Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation hosted the first Allied Command Transformation Gender Advisor Conference, October 24-26 in Norfolk, Virginia, USA.
The conference was divided into several events woven with the themes of the 22nd anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, the implementation of NATO Women, Peace and Security agenda in military operations and activities and, gender perspective in warfare development. Discussions covered the current state of play, future implications and way forward. The event served as an opportunity to enhance leadership engagement and Command-wide understanding of the challenges and stakes of integrating gender perspective throughout the full spectrum of NATO military activities.
The conference started on October 24th with the Senior Leader Seminar on Gender, chaired by Allied Command Transformation’s Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Guy Robinson and facilitated by the NATO Department Head for the Gender in Military Operations discipline, the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations. In his opening remarks, General Lavigne, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation acknowledged, “Gender perspective and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda efforts have been particularly impressive this year, across NATO and here at Allied Command Transformation. The Madrid Summit and the Strategic Concept all reiterated the Allied commitment at the highest level to a robust Women, Peace and Security Agenda and the integration of the gender perspective across all three core NATO tasks”.
NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security Ms Irene Fellin linked Allied Command Transformation’s role to work that underpins the NATO Women, Peace and Security agenda, “Developing plans, policies, concepts, as well as capabilities and trainings, or other initiatives that are gender-responsive means that our actions are more comprehensive and more likely to ensure mission success over the long term – which is the security of all citizens within the Alliance now and into the future.”
On October 25th, Allied Command Transformation welcomed NATO leaders, national armed forces authorities and academia as guest panellists. In his opening remarks, Vice Admiral Guy Robinson stressed that the ambitions to integrate gender perspective “can’t be realized through the efforts of our gender advisory network alone. Gender-responsive leadership, from the very top, and organisational efforts are essential to direct and embrace broad change, at every level of military planning, doctrine, training and policy”, and wished that “this conference provokes new conversations and explores areas that lead to alternative and critical thinking on how we can better integrate gender perspective into all of our work”. The first discussion highlighted NATO and national commitments and challenges to the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and related Resolutions. Ms Irene Fellin shared the evolutions that she witnessed from her unique perspective as the current Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, 10 years after the establishment of this position, and having worked in this same office at the very beginning of its creation. In her opinion, “this is a very special momentum for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and this agenda, something has changed in the global thinking. […] The war in Ukraine has changed our way of looking at things now”. She continued by highlighting the fact that “In every single aspect, the war is reminding us the need to have a gender perspective and to look at Human Security”. Dr. Camille Boutron, researcher at the French Strategic Military Research Institute stated Women, Peace and Security is challenging the traditional conception of security and war, and called for international actors to “make space for women at every level of decision-making, especially during peace negotiations”. Lieutenant Colonel Diana Morais, Chair of the NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives, heeded the necessity of building general awareness as “adversaries are capitalising on our biases and assumptions on gender stereotypes and use that against us, so we really need to know how to counter and to take that as a military advantage.” Colonel Micaela Brancato, Military Advisor to the Office of the Secretary of the United States Air Force, Reserve Affairs and Readiness, spoke about the United States Department of Defense Women, Peace and Security strategic framework and implementation plan (2020) and its objectives, “the first one was really looking internally, our forces, to model and employ the Women, Peace and Security principles, from how we get members in the door, and not just our military members but also civilian workforce and contract workforce that support all of our operations; to looking at it through the lens of training, education, exercises and operations. And also to really look at our doctrine and making sure that these principles are included in our planning process”. She also shared some practical examples, stressing the importance that integrating gender played recently in the ‘Operation Allies Welcome’.
The second panel discussed implications of gender perspective in warfare development activities. Amongst many topics addressed, the panellists reflected on the importance of education, training and exercises, but also on how the gender perspective support the military to better understand the complexity of conflicts, better prepare and better act, and thus to be seen as a military enabler, that contribute to improve our operational effectiveness. Major-General Lise Bourgon, acting Commander of the Canadian Military Personnel Command and Canadian Armed Forces Women, Peace and Security champion, remarked on the importance of having the good data to analyse (the role of intelligence), and the need to better coordinate with civilian actors in operating environments. She insisted of the need to integrate the Women, Peace and Security principles in the education and training for all personnel, Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers, from the beginning basic training and throughout their military careers, in all functional areas. She also stressed the importance of putting theory into practice and the need to “train as we fight”. Brigadier-General Lone Traeholt, Senior Military Advisor and Gender Advisor to the Commander Air Command Denmark, shared progress made in the Danish Department of Defence, remaining challenges and actions to be taken. She identified a greater need to translate actions from the Women, Peace and Security national actions plans at the political level to military implementation. She highlighted the importance to better reflect on the role of integrating gender perspective in NATO exercises, as NATO nations rely on it, as well as the importance for everyone to be trained through a common framework. The third panellist, Brigadier-General Moschos Voudouris, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff Joint Force Development at Allied Command Transformation, explained NATO’s education and training processes and how the Gender in Military Operations discipline is managed as one of the 28 NATO disciplines. He identified the challenges of building the required level of common knowledge and application in NATO entities and operations, especially for a discipline that is cross functional and covers cross-cutting topics [Women, Peace and Security; Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence]. He also identified the supporting role that the new trainings technologies, modelling and simulation solutions that NATO is developing could play in the future in better integrating gender perspective in military operations and activities, especially in wargaming activities.
For the last part of the conference, Gender Advisors from across the NATO military structure and Allied Command Transformation subject-matter experts, including Gender Focal Points, explored gender aspects in doctrine development and cognitive superiority. Discussions linked to recommendations developed at the 2022 NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives Conference from 3-5 October and look to the future for the Annual Warfare Development Conference in December.
As Allied Command Transformation develops the future warfighter and experiments with new concepts and capabilities, gender perspective will enable better understanding of the complex operating environments to NATO’s advantage. Vice Admiral Guy Robinson stated that, “Next year, we will put significant effort in the integration of gender perspective into our work on cognitive superiority, but there are also important implications for our other warfare development imperatives and work strands, for example in our work on resilience, multi-domain operations and the digital transformation of the Alliance.”