Elsie Initiative

Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations

Canada launched the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations at the 2017 UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial in Vancouver. The Elsie Initiative is an innovative and multilateral pilot project that will develop, apply and test a combination of approaches to help overcome barriers to increasing women’s meaningful participation in peace operations. This will impact both uniformed military and police roles. The Elsie Initiative’s framework comprises a number of components, including significant research, monitoring and evaluation. Consistent evaluation will ensure that the Elsie Initiative is well designed, monitored closely and adjusted throughout implementation, as needed.

No one country has all the solutions needed to address the complexities of gender inequality in peace operations. Canada is working together with partners across the UN system and member states, think tanks and civil society to explore new ways to increase the meaningful participation of women in peace operations. The Elsie Initiative is an opportunity for UN member states to contribute to an inclusive and more effective future for peace operations, where forces are better prepared to deliver on their mission mandates and support enduring peace around the world.

“The nature of conflict has changed. So too have the demands of peace operations. Discrete offerings and one-off commitments have gotten us this far, but we won’t be able to deliver true, transformative change without a real institutional change. Canada is prepared to help lead that charge. To rethink how we engage, not just where we engage. To close the institutional gaps that prevent us from being even more effective agents of peace in a world that sorely needs it. That’s how we’ll protect the world’s children, empower women and girls, and build a more peaceful and a more prosperous world.”

- Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Working to increase women’s meaningful participation

Increasing the meaningful participation of women in peace operations is both the right and smart thing to do.

Gender equality in peace operations is a critical goal in itself. Women should have equal access to the economic and career opportunities given to their male colleagues. Evidence demonstrates that including women also has important benefits for effective operations. This is particularly significant in supporting outreach to marginalized civilian communities.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2242 calls for the doubling of women in military and police peacekeeping roles by 2020. The UN has set targets for women’s participation at 15% in military positions and 20% among police deployments. However, men still currently represent over 95% of the personnel in peacekeeping contingents. Since 2015, the overall rate of women in peacekeeping has only increased from 4.2% to 4.8%. At the current pace, it will take several decades to see women’s participation reach the targets set in Resolution 2242 and to see peacekeeping forces better reflect the populations they serve.

“The Elsie Initiative is an opportunity for us to work alongside countries that have tremendous experience in peacekeeping and are themselves trying to deploy more women and advance the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.”

- Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Components of the Initiative

Through the Elsie Initiative, Canada commits to the following:

  • Develop and test a comprehensive barrier assessment methodology, which will identify universal and context-specific barriers to women’s meaningful participation in UN peace operations in a country’s military and police organizations.
  • Provide specific technical assistance and training for two troop and police-contributing partner countries to address barriers identified through the barrier assessment process.
  • Launch a global fund, designed together with member states and the UN system, to support the increased deployment of uniformed women in military and police roles to UN peace operations.
  • Deliver assistance to select UN missions to improve their capacity to support and benefit from women’s increased participation.
  • Research, monitor and evaluate the new frameworks to gather evidence on effective approaches to increasing women’s meaningful participation in UN peace operations.
  • Build political momentum through a Contact Group of like-minded countries by drawing on their collective expertise and influence.

Partner countries

Canada is establishing bilateral technical assistance and training partnerships with the governments of Ghana and Zambia, specifically the Ghana Armed Forces and Zambia Police Service. Both countries have had significant success in the area of gender equality in peace operations. They are well positioned to partner with Canada to help develop and test innovative approaches to increase women’s participation in uniformed military and police roles.

“Women peacekeepers are role models, and their presence gives a sense of comfort to the vulnerable and the affected, especially women in conflict and crisis situations.”

- Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration

“We come with the proud record of a government that has steadily laid the groundwork for equitable female representation in peacekeeping.”

- Joseph Malanji, Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister

The Global Fund

In November 2017, Canada announced that it would make an initial contribution of $15 million toward a global fund as part of the Elsie Initiative. The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly that UN Women, with the full support of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, has requested the establishment of a multi-partner fund. The purpose of this global fund is to accelerate the deployment of trained and qualified women to UN peace operations.

Over the coming months, Canada will collaborate with the UN on the design of this fund with the support of the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office. Further details of the fund will be announced in 2019.

Contact Group countries

The Elsie Initiative is supported by a Contact Group of like-minded countries that have demonstrated a commitment to women’s meaningful participation in UN peace operations. This small and diverse group meets regularly to provide practical support to the Elsie Initiative throughout the design and implementation process.

  • Canada
  • Argentina
  • France
  • The Netherlands
  • Ghana
  • Norway
  • Senegal
  • Republic of Korea
  • South Africa
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
  • Uruguay

Support to ongoing efforts

  • As part of the Elsie Initiative, the Canadian Armed Forces will undergo the same barrier assessment as Ghana and Zambia, with the goal of identifying areas for improvement and to further increase the recruitment and advancement of women’s participation.
  • Canada will support the Senegal Armed Forces to implement its Gender Integration Strategy over the coming years. Senegal has a clear plan to increase the representation of women in its military and gendarmerie, as well as in peacekeeping missions.
  • Canada is providing $3 million in assistance to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to improve their ability to support and benefit from women’s increased participation in peace operations. This funding is being used by the UN to support specialized training for women personnel, increase the capacity of gender advisers in peacekeeping missions and contribute to a more receptive environment for women peacekeepers.
  • In November 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands will host a workshop entitled Research to Action to help establish research, monitoring and evaluation priorities for the Elsie Initiative.

Who was Elsie MacGill

Elizabeth “Elsie” Muriel Gregory MacGill was born on March 27, 1905, in Vancouver, British Columbia. At the University of Toronto, Elsie was the first female graduate of electrical engineering (1927) and was also the first woman to earn her master’s degree in aeronautical engineering (1929). In 1938, Elsie became chief aeronautical engineer of Canada Car and Foundry (CC&F), where she headed the Canadian production of Hawker Hurricane fighter planes during the Second World War. After her work at CC&F, Elsie ran a successful consulting business, and from 1967 to 1970, she was a commissioner on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada. In 1971, Elsie MacGill was awarded the Order of Canada.

"I have received many engineering awards, but I hope I will also be remembered as an advocate for the rights of women and children."

- Elizabeth "Elsie" Muriel Gregory MacGill

Contact information

For more information contact the Elsie Initiative.

Email: Elsie@international.gc.ca

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