UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed the first woman to command a United Nations peacekeeping force — a Norwegian general who has served in Lebanon, the first Gulf War, Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. Kristin Lund will replace Chinese Maj. Gen. Chao Liu on Aug. 13 as commander of about 1,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Cyprus, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced Monday.
Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south since 1974 and talks have resumed to reunite the Mediterranean island.
Lund said she’s been to Cyprus several times and is looking forward to the challenges of her new job — maintaining the cease-fire and supporting efforts to deal with minefields, unaccounted people, and property disputes, among many issues.
She told the Associated Press that she’s proud to crack the glass ceiling in U.N. peacekeeping.
“I think it’s time, and I think it’s important that other women see that it’s possible also in the U.N. system to get up in the military hierarchy to become a force commander,” Lund said.
Lund, 55, joined the Norwegian army in 1979 and went on her first overseas mission in 1986 as transport officer with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.
She said that’s where she fell in love with the United Nations and learned that “maybe the most important weapon that you have is communication and to build relations.”
It was also both fascinating and challenging to work with so many people from different countries and cultures, she said.
In 1991, she worked as a transport officer during the first Gulf War. In 1992-93 she served with the U.N. protection force in Bosnia, and after the war ended she returned as a battalion commander in the NATO-led force. After three years working with NATO in the Netherlands, Lund went to Afghanistan in 2003-04 where she worked on civilian-military cooperation.
She attended the U.S. Army War College in 2006 and became deputy commander of the Norwegian Army Forces Command in 2007. After her appointment as Norway’s first female major general in 2009, she took over command of 45,000 light infantry troops as chief of staff of the Norwegian Home Guard. In January, she was chosen to head veterans affairs on the Norwegian Defense Staff.
As a major general, Lund said, “you have to be a thinker and a doer, but I’m probably more a doer.”
Lund said before she retired she wanted to go overseas again and when she was asked by the Ministry of Defense whether she would be interested in trying to become a U.N. peacekeeping force commander, “I said yes, I love the U.N.”
(EDITH M. LEDERER)