Women, Peace and Security
NATO recognises the disproportionate impact that conflict has on women and girls, the vital roles women play in peace and security, and the importance of incorporating gender perspectives in all that the Alliance does. The Women, Peace and Security agenda was launched on 31 October 2000 with the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and now includes nine additional Resolutions (1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122, 2422, 2467 and 2493). NATO’s approach to the Women, Peace and Security agenda is framed around the principles of integration, inclusiveness and integrity.
- NATO is integrating gender perspectives across its three core tasks (deterrence and defence, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security) and throughout its political and military structures.
- Gender equality is an important focus of NATO’s cooperation with other international organisations – particularly the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the African Union (AU) – as well as civil society.
- NATO’s Civil Society Advisory Panel provides a platform for women’s civil society organisations to engage with NATO to shape policy and practice.
- The NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security serves as the high-level focal point for NATO’s work in this domain.
- NATO is also committed to supporting UNSCR 1820, which focuses on conflict-related sexual violence.
- NATO’s first policy on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) was developed by Allies and partners in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in 2007.
- In 2018, NATO Heads of State and Government endorsed the revised WPS policy that introduced the principles of integration, inclusiveness and integrity.
- At the Madrid Summit in 2022, Heads of State and Government declared that they are advancing a robust Women, Peace and Security agenda, and are incorporating gender perspectives across NATO.
- The 2022 Strategic Concept emphasises the cross-cutting importance of integrating the Women, Peace and Security agenda across our core tasks, and states that NATO will continue to advance gender equality as a reflection of its values.
NATO’s common values of individual liberty, democracy, human rights and obligations under the Charter of the United Nations underpin the principle that the full rights and participation of women are essential. Drawing from the UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), the Alliance works to address gender inequality by integrating gender perspectives through the Alliance’s three core tasks of deterrence and defence, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security.
Three principles guide NATO’s work on WPS: integration, inclusiveness and integrity.
Integration: gender equality must be considered as an integral part of NATO policies, programmes and projects, which are guided by effective gender mainstreaming practices. To achieve gender equality, it must be acknowledged that each policy, programme and project affects both women and men. Examples of integration in practice include:
- conducting gender analyses to ensure operations and missions take account of the different perspectives of women and men;
- examining gender aspects of early warning to better assess where crises may emerge;
- considering how to design defence capabilities that work for all those who serve – women and men alike;
- exploring the gender dimensions of terrorism, recognising that women are not only victims of terror but also powerful actors who can prevent or perpetrate terrorist actions;
- working with women’s civil society to get a better understanding of the experiences of women around the world and the potential impact of NATO policy and practice on various communities.
Inclusiveness: representation of women across NATO and in national forces is necessary to enhance operational effectiveness. NATO seeks to increase the participation of women in all tasks throughout the International Military Staff and International Staff at all levels. Examples of work in this area include:
- improving gender balance in NATO’s civilian and military structures and encouraging Allies and partners to do the same;
- using gender-inclusive language throughout the Organization. For example, nameplates in NATO meeting rooms now indicate the “Chair” of a meeting, where “Chairman” had long been the standard, regardless of who occupied the seat;
- modelling gender-inclusive practices in defence capacity building programmes.
Integrity: systemic inequalities are addressed to ensure fair and equal treatment of women and men Alliance-wide. Accountability on all efforts to increase awareness and implementation of the WPS agenda is a priority in accordance with international frameworks. In practice, this includes:
- developing policies to demonstrate and support certain standards, like the NATO Policy on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, which was endorsed in 2019;
- ensuring effective measures are in place to prevent and respond to sexual harassment;
- providing training to ensure that policies and procedures are known and understood by those to whom they apply.
The resolve of Allies and partners to take forward the principles outlined in the UNSCRs on WPS and to apply them in a NATO context led to the first formal NATO/EAPC Policy on Women, Peace and Security in December 2007. It focused on how gender perspectives apply in operational contexts. A first Action Plan to support the implementation of this Policy was endorsed at the Lisbon Summit in 2010 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of UNSCR 1325. The Policy has been updated several times, most recently in 2018, with new plans to guide the implementation of each revision. The updates account for changes in the security environment as well as the continued evolution of NATO’s understanding of how best to integrate gender perspectives across all of its work.
The NATO 2021-2025 Action Plan on WPS was endorsed by Defence Ministers in October 2021. It supports the commitment by Allies to further advancing gender equality and integrating gender perspectives in all that NATO does, building on the progress made since the creation of NATO’s agenda on WPS. It is a comprehensive, ambitious and forward-looking plan, which contributes to better preparing the Alliance to address the challenges of today. The Action Plan applies to all NATO Allies. Twenty-five of NATO’s partner countries have associated themselves with it.
WPS in practice
Partners have been integral to NATO’s work on WPS from the start. They play a key role in shaping policy and practice. The policy itself is developed by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), which involves partners and all Allies. In addition, seven partners beyond the EAPC framework have associated themselves with the policy: Australia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, New Zealand, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
Through their cooperation programmes with NATO, partners are encouraged to adopt specific goals that reflect the principles and support implementation of the WPS agenda. Some contribute to the development of education and training activities on WPS, from which they also benefit, and they help ensure that gender perspectives are included in the curriculum of NATO training centres and Centres of Excellence, as well as in pre-deployment training. NATO Invitee Sweden hosts the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations.
The NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme promotes concrete, practical cooperation on gender-related issues among NATO member and partner countries, through collaborative multi-year projects, training courses, study institutes and workshops.
NATO also collaborates with international organisations, and this is particularly valuable in its work related to WPS. NATO works closely with the UN, the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the African Union (AU) to learn from and build on each other’s experiences. NATO’s work on WPS is supported by women and men, civilian and military, throughout NATO’s structures. At NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security serves as the high-level focal point for all of NATO’s work on the WPS agenda. The position was created in 2012, and made permanent in 2014. In November 2021, Ms Irene Fellin was appointed as the new Special Representative. Her tenure commenced in early 2022.
Gender Advisors are in place across NATO’s military structures and in all operations and missions. The first NATO Gender Advisors were deployed in 2009 to NATO’s two Strategic Commands, as well as to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, replaced in 2015 by the Resolute Support Mission (RSM), which operated until early September 2021. There are now Gender Advisors deployed across NATO structures and missions, including NATO Mission Iraq and the Kosovo Force (KFOR). These men and women operate at strategic and operational levels, and are valuable resources to Commanders, who are responsible for the overall integration of gender perspectives into planning, execution and evaluation.
The NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives promotes the integration of gender as a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of both women and men an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, programmes and military operations.