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Women, Peace and Security in 2016–17


In 2000, the United Nations (UN) Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). This landmark resolution recognises that the experiences and needs of women and girls differ from those of men and boys in conflict and postconflict situations and that this underlines the essential role of women in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction and recovery efforts.

The resolution tasked the UN system and member states with thoroughly integrating a gender perspective into all peacekeeping operations in conflict and post-conflict settings. Since 2000, a number of other resolutions related to Resolution 1325 have been adopted and these form the UN WPS agenda.

Flying Officer Sarah Fraser facilitates Air Mobility Group’s first annual Women, Peace and Security working group.
Flying Officer Sarah Fraser facilitates Air Mobility Group’s first annual Women, Peace and Security working group.

As of August 2017, 67 countries have developed national action plans to implement Resolution 1325 and the UN WPS agenda. Australia’s plan was released in March 2012 and contains five strategies and 24 actions that describe what the Australian Government will do to achieve this implementation. Defence is responsible in whole or in part for 17 of those 24 actions. The most effective way of implementing the national action plan for the ADF is to mainstream WPS and gender perspective considerations into operational strategic guidance and into the planning and conduct of ADF operations.

The inclusion of the WPS mandate in Chief of the Defence Force Planning Directions and other departmental strategic guidance has led to a greater demand for ADF gender advisor capability. Previously, the only training available was conducted at the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations at the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre, designed to train NATO and partner forces. Over the past three years, a number of ADF personnel have participated in this highly effective training course.

During Operation Fiji Assist 2016, three gender advisors were allocated to the operation and were able, for example, to directly speak with Fijian women about their specific needs for assistance and resources. At the conclusion of the operation, pragmatic and visible examples of how a gender advisor can contribute to overall operational effectiveness became clearly evident.

To meet the increase in ADF gender advisor capability, for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere, an ADF Operational Gender Advisor course was conducted by Headquarters Joint Operations Command at the Peace Operations Training Centre at the Australian Defence Force Academy in June 2017. Twenty-four students, including ADF members, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade employee and several US Armed Forces members, attended the course. They learned how to become gender advocates and advisors to commanders and staff across all the operational functions in order to deliver more effective mission success while supporting the objectives of the WPS agenda.

Several of the graduates were put straight to the test by being deployed to Exercise Talisman Saber 2017. Some of the excellent products and outcomes arising from the exercise included the development of a reporting format for field forces to report incidences of conflict-related sexual and genderbased violence, increased liaison with targeting and effects planners, and robust discussion arising from examining how a maritime refugee situation can impact on maritime operations.

The formalisation of the role of the gender advisor and the role of the WPS framework enhances the ADF’s operational and planning activities. This is achieved by looking at actions and consequences through a gender lens, and through the conduct of a gender analysis of the impact that the ADF can have on a population. Gender roles and power relations play a key role in our engagement, interactions and operations with local populations, other partner forces and agencies.

Australians are now filling key international advisory roles in conflict and disaster zones around the world. The US four-star general leading operations in Afghanistan has been advised by an Australian gender advisor since 2015, and a gender advisor is deployed to the UN Mission in South Sudan, with an additional advisor based at the ADF headquarters in the Middle East.

In the near future, more gender advisors will be employed in regional exercises and operations, and increased dialogue with our regional partners is planned in regards to integration of a regional gender lens.

Research shows that peace lasts longer and a conflict zone becomes more stable when the WPS framework is implemented. Since the tenets of WPS can equally apply to humanitarian operations and disaster relief, heavy investment in training and implementation will be required for some time yet.

The ADF’s commitment to the WPS framework will assist in delivering better conflict and peacetime strategies and policies. There can be no better goal pursued for any military or government agency than that.