Ahead of the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) on 31 October, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly held a webinar on the progress made and remaining challenges, bringing together 91 participants lawmakers from 14 Allied and partner nations and the European Parliament.
“The adoption of the groundbreaking Resolution marked a turning point. It is essential not only to enhance the protection of women’s rights in conflict zones, but also to ensure full representation of women at all decision-making levels,” stressed Ulla Schmidt, member of the German Bundestag, who co-chaired the webinar with Attila Mesterhazy (Hungary), President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
“Allied parliamentarians have a crucial role to play in this effort,” Ms Schmidt stressed. She recalled the Assembly’s long-standing efforts to promote gender perspectives in all its activities. Ms Schmidt noted, in particular, a comprehensive report with concrete policy recommendations prepared by her in the Assembly’s Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security. It will be presented and adopted later in November.
Clare Hutchinson, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for WPS, spoke about NATO’s accomplishments in addressing gender inequality and integrating WPS priorities throughout NATO’s core tasks. She stressed that “the treatment of women in any society is a barometer for predicting other forms of oppression.” Furthermore, she added that “countries where women are empowered are vastly more secure”. Although challenges remain considerable, especially when it comes to changing mindsets, the Alliance led by example translating WPS into its own vision and becoming a more capable Alliance as a result, Ms Hutchinson concluded.
Vice-Admiral Louise Dedichen, NATO’s Military Representative for Norway, gave an overview of Norway’s experience in the implementation of the agenda. She argued that gender mainstreaming in operations should be a leader’s responsibility and that “the presence of a gender advisor cannot be a comforting alibi […] for half-hearted efforts to appear politically correct”. She also called for a proper auditing of the implementation of the WPS agenda, and the identification of specific measurable goals on all or levels of the organization.
Cristina Finch, head of the Gender and Security Division at DCAF – the Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces, expressed concern that, in many countries, international human rights standards are being eroded, and political violence targeting women and sexist and homophobic speech by political leaders is increasing. She also suggested specific ways for parliamentarians to increase their contribution to the WPS agenda, for instance through ensuring that gender is mainstreamed into budgeting. “Simply put, if there is no money to implement an agenda, it is highly unlikely that it will be”, Ms Finch pointed out.
During the discussion parliamentarians and experts agreed that there is no place for complacency and that progress in gender mainstreaming and women’s rights is not yet irreversible. Participants also expressed their concerns over the worsening of women’s conditions amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Closing the meeting, President Mesterhazy reassured members that the Assembly would keep the WPS on top of its agenda.