EP 5: Peacekeeping w/ General Kristen Lund


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: From Georgetown University, this is Seeking Peace. I’m Melanne Verveer. And this is General Kristin Lund:  


KRISTEN LUND: In all the conflict areas have been to, you know, 50 percent of the population are women. If you don’t take women into consideration, if you don’t have both, you’re not able to fulfill your mandate. It’s as simple as that.


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: General Lund made history in 2014 when she became the highest ranking female commander in the United Nations:


BAN KI-MOON: Ladies and gentlemen, I congratulate the Major General, Kristen Lund. Today, she makes history at the United Nations. In our six and a half decades of UN peacekeeping operations, we have had scores of male force commanders, but she’s our first woman in that position. I have found time and again that the best person for the job is often a woman.”


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: So rarely does that job go to a woman — but in General Lund’s case she has overseen peacekeeping missions all over the world. And now more and more women are joining their country’s security forces. Later in this episode we will hear from Ukrainian women who are joining the national police force to very positive results. But first General Lund, who knows better than anyone what it takes to be a woman responsible for keeping the peace. I recently spoke to her from her offices in Jerusalem.


[Music plays.]


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: Hello! And I wonder if you could you please introduce yourself?


KRISTEN LUND: Yes. I’m Kristen Lund. And I’m the head of mission and chief of staff of United Nation Truth Supervision Organization.


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: When you joined the military, General Lund, were you treated differently? Did you feel that you belonged? Was it, was it very, a hard as a woman to be in this space?


KRISTEN LUND: Yeah, it was hard. And I’m quite sure very many that started early, in the end of the seventies, eighties, they had to work as hard, do twice as good as job as your male colleague. You couldn’t fail. And also sometimes when you were… on one of the maneuver, I was the only one and there was 6,000 men. And then you become a kind of a mascot instead of, they treat you like you’re an egg, you’re not treated the same way. And the, of course, uh, I have heard so many times that, well, you have been a quota or a quota to get in, that was always used against us. You know, why should you be here. Because everybody was thinking about the physical strength instead of what you have between your ears.


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: I know that so many women who have also been, uh, moving forward in the ranks of the military have often wondered, you know, why is it so difficult for male peers, uh, to understand that women are in equal terms. Do you think this is finally changing, albeit slowly?


KRISTEN LUND: Yes I think it’s changing, but you know, when you come into a typical male dominated area that has been their area for so many years and very often when the females get in there, you take down what you think this has been all about. It has become not as tough because the women can also do it. So there has been a lot of resistance among our colleagues, you know, um, uh, is it actually changing. And I, it’s, it has to change in society. It’s not just within the military.


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: I remember once reading about an incident in the Balkans when you were a operations officer. As I recall, you had to evacuate the headquarters in Sarajevo.


ABC NEWS ARCHIVE: “It was not a happy Easter in Sarajevo.”


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: You were leading a convoy, in the midst of a shelling.


ABC NEWS ARCHIVE: “In recent days, the people of Sarajevo have been subjected to artillery and mortar attacks by Serbian militia men, and the regular Yugoslav, mainly Serbian, army.”


KRISTEN LUND: This not the last, but the second last convoy out of Sarajevo in 1992. And as a woman, you know you like to have it nice around you. So I have bought a lot of plants to actually plant in our headquarter to make it nice. But we had to evacuate because of all the shelling. And then I didn’t want to leave all the plants because we were not able to get all over equipment that will kind of staging that you couldn’t reach. So we had some room, you know, a car. So my car, uh, we, the deputy commander of the units was then filled up in the, in the back with a lot of plants, green plants and some nice baskets. And then, um, he was so angry and said, you know, you cannot bring that, you know, you know, but we have space. So I just did. I also picked the female driver and then we started. And you know, the first uh, the first checkpoint we got to, they kind of leaned in and… of course you have learned, uh, some of the language just to say good morning and so on, and they looked into the car and saw this said grumpy guy sitting in the backseat with lots of plants and flowers around and they start laughing and they just waved us through.


[Background music plays.]


And then, um, that happened more or less in every checkpoint. And first of all, just to have the two females in the front was good then this guy. But by the end of the trip, he also realized that these plants, was a big effect. So, and then he was more kind of taking care of them and said, no, don’t drive too fast, you know, the plants are, uh, can break, you know. It was quite a nice to see that, he understood that it is possible to have other ways of doing things.

[Music plays.]


