Updated: 06-Oct-2006 Committee on Women in NATO Forces

Sofia, Bulgaria

30 September


by Col Dr. A.N.Matschulat at the Conference Challenges and Perspectives

Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished participants – as the current Chairperson of the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces, I want to thank the Ministry of Defence of Bulgaria for this kind invitation to exchange information and experiences.

In the next ten minutes I will give you an overview about the Committee’s history, its mission, purpose, the structure and of course our way ahead.  Before I start, I would like to make clear that this presentation is expressing the Committee on Women in the NATO Force`s view.

The Committee was granted formal recognition by NATO`s Military Committee in July 1976. 

The Committee’s mission is to advise NATO leadership and member nations on critical issues and policies affecting military service women in the NATO Forces.  We are supporting the requirements of the Alliance` nations on gender integration.  And we want to reflect their need to provide guidance concerning gender issues, especially related to a wide spectrum of operations, and based on the lessons learned from women serving in the individual nations.

It is the PURPOSE of the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces to be a consultative body to promote the most effective utilisation of the capability of service women in the Armed Forces throughout the Alliance.

The Committee formally meets once a year with official national delegates from NATO nations along with observers from Partnership for Peace and Mediterrenean Dialogue Countries. 

Following this annual meetings, the Chairperson presents the Committee`s recommendations to NATO`s Military Committee. 

Currently, Germany chairs the Committee, with Belgium as the present Chair Elect, who will take over the reigns starting next June. 

Today, 25 of 26 NATO countries are represented in the Committee, exept Iceland, as it has no military of its own.  Each NATO member country having a representative in the Military Committee is eligible to provide one Delegate to the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces. 

The Committee on Women in the NATO Forces focusses on three major areas covered by three subcommittees:

Training and Development, Recruitment and Employment and Quality of Life.  These subcommittees, each under the direction of a Deputy Chairperson, are the nucleus of the Committee. 

Since 2004, the Committee has been identifying various gender issues and ways of integrating gender perspectives into all aspects of NATO operations, not as a separate issue, but as an aspect that permeates all action taken in this area.  Gender mainstreaming should become routine with full regard to the operational requirements in order to improve operational effectiveness. 

Based on last years recommendations of the former Chairperson to the Military Committee, our Executive Committee worked out a first  “Draft working Document” of guidelines for NATO personnel involved in deployments, which I will introduce to the NATO Military Committee during my next briefing in Brussels.

This year the Committee agreed that during operations it is necessary to enable all service personnel, equally, to participate fully in consolidating peace and rebuilding conflict-torn societies.  Therefore, it is of great importance to obtain a sound understanding of gender issues in the area of work and of the needs of one of the most vulnerable parts of the affected population in the conflict area – women.

The CWINF took into account that one aspect of the UN Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) dated 31st October 2000 calls for increased involvement of women at all levels, from early conflict prevention to post-conflict reconstruction.  The resolution paper further acknowledges the need to take special measures to respect the different needs of women and girls.  Based on those principles, we discussed guidelines for NATO countries to identify gender issues and to integrate gender perspectives into all aspects of NATO engagements.  In this way, by mobilizing additional resources and utilising the full potential of human resources available, NATO could increase operational and crisis management capacity.  This could make operations more effective in establishing peace and maintaining security and strengthening democratic values.

During the last conference of the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces the delegates listed examples of guidelines on how to integrate the gender perspective in the three main areas of operations: 

  • all stages of planning, as well as all phases of operations,
  • education and training and the
  • evaluation process.

In this respect I would like to mention three examples:

1. In planning and executing of NATO operations it is necessary to ensure: 

  • Firstly, a clear understanding of gender issues and gender awareness at all levels,
  • Secondly, consideration of gender issues during the decision–making process,
  • Thirdly, integration of available gender resources at all decision– making levels,
  • And fourthly, that relevant measures are taken to promote gender equality.

To the mind of the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces these general principles could only be successfully achieved, if guidelines such as to:

  • Aim for mixed teams in order to benefit from their complementary skills and attitudes as far as possible and according to national regulations,
  • Encourage participation of women at all levels of NATO operations including operational planning staffs and in decision-making capacities,
  • Develop a gender checklist along the lines of the one used in UN peacekeeping missions.

2. Concerning education and training, guidelines are intended for the use by NATO countries in order to include gender perspectives into every stage of education and training of all personnel.  To mention a few:

  • Training of gender advisors,
  • Integration of gender awareness education into basic and further military leadership training at all levels,
  • Regularly examination of existing training tools, to ensure that they are free of gender bias and stereotypes,
  • Development of both, a gender resource package (e. g. training manual, including gender checklists) and a course offering concrete guidance on various aspects of gender issues.

3. Finally, concerning the evaluation process, the guidelines focus on integrating gender issues into the existing evaluation process of operations in order to optimize operational effectiveness, such as to

  • Report on identified advantages or disadvantages in respect of gender related issues through the identification of situations in which having female service personnel provided a specific advantage in operations,
  • Integrate gender related issues into the existing lessons learned reporting system or into periodic and final mission reviews.

Those where only a few selected items of the guidelines, as they were discussed during the last Committee on Women in the NATO Forces conference.

The Committee is still working on the draft of this document. Taking into account the national Delegates inputs, this draft will be finalized and published probably with the end of 2007.

Our aim is to ensure that the contribution of women in the Armed Forces becomes as effective as possible and we strongly believe that the guidelines will be very useful for NATO and its´member countries.

There is no doubt about the fact that women in the military are a vital contribution to the wide spectrum of activities and operations for the individual nations and the Alliance. 

The Secretary General Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the CWINF Conference 05/2004 said:
"NATO Transformation is not just about the way NATO functions and wishes to be perceived as an open, transparent and modern organization, recognizing and promoting the role of women throughout the Alliance.  It is essential to benefit from the energy and talents of the entire population, not just one half of it."

With the crises of today, we see new threats related to asymmetric warfare.  There are no longer clearly defined frontlines.  There are often no readily identifiable enemies.  NATO is much more than a pure military power.  We are supposed to win hearts and minds.  We cannot build confidence in NATO and in society without the contributions of women.  In some societies men are not even allowed to speak with women who are not family members.  We therefore have to think from the perspective of gender to fulfil our tasks and duties.  To get in touch with the entire population it is imperative to deploy both male and female service members on the ground.  Unless the gender perspective is integrated properly into considerations for deploying forces and in the mission areas, NATO´s operational capability might be limited.

In our - the CWINF - opinion, the United Nations and the European Union have made significant progress in transforming their organizations to integrate the gender perspective.

As an operative principle, however, the armed forces should always be open to change in order to remain connected to its parent society.  It has to view change as a process, which can bring forth new opportunities and advantages.  Women in the military are a national issue; still, certain issues are similar.  We can only gain from sharing lessons learned and inquire about others approaches.  While considering overall strategic planning of personnel resources in all types of environment, lessons learned are highly valid.  Myths and stereotypes have been experienced in many cases until the reality of operational exposure and practices dispelled misconceptions about gender integration and mixed units.

Our Committee believes that the complementary skills of both male and female service members contribute to the operational effectiveness of NATO deployments.  It takes diverse qualifications and resources to ensure peace and security. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your attention.

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