Nandita Mohan / Sun Staff Photographer

Professor Sabrina Karim speaks on her new book, "Equal Opportunity Peacekeeping," in Olin Library.

February 14, 2018

‘To What Extent Have Peacekeeping Missions Achieved Gender Equality?’ Asks Cornell Prof.

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Prof. Sabrina Karim, government, introduced her award-winning book about how the gender power balances of the United Nations’ peacekeeping forces “prevent the peacekeeping missions from reaching their full potential in promoting gender equality,” during a talk Tuesday.

At Cornell’s first “Chats in the Stacks” book talk of the year, Karim presented the findings of her book, “Equal Opportunity Peacekeeping: Women, Peace, and Security in Post-Conflict States,” which she co-authored with Prof. Kyle Beardsley, political science, Duke University.

Their book gives insight on the context, problems and solutions of the unequal power dimensions and peacekeeping missions in the U.N., Karim explained.

These peacekeeping missions are U.N. third parties that monitor and ensure that peace agreements are honored by opposing sides to promote peace and prevent conflict, Karim told faculty, staff and students.

Karim began her research on these trends in 2013, in light of the U.N.’s published reports on the positive trend of gender participation in peacekeeping missions. Her research included data, reports and talking to the planners of peacekeeping missions and peacekeepers themselves.

Although Karim’s book acknowledges the increasing trends of gender equality and inclusion in peacekeeping missions, Karim told the audience that there is still work left to be done.

“The question we ask in the book is, ‘to what extent have peacekeeping missions achieved gender equality in operations and vehicles for promoting gender equality in close conflict states, given that they’ve had 20 years of time to enact [these policies],’” she said.

The three main problems Karim highlighted are discrimination, gendered protection norms and a continued issue of sexual violence.

“It’s problematic because it means that these peacekeeping missions are inefficient [in achieving their goals],” she said. “Because they’re not fully utilizing everybody that’s in the mission… women are not reaching their full potential and actually engaging in the [peacekeeping-related] activities they want to,” Karim said.

In response to the existing problems of peacekeeping missions that Karim discovered, her book offers solutions, mainly “increasing women participation and … getting rid of [the U.N.’s] gender norm and decreasing discrimination” through a shift in “the culture of the military institution or the police institution from contributing countries [of peacekeepers],” she said.

Quantitative analysis in the book “found that the better countries perform on different measures of gender equality, the more likely they’re willing to send these [women] peacekeepers to missions,” Karim said.

Karim’s book also reveals the bigger implications of the gender equality problems of peacekeeping missions — “Everything I’ve mentioned here is not unique to peacekeeping missions, it’s an organization argument that we make in the book. One could take everything I just talked about and apply it to any kind of institution and we’d see the same kinds of problems,” Karim said.

“It’s particularly acute to think about it in this context because peacekeeping missions are essentially responsible for state-building activities,” Karim said.