When the United Nations Security Council adopted the Resolution 1325 in 2000, it was the first time the Security Council firmly placed the role and rights of women on the international security agenda. This represented a significant political shift, progressively reiterated by four other resolutions that have supplemented the original. The Resolutions 1820, 1888, 1889 and 1960—better known as “the related resolutions”—provide support for Resolution 1325 and concrete areas for implementation.

This body of resolutions calls for the deployment of women in peace operations, inclusion of women in decision making on peace and security, and asserts women’s leadership and role in conflict prevention, management and resolution. It also calls for training on gender and conflict and the need to have subject matter expertise in the field, including in the area of sexual violence in conflict, which is recognised for the first time as a tactic of warfare and a matter of international peace and security. These resolutions on women, peace and security have proved to be an important tool to promote gender equality, to protect those who are most vulnerable in conflicts and their aftermath, and to enhance the participation of women in building peace and security. However, more than twelve years after the adoption of the UNSCR 1325, there is a way to go before women will have fully assumed their rightful place in matters of peace and security.

Does it matter for our ability to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts whether the women are engaged or not as soldiers, planners, desk officers, negotiators and decision makers? Is it a problem that the security sector is so male dominated? The answer is yes, and there are many lines of arguments supporting the decisions of the Security Council calling for the greater inclusion of women.

Men and women should always have equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities in their lives and works—including in the security sector. This is why the composition of the security institutions and armed forces needs to reflect the composition of the populations. In this context, like in all other work environments, we need to see better gender balance. It is a question of legitimacy.

In addition to that, defence and security challenges are complex matters and therefore require a broad set of expertise and competences. If we are to ensure that we have the right people in place, we need to tap into the female human resource base as much as into the male one. It is not a matter of ‘soft power’—it is a matter of ‘brain power’, and experience tells us that having women both in the police and the armed forces, together with having women deployed in crisis management operations, allows us to do our job better. We need to learn from our own experience and to work to ensure that the inclusion of women does not remain an exception, but that it becomes a matter of routine.

The need to include women in prevention, management and resolution of conflicts and assert women’s leadership is one of the aspects of the resolutions on women, peace and security, and the integration of a gender perspective in preventing, managing and resolving conflicts is another one.

Integrating a gender perspective is about how we are doing our job. Can we do our job in preventing, managing and resolving conflicts without understanding the social role (gender) that both men and women have in a given context and that lead to different social experiences, needs and interests? We simply cannot.

Often, but not necessarily always, conflicts intensify inequalities between men and women in a society. We are, for example, still witnessing sexual and gender based violence being used as means of war. First and foremost we want to prevent armed conflicts, but when a conflict does occur, we want to ensure that it does not have a disproportionate impact on women and children, and that they—along with the civilian men—are protected from the dangers of conflict zones. To be able to do this, we need analytical tools, we need training and education and we need knowledge about the society. This is about competence—this is about people’s awareness on gender—and here both men’s and women’s abilities to integrate a gender perspective when planning and conducting activities are essential. People’s—men and women’s—mindset is essential for successfully integrating a gender perspective in our everyday business—in the military as well as in the civilian structures. You do not have to be a woman to understand this.

Progress has been made since the adoption of UNSCR 1325 in 2000; however, women continue to be vulnerable in conflict. To prevent this and to ensure the empowerment of women we need to show continued leadership. First and foremost nations need to step forward. Greater commitment by individual nations will be critical in developing our understanding of how women are affected by war and conflict, and how they can be part of their resolution. Also other actors continue to be crucial to drive this agenda. As much as states and intergovernmental organizations show leadership in advancing this agenda, we have to recognize the important role civil society plays in being opinion leader, source of information and in keeping us accountable.

NATO recognizes the important role women play in enhancing security and in preventing and ending conflicts. The appointment of the first ever Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security last year, reinforced this commitment and enhanced the possibility of promoting the core values that NATO nations share and that define our Alliance: peace, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and individual freedom. These values are for all the population, not only for the half of it. We will do our part in the international arena, contributing to the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and the related resolutions. Let’s continue our joint efforts—together we can make a difference.

Mari Skåre is the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security.

Source:  Jul 26, 2013 Written by  Mari Skåre, Guest Contributor

This article was originally published in the Diplomatic Courier’s July/August 2013 print edition.

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