Women, peace and security: NATO’s implementation of UNSCR 1325

Statement by Mari Skåre, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative on UNSCR 1325 at the US-Adriatic Charter Conference

  • 26 Oct. 2012 -
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  • Last updated: 29 Oct. 2012 12:33

Brigadier General, Minsters, Excellences, distinguished representatives,

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this conference. I am honored to be here and to take part in discussions with representatives from such an important group of countries on such an important topic. In particular, I wish to pay tribute to Minster Pusic for her outstanding leadership in promoting women’s rights. I can ensure you that here representatives in NATO are showing leadership in negotiations and taking initiatives to move the agenda forward.

UNSCR 1325 is the first resolution passed by the UN Security Council that placed the issue of women’s rights, role and situation squarely in the international agenda on peace and security. Since 2000 it has been followed by four other resolutions. I am certain you know these resolutions well, but allow me to spend one minute on their main content as they provide the foundation for my work.

There are two main messages embedded in these resolutions I believe is particularly important: 1) how conflicts affect women and 2) women as a resource.

  1. As countries represented here today unfortunately have learned; war comes with very high costs. Conflicts have devastating consequences for civilians. Before the Second World War 90% of the casualties in conflicts were combatants; today 90% of the casualties are civilians - of which approx. 70 % are women and children.

    NATO's overall objective - our joint overall objective - is, of course, to prevent conflicts from happening. When they occur, however, we need to understand that conflicts affect women and men differently. Women and children are harder hit and often lose access to basic services, education and economic opportunities. Women are also subjected to sexual violence as a direct weapon of war. NATO is just beginning to look at the issues of sexual violence as a weapon of war, and I would very much learn more from you on how to prevent this from happening.

  2. However, it is important to understand that women are not only victims; they represent an under-utilized resource. If our intellect, abilities, competences and experiences are not included in prevention and resolution of conflicts, we miss out opportunities to resolve the problems. We cannot afford not to include women. This is not simply a question of what benefits women, but of what benefits the whole society - men and women, boys and girls.

The main responsibility to implement UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions rests with the states. It is the Governments that are responsible for ensuring that the whole of their population is protected and included - not only the half.

While states have the primary responsibility ensuring implementation of UNSCR 1325, the international community stands ready to assist and to hold states accountable. UNWOMEN has a leading role in the international community, and we will follow suit within our areas of responsibilities.

So what is the role and responsibilities of NATO as a regional organization, a military alliance, a security policy organization? How do we walk the talk? How do we contribute to this agenda?
NATO has three core tasks:

  • Collective defense
  • Crisis management and
  • Cooperative security

Implementation of 1325 has relevance for all three.

  1. The UNSCR 1325 calls on states to ensure increased representation of women in institutions dealing with prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, and the member states of NATO are working to ensure greater participation of women in national forces. We need to improve our reporting, but tentative figures shows that the percentages of female military personnel in Allies forces vary between 4 % and 19 %. That is too low, but my impression is that the overall gender gap in the forces is slowly closing. UNSCR 1325 also encourages states to provide gender-related training. Both men and women need to increase their awareness and competence on gender issues and progress is being made within the Alliance.

  2. NATO as a military alliance is in a unique position to form an approach to include women and increase the gender competence in operational settings and crisis management.

    The importance of pre-deployment training and having the gender expertise on the ground has been more broadly understood and applied. We have realized that when we are having a full understanding of the socio-economic dynamics, the power structures, the roles of men and women in the society and when we reach out also to the women in the societies we are trying to assist, we are doing a better job. By integrating gender perspectives we will achieve a better situational awareness, better force protection and better security – and greater operational effectiveness. I am very interested learning more about your pre-deployment initiatives and whether you are working on this on a regional basis.

    I was recently in Afghanistan and we are learning important lessons not only on how gender competences can enhance our operational effectiveness, but the importance of conveying the right political messages to our partner and host country. It is critical that the host country demonstrates leadership in ensuring respect of women’s rights and empowerment of women. These messages are conveyed from the highest levels in NATO, as it was at the Chicago Summit, as well as in the theatre.

    Another important lesson learnt, which will also come to the fore at the up-coming debate in the Security Council next week, is the importance of civil society. For a country like Afghanistan the role of civil society needs to be strengthened and I encourage all of the countries here to engage in a dialogue with parliamentarians and other parts of civil society to give those fighting for human rights and in particular to improve the situation of the women, a channel and a platform for conveying their views and engaging with the international community.

    A third lesson learnt is that we in crisis management need to strengthen our cooperation with other international operations. NATO works shoulder to shoulder with other international organizations in maintaining international peace and security. I intend to strengthen our engagement with the UN and other organizations to make sure that we learn from each other’s experiences and pave the way for efficiency and results.

  3. NATO and its partners aim to make the principles of UNSCR 1325 an integral part of their everyday business. Cooperation with partners focuses on the enhancement of political dialogue and practical cooperation in the security and defense fields. And clearly, women, peace and security belong at the heart our political dialogue. I will encourage the countries around this table to bring it more forcefully on our agenda. Both within the frameworks of political cooperation and within practical cooperation.

    Our offer of training and capacity building goes to all partners, and we appreciate very much the possibilities of benefiting from the training activities at the Nordic Center for Gender in Military operations as offered by Sweden.

So - What is my job?

NATO is already doing a great deal, and we are making progress, but I have to be frank with you, we are still in our infancy. I hope that I can help driving the agenda further, sharpening the focus, increasing awareness and competence, strengthening the outreach and cooperation with other actors and partners. The biggest challenge is perhaps not only turning words into action – but ensuring that the action provides results! I hope to help strengthen the organization’s ability to deliver.

I know that the governments represented here today work hard to ensure the advancement of the agenda of women, peace and security and I congratulate you for the engagement and dedication you are showing. My congratulations go to Bosnian and Herzegovinian Ministry of Security who earlier this year earned the United Nations Public Service Award for its project implementing UNSCR 1325. Everybody here is important in changing mindsets and behaviors and I am looking forward to learning more about your experiences.

Thank you for your attention.