NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command

Enhancing the Alliance’s Warfare Development: Insights from the 2023 Gender Advisor Conference

November 3, 2023

NORFOLK, Virginia.  The NATO Allied Command Transformation Annual Gender Advisor Conference occurred from October 31st to November 2nd at Headquarters, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. This annual event brought together general staff, subject-matter experts and senior military leadership from across Allied Command Transformation, NATO’s education and training partners, and representatives from the NATO Gender Advisory structure and community of interest. The conference theme was “Gender Perspective and NATO’s Warfare Development Activities.”

The systematic integration of gender perspective across the full spectrum of NATO military operations, missions and activities,  in support of operationalising NATO’s Women, Peace and Security agenda, enhances the fighting power of the Alliance and overall effectiveness when delivering its three core tasks. This conference served as a platform for sharing information, raising awareness and for discussions related to how gender perspective in military operations and activities interconnect with other key areas of work at Allied Command Transformation, such as Cognitive Warfare, the AzuritOwl innovation project, Multi-Domain Operations in Urban Environment, Wargaming, Lessons Identified from the war in Ukraine, and the Warfare Development Agenda.

During the Senior Leader Seminar on Gender Perspective, senior military leadership across the NATO Allied Command Transformation structure briefed General Philippe Lavigne, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation on milestones, challenges and priority efforts in the 2024 programme of work in order to better integrate gender perspective across the Commands warfare development activities. Chaired by the Chief of Staff of Allied Command Transformation, Vice Admiral Guy Robinson, leadership explored gender-related implications for NATO’s military instrument of power, such as the benefit of gender perspective in wargaming activities and enhancing common-funded capability development. Leadership also explored how the integration of gender perspective can be more effectively institutionalized in core military and organisational frameworks and processes.

The National Liaison Representative from Denmark, Brigadier General Bo Engelbreth, who also assumes the role of National Liaison Representatives Dean, chaired the inaugural Allied Command Transformation Senior Leader Seminar on Gender Perspective for Partner and National Liaison Representatives. This seminar better informed and raised awareness about NATO’s strategic and operational objectives linked to Women Peace and Security and the integration of gender perspective in military operations and activities. The expert centre and NATO Department Head for the Gender in Military Operations Discipline, the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations, provided subject-matter support for  both seminars.

During the open conference staff education event, internal and external speakers from academia, non-governmental and governmental organizations  briefed on:

  • The use of gender perspective in the conflict in Ukraine, drawing examples from topics related to current ACT work strands like the human security approach, layered resilience and multi-domain operations in the urban environment.
  • Gender perspective in cognitive warfare, introducing the draft NATO cognitive warfare concept, providing a first glance of the upcoming Open Perspectives Exchange Network (OPEN) Publication report on “Integrating Gender Perspective in Cognitive Warfare”, and focusing on how cyber capabilities can better monitor and respond to gendered disinformation and online gender-based violence.

Drawing from current conflicts, the open conference sessions illustrated how gender perspective is a practical ability used in deterrence and defence. The lessons identified from these events underscored the relevance and importance of gender-related considerations in conventional and hybrid warfare.

NATO’s Gender Advisory community progressed in the AzuritOwl Innovation project, discussing and voting on recommendations to NATO that aim to explore and potentially develop innovative systems and processes in the field of gender in military operations. This multi-stakeholder project is supported by the Innovation Hub and Virginia Wesleyan University, using the ‘open innovation’ framework that inherently recognises the benefit of external engagement and public collaboration. By evaluating the effectiveness in strategies, tools and guidance on gender analysis and integrating gender perspective, NATO can adapt and improve its approaches and processes, while ensuring that the functional community of experts are properly equipped and supported to effectively complete their mission and tasks related to operationalizing the Women Peace and Security mandate.

Future activities following this conference:

  • Explore how to integrate gender perspective in wargaming activities;
  • Integrate gender perspective into the cognitive warfare concept;
  • Integrate gender perspective within NATO military framework, such as in the Warfare Development Agenda and in the capability development framework;
  • Launch the OPEN publication report on “Integrating Gender Perspective in Cognitive Warfare”; and
  • Produce the final report and recommendations to NATO for the AzuritOwl Innovation project.

This conference exemplifies Allied Command Transformation’s commitment to integrating gender perspective into all activities contributing to the future of warfighting. As the world continues to evolve, NATO recognizes that enhancing its capacity to integrate gender perspective is not based only on the moral component of the Alliance’s fighting power, but also as part of the strategic necessities in the realm of international security.

More information on the integration of Gender Perspective in NATO’s Work is available on the Allied Command Transformation’s Gender Advisor page.