Maj Gen Ch­eryl Pearce takes charge of UNFICYP

Only 2nd fe­male com­man­der to lead UN forces world­wide

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - COMMENT -

Ma­jor Gen­eral Ch­eryl Pearce of Aus­tralia has been ap­pointed as Force Com­man­der of the UN Peace­keep­ing Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), tak­ing over from Ma­jor Gen­eral Mo­ham­mad Hu­mayun Kabir of Bangladesh as head of the in­ter­na­tional con­tin­gent ‘blue berets’, the long­est United Na­tions mis­sion still in ser­vice.

Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral, an­nounced the ap­point­ment in New York on Thurs­day say­ing Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­tónio Guter­res “is grate­ful to Ma­jor Gen­eral Kabir for his ded­i­ca­tion and lead­er­ship dur­ing his two years of ser­vice in UNFICYP.”

The Aus­tralian com­man­der’s ap­point­ment came af­ter the Aus­tralian civil­ian po­lice ended its mis­sion in Cyprus af­ter 53 years of ser­vice, from the out­set of the ar­rival of UN peace­keep­ers af­ter the in­ter­com­mu­nal trou­bles be­tween Greek Cypri­ots and Turk­ish Cypri­ots in 1963 that cul­mi­nated in the Turk­ish in­va­sion and par­ti­tion in 1974.

Ma­jor Gen­eral Pearce is only the sec­ond fe­male com­man­der of any UN force in the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s his­tory, fol­low­ing Ma­jor Gen­eral Kristin Lund of Nor­way who served, also as head of UNFICYP, from 2013 to 2016.

With a dis­tin­guished ca­reer in the Aus­tralian De­fence Force, Ma­jor Gen­eral Pearce was most re­cently Com­man­dant of the Aus­tralian De­fence Force Academy (since 2017), which pro­vides un­der­grad­u­ate and post-grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tion as well as mil­i­tary train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion for fu­ture lead­ers of the navy, army and air force.

In 2016, Ma­jor Gen­eral Pearce was the Com­man­der of the Aus­tralian Joint Task Force Group in Afghanistan, pro­vid­ing train­ing, ad­vice and as­sis­tance to the Afghan Na­tional De­fence and Se­cu­rity Forces as part of the Res­o­lute Sup­port Mis­sion of the North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NATO). Be­tween 2013 and 2016, she served as Chief of Staff of the Aus­tralian Army head­quar­ters and, from 2010 to 2012, as Di­rec­tor of Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Sup­port.

Ma­jor Gen­eral Pearce also held the po­si­tions of Com­man­dant of the De­fence Po­lice Train­ing Cen­tre and Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer of the 1st Mil­i­tary Po­lice Bat­tal­ion. Ad­di­tion­ally, she served as the Aus­tralian Army’s Provost-Mar­shal and as a mil­i­tary ob­server with the United Na­tions Mis­sion of Sup­port in East Ti­mor (UNMISET) in 2002.

Born in South Aus­tralia, Ma­jor Gen­eral Pearce has a part­ner and two daugh­ters.

“Her ap­point­ment comes at a time when Guter­res is mak­ing an ef­fort to im­prove gen­der par­ity across the or­gan­i­sa­tion, with mixed re­sults,” said the Aus­tralian Strate­gic Pol­icy In­sti­tute.

While the UN has made im­prove­ments to women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion in its New York head­quar­ters, progress is much slower in the field. Women make up 21% of UN peace­keep­ing per­son­nel, yet they con­sti­tute only around 4% of the over­all mil­i­tary com­po­nent, the ASPI re­port said.

There is now some mo­men­tum in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to in­crease the num­ber of fe­male mil­i­tary per­son­nel serv­ing in UN peace­keep­ing mis­sions. Last month, the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil adopted a res­o­lu­tion on peace­keep­ing per­for­mance, which, among other things, called on the sec­re­tary-gen­eral to ini­ti­ate ‘a re­vised strat­egy to dou­ble the num­bers of women in mil­i­tary and po­lice con­tin­gents’ by 2020.

Sim­i­larly, more than 150 mem­ber states have signed onto a peace­keep ing dec­la­ra­tion which also in­cludes a call to in­crease the num­ber of women in peace­keep­ing. And the UN sec­re­tariat is en­cour­ag­ing mem­ber states through a range of in­cen­tives to en­sure that 15% of their staff of­fi­cers de­ployed to peace­keep­ing mis­sions are women. How­ever, progress is slow, the ASPI added.

“Ef­forts to ap­point women into se­nior lead­er­ship po­si­tions face even greater bar­ri­ers, as their num­bers are of­ten even fewer in the mil­i­tary. While women cur­rently make up more than 17% of the Aus­tralian De­fence Force, at the star-ranked level they con­sti­tute around 11%. The fig­ure is even lower in the Aus­tralian Army—and you can ex­pect it’s much lower in many for­eign mil­i­taries.”

On her de­par­ture from Cyprus, Ma­jor Gen­eral Lund, noted: “As a woman, I not only had to do what every male Force Com­man­der is ex­pected to do, I also knew I had to use this op­por­tu­nity to not only prove that women are up to the task of com­mand­ing large, multi­na­tional forces, but in ad­di­tion, to demon­strate that they are ca­pa­ble of ex­celling in se­nior roles in a mul­ti­tude of fields, both in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor.”

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