Opening remarks

by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives Annual Conference (NCGP)

  • 07 Dec. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 07 Dec. 2021 11:50

(As delivered)

Good morning. I hope it’s not too early.
CMC, Generals, ladies and gentlemen.
It is relatively early in the morning, but it is never too early to discuss at NATO about very important things. And I would like to thank you Lieutenant Colonel Diana Morais for the introduction, which was brief and succinct, and to the point.
And let me tell you good morning and welcome from our Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and myself and the leadership of our great Alliance. And I am so delighted to be here with you this morning and to open the annual conference of the NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives.
And so happy to do it also in person, because I remember last year we did a sort of a virtual thing. That is nice, and technology helps, but nothing can substitute to human interaction and to this sense of unique camaraderie, friendship, and common mission and vision that we have here in NATO.

I also understand that this year is the 45th anniversary of the Committee, and 60 years since the first Conference of Women Senior Officers took place. So, many congratulations, and to many, many successful years and decades to come inside our great Alliance.

NATO has long recognised the important role women play in our security and defence. In fact, the original name of this Committee, when it was created back in 1976, was the Committee on Women in NATO Forces. And today, the need to mainstream gender perspectives into everything we do as an Alliance is as important, and probably even more important, than ever.

We are living, and we see this every day, every day, and here at NATO we see it every minute, in a growing global competition, with increasingly complex threats to the security of the one billion people of 30 nations that belong to our unique Alliance.
Russia is more aggressive abroad and oppressive at home. China is using its economic and military might to coerce other countries and control its own people.
And all the while, we face more frequent and sophisticated cyber-attacks. As well as hybrid tactics, like those we have seen recently from Belarus, a persistent terrorist threat, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the security impacts of climate change, and a growing competition in space. Across all domains, from all geographies, as our military leaders would put it, 360, multi-domain, permanent threats and pressure also on the rules and norms, which are supposed to govern world affairs.

We know that women and girls are disproportionately affected by violence and instability. But we also know that they play an indispensable role in creating lasting peace and security.
So making sure women’s voices are heard and gender considerations are reflected across the full spectrum of our activities is not just a nice to have. It is a must have for NATO.

Twenty one years ago the Women, Peace and Security agenda was launched by the UN Security Council, and since then, NATO has demonstrated our commitment to integrate gender perspectives throughout our work.
In 2007, we agreed our first policy on Women, Peace and Security. At our Lisbon Summit in 2010, NATO leaders agreed an action plan to mainstream UN Security Council resolution 1325 into NATO-led missions and operations.
These have been updated several times since, and they are reflecting an ever deeper understanding on how applying a gender lens enhances our work and fortifies our mission. Our current action plan was endorsed at our last Defence Ministers’ meeting this October.
I am also very proud that the Secretary General has put a personal emphasis, and we are very privileged to have strong leadership across the NATO enterprise on this very important topic.

The Women, Peace and Security agenda is partly about increasing the representation of women at every level, on both the political and the military side, from more female boots on the ground, to more seats for women at NATO’s table in positions of leadership. As I mentioned last year, the numbers are going in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.

Just as importantly, our work on Women, Peace and Security is also about applying a gender lens to everything we do. From our operations and missions, where understanding the unique needs and experiences of women in conflict or crisis helps us shape more effective responses, to capability development, so that we ensure that the equipment we use is fit for everyone who serves. Or to our efforts on countering terrorism, cyber defence, and new technologies, to ensure that we do not miss critical information, or opportunities, or take unnecessary risks.
I am also very happy that NATO has responded positively to the request from the United Nations to train UN peacekeepers for Africa, and the gender dimension to this is also important, the work we do with and for other organisations that are relevant to our common mission.

So it should come as no surprise that as we look to the future of our great Alliance, a strong and ever-stronger gender focus will remain a priority going forward.
At our Brussels Summit last June in this very headquarters of ours, NATO leaders took bold decisions through our NATO 2030 agenda to reinforce transatlantic unity, strengthen NATO as the cornerstone of our security, and keep our one billion people safe. Now and in the future.

So we took steps to make our societies stronger, our infrastructure more resilient, and our supply chains more diverse. We put climate change at the heart of NATO’s agenda for the first time, not just to reduce the impact of climate on our militaries, but also to reduce the impact of our militaries on the climate. And we have taken concrete actions to sharpen our technological edge by launching a new defence innovation accelerator and a billion-euro innovation fund to support today’s dual-use technologies to solve tomorrow’s defence and security challenges.

Also at the Summit, NATO leaders also asked our Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to develop NATO’s next Strategic Concept. I mentioned Lisbon 2010, when the current concept was adopted by our leaders at that time. Look how much the world has changed, look how much the world has changed, and this is why the new Strategic Concept, that will be adopted in Madrid at our June Summit, will reflect the new security environment which has changed fundamentally in the decade since the last one was adopted. And to chart a common course forward for our Alliance, by recommitting to our values and to the indispensable foundation which are our values and the transatlantic bond. We will be adopting this new Strategic Concept reflecting today’s world, but also trying to anticipate the challenges of tomorrow.

But NATO’s vision for the future cannot, and will not be gender blind, because a strategy that leaves half of the population behind is not a strategy for success.
Keeping our people safe in a more competitive and connected world will require all the tools and talents and hard work and discipline and sophistication of all of the talent we have at our disposal from the entire population and the entire talent that we have across our great Alliance. And our work on Women, Peace and Security is integral to this. Not an add-on.

As an Alliance, NATO is committed to gender equality. We are committed to deterring and defending against any threats from any direction. We are determined to defend our democratic values and the rules-based international order. And we are working more closely with all our partners to deliver these aims, civilian and military, public and private sector, civil society, and yes, men and women.
So thank you for all of the valuable work that this Committee does to make our Alliance more equal, more effective and more enduring and more fit for purpose for the many long years ahead of us.
Thank you for coming together over these two days to consider how we can better integrate gender perspectives in the future across the spectrum, across our enterprise, across our nations, and yes, also across the world through our partnerships. 
Thank you again for inviting me today. Congratulations for this auspicious moment, and I am sure you will have very interesting discussions over the next two days. And I myself and also our Secretary General, we are looking forward to receiving and continuing to lead the effort to introduce the outcomes of your great work in everything we do at NATO.

Have a great two days of work. This is an important part of who we are and this is an important part of the enduring success of our Alliance.
Thank you so much and enjoy these wonderful days together in person and also virtually for the colleagues that could not attend. Thank you so much. Keep up the good work. Thank you so much.