Designing a Trust Fund to Incentivize More Women Peacekeepers

July 25, 2017

A few months ago, I wrote a note calling for financial incentives to increase the number of women in (military) peacekeeping operations from its current level of about 4 percent closer to the UN Security Council target of about 20 percent. Along with colleagues here at CGD, I have since discussed the idea with a number of people who work on peacekeeping—both as researchers and practitioners—that has led to a lot of incredibly useful feedback. Not least, that the idea of financial incentives had also been discussed by UN Women in a 2015 Policy Brief—apologies to them for my oversight in the initial literature review! Below are some (hopefully more informed) thoughts about the idea, around what to use financial incentives for and how to fund that.

The UN Women brief suggests two options for payments. First, a higher reimbursement rate for the deployment of military women, which is the option I discussed. Second would be a “gender balance premium” if the troop contributing country’s contingent meets certain criteria covering both the number and role of women in that contingent. After the discussions of the last few months, I’m drawn to that second model, or at least a hybrid of it. It is important not just to increase the number of peacekeepers but ensure they are more equally represented in roles that will take them off-base and in leadership (see Sabrina Karim, Cornell professor and co-author of the book Equal Opportunity Peacekeeping, on that issue here). A “balance premium” alone or in combination with a pro-rata payment might help achieve these multiple objectives better than a pro-rata payment alone.

Even with a balance premium, incentives would still need to be nested in a broader set of initiatives to ensure impact (a topic of this chapter by Kim and her co-author Kyle Beardsley). For example, US Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Shelley Moore Capito have introduced bipartisan legislation that will ensure continued US support for overseas military training on issues including sexual exploitation and abuse. Norway and the UK have related programs. Jamille Bigio and Rachel Vogelstein have suggested that the US institute a 30 percent minimum requirement for female participation in US-offered training related to peace and security issues. Commitments to additional initiatives in the areas of training and force development would complement the financial incentive approach.

The UN Women brief focuses on financing through additions to the peacekeeping budget through larger assessed contributions, but does also note the possibility of a special fund with voluntary conditions. In part thanks to political changes since 2015, I’d argue the second approach is more practical and realistic. At a $303 per month payment to for each female peacekeeper, trying to reach 20 percent of total peacekeeping operations would cost $77 million a year. This compares to a total peacekeeping budget closer to $8 billion—100 times as large. And many of the biggest contributors—in particular the United States—are considering cuts not increases to that budget. A coalition of willing contributors could move far faster at far less diplomatic cost than the Security Council in consensus. And trust fund financing for this initiative would avoid a further drain on increasingly scarce peacekeeping funds. The fund could still be hosted within the UN, even if outside the Office of Peacekeeping. If payments were made as general budget support to contributing countries, this might allow contributions to count as overseas development assistance.

Finally, at the moment, this proposal is limited to military personnel, not police. In part because that is where the problem of gender balance is particularly acute. But there is no particular reason why it might not be expanded to cover policing. This may require smaller payments—given India has already deployed an all-women police unit to Liberia, and Bangladesh did the same in Haiti, respectively.

I have hugely benefited from the conversations about this idea, and I’m still looking for more reactions—so very grateful for any comments below or by email. In particular, whatever the design of the incentives or the financing model, any mechanism to incentivize more women peacekeepers would require the input of both troop contributors and potential funders. We have only just started that process. But, reassuringly, those who we’ve talked to are positive about the broad idea that financial incentives might have a role—so watch this space for more updates.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.

Image credit for social media/web: Social media image by UNMISS/Amanda Voisard