DC Event Spotlight: What Works? Promoting Gender Equality and the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in Military OperationsMonday, March 2nd, 2015
by Student Contributor Hannah Stambaugh
2015 is the fifteen-year anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. UNSCR 1325 calls for the inclusion of a gender perspective in all levels of UN peace and security efforts and asserts the critical role of women in peace processes. On February 25th, the Global Gender Program celebrated International Women’s Day with a panel discussion on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 in military operations. The event was part of the GGP’s Global Gender Forum series and was co-sponsored by Women in International Security.
Aisling Swaine, Associate Professor of Practice of International Affairs at the Elliott School, opened the event with an overview of resolution 1325. Though the resolution has been in place for fifteen years, there is still a lot of work to do in terms of implementation. Challenges in implementation are particularly pronounced within military institutions. Currently, only 3% of UN military missions are women, and most of these women are deployed as support staff. This figure has not changed in the past three years. The panel provided a unique comparative lens on the implementation of UNSCR 1325. Panelists hailed from three different countries – the United States, Ireland, and Sweden- and described prospects and challenges for the implementation of 1325 in their respective countries’ armed forces. Panelists also discussed the overarching roles of NATO and the United Nations in implementation of the resolution.
Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, President of Women in International Security (WIIS) and Senior Advisor to the Center for Gender and Peacebuilding of the US Institute of Peace, began the panel discussion by posing three central questions. Why should we talk about gender in military operations? What does it mean when we talk about gender in military operations? How do we measure success? Peace tables dominated by men are unbalanced and are composed only of those “with the guns in hand.” She asserted that discussing gender in military operations is critical because of the distinct voice that women bring to peace talks. Utilizing more female peacekeepers makes for more successful, balanced peacekeeping efforts. Ms. de Jonge Oudraat explained that integrating gender into military operations means paying attention to both gender balancing and gender mainstreaming. In terms of measuring success, she emphasized that success means implementation of gender into all levels of policy, planning, training and execution. Ms. de Jonge Oudraat attributed the slow speed of implementation to the fact that gender still remains a very abstract concept within the military, especially when applied to concrete operations in the field.
Commandant Jayne Lawlor, Chief of Staff as Gender Advisor, J1, Defense Forces Headquarter of Ireland echoed Chantal de Jonge Oudraat’s assertion that a gender perspective must be integrated into all levels of military operations. Commandant Lawlor has served as a member of the Monitoring Group for Ireland’s National Action Plan on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 and discussed the overarching goals and strategies of the action plan. Primary is to integrate gender into all military operations. A gender perspective is critical from the lowest to the highest rank and this perspective needs reinforcement throughout one’s career. A second goal is to integrate gender into the non-deployed realm, ranging from training to the home environment. Commandant Lawlor emphasized that the Action Group has sought to establish gender as a standalone pillar in training, rather than a supplementary variable to consider. She outlined several strategies to achieve these goals- more interaction with women’s NGO’s and CSO’s, inviting women from conflict zones to speak to soldiers, hiring more gender advisors, and establishing gender focal points at each level of the military and each stage of training.
Charlotte Isaaksson provided a valuable macro perspective on NATO’s overarching role. She serves as the Gender Advisor (GENAD) within the Allied Command Operations, NATO at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Amongst her notable accomplishments before serving as GENAD, she established the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations in Stockholm, Sweden and maintains officer status within the Swedish Reserve. Though Ms. Isaaksson asserted that integration of a gender perspective into military operations is a very slow process that begins on an ad-hoc basis, she spoke optimistically about prospects for the future. “There is always a way. It will not be easy, but there is always a way. When you reach that point, it is incredibly rewarding,” she said. Echoing previous panelists, Ms. Isaaksson identified three lines of operation for integrating gender into military operations: missions, training and exercises, and overarching institutionalization of gender equality, or gender mainstreaming. The end goal is to integrate a gender perspective fully into all of NATO’s subordinate headquarters, with an emphasis on strong and consistent evaluation.
Brenda Oppermann discussed the successes and challenges of implementing UNSCR 1325 in the American military. Ms. Oppermann has served as a Stabilization and International Development Advisor, research, and senior Program Manager for various organizations including the UN, USAID, the US Army and NATO’s International Security and Assistance Force Afghanistan. She spoke most about her experiences in Afghanistan. She said that although small successes have been achieved, the United States military lags behind countries like Sweden and Ireland in implementing Resolution 1325. To combat this lag, Ms. Oppermann has worked on a team to create a gender annex within the operational order in Afghanistan. The gender annex was the first of its kind in this region and obligates soldiers to integrate gender into operations, as most soldiers on the ground currently have very little concept of gender and the role of women in children in operations. She emphasized that this knowledge void is largely a result of lack of gender integration into training and higher levels of military command. In order for gender concerns to be sufficiently integrated into operations, they must be emphasized from the regional command level to the individual unit level. In addition, Ms. Oppermann said, “if we are going to do a good job in integrating 1325, we must speak to civilians.”
The event’s final panelist was Robert Egnell, Visiting Professor and Director of Teaching at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Sties and senior faculty advisor to the GU Institute for Women, Peace and Security. Mr. Egnell is from Sweden. He discussed strategies for implementing change within the military – “the final bastion of masculine exclusivity”. Change begins with access to the institution one is attempting to influence. He emphasized that in order to implement change, gender must be integrated into the existing paradigm. The military conceives of itself as a fighting machine that serves the nation through fighting and winning wars. In order to effectively reach military members and convince them of the importance of a gender perspective, gender must be woven into this existing framework, i.e., intensive inclusion of women in the peace and security process is essential for fighting and winning wars. Mr. Egnell identified several other strategies for implementing gender concerns into the military’s “bastion of masculinity.” One is to focus on gender mainstreaming as a second wave of change that will occur after integrating more women into the process. Another is to provision greater resources such as hiring more people that will focus specifically on gender goals, establishing more training and focusing on monitoring and follow-up.
Panelists returned to several core themes throughout Wednesday’s event. The main idea that each speaker harped on throughout the conversation was the essentiality of pushing for change in every level and every stage. From day one of training to deployment, from the lowest-ranking military member to the highest-ranking officers, gender concerns must be stressed equally. This is a holistic process. Though Sweden, Ireland, the United States and NATO as a whole are all in different stages in the process of implementing UNSCR 1325 into military operations, all panelists agreed that gender is becoming an increasingly prominent factor in the conversation about military operations. Enacting change within vast bureaucracies is always a slow and cumbersome process, especially within the military, an institution predominated by men the world over. Nevertheless, there is cause for optimism. Robert Egnell ended the panel discussion on an optimistic note. “This is not a process that typically moves backwards.” Once military leaders become enlightened, they do not go back, and they become agents of change. “History is on our side.”