Canadian diplomat Elizabeth Spehar, the United Nations Special Representative for Cyprus, said more women should be involved in helping bring reunification to the island divided since an unlawful 1974 invasion that saw Turkey occupy the northern third.
Spehar and UN Special Envoy Jane Holl Lute, an American diplomat who is trying to get the two sides to talk again after the last round of negotiations in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana fell apart, have been leading the push to restart talks.
Speaking at ‘Women in Peace and Security. The Leadership Trio of UNFICYIP – a Global First in Nicosia, organized by the embassies of Australia, Norway and Canada, she said that, “often women shine the most when things look the most dire,” the Cyprus Mail said.
The UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) is the first mission in the 71-year history of UN peacekeeping to have a woman as the Head of Mission, as well as female leadership in both uniformed components.
Spehar serves as the Head of Mission, while the police component is led by Senior Police Adviser Ann-Kristin Kvilekval who comes from Norway, and the military component by Force Commander, Major General Cheryl Pearce, from Australia.
With Cyprus being called the “Graveyard of Diplomats,” she conceded it won’t be easy as Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Alinci said conditions aren’t right yet to start talking again after Turkey demanded the right to keep an army in the occupied land and wanted the right to militarily intervene again.
“First of all we don’t have negotiations right now. That has led to a lot of disappointment and disenchantment not only by women but men as well. It means that a lot of people have, kind of, dropped out of the race, civil society actors that are just losing their steam,” she said.
She added that, “There is an incredible group of dynamic Cypriot women from both sides of the divide who haven’t given up and who could really make things change. With all due respect to certain individuals, there is a certain dearth of leadership on the Cyprus issue right now. I think that women can fill that vacuum and we have been trying to push the concept of women as the vanguard of the peace process. I think it is doable.”
Spehar said there are 7,682 female peacekeepers, both uniformed and civilian, out of close to 103,000, which amounts to 13 percent.
Between 1957-89, only 20 uniformed women served in UN peacekeeping missions worldwide. In 1993, one percent were female. In 2014, the number was only three percent.