The 48th Annual Conference for the NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives focused on “Military Planning and Partnerships: A New Era of Gender Perspective at NATO”

  • 06 May. 2024 - 08 May. 2024
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  • Last updated: 24 May. 2024 15:25

From 6 to 8 May 2024, over 300 participants across 47 Allied and Partner Nations attended the 48th Annual Conference for the NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives (NCGP) online and in-person at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. This year’s theme was “Military Planning and Partnerships: A New Era of Gender Perspective at NATO”.

Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of the NATO Military Committee (CMC), opened the conference with remarks emphasising the importance of the partnership theme for this year’s Conference, given that 2024 will mark several achievements in historical cooperation for NATO’s institutionalised partnerships. He stated that “integrating the gender perspective is not only a prerogative based on NATO’s values, but it is a force multiplier”.

Ms Irene Fellin, Secretary General's Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security (WPS) at NATO and Lieutenant General Andrew M. Rohling, Deputy Chair of the NATO Military Committee (DCMC) made remarks to highlight “Leadership Perspectives: Setting the Stage for the Future of Women, Peace and Security at NATO”. Ms Fellin reflected on nearly 25 years of UNSCR1325, underlining NATO’s effort to implement the global WPS Agenda by updating its WPS Policy to navigate the current complex strategic environment. Lt Gen Rohling emphasised that the efforts to implement the gender perspective “must result in real action”, highlighting the operational benefits of reducing barriers to female participation which leads to more effective planning and mission success.

The panel “Applying a Gender Lens for the Evolving Security Environment” featured Vice Admiral Shoshana Chatfield, the United States Military Representative to NATO and Dr Juan Carlos Antunez Moreno, Socio-Cultural Analyst at NATO Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum. VADM Chatfield discussed the history of women in the US Navy, underlining the impact of leadership on “meaningful female participation”. Dr. Antunez Moreno discussed the necessity of integrating the gender perspective in conflict analysis and stressed the importance of maintaining situational awareness by understanding the different contributions of men and women in conflict.

The panel on “Deterrence and Defence: Understanding Planning with a Gender Perspective” focused on the practical ways to integrate the gender perspective across NATO’s core tasks, and included Brigadier General Eric Laforest, ACOS J5 at NATO Allied Command Operations, Major Wilco ven den Berg, Subject Matter Expert at Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations (NCGM), and Major Stijn van den Bosch, Deputy Gender Advisor at NATO Allied Command Operations. Brig Gen Laforest explained that the human terrain is an essential component for understanding the geography of an operating area, in which gender and diversity are critical to be considered. Maj van den Bosch reiterated that the gender perspective acts as a force multiplier across the physical, moral and conceptual components of fighting power. Lastly, Maj van den Berg discussed the Gender Analysis Tool developed by NCGM, recommending that Nations operationalise gender analysis to identify vulnerabilities that adversaries can potentially exploit.

The final panel “Cooperative Security: WPS in Practice from Partner Perspectives” discussed NATO’s partnership engagement and expertise was offered by Colonel Chirstos Gkamas, Action Officer Cooperative Security Division at NATO IMS, noting that his Division “plays its part to integrate gender perspectives in partnerships by demonstrating that gender mainstreaming is a strategic approach enhancing the effectiveness of military planning and operations”. Ms Teresa Finik, Advisor Human Security Unit at NATO, stressed the role of WPS in NATO’s Partnerships and its ‘soft power’ nature, which increases possibilities for engagement with partners. Ms Tomoko Matsuzawa, Gender Advisor to the Japanese Ministry of Defence, encouraged NATO to include WPS as a business-as-usual topic in its strategic and tactical dialogues. Colonel Karen Such, Director of Gender, Peace and Security in the Australian Department of Defence, emphasised that mutual understanding of best practices is a fundamental pillar of partnerships, encouraging the Alliance to benefit from Australia’s expertise of the Indo-Pacific region. 

Day two addressed the Summary of National Report (SNR), NATO’s largest compilation of military gender statistics with syndicate work that was framed by the presentation of Dr Stefanie Von Hlatky, Professor of Political Studies at Queen’s University and Canada Research Chair on Gender, Security and the Armed Forces, and Dr Katharine Wright, Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University and Co-Convener of the Military, War and Security Research Group, both members of NATO’s Civil Society Advisor Panel on Women, Peace and Security. Dr. von Hlatky noted that the SNR is a useful repository of data for academics facilitating research on WPS, gender diversity and the integration of the gender perspective. Dr. Wright underscored the importance of the SNR in serving as a motivating force for Nations that can track their progress and setbacks.

Commemorating "10 years of 'Gender Training of Trainers Course' (GToT) RACVIAC Centre for Security Cooperation," Ms Zrinka Smeh Martinovic, the Activity Manager for the Security Sector Governance Pillar at RACVIAC, described how strengthening the implementation of UNSCR 1325 in the security sector and enables trainers to plan and conduct education and trainings with an integrated gender perspective. She stated that the GToT is now a network of over 200 gender instructors who present their own training for assessment before training third parties.

The “NATO Executive Development Programme (NEDP): Findings from the Development of NATO’s first Gender-Resilience Wargame” introduced gender-related shocks into a Baltic States scenario, and revealed two main conclusions: first, the importance of considering the second- and third-order effects of gender-related shocks, and second, the importance of having participants with diverse backgrounds.

The project was presented by four team members., Ms Eleanor Haevens, Director of Finance at NATO Allied Maritime Command, Ms Erida Lice, Information Manager at NATO BICES Group Executive, Mr Filipe Osorio, Strategy Management Officer at NATO Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum and Mr Mark van der Goorbergh from NATO Joint Force Command Brunssum. Ms. Lice explained that the wargame aimed to understand the nexus between resilience and gender.

Dr Jody Neathery-Castro, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Engagement and Professor of Political Science, and Dr Lana Obradovic, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska  discussed the findings from their research on “Integrating Gender Perspective in Cognitive Warfare”, including the identification of false sex-based stereotypes which are operationally weaponised in disinformation and misinformation campaigns. They underlined the importance of gender-based cognitive warfare tactics used by adversaries to influence our own societies, and concluded by applying their analytical framework to Russia, that has operationalised misinformation in its cognitive warfare by portraying itself as an aggressive masculine entity against a gendered ‘effeminate’ NATO to sow division in the democratic societies of the Alliance.

Finally, “The Gender Dimensions of the Fight for Influence and Advantage in the Information Environment”, explored the gender perspective in cognitive warfare and the role of strategic communications in the operational environment. Ms Nataliia Kalmykova, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Defence, discussed debunking gender stereotypes about female participation in the military giving an overview of Ukraine’s STRATCOM goals in Russia’s current war. Sergeant Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, Strategic Communications Analyst, shared personal experience with gender in strategic communications against Russia. Mr Benjamin Patterson, Analyst J10 Information Environment Assessment Team at NATO Allied Command Operations, concluded the panel by reflecting on the vast resources our adversaries use to cause social division in democratic societies.

During the Conference’s closed sessions Allied Nations discussed the way ahead for the NCGP, with presentations from the Executive Committee members representing the United States, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, and Canada, through their Programme of Work. The day concluded by finalising recommendations to be delivered to the NATO Military Committee.