Women in Peacekeeping

Promise: to promote more women in peacekeeping. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the 2017 Vancouver Peacekeeping Ministerial: “We are equally committed to increasing the number of women that we deploy as part of UN peace operations.” (“Canada to deploy more women to peacekeeping missions, says Trudeau” Youtube, 1:13). A specific programme was also announced “titled Women in Peace Operations Pilot – ‘The Elsie initiative.'”

Table 2. Number of Canadian uniformed women in peacekeeping (benchmark data and the recent figures)

Date      Military


2015 Oct 31           1          20            21 UN, 2015 (pdf) Conservative gov  (last official figures)
2016 Aug 31           2          13            15 UN, 2016 (pdf) At time of London ministerial (last official figures before meeting)
2017 Oct 31           2           6             8  UN, 2017 (pdf) At time of Vancouver Ministerial (last official figures before meeting)

2020 Sept 30

           3             8 UN, 2020 

5 women of 25 military personnel (20%) 
of 9 police personnel  (33%)
8 women of 34 Uniformed personnel (24%)


Recent stats: 

At end of Sept 2020, the Trudeau government is providing only 8 women uniformed personnel: 2 military women in Mali, 1 in Cyprus, 2 military women in South Sudan, no military women in D.R. Congo; and no police women anywhere except 3 police women in Mali. This is significantly fewer than the 21 women that the Harper government provided at the end of its term.

During the time of the Mali deployment (2018-19), if the National Support Element, the number of Canadian women increased substantially. The percentage of Canadian uniformed women on peacekeeping became especially high (25%) compared to other countries, with the UN average being (approx): 5% for military personnel, and 10% for police. Although the UN has no target for troops, it has set a target of 16% for SOs and MILOBs in 2019 (starting 2018 at 15% and increasing 1% each year thereafter to 2028; UN Security Council resolution 2242 (2015) called for a doubling number of women by 2020).

Canada almost lost a position in the UNMISS mission in March 2019 when it was unable to meet the UN quota for women in peacekeeping. After Canada pledged to increase its number of deployed women, the UN allowed Canada to retain the position. 

The government’s 2017/18 Progress Report on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda states: “Dedicated efforts were made to recruit women for the Canadian deployment to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), resulting in women making up 14% of the Canadian contingent, including the task force deputy commander, and to ensure gender responsive action through the deployment of a gender advisor.” 

The 2017/18 Progress Report also states: “Of the 45 Canadian police newly deployed to international peace operations during the fiscal year [2017/18], women made up 18%, as compared to 14% the previous year.18” [footnote 18: “Of the total 70 police in deployment during the fiscal year, women represented on average 19% in fiscal year 2017–2018 and 18% in 2016–2017. The target is 20%, which equals the UN goal.”] It seems there has been some backsliding in 2018/19. 

Canadian Gender Advisors (GENADs) are deployed with Op PRESENCE and UNMISS (South Sudan).


In 2020, Canada has dropped to near record lows in its contributions of women to peacekeeping (single digits).  

In 2019, Canada was finally setting a good example percentage-wise, with 19% of its UN military personnel being women, well above the UN average.  For Staff Officer/MilObs deployed, Canada has 7 out of 23 (30%), well exceeding the UN goal of 16% for 2019. Canada’s  Vancouver pledge (especially the financial incentives) holds promise to increase the number of women military personnel provided by other countries.

Slow to no progress on the other pledges on women, peace and security (WPS) is being made: 

– Elsie initiative: Announced at the 2017 Vancouver ministerial, the Global Elsie Fund was launched at the UN on 28 March 2019, co-organized with UN Women. The effects of any distributed funds are not known.

– Training assistance: two countries were designated to serve in a pilot project: Ghana and Zambia (Freeland, Sept 2018, neither being Francophone) but actual training and mentoring activities have not commenced in the three year period since initiative was announced. 

– A pledge of C$ 21 m was made in Vancouver for WPS in UN peace operations. This includes contributions to the UN’s trust fund for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA). Whether the funds were actually dispersed is not known. 

– More broadly, “A new WPS Chiefs of Defence Network was launched by Canada, the United Kingdom and Bangladesh to share best practices and compare progress in addressing barriers and challenges to integrating WPS in national militaries.” Canada succeed the United Kingdom as network chair in July 2019. (WPS CHODS website) But a planned tour of nations for WPS consultations did not take place as planned.  


The toral number of Canadian women contributing to peacekeeping has fallen drastically with the end of the Mali mission. It was only with that mission that Canada finally made an impact by example in the percentage of women deployed (25%), after years of slow or no progress. The percentages have remained high, even as the numbers have plummetted. Some long-promised programmes are finally being implemented, especially the Elsie initiative, which did not start dispersing funds until more than two years after it was announced. The effects of those disbursements, however, are yet to be determined.


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