Remarks by NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow

at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the High-Level Review of UNSCR 1325 – Women, Peace and Security

  • 13 Oct. 2015 -
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  • Last updated 19 Oct. 2015 09:53

Security Council Meeting: Women and peace and security Report of the Secretary-General on women and peace and security (S/2015/716) Letter dated 1 October 2015 from the Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (S/2015/749)

Chairman, Distinguished members of the Council,

It is more dangerous to be a woman in a conflict zone than it is to be a soldier.  That brutal fact led the United Nations to pass Resolution 1325 fifteen years ago.  Its aim? To inspire a new approach to international security, where the views and actions of women are every bit as important as those of men, and where their inclusion is guaranteed. 

For too long, the needs and interests of women have been ignored, both during times of conflict and when making and keeping the peace.  If peace is to be sustainable, then it must include the voices of women.   You cannot ignore half of the population.

NATO is proud of its record of implementing 1325.  Within our operations in Afghanistan and in the Balkans, we have made a tangible difference to the lives of women in conflict and post-conflict countries. 

The root of our success to date comes from embedding a gender perspective deep within our organization, and from keeping things as practical as possible. 

  • We are incorporating gender perspectives within NATO’s analysis, planning, execution and evaluation of all our operations and missions. 
  • NATO’s strategic commands are implementing new guidelines on the prevention and response to conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence. 
  • We have a wide network of Gender Advisors. 
  • We are placing gender perspectives at the center of defence planning and reporting by our member nations.
  • Gender is a key principle of our Defence Capacity Building initiative with our partners around the world. 
  • We are implementing the first Trust Fund with Jordan on gender training for their armed forces.
  • And in May, we appointed our first ever female NATO Commander, Brigadier General Giselle Wilz of the US Army, at NATO’s headquarters in Sarajevo.

NATO is doing a lot.  But we need to do more, especially when it comes to promoting equal participation within NATO itself.  We need to increase active and meaningful participation of women. To this end, we pledge:

  • To share best practices and valuable lessons learned among our Allies and Partners on increasing female participation at decision-making levels in our own structures.
  • To accelerate the advancement of women in our own headquarters by establishing a Women’s Professional Network and Mentoring Programme. 
  • To actively encourage Allies to submit female candidates for our most senior decision-making positions.
  • To strengthen our partnership for gender equality with other international organisations, including the UN, OSCE, European Union and African Union.
  • To finance gender-sensitive research aimed at identifying drivers of radicalisation and violent extremism, and to develop targeted and evidence-based responses, including the empowerment of women to safeguard communities.
  • We also welcome the broad participation of civil society in the development, execution and monitoring of our NATO/EAPC Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security; as a next step, we pledge to establish a civil society advisory panel to institutionalise that positive engagement.

Chairman, Distinguished members of the Council,

The world is changing rapidly.  We face a rising tide of violent extremism and terrorism.  And it will be women, once again, who are most at risk.  It is therefore essential that women be involved at every stage, and every level, of our operations and missions.

Improving gender equality within NATO not only improves our credibility; it is essential to our ability to do our job right.  Gender equality enhances our ability to respond and to deal with crises. 

Diversity gives us strength.  Being inclusive will allow us to achieve our common goal: lasting peace and security.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today, and thanks in particular to the President of the Government of Spain for his leadership in chairing this important debate.