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Academics, Activists and Armed Forces: the nexus of greater security?

MONS, Belgium - The Allied Command Operations (ACO) and Allied Command Transformation (ACT) Gender Advisor Offices, in cooperation with SHAPE WoMen, hosted the conference "Academics, Activists and Armed Forces: the nexus of greater security?" at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe this week.  

The purpose was to raise awareness in line with NATO's policy and guidance on women, peace and security. 

Welcome remarks were made by the Special Representative on Women, Peace and Security, Ambassador Marriët Schuurman, who highlighted the need for continued diversity and perspectives at and around the table. Charlotte Isaksson, Gender Advisor to Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and ACO, encouraged the audience to remain open-minded with a hope to foster further reflection on gender in relation to security, peace and war.


"Academics, Activists and Armed Forces: the nexus of greater security?" was the topic as NATO gender advisors and SHAPIANS, both military and civilian, gathered at SHAPE this week. - NATO Photo by SHAPE Public Affairs Office 

By bringing Dr. Carol Cohn (University of Massachusetts), Ms Åsa Ekvall (University of Antwerp), Ms Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini (ICAN) and Ms Mavic Cabrera-Balleza (GNWP) to the table, the Gender Advisors created a platform for in-depth discussion. 

Topics covered included the disruption of gendered power relations, the importance of grass roots women's activism and contributions to national and international security.  Naraghi-Anderlini, who actively participated in drafting of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 talked about how the integration of gender perspective influences the operational environment. Related to countering violent extremism, she explained how extremists use "gender analysis better than we do" and in order to thwart such action, the empowerment of women was essential. 

The conference united over 40 participants and provided a way forward of possible areas to address when implementing UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions in the NATO Command and Force structures. From the perspective of NATO-led operations, the discussions helped to understand the importance of bottom-up solutions and creating local ownership to frame a more safe and secure environment. 
SACEUR/ACO Gender Advisor Isaksson stated, "this was an unprecedented conference successful in bringing together actors who normally do not meet even though we work towards the same objective of gender equality and women's full participation in all areas and activities related to peace and security."

Story by Aram Hong, SHAPE Assistant Gender Advisor

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