Address to United Nations Security Council

by Ambassador Marriët Schuurman, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative on Women, Peace & Security

  • 25 Oct. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 26 Oct. 2016 18:49

(As delivered)

Mr President, Distinguished members of the Council, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Gender equality is not optional.  It is essential.


Because it allows us to respond better -- and smarter -- to the many complex security challenges that we face today. Gender Equality is about credibility and capability. It is about the resilience of our societies; the readiness of our forces and the effectiveness of our operations.

That is what NATO has learned from more than a decade and a half of implementing UNSCR 1325.
At our Summit in July, NATO endorsed a revised Action Plan on the implementation of the Women, Peace & Security Agenda.  Fifty-five Allied and partner nations associated themselves to this Action Plan.

We now host what could well be the largest global coalition on UNSCR 1325 implementation.  And we continue to build our coalition, inside and out.

Last week, NATO broke new ground when we hosted our first ever Civil Society Advisory Panel. This is about cementing dialogue between NATO and those representatives of civil society who work on conflict prevention, resolution, and women’s empowerment.

If peace is to be sustainable, we must be inclusive.

We still have a long way to go.

But NATO is doing a great deal. And we keep things as practical as possible.  

  • We continue to learn from our operations, missions, training and exercises. 
  • Gender perspectives are at the centre of NATO’s defence planning and reporting processes.
  • NATO supports the implementation of UNSCR 2242 through financing research on the role of gender in countering violent extremism.
  • NATO’s strategic commands are implementing the military guidelines on preventing and responding to conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence.
  • Sexual violence scars families, rips apart societies, and slows down peacekeeping and conflict-resolution processes. It affects the success of NATO missions. We cannot be bystanders.
  • We need to look at ourselves too, by raising awareness of NATO codes of conduct and other tools designed to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • We can do better. Just 10% of NATO’s armed forces are women. Of those deployed on operations, it is just 5.5%. 
  • We understand that improving this ratio will improve effectiveness and we urge member states to do their part.  We support the UN Defence Ministers’ pledge in London to double the proportion of women in UN peacekeeping missions.

And, again we need to lead by example. The gender balance in NATO’s leadership is improving after years of stagnation.

  • Last week we proudly welcomed the first female NATO Deputy Secretary General, Rose Gottemoeller.
  • In June, our first female four-star officer, the American Admiral Howard assumed command of NATO Joint Force Command Naples.
  • And the NATO Defense College will be led by a woman too, the Canadian LTGen Whitecross.

We know that we need to keep up this momentum.  And we will.

Because equal participation is not a favour to women.  It is a hard core security requirement. It is essential to the resilience of our societies. To the effectiveness of our forces. And to a modern, ready and responsive Alliance. But, above all, it is fundamental to achieving lasting peace.

Thank you.