International Women's Day with NATO's Mari Skaare
In celebration of International Women's Day, the NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, Mari Skaare, answers questions on NATO's implementation of UNSCR 1325 in the Alliance and its missions, specifically in Afghanistan. Ms. Skaare addresses the role of female soldiers, the presence of women in decision-making, and NATO's long-term commitment to gender issues in Afghanistan.
Atlantic-community.org members from ten different countries submitted 30 questions. Special Representative Skaare has selected five questions on a wide range of issues, and we are now excited to present her video responses. (One video for each question, with the fourth video answering two questions.) We encourage you to let us know what you think of the answers and to contribute your reactions and ideas in the comments section below.
Natasha L. Lamoreux, MSc, Center for Global Affairs, New York University; Independent gender and human rights consultant, USA: Women serving in NATO forces seem to be a lynchpin of NATO's strategy of mainstreaming UNSCR 1325 into its operations (Gender Advisors and female soldiers have been particularly important in Afghanistan, for example). What is NATO planning to do to increase the number of female service members, so as to meet growing demands for Gender Advisors and female soldiers — something critical if NATO is to truly mainstream UNSCR 1325?
Mari Skaare: Natasha is right. Including women in the armed forces and having gender advisers in operations is very important.
NATO's policy on women, peace and security is, however, somewhat broader than that, and let me take one step back before answering her specific questions.
The basic policy on women, peace and security is developed by the United Nations through Resolution 1325 and four other Resolutions adopted by the Security Council. Governments have the primary responsibility for the implementation of these resolutions, the UN has the lead in the international community and NATO is doing its part. Our policy on 1325 cover both operations as well as cooperative security.
We are focusing on two main aspects: One is to understand how conflicts affect men and women differently and the other is the need to include women in prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.
Now, to be able understand the complexity and dynamics of a conflict and how it affects men and women differently, we need competence on gender. We are gaining experiences on the valuable contributions of gender advisers. And, it is important that both men and women are trained to be able to fill such functions. A key driver behind the development of NATO's training is our Allied Command Transformation (ACT). The Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations in Sweden has now been designated Department Head for gender related training. This is a very important step. However, the actual delivery of Gender Advisers to operations comes from nations.
Now, NATO is supporting participation of women at the highest levels of decision-making and a stronger role for women in conflict prevention, management and resolution, and we do need them in our operations and we need women at all levels.
So what can NATO do to support the increase of the number of women in the national armed forces? We do not as an organization have a direct say on national defence planning, but we do encourage and facilitate sharing of information and exchange of best practices on recruitment and retention of women in the armed forces. It is important that defence planning addresses both the need to include women and gender competences as necessary capacities for our defense.
Colonel (R) Suzana Jahollari, Lecturer in Political Sociology at the Armed Forces Academy, Head of the Women in the Armed Forces Association, Albania: The importance of increasing the number of women in the armed forces is one part of the discussion about addressing gender issues in the military, but another very important aspect is changing mentalities among military personnel (both men and women) regarding leadership and decision-making roles. How can that be accomplished?
Mari Skaare: Thank you Suzana, for this question, which is related to, and a follow up of the question from Natasha. The military world has traditionally been male-dominated, however the gender gap seems to be slowly closing. We need to improve our reporting system within NATO, but tentative figures show that in some NATO forces the percentage of women is close to 20 percent, while in others it is just a few percent.
However, I agree that it is not only a question of numbers. People's mentality or mindsets are essential for integrating successfully a gender perspective in our everyday business — in the military structures as well as civilian structures. Raising awareness is a challenging, but essential step in order to achieve results. And, in order to do that, political leadership, as well as training, education and exercises, is essential.
And NATO is showing political leadership. At our Chicago and Lisbon Summits, Heads of States and Governments made strong policy statements and commitments on NATO's contribution to the women, peace and security agenda. Our Secretary General is committed and taking a lead. This is important.
The Alliance has no direct authority over training measures developed at national level, however, we do require that personnel deployed in NATO-led operations and missions and serving within NATO structures are appropriately trained and that meetscertain standards of behavior.
We are working to ensure that the gender perspective is an integral part of all NATO training curricula. Both generic training of the troops, as well as expert training are important.
Changing mentalities is a long process, but I see positive signals that allow me to be optimistic for the future. In particular, I am encouraged by male role models and advocates for equal rights and opportunities for men and women — also in the security sector. Men and women are allies in this struggle.
