Discussion summary: women in security

Peace, Security & Defence

This is a summary of the recently concluded discussion on the seventh edition of Debating Security Plus (DS+). DS+ is a global online brainstorm that brings together a community of global security experts who will come together throughout the year to discuss the changing nature of warfare and its implication for the global thinking on peace, security and defence.


Despite institutional commitment to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1325, women are still under-represented in crisis management, security, and defence. Coinciding with International Women’s Day, Friends of Europe launched a discussion on women in security in order to spark a conversation on the global effort towards the empowerment of women in achieving security and gender equality.

The Debating Security Plus team also met with Independent Diplomat, a non-profit advisory group that advises governments and democratic groups across the world. They brought together four women from southern Yemen to talk about their involvement in the peace process.

When talking about post-conflict reconstruction, Alice Musabende, Gates Scholar in Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University, stated that women need to be part and parcel of all the institutions involved in the process. She explained that the Rwandan transition was a success because it institutionalised the contribution of women to peace and decision making.

On that note, David Fouquet, President of the European Institute for Asian Studies, argued that it is important to look beyond our Eurocentric perspective and learn from other societies, such as Ethiopia and Rwanda. Both countries have successfully recognised the role of women in governance and have given women and peace a chance.

Professor Monica Sanders stated that EU reforms should not only focus on gender diversity but also on ethnic or cultural diversity, as they would better represent the population of member states.

The European Organisation of Military Associations (EUROMIL) also advocated for more diverse and inclusive armed forces arguing that they better reflect the society they serve, they are more effective at fulfilling their tasks and they create a better working environment for all employees.

Clare Hutchinson, NATO Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, explained that women are not merely victims of conflict but also play active roles as combatants, peacebuilders, politicians and activists, and are often in the strongest position to bring about peace in their communities. This is why it is imperative to integrate a gender perspective into the multidimensional comprehensive approach required to fight the symptoms and address today’s security threats.

Rory Keane, Head of the United Nations Liaison Office for Peace and Security in Brussels (UNLOPS), argued that the inclusion of women in peace operations is essential because they increase their effectiveness – as operations are more legitimate because they reflect society and give a sense of confidence to people on the ground – and they produce a more sustainable peace in the long term.

Kyra Luchtenberg, Policy Officer at Independent Diplomat, explained that women participating in peace negotiations are more likely to adopt collaborative approaches and organise across ethno-sectarian divisions than their male counterparts. Therefore, adopting token gender quotas is not enough. Women’s effective and meaningful participation should be enabled. Moreover, gender vulnerabilities are often linked to the root causes of the conflict, so gender perspectives should not be strictly limited to ‘gender issues.’ On the contrary, they need to be incorporated across all issues addressed at the negotiating table.

On the same page, Fernando Aguiar, Genderforce, Gender and Security Analyst/BICRHR, Manager of Research and Strategic Adviser on Conflict and Security, argued that “instead of focusing solely on numbers, the international community might do well to think with a broader understanding of gender relations and focus on changing policies as well as structures that perpetuate gender inequalities within and beyond the security sector”.

When talking about the new security challenges that women are facing, Mara Marinaki, EEAS Principal Adviser on Gender, explained that cyber Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) is affecting more than 10% of women older than 15-years-old globally and that is it essential that cyber VAWG be legislated at the EU level.

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