CYPRUS: First time in UN history a mission and peace force is led by women

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When UN chief of mission Elizabeth Spehar, welcomed new commander of the peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Major General Cheryl Pearce from Australia, it was a landmark in United Nations history.


It's the first time that the top three positions in a UN peacekeeping mission – civilian, military and police – have all been held by women.

“UNFICYP becomes the only UN peacekeeping operation in history to not only be led by a female Special Representative of the Secretary General but to now also have female leadership in both uniformed components,” Spehar said at a welcoming ceremony for Pearce on Monday.

“I hope your example will help encourage increasing numbers of women in senior UN peacekeeping roles,” she added.

At the welcoming ceremony at UN headquarters, in the Nicosia buffer zone, Spehar told Pearce that “all of us at UNFICYP are delighted to have you join our ranks.”
 
“The peacekeepers under your command work every day to maintain the stability of the 180-kilometre long Buffer Zone through patrolling and liaison functions. This is vital for us in terms of the bigger picture—achieving sustainable peace in Cyprus,” Spehar said.

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.
 
The Australian flag was raised during the ceremony to welcome the new Force Commander, in the presence of Australian High Commissioner to Cyprus, Sam Beever.
 
“Increasing the numbers of women serving in peacekeeping is an important priority for the UN and with Major General Pearce’s appointment we are proud to lead the way,” UNFICYP Spokesperson Aleem Siddique told CNA.
 
He also noted that UNFICYP is one of the few peacekeeping missions led by a woman, Elizabeth Spehar, and has women in charge of both military and police components.

Norway’s Ann-­Kristin Kvilekval is senior police adviser of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus.
Major General Pearce succeeds Major General Mohammad Humayun Kabir of Bangladesh, who completed his assignment on 6 October 2018.
 
Major General Pearce has a distinguished military career in the Australian Defence Forces, most recently as Commandant of the Australian Defence Force Academy.
 
Pearce also served as the Australian Army Headquarters Chief of Staff and, from 2010 to 2012, as Director of Special Operations Support. She was a military observer with the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor in 2002 and served in Afghanistan in 2016 as part of NATO, among others.
 
The United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), comprising military and civilian personnel from various contributing countries, arrived in Cyprus in March 1964 after intercommunal fighting broke out.

UNFICYP’s mandate of the force is renewed every six months by the Security Council. The last renewal was in July 2018, with the unanimous approval of resolution 2430.