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: You know General Lund in many ways your service demonstrates the importance of having women participate in the military. And yet this is often questioned, uh, as still something that should just be optional, that is not a necessity, uh, that it doesn’t contribute to operational effectiveness. Can you give us a sense from your own experience, how women’s participation has been essential to the objectives and the goals that were put forward for those missions?


KRISTEN LUND: You know in all the conflict areas I have been to, you know, 50 percent of the population are women.   So if you don’t take women into consideration … In Afghanistan, for example, um, we really tried through to get female interpreters, but we were not able. So we invited foreign NGOs, formed a network. After a while, we were so good acquaintance that they offered to, um, to, uh, to lend off their, um, uh, interpreters. So then we could go on patrols with a interpreters and we got so much information, vital, you know, and um, and I, you know, very soon also the intelligence wondered how we could get so a diverse information and that was quite clear because, you know, we, we were able then to get from the whole society, not only 50 percent. And I must say that also from, uh, from my, uh, other experience in, especially in the muslim countries. You know, if you don’t have both, you’re not able to fulfill your mandate. As simple as that.


Al Jazeera: “It’s been 40 years since Turkish troops invaded Cyprus, leaving the island divided. With Greek Cypriots on one side, and Turkish Cypriots on the other. Nicosia, Cyprus’s largest city, remains the only divided capital in Europe. But there is some evidence things may be changing.”


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: In 2014, you made history as the first woman ever to serve as a force commander in a UN peacekeeping mission. In this case it was in Cyprus. So, why was there a peacekeeping mission in Cyprus?


KRISTEN LUND: Well, that was because in 1964 there were violence on the island between the turkish cypriots and the greek cypriots and it was decided then to send a UN mission, and then in 74 it was created a buffer zone and uh, the UN then operates and oversee that the mandate is fulfilled within the buffer zone.


When I was force commander I represent UN in all the operations I have been taking part in. I have to, you know, when it comes to human rights, protection of civilians. And a lot of protection of civilians is very often a women children and old because the men are out fighting or are killed. So that’s why it’s so important to have female in the UN forces.


And when I was forced commander, I put that point on the top agenda or at the second point, every meeting I had with representatives, if it was political or military visitors from different nations to tell them that we needed more women. In all the missions I’ve been able to raise the percentage of women. So it’s possible if you always put it, not that the last point that the very many do, you know, then it’s a gender issue instead of putting it straight up on the top.


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: Do you think that part of the problem continues to be the fact that we still too often perceive women in conflict areas as victims and not as resources, not as the leaders that they are and could be in peace building?


KRISTEN LUND: Absolutely. Now, when I’m around, when I see women around I see them as a resource. In may conflict areas, they are an untapped resource.


News clip: “For decades, there have been allegations of sexual abuse and exploitations by UN peacekeepers. Its clear its still going on.”


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: Let’s talk a little bit about about of the problems that the UN peacekeeping missions are still struggling with, and that is the whole issue of sexual abuse.

News clip: “In Haiti, where the UN’s had a peacekeeping mission for over a decade, the report found UN soldiers had what it calls transactional sex with more than 200 women.”


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: How do you train troops about sexual exploitation and assault?  


KRISTEN LUND: I think it’s very important that you as a force commander dare to talk about this things with your commanders. Also I needed to know which of the countries that contribute with forces, what kind of laws do they have when it comes to prostitution. Was prostitution legal. So I went so detail. And then I knew I had countries that prostitution was legal and then, you know, you have to go directly on that commander and tell him that now you are serving for UN, uh, has zero tolerance and uh, and, and not once, you have to kind of a deal with that all the time.


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: You know, I’m wondering what you think in terms of, uh, the progress that we’ve been undergoing in advancing the role of women in peace and security. What more do you think we can all be doing, uh, to ensure greater progress in this space because you would agree it’s not just about progress for women to make, but the difference that it also makes for all of society.


KRISTEN LUND: I agree and I think we that have come up to these positions, need to really try to empower other women. We need also to talk to our male colleagues and try to convince them that they also need to support this process. If you get the men convinced that this is the way ahead than the best way because, uh, you will have better result, uh, you will be having, you know, a sustainable peace, for example, because you involved the whole society. I’m quite sure that who can say no to that.


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: Well, I think that’s a powerful reminder. It’s really been an honor speaking with you General Lund. We wish you continued success and thank you so much for spending this time with us.


KRISTEN LUND: Thank you very much for asking me to contribute. It’s been an honor.


[Music plays.]


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: General Lund is currently serving as the head UN military observer in the UN mission that monitors the ceasefire between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. She is the first woman to lead the mission since it was formed in 1948.


