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whoweare2016 250How did it happen that the positions of Gender Advisors were created and Gender Advisors appointed within the NATO military structure?

Following the violent experience of wars in the XX century and changing global context of peace and security, in the late 1990’ women’s groups came together and pushed for gender perspective to be included in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) international peace and security agenda.

"Recognizing the urgent need to mainstream a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations"

(United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325)

In 2000, the UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security recognizing for the first time that gender inequalities exacerbated during the conflict impede the establishment of sustainable peace and development. The UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions acknowledge the disproportionate impact that armed conflict has on women and children, and calls upon international actors to introduce specific measures to remedy this.

NATO as a political and military regional international organization committed to international peace, sees the integration of gender perspective as one of the methods to improve its operational effectiveness and to provide the most adequate response to the crisis.

In 2007, NATO and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) adopted its first policy on the implementation of UNSCR 1325. The policy paved the way for further integration of gender perspective and gender balance within NATO military and civilian structure, and gender mainstreaming within the NATO policies and programmes. In 2010 the North Atlantic Council adopted the first result-oriented NATO Action Plan for the implementation of the NATO/EAPC Policy on Women, Peace and Security, which is revised every two years. Finally, in 2012 the NATO Secretary General appointed a first NATO Special Representative for Women, Peace, and Security – the position currently held by Ambassador Marriët Schuurman.

Whereas the above-mentioned developments occurred at the political level, the adoption of the Bi-SC Directive 40-1 in 2009 further revised in 2012, was a milestone achievement for the NATO military component. The Directive gives clear guidelines and instructions for the implementation of the Resolution 1325 for all levels of the NATO military structure. It also provides for the integration of gender perspective into NATO planning, operations, missions, education, training, exercises and evaluation, and for gender mainstreaming in all NATO policies and programmes in all areas and at all levels. The implementation goes well only together with the institutionalisation, and the latter could only be achieved through the establishment of gender advisory positions throughout the organization. Therefore, the Directive establishes and clarifies the role of Gender Advisors and Gender Focal Points, who are responsible for providing an advice and operational support on the implementation of the Resolution 1325 to the Commander and NATO personnel.

Where the HQ SACT Gender Advisor is placed within the HQ SACT structure?

The position of a Gender Advisor at HQ Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT) is placed within the Staff Advisory Group to the SACT. The HQ SACT Gender Advisor provides a direct support and reports to both SACT, and the Joint Force Trainer (JFT). There are several acting Focal Points for gender mainstreaming within the HQ SACT directorates and branches. The HQ SACT Gender Advisor works alone, unless temporarily supported by an intern. The HQ SACT Gender Advisor also acts as a Children and Armed Conflict Focal Point within the HQ SACT.

Provide Advice and Support

Integration of gender perspective has been defined in the Bi-SC Directive 40-1 as a tool increasing the operational effectiveness. The Bi-SC Directive 40-1 also stipulates that the primary role of the HQ SACT Gender Advisor is to provide direct support and advice to the Commander on integration of gender perspective throughout HQ SACT and ACT.

Moreover, provided that one of the major responsibilities endowed upon the HQ SACT Gender Advisor is to develop, deliver, oversee and assist with a gender-related education and training, the HQ SACT Gender Advisor also supports and advices the Joint Force Trainer.

On top of that, the HQ SACT Gender Advisor provides support and advice to all Directorates, Branches and Sections within the ACT, as well as other NATO entities, NATO Nations and Partner Nations.

Lastly, the HQ SACT Gender Advisor supports the development and implementation of gender-related events and incidents in NATO exercises conducted at Joint Warfare Centre, Joint Force Training Centre and other NATO facilities, including embedding gender perspective within scenarios.

Education & Training

NATO ACT is responsible for the planning and delivery of NATO education and training programmes using NATO and national facilities. Within the HQ SACT, it is the Joint Force Trainer (JFT) Division, which directs and coordinates all ACT activities in NATO's arena of interest to train and educate individuals and to support collective training and exercises, at all levels of command.

The Bi-SC Directive 40-1 endows the HQ SACT Gender Advisor with responsibilities to develop, oversee, assist and deliver the gender-related education and training, and therefore the HQ SACT Gender Advisor works closely with and reports to JFT. The JFT holds the final authority within the Education and Training Framework for all gender training programme initiatives, analyses, changes and approval.

Directed by the principle that greatest effect is gained if the gender perspective is included in the earliest forms of training and education and mainstreamed throughout courses at different levels, the HQ SACT Gender Advisor develops, delivers, oversees and assists, among others, the following activities:

  1. Advanced Distributed Learning Courses (ADL)
    • ADL 168: Role of Gender Advisors and Gender Field Advisors in Operations
    • ADL 169: Improving Operational Effectiveness by Integrating Gender Perspective
    • ADL 171: Gender Focal Point
  2. Gender Education and Training Package for Nations
    Training tool providing series of instructions and guidelines on integration of gender perspective at the strategic, operational and tactical level.
  3. Courses by Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations
    The NCGM from the Swedish Armed Forces is the Department Head for all NATO-led curricula concerning Gender Education and Training.

Coordinate Integration of Gender Perspective

In accordance with the Bi-SC Directive 40-1, the HQ SACT Gender Advisor performs cross-cutting functions. In this sense, the HQ SACT Gender Advisor acts as a coordination officer throughout ACT for the implementation of the UNSC Resolution 1325, and integration of gender perspective in the planning, conduct and evaluation of all ACT tasks.

The HQ SACT Gender Advisor also coordinates the execution of the ACT tasks as contained in the “NATO Action Plan on Mainstreaming UNSCR 1325 into NATO-led operations and Missions”.

Whenever necessary, the HQ SACT Gender Advisor coordinates her/his work with SHAPE, particularly when it comes to review or update of the Bi-SC Directive 40-1.

Liaise with Stakeholders

As per the Bi-SC Directive 40-1, the HQ SACT Gender Advisor is the first point of contact concerning gender-related subjects within the HQ SACT. As such she/he is responsible for liaising with stakeholders within the NATO structure, as well as externally, with other international organizations, non-governmental organizations, academia and other external actors.

Internally, the HQ SACT Gender Advisor liaises with:

As part of the efforts to liaise and better coordinate the work within the NATO, ACO hosts twice per year the ACO Gender Advisors Conference. The last Conference was held on the 26-27 April, 2016 in SHAPE, Mons.

Externally, the HQ SACT Gender Advisor establishes and maintains contacts with various external actors working in the field of gender in order to share and exchange information, which advances the gender perspective. In this context, the HQ SACT Gender Advisor has been cooperating closely with the Women’s Centre at the Old Dominion University.

As part of this cooperation, in March 2016 HQ SACT, the Old Dominion University and the Women’s Centre at the Old Dominion University co-organised the Symposium on "Women, Peace and Security - United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325"

In April 2016, the HQ SACT Gender Advisor attended the Conference, “Academics, Activists and Armed Forces: the nexus of greater security?” organized by the ACO Gender Advisor’s Office in cooperation with the HQ SACT Gender Advisor’s Office and SHAPE WoMen. It was another opportunity to meet with globally renowned academics and activists.