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Dr. Olsson's new book Gender Equality and United Nations Peace Operations in Timor-Leste expands the study of UN peace operations to incorporate their effects on the security and political participation of men and women of the host state.
Timor-Leste is a fruitful case. The country has been the host of many large scale UN operations since 1999. The differences in effects for men and women from UN involvement are evident.
Prior to the book, there had been many predictions about how peace operations affect women compared to men but few research projects had studied this systematically. The book reviews findings and observations in existing research - both feminist and that on peace operations - and introduced the concept of ‘security equality’. Security equality means how resources for protection are distributed between men and women. The book then brings this broad knowledge into the study of Timor-Leste. What the book observes is that the improvement of security equality and political equality is dependent on the gender awareness of the operations leadership and the extent to which women's organizations were consulted. When the UN adopted an assumed "gender neutral" approach - that is, when the difference in situation for men and women from everyday work was not actively considered, Timor-Leste became more unequal. This means that women got less protection from violence than men and women got less access to political power in spite of active Timorese activism. However, the main conclusion from the book is positive. Awareness of gender specific situations and active assistance to local developments can improve women's security and political power along with that of men.
Louise Olsson is a researcher and project leader at the Folke Bernadotte Academy where she is responsible for the “UNSCR 1325 Working Group”. Olsson holds a PhD in Peace and Conflict Research from Uppsala University (2007). Her research revolves around international interventions, broader implications of armed conflict, and effects of conflict resolution processes and peace operations for men and women of the host population. Olsson is currently working on a project on local ownership in Afghanistan and reasons for varying international participation of women and men in ESDP missions. She has published the book “Gender Equality and United Nations Peace Operation in Timor-Leste” (Leiden: Brill Publisher, 2009), the anthology “Women and International Peacekeeping (Frank Cass Publishers, 2001) and a special issue of Security Dialogue on “Gender and Security” (Sage, 2004). In addition to basic research, Olsson has been involved in policy research projects for the UN (1999-2000), NATO (2008-2009) and the EU (2009) on the practical implications of UNSCR 1325 and the follow-up resolutions for peace operations.