On 20th June, Women in Defence will host a panel of experts to discuss how understanding women’s perspectives and gender dynamics in conflict can improve military operations and outcomes. This question is central to the international agenda of Women, Peace and Security (known as WPS). Later this year, the UK will launch its fourth National Action Plan (NAP) on WPS, jointly owned by the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department for International Development.
But what does this actually mean for Defence and how can WPS help improve military effectiveness?
The foundation stone of the WPS agenda is United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000. This recognised for the first time the particular challenges faced by women and girls during conflict and emphasised the need to include women in post-conflict decision-making and peacebuilding. Since this Resolution, the WPS agenda has developed through eight subsequent resolutions and other multilateral activity, including the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial held in London in September 2016.
In consequence, the Ministry of Defence has a number of international commitments on WPS. These include increasing the proportion of women that serve in the Armed Forces and deploying on overseas operations. The arguments in favour of this are well-rehearsed and significant progress was made last year when the ban was lifted on women serving in ground close combat roles. As we saw in Afghanistan, female soldiers can be vital to achieving meaningful engagement with local populations.
But WPS is about more than improving the gender diversity of the UK’s Armed Forces. It is about incorporating gender perspectives into the planning, execution and evaluation of operations. Why? Because understanding the gender dynamics of a conflict and the different ways that conflict affects men, boys, women and girls improves situational awareness and facilitates better engagement with local communities, increasing the mission’s overall effectiveness. Considering and understanding the effects that a conflict has on women is vital to ensuring real security for the whole population. The UK has made some positive steps in this area in the last few years, but there’s more to do to meet our international commitments and to help our overseas partners to do the same.
Join our panel of experts in discussing what it means to be ‘militarily effective’, how understanding WPS can influence this, what UK Defence has done so far and what more can be done in the future.
To more information and to register for this event, follow this link and fill out the registration form.