Women, Peace and Security agenda in the spotlight at NATO

  • 01 Jun. 2015 -
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  • Last updated: 22 Jun. 2015 13:43

The participation of women in Allied armed forces has been steadily increasing over the past few decades, and significant strides have been made towards the recruitment and retention of women. However, women continue to be underrepresented and more work is needed to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and related Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security.

A memorable start to ‘Gender Week’ at NATO HQ

To kick off ‘Gender Week’ at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme hosted an event on 1 June to present the findings and recommendations of the SPS multi-year research project entitled “UNSCR 1325 Reload”.

The UNSCR 1325 Reload project findings and recommendations are based on an analysis of Annual National Reports published by NATO’s International Military Staff (IMS) Office of the Gender Advisor from 1999 to 2013, and map the integration of women in the armed forces of Allied countries. Recommendations are provided using the Australian Defence Forces as a model for best practices.

This SPS initiative was led by Project Directors from the Rey Juan Carlos University (Madrid, Spain) and the Australian Human Rights Commission, in collaboration with the Chief of the Defence Forces and NATO’s IMS Office of the Gender Advisor. The Project Directors worked together to conduct this comprehensive assessment of 14 years of data taken from official documents – a unique and significant undertaking.

In 15 years time, we moved from 5 to a little above 10 per cent of women in the armed forces. The study presented today – I strongly believe – has the potential to help us making a leap forward and creating new momentum in this agenda which has been moving a bit too slow,” said the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, Ambassador Marriёt Schuurman.

More than 120 participants were in attendance, with representation from, Allied delegations, partner missions, NATO International Staff and International Military Staff, as well as civil society.

SPS Programme: beyond scientific cooperation

The Assistant Secretary General of NATO’s Emerging Security Challenges Division, Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, opened the conference by highlighting the efforts undertaken by the SPS Programme to support the implementation of UNSCR 1325.

Traditionally, the Programme aimed to enhance and support dialogue with partner nations by fostering scientific cooperation. Responding to the demands of the time, the SPS Programme has undergone a reform process and now also supports activities beyond purely scientific cooperation.

“Allies have broadened the focus of the SPS Programme to include the UNSCR 1325 agenda, recognising the integral role of women in conflict resolution – not only as peacemakers, but also as peacekeepers and peace-builders,” said Ambassador Ducaru.

The Australian model as a case study for best practices

Recognising that a more diverse military translates into stronger and more capable armed forces, the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) have taken significant steps to increase the participation of women.

“Peace and security applies equally to men and women the world over, and it is absolutely inescapable that military organisations work better, more efficiently, and are more capable if they use all of the talent that is on offer in 100 per cent of the world’s population. And yet, almost every army in the world is making abject use of the talent that rests within 51 per cent of the population – women,” Lt Gen David Morrison, recently retired Chief of Australian Army, stated in a passionate address at the event.

In the Australian context, significant cultural change has been achieved in recent years through new policies and reforms under the leadership of Lt Gen David Morrison. These reforms are based on the following key principles outlined in UNSCR 1325 Reload, and can be taken as recommendations for best practices: 1) Strong leadership drives reform; 2) Diversity of leadership increases capability; 3) Increasing numbers requires increasing opportunities; 4) Greater flexibility will strengthen the ADF; and 5) Gender-based harassment and violence ruins lives, divides teams and damages operational effectiveness.