Good morning, everyone.
I’m delighted to be with you all here today. We are launching a project that I’m personally extremely proud of: the NATO Gender Advisor Study, which has been sponsored by the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin.
My government sees this study also as a modest contribution to supporting Women, Peace and Security – or WPS, as we often say – in connection with the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
The fact that NATO’s International Staff has tasked this study is further proof that the Alliance has embraced the Women, Peace and Security agenda. This agenda is fundamental to the realisation of NATO’s common values of individual liberty, democracy and human rights, and all of our obligations under the Charter of the United Nations. I particularly thank our Special Representative, Clare Hutchinson, for her leadership with a view to driving this agenda forward.
This study on the role of Gender Advisors takes WPS in our Alliance one step further.
Why is this so?
Gender Advisors play a key role in implementing our Alliance’s ambitious WPS agenda.
They ensure that gender perspectives and WPS priorities are integrated into NATO-led activities, missions and operations.
Gender Advisors are a key to improving our engagement with a view to addressing the specific needs of women, men, boys and girls and the different ways that military operations can affect them. Gender Advisors help us work towards being more attentive to gender dynamics.
They help disrupt and deconstruct gendered hierarchies in ways that enable our militaries to better do their job – namely, protecting our nations and citizens, and contributing to a more stable and secure world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The WPS agenda is a collective effort for NATO. It is not static, but rather a process.
In this process, Gender Advisors are agents of positive change.
Looking at the results of the study, much progress has been achieved – but we still have a long way to go.
The report clearly shows that Gender Advisors are too often forced to operate in the margins as they try to create openings for change. It is not easy for them to navigate obstacles and maintain their commitment in the face of the resistance they frequently Encounter.
Often, they can change mindsets at an individual level by initiating discussions about equality and discrimination, or by challenging colleagues with regard to their attitudes.
In this way, they foster a better understanding of women’s roles and gender in general and how these relate to NATO’s key mission: security.
Like other agents of change operating within large bureaucracies, NATO Gender Advisors face the challenge of transforming a huge, gendered institution. And they soon discover that change within such large, established institutions happens only incrementally.
That is why Gender Advisors need our support in order to further advance the WPS agenda. We all must assist them as much as possible, not only here at Headquarters and in the context of missions and operations, but also in our respective nations. That is why the event today is also meant to express our appreciation for this important work that is done by our Gender Advisors.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The scope of the Gender Advisors’ task is huge, and the challenges they face – institutional resistance, a lack of leadership buy-in, insufficient resources, and inadequate pre-deployment training – are substantial, as the study clearly shows. I’m sure there will be time later today to delve deeper into the remaining challenges and explore how these can be addressed.
At the same time, the study also contains encouraging stories of successful change. Let me highlight just one:
A Gender Advisor in one mission recalled how, in 2017, she was initially harassed and mocked for working on gender. This stopped immediately when the leadership took action and demonstrated how seriously it viewed this topic. She said:
‘If you don’t have the commander buy-in, then it will go nowhere...at the beginning no one was interested in hearing about gender until I approached the commander and he made it a priority. I didn’t get any resistance anymore. In fact, it was a 100 percent turnabout with people then coming to me with ideas and suggestions.’
I find this remarkable, as it shows the degree to which Gender Advisors rely on support from the respective commanders.
This is only one of the many enlightening results offered by the study. I sincerely hope that its findings will help the whole NATO enterprise and our nations better implement the WPS agenda in the years to come.
Thank you very much.