Former Special Representative of UN Secretary General and Head of Mission in Liberia Ellen Margrethe Loej has urged Pakistan to include more women for the United Nations peacekeeping mission.
She said this in an interview with ‘The News' during her stay in Pakistan.
Loej was in Pakistan as Chair of the International Board and Members Assembly of Plan International. Besides getting an idea of Plan's work here, Loej delivered lectures on peace-building and state-building at different national institutions including the National Defence University and Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). She also met Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the General Headquarters.
“I suggested the same to General Kayani when I met him to express appreciation for the services of Pakistani troops in Liberia,” she said.
Pakistan has sent women as part of peacekeeping contingent to Liberia, but they are all medical staff.
“When I heard that women have joined all ranks of Pakistan Army, I took this opportunity to suggest their participation in other ranks of peacekeeping missions as well because they play a very important role in peace-building of an area,” said Loej, who was on her first visit to Pakistan.
Elaborating, she said that presence of more women in peacekeeping forces conveys the message that peace-building is the collective responsibility of men and women. “I do not support this idea for the sake of numbers only but for the purpose of projecting that women are also part of the society and a solution. We need both men and women.”
Besides, she said there were many issues that women prefer to share with only women. “Even in my country, victims of rape tend to share details of the crime with only women police officers,” she added.
Loej was the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) for Liberia, Head of United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and Coordinator of United Nations Operations in Liberia from 2008 to 2012. She joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark in 1973. She was Ambassador of Denmark to Israel (1989-1992), Permanent Representative of Denmark to United Nations in New York (2001-2007) and Ambassador of Denmark to the Czech Republic in 2007.
Loej applauded Pakistan's contribution to peacekeeping in Liberia and said its peacekeeping services in war-affected countries were remarkable and an inspiring contribution to maintaining of peace in the world.
“During my tenure in Liberia, I personally met the brave Pakistani troops who served all over the country. It was always an encouragement to see their dedication towards maintaining peace and paving the way for a better future for all Liberians.”
She said that peace building in any region was directly linked with state building and urged the international community to pursue peacekeeping, peace building and development simultaneously in case of Afghanistan for achieving sustainable peace in the region. “If a state is weak and do not posses the much-needed capacity to provide security to its citizens, the citizens will take law into their own hands to solve their problems.”
She said it was the Nato forces policy to make the Afghan army and the government strong enough to provide security to their citizens. “Even after the Nato forces leave Afghanistan, they will still need support of international community for further mentoring and guidance.”
Loej called for international support to build capacity of fragile states. She said challenges and solutions differ from state to state. She believed the international community should engage with fragile states in finding solutions to their predicaments.
About interaction with the development sector in Pakistan, she said Plan Pakistan has been focusing a lot on health and education sectors especially for girls. “A healthy and educated woman guarantees an educated and healthy generation.”
She was disappointed to hear that there were many schools in Pakistan where teachers do not show up most of the time. However, she was impressed by the children's enthusiasm to learn and progress. “I can never forget the spark in the eyes of children, especially girls, I met during my field visit to Thatta,” she said.