Women, Peace and Security
NATO recognises the disproportionate impact that conflict has on women and girls, the vital roles women play in peace and security, and the importance of incorporating gender perspectives in all that the Alliance does. The Women, Peace and Security agenda was launched on 31 October 2000 with the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and now includes nine additional Resolutions (1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122, 2422, 2467 and 2493). NATO’s approach to the Women, Peace and Security agenda is framed around the principles of integration, inclusiveness and integrity.
- NATO’s first policy on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) was developed by Allies and partners in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in 2007.
- In 2018, NATO Heads of State and Government endorsed the revised WPS policy that introduced the principles of integration, inclusiveness and integrity.
- NATO is integrating gender perspectives across its three core tasks (collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security) and throughout its political and military structures.
- Gender equality is an important focus of NATO’s cooperation with other international organisations – in particular the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations (UN) – as well as civil society.
- NATO’s Civil Society Advisory Panel provides a platform for women civil society organisations to engage with NATO to shape policy and practice.
- The NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security serves as the high-level focal point for NATO’s work in this domain.
More background information
The principle that women’s full participation is essential to the respect of their rights, is underpinned by NATO’s common values of individual liberty, democracy, human rights and obligations under the Charter of the United Nations. Drawing from the UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), the Alliance works to address gender inequality by integrating gender perspectives through the Alliance’s three core tasks of collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security.
Three principles guide NATO’s work on WPS: integration, inclusiveness and integrity.
Integration: gender equality must be considered as an integral part of NATO policies, programmes and projects guided by effective gender mainstreaming practices. To achieve gender equality, it must be acknowledged that each policy, programme, and project affects both women and men.
Inclusiveness: representation of women across NATO and in national forces is necessary to enhance operational effectiveness and success. NATO will seek to increase the participation of women in all tasks throughout the International Military Staff and International Staff at all levels.
Integrity: systemic inequalities are addressed to ensure fair and equal treatment of women and men Alliance-wide. Accountability on all efforts to increase awareness and implementation of the WPS agenda will be made a priority in accordance with international frameworks.
The resolve of Allies and partners to take forward the principles outlined in the UNSCRs on WPS and apply them in a NATO context, led to the first formal NATO/EAPC Policy on Women, Peace and Security in December 2007. Its focus was on how gender perspectives apply in operational contexts. A first Action Plan to support the implementation of this Policy was endorsed at the Lisbon Summit in 2010 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of UNSCR 1325. The Policy has been updated several times, most recently in 2018, with new plans to guide the implementation of each revision. The updates account for changes in the security environment as well as the continued evolution of NATO’s understanding of how best to integrate gender across all of its work.
Most recently, in 2019, NATO adopted its first policy on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in support of its work on WPS.
Partners have been integral to NATO’s work on WPS from the start. They play a key role in shaping policy and practice. The policy itself is agreed by the EAPC – today involving all 30 Allies and 19 partners. In addition, eight partners beyond the EAPC framework have associated themselves with the policy: Afghanistan, Australia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, New Zealand, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
Through their cooperation programmes with NATO, partners are encouraged to adopt specific goals that reflect the principles and support implementation of the WPS agenda. Some contribute to the development of education and training activities on WPS, from which they also benefit, and they help ensure that a gender perspective is included in the curriculum of NATO Training Centres and Centres of Excellence as well as in pre-deployment training. The Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations is hosted by Sweden, one of NATO’s partners.
The NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme promotes concrete, practical cooperation on gender-related issues among NATO member and partner countries, through collaborative multi-year projects, training courses, study institutes and workshops.
NATO also partners with international organisations, and this is particularly valuable in the work related to WPS. NATO works closely with the UN, the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to learn from and build on each other’s experiences. The Regional Acceleration of Resolution 1325 (RAR) framework serves as a joint platform for NATO, the AU, EU and UN to share experience on WPS.
NATO is integrating gender perspectives into all that the Alliance does, creating more inclusive environments and supporting its partners in this area, and ensuring that the highest standards of personal and professional conduct are upheld.
Integration is about changing the way NATO works. Some examples include:
- conducting gender analyses to ensure operations and missions take account of the different perspectives of women and men;
- examining gender aspects of early warning to better assess where crises may emerge;
- considering how to design defence capabilities that work for all those who serve – women and men alike;
- exploring the gender dimensions of terrorism, recognising that women are not only victims of terror but also powerful actors who can prevent or perpetrate terrorist actions;
- working with women’s civil society to get a better understanding of the experience of women around the world and the potential impact of NATO policy and practice on various communities.
Inclusiveness is not only about increasing the number of women involved in peace and security but creating environments conducive to their full, meaningful participation. Some work in this area includes:
- improving gender balance in NATO’s civilian and military structures and encouraging Allies and partners to do the same;
- using gender-inclusive language throughout the Organization. For example, nameplates in NATO meeting rooms now indicate the “Chair” of a meeting, where “Chairman” had long been the standard, regardless of who occupied the seat;
- modelling gender-inclusive practices in defence capacity building programmes.
Integrity in relation to WPS requires that the highest standards of behaviour are upheld. In practice, this includes:
- developing policies to demonstrate and support certain standards, like the NATO policy on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse that was agreed in 2019;
- ensuring effective measures are in place to prevent and respond to sexual harassment;
- providing training to ensure that policies and procedures are known and understood by those to whom they apply.
NATO’s work on WPS is supported by women and men, civilian and military, throughout NATO’s structures.
At NATO Headquarters in Brussels, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security serves as the high-level focal point for all of NATO’s work on the WPS agenda. The position was created in 2012, made permanent in 2014, and is currently held by Ms Clare Hutchinson.
Gender Advisors are in place across NATO’s military structures and in all operations and missions. The first NATO Gender Advisors were deployed in 2009 to NATO’s two Strategic Commands, as well as to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, replaced in 2015 by the Resolute Support Mission (RSM), which operated until early September 2021. These men and women operate at strategic and operational levels, and are valuable resources to Commanders, who are responsible for the overall integration of gender perspectives into planning, execution and evaluation.
The NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives promotes the integration of gender as a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of both women and men an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, programmes and military operations.