Engaging women in security and peace-keeping is critical to advancing global stability and a safer world. Women are among the most affected by violence during conflict periods and have some of the most nuanced knowledge on how to generate peaceful consensus within their communities. As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in December 2011 at a speech in New York:
“From Northern Ireland to Liberia to Nepal and many places in between, we have seen that when women participate in peace processes, they focus discussion on issues like human rights, justice, national reconciliation, and economic renewal that are critical to making peace, but often are overlooked in formal negotiations. They build coalitions across ethnic and sectarian lines, and they speak up for other marginalized groups. They act as mediators and help to foster compromise. And when women organize in large numbers, they galvanize opinion and help change the course of history.”
In this spirit, on 22 February 2013, the Swedish armed forces signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Headquarters, Supreme Allied Command Transformation (HQ SACT) and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) that formalizes Sweden’s Nordic Center for Gender in Military Operations (NCGM) as lead for gender education and training by designating it as the Department Head (DH) for all NATO- led curricula concerning gender.
The cooperation established by this MoU will allow open participation from NATO, NATO nations, nations participating in Partnership for Peace (PfP), non-NATO/non-PfP nations and International Organizations / non-Governmental Organizations (IO/NGO) in accordance with NATO policy for NATO accredited courses.
As the NATO DH for gender education and training, the NCGM, will have many roles/responsibilities, but three of the highlights are as follows: (1) NCGM will translate operational requirements into education and training objectives within the subject of gender and related programs, modules and courses; (2) NCGM will establish training standards to which the NATO gender program courses will adhere; (3) NCGM will collaborate with both HQ SACT and SHAPE to ensure courses and curricula conform to NATO requirements.
This is good news for Sweden and NATO! This MOU culminates almost one year of coordination between SACT, SHAPE and the Swedish armed forces/Ministry of Defense. Sweden long ago recognized that if any Peace Support Operation (PSO) was to be successful that it would demand a comprehensive approach that involves the entire population: men, women, boys and girls. The area of gender perspectives has traditionally been neglected when planning, executing and evaluating PSOs. When ensuring the implementation of gender perspectives, the need for training and education is crucial. That is the reason that Sweden established the NCGM and then had its opening ceremony on 24 January 2012. It is just another example of Sweden’s “moral authority” that is recognized around the world.
So, congratulations to Sweden and the NCGM for their designation as Department Head for all NATO-led curricula concerning gender!