[Music plays.]


MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: The work of sustaining peace doesn’t start and stop at the international level the people who work to keep us safe on our city streets and country roads are that first line of defense.


In Ukraine, there used to be more than 450 jobs that were off-limits to women. But when the Russian backed government was toppled, many of those jobs became available to them including in policing.


In collaboration with the radio show, The World, Reporter and Producer Allison Herrera brings us the story of the first women to join the national police force in Ukraine.




[Printer noises.]


ALLISON HERRERA: That sound is not a happy one. That’s a police officer printing off a traffic ticket. In a touristy area of Kiev, 27-year-old Patrol Police Company Commander Yaroslava Trushina is issuing this ticket to a driver who’s caught going the wrong way on a one way street.


TRUSHINA, via translator: I get enjoyment from my work. My work is a bit of everything. It’s always new everyday. Moments of rest interrupted by shots of adrenaline.


ALLISON HERRERA: Issuing tickets may not be a big adrenaline rush but that’s not all she does.


TRUSHINA, via translator: Robbery, gang activity, murder, anything is possible. When I leave my home in the morning, I’m calm and quiet; I don’t share my work stress with my family. I’ve learnt to control my emotions.


ALLISON HERRERA: Lieutenant Trushina is fairly new to the force. She’s been on the job for 3 years, that’s because before 2015 she wouldn’t have been allowed to be a patrol officer. Then the country went through a massive change.


[Former Ukrainian President Yanukovych speaking.]


Ukranians took to the streets to oust Russian-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych, in what was called the Euromaidan, or the Revolution of Dignity. And with the new government came new opportunities for women. The Ministry of Health lifted a decades-old ban on women entering up to 450 professions. Now women can drive trucks, operate farming equipment, and yes, be beat cops. And women make up 21% of the national police force.


For Lieutenant Trushin, it’s a dream come true. She manages a unit of 60 officers, most of them are men.


TRUSHINA, via translator: If they’re late, they have to do 50 push ups on the ground. I can’t keep repeating myself to everyone throughout the day so I decided to institute push ups.


ALLISON HERRERA: Women like Lieutenant Trushin are helping to reshape the image of the police in Ukraine, which up until recently had the reputation of being a corrupt institution. There is the perception that women are more trustworthy but as Trushina points out, it’s going to take a lot more than female officers to fight corruption and restore trust.


TRUSHINA, via translator: When police reform began, a police officer earned around $350 a month. Now earnings have gone up to 380 but the caught of living has tripled. This is not a dignified salary and you often hear from officers that the low pay makes them susceptible to the temptation of corruption.


ALLISON HERRERA: When women were initially recruited and trained, the story made international news. Female officers sporting red lipstick and perfect nails pose for selfies with people on the street. Lieutenant Trushin Trishina posed for her fair share of selfies. She’s tall, thing, with long hair and steamy blue eyes but she says that all she cares about is being a good cop.


TRUSHINA, via translator: During the first year, yes, they took selfies. But now people are afraid to approach me. I usually tell people, go take pictures with the male officers.


ALLISON HERRERA: Lieutenant Trushin and women like her were trained with the help of U.S. tax dollars. After the Euromaidan Revolution, the Obama administration committed $20 million to help the Ukrainian government implement reforms in law enforcement. But there are some problems money can’t solve. Like the perception that women are weak.


TRUSHINA, via translator: I had a situation when a petite woman joined the force. The boys were afraid to partner with her during night shifts. When I told them that she was just like me, I asked why they were not afraid to respond to crimes with me, but are asking not to work with this girl.


ALLISON HERRERA: Trushina, like her fellow officers, has high hopes for the new police force. For her, it’s not only about battling stereotypes, it’s about making law enforcement better for everyone, including her own daughter. Lieutenant Trushina is a single mom.


TRUSHINA, via translator: For a long time, I saw the problems in law enforcement and now I have a opportunity to bring change. I want my child to be able to grow up, going outside, playing, and not to be scared.


[Music plays.]




MELANNE VERVEER, HOST: That story was brought to us by The World.


Next time on Seeking Peace:  We hear from Monica McWilliams, one of only two women at the table for the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland.


Seeking Peace is a production of Georgetown University’s Institute of Women, Peace and Security and Hard Listening Media.


Our associate producer is Ali Post. The show is edited by Ibby Caputo and sound designed by Sara Curtis.


Our production manager is Sarah Rutherford. And our executive producer is Kate Osborn.


Original music composed by Alison Leyton Brown.


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