Courtney Burns, Student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri, USA: Does the incorporation of women into conflict prevention, management, and resolution automatically assume that women are more peaceful than men and is that a good assumption to have?
Mari Skaare: Thanks Courtney for this question. I think you will find that there are different schools of thoughts on this. Personally, I would caution against stereotyping women as being inherently more peaceful that men. I don't think it is true and it can be a dangerous line of argument that could undermine equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities for men and women. When you see women taking a broader perspective on human security, for instance in reconciliation processes, I believe it is our experiences and social role that forms the basis for this rather than biology.
In order to be better prepared for meeting the security challenges of the twenty-first century, I believe that we need to utilize the talents, the experiences, and the competences women can bring. I also believe that our armed forces and security institutions need to reflect the composition of our populations.
Women's experiences from conflict are often different from the experiences of men. When doing conflict resolution, we need to include these experiences and voices. Women are not only passive victims: we are active and we are strong. We represent more than the half of the entire society. And from my point of view the necessity of having more women in the security sector and in conflict management and resolution is not determined by our more peaceful nature, if we have that, but by legitimacy and by the need to identify sustainable security - for all. We cannot afford not to include women. This is not simply a question of what benefits women, but of what benefits the whole society - men and women, boys and girls. When it comes to what the International Community can do to ensure women's participation in conflict resolution, I will refer to the seven point action plan presented by the Secretary General of the UN and the need to follow this up.
Oleg A. Khlopov, Associate Professor at the Department of World Politics and international Relations of the Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia: Would you, please, specify NATO's work on gender issues in Afghanistan?
Thomas Jakhelln, Retired banker, Germany: How does NATO plan to adequately ensure that Afghan girls and women, many of whom are often seen on TV taking part in lectures and other activities forbidden by the Taliban, are taken care of after the main withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014?
Mari Skaare: NATO and its ISAF partners in Afghanistan are committed to promoting the important role that women can play in preventing, managing and resolving conflicts. We have learned that having gender advisers in the field, which of course can be both men and women, have strengthened the commanders ability to plan and execute the operation. We have learned that having female soldiers in Afghanistan have made us able to better connect with local women.
Including a gender perspective in our operations in Afghanistan has simply helped Commanders make better decisions.
Through mentoring and training activities we are supporting Afghan objectives and targets recruiting and retaining women in the security forces. Afghanistan has women in both the security forces — both in the army and the police — are leading the way and breaking through the glass ceiling. The numbers are small, but they are increasing, and the Afghan authorities are working to institutionalize mechanisms that could protect them and facilitate their work.
My personal meetings with women and men in Afghanistan — have had a powerful effect on me. Women in Afghanistan are able and willing to participate in decision-making. They stand for election and they get elected. They establish NGOs and have an important voice. They have the capacity and determination to decide their own future. In both parliament and civil society there are already many strong women and men who are working hard to ensure a good future for all women in their country.
I am pleased to have learned that Afghanistan is working on a National Action Plan and there are also reports from Afghanistan on this work ensuring women's rights. To support them in their endeavors and to support the civil society in Afghanistan broad, support from the international community is necessary to ensure continued reform in important civil sectors such as education and justice.
NATO and its ISAF partners are now in the process of gradually handing over the lead responsibility for security to the Afghans themselves. They will assume full responsibility for the security of their entire country by the end of 2014. At that point, our ISAF mission will end, but NATO's commitment to Afghanistan will continue. Together with several of our partners, we are planning a follow-on mission to train, advice and assist the Afghan security forces beyond 2014.
And, based on mutual commitments and as basis for NATO's long-term partnership with the Government of Afghanistan, Afghanistan confirmed at the NATO Chicago Summit its commitment to deliver on a democratic society where human rights, including the equality between men and women, are respected.
NATO works within the context of the International Community and all we do in relation to promoting the women, peace and security agenda should be seen as a part of the overall efforts to help Afghanistan fulfill its own commitments in this regard. NATO does not lead on this issue, but we show its significance in all what we do in support of the Afghan security sector. We show by example, we demonstrate through our activities and we educate through our training on the importance on women's role and rights.
I wish to thank you all and I wish you a happy International Women's Day.
- Atlantic-Community.org in Transition
- Towards a More Inclusive Transatlantic Partnership: Update on the 2nd Atlantic Expedition
- Topic of the Month: The Future of Health Care
- Do We Need Data Donations?
- eHealth - Tele-Monitoring and Tele-Medicine - Digital Innovation in the Life Science Sector in Germany