of Defence of Viet Nam
  • Major General Hoang Kim Phung, Director of Viet Nam Department of Peacekeeping Operations
  • Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Xin chào. Good morning.

I am pleased to join you at this International Symposium on The Role of Women and the Prevention of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Peacekeeping Operations and to make a few remarks on behalf of the United Nations.

At the outset, I wish to commend General Chien, General Vinh and the Government of Viet Nam for their commitment to expanding the role of women in peacekeeping.

Expanding the role of women in peacekeeping is also a key dimension of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. UN Security Council resolution 2538 (2020), adopted on 28 August 2020, stressed anew this important goal, and the need for continued efforts to achieve it. The Action for Peacekeeping Declaration prioritizes WPS as an intrinsic and indisputable political commitment for effective peacekeeping and for sustaining peace, including through increasing the number of civilian and uniformed women in peacekeeping at all levels and in key positions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that gender equality is a prerequisite for resilient and equitable societies. Based on these values, the United Nations workforce will strengthen our protection efforts, and improve our own gender effectiveness, thereby further enhancing our credibility. Also, our peacekeepers should reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. Women bring different life experiences and perspectives, and are in an ideal position to encourage and empower other women to follow in their path and serve as role models for our personnel and the communities we support and protect.

Distinguished Delegates,

Under the strong leadership of the Secretary-General, the United Nations continues to make headway in ensuring gender parity amongst personnel at Headquarters and in UN peace operations (i.e. in both peacekeeping operations, PKOs, and special political missions, SPMs).

For the first time in its history, the UN has reached gender parity in its top management levels as well as amongst UN Resident Coordinators. In Headquarters departments, parity has also been reached (in the aggregate).

Several initiatives have been put in place since the introduction of the System-Wide Strategy on Gender Parity to increase the representation of female senior leaders in the field and/or support them throughout their assignments. This includes the Global Call outreach campaign, of which a second iteration was held in 2019, and the Leadership Partnering initiative (LPI), a mentoring programme offered to all newly appointed civilian and military Heads and Deputy Heads of Mission.

As a result, in the field, as of October 2020, significant progress has been made in closing the gender gap at senior mission leadership level in peace operations (both SPMs and PKOs). As of October 2020, women constitute 45% of Heads and Deputy Heads of Mission, the highest percentage ever achieved. Furthermore, there are currently three female Force or Deputy Force Commanders and over 40% of the senior police leadership positions are filled by women. Also, women make up around 24% of all civilian staff in peacekeeping operations.

For uniformed personnel, with the support of troop-and-police contributors (TCCs and PCCs), the number of women deployed in all uniformed positions has risen significantly since the launch of the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy. Most 2020 targets established in the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy (UGPS) for military, police and justice and corrections personnel at Headquarters and in the field have been met or surpassed. However, we are yet to achieve our targets for the percentage of women in formed contingents, and we collectively need to redouble our efforts in this area.

At the UN, while we are proud of the progress made thus far, we are not complacent. While much has been achieved, the support of Member States remains critical to maintaining hard-won gains. We must strengthen our collective efforts to ensure that women can participate effectively and meaningfully in peacekeeping.

I am pleased to advise you that there is currently a campaign called ‘Peace is my Mission’, aimed both at promoting the role of women working in PKOs and SPMs and at attracting more women ( My Resident Coordinator’s Office can share details of this with the Ministry of National Defence later. The website includes an animation video on how to apply for UN jobs in the field, an overview video summarizing the campaign, and individual profiles of women peacekeepers.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to turn to the ASEAN context, including the ASEAN-UN partnership.

At the 11th ASEAN-UN Summit on 15 November 2020 which I attended, the UN Secretary-General expressed ‘gratitude for ASEAN’s endorsement of the Action-for-Peacekeeping Agenda as well as for ASEAN’s contribution of around 5,000 peacekeepers to 10 UN peace operations, including an increasing numbers of women peacekeepers.

We thank Viet Nam, as the Chair of ASEAN for 2020, for its role in guiding the finalization of the second Plan of Action (POA) between ASEAN and the UN (2021-2025), adopted at the Summit. The new POA provides for new opportunities to strengthen cooperation in peace operations between ASEAN and the UN in the context of the Action for Peacekeeping Initiative.

Among the areas of focus, the POA provides the opportunity to ‘enhance contributions of peacekeepers as well as the participation of women peacekeepers’ and to explore further cooperation ‘to provide continued training assistance in peacekeeping to ASEAN, including training in humanitarian affairs and civil-military coordination, gender issues, health, safety and security arrangements and child protection, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse’.

In addition, the POA provides the opportunity to ‘support ASEAN’s efforts in strengthening the ASEAN Peacekeeping Centres Network, including through the sharing of lessons learned, such as from UN cooperation with regional organisations, best practices, and capacity building’.

The United Nations looks forward to further strengthening cooperation with ASEAN in the critical area of peacekeeping support to enhance training and deployments from ASEAN, including those of women peacekeepers, as a vital contribution to the maintenance of both global and regional peace and security.

Distinguished Delegates,

In accordance with the previous ASEAN-UN Plan of Action for 2015-2020, and under the Triangular Partnership Project (TPP) of the UN, the UN’s Department of Operational Support (DOS) has been conducting peacekeeping engineering training for troop contributing countries in ASEAN and its surrounding regions since late 2018. Over the last year, DOS conducted a training in the operation of heavy engineering equipment in Viet Nam in late 2019 for 20 Vietnamese trainees, and also a Training of Trainers (ToT) course for Heavy Equipment Operators in Viet Nam from 10 February to 13 April 2020 for 20 trainees from Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, and Viet Nam.

While further TPP engineering courses planned for 2020 in Indonesia had to be postponed due to COVID-19 related global travel restrictions, DOS is currently developing remote engineering courses to be launched in 2021. TPP on-site training will resume when the global COVID-19 situation improves, and travel and other restrictions are lifted. The TPP engineering training location rotates every two years in the ASEAN region. Following the successful conduct of training in Viet Nam, courses will be next conducted in Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia. The TPP training will continue under the new ASEAN-UN POA.

Last but not least, I am pleased to inform you that the Government of Viet Nam will organize a global event on WPS between 7-9 December with support from the UN. It will be one of the highlights of Viet Nam in 2020 in its role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. It is hoped that the outcomes from the seminar today can, at least informally, feed into our December plenary session on the ‘Future of Women in Peacekeeping’, for which we have been in getting UN Under-Secretary-General Jean-Pierre Lacroix of the Department of Peace Operations to be a keynote speaker, together with high level participants from India and Canada.

Please accept the UN’s and my personal best wishes to you all for a successful symposium.

Thank you! Xin cảm ơn!

Speech by
Kamal Malhotra
UN Resident Coordinator
KM profile
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office