Political - Military Seminar: UNSCR 1325 Women, Peace and Security in NATO-led Operations and Missions

Speech

Australian Ambassador to NATO, Mr Duncan Lewis, E&OE

Stockholm, Sweden

18 December 2012

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this seminar today. 

It is with great pleasure that I stand here before you in my new role as the Australian Ambassador to NATO and the EU.    

I have been asked to speak to you today on the important but challenging question of how the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda can make NATO-led operations and missions more efficient and effective. 

I speak with you this morning not only as a diplomat from a country proud to be fully engaged with UNSCR 1325 but as a former senior military officer who's last military appointment was as Commanding General of the Australian Special Forces and whose experience covered four different operational theatres over a 30 year period.

First I want to speak as a Diplomat and a bureaucrat about Australia's efforts in support of 1325; provide some comments on Afghanistan and Australia's regional experience (Asia/Pacific) in post conflict development Programs.

I will then, chameleon-like, address you as a former senior military leader with some more personal views.

For an Australian to offer comment on the future of NATO operations may seem gratuitous.  But I can provide commentary. I can provide comparisons. I can provide reassurances – while not in NATO - we are walking the some path.  

Australia's efforts in support of UNSCR 1325

Australia has signed and ratified human rights and international humanitarian law instruments and supports international work on matters that link closely with the Women, Peace and Security agenda. 

Australia has committed to a broad program of work to integrate a gender perspective into its peace and security efforts, to protect women and girls' human rights and to promote their participation in conflict prevention, management and resolution. 

This work has been taken forward by our government agencies, in close cooperation with the non-government sector and civil society.

Let me provide you with a snapshot.

Australia was one of the first countries to pledge multi-year core funding for UN Women on 6 November 2010.

Through this initiative, Australia has assisted UN Women's work in Haiti, Liberia, East Timor, Uganda and South Sudan to facilitate women's involvement in national peace negotiations, security sector reform, and improve monitoring and accountability mechanisms of UNSCR 1325.

Last year, the Australian Government appointed a Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, Ms Penny Williams.

To make the Australian Government more accountable, one of her first priorities was to develop a National Action Plan which was released this year, on International Women's Day.

One of the goals in the Action Plan is to increase the participation of women in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.

This includes increasing the participation of women in Australian military, police and civilian deployments to fragile, conflict and post-conflict situations. 

Australian women have been serving in the Armed Forces for over 100 years and are deployed to operational theatres, selected for command positions and promoted to star rank on a merit basis. 

However, women make up only 13.7 per cent of military personnel in Australia.

In response to this gender imbalance, the Australian Chief of Defence Force launched an Action Plan on the Recruitment and Retention of Women, which aims to increase the number of women enlisting and staying in the Australian Defence Force. 

It gives a sharper focus to the vital contribution that women make to Australia's military capability.

To this end, in September 2011, the Australian Government removed gender restrictions from combat roles.

The Australian Federal Police currently has over 6,000 staff members, 24 per cent of which are women. 

Senior women have held a number of important international posts within the federal police, including the positions of Police Adviser to the UN in New York and Commander of the Timor-Leste Police Development Program.

Australia has had many success stories in implementing this important agenda but we are not there yet.

Our upcoming memberships in the UN Security Council and the UN Women Executive Board, both from 2013 onward, are opportunities for Australia to further strengthen our commitment to women's empowerment, both domestically and internationally.

UNSCR 1325 in Afghanistan

The work done by NATO on the implementation of UNSCR 1325, since its Action Plan was endorsed at Lisbon two years ago, is impressive.

It has generated a lot of political goodwill for the Alliance and its operational partners, at a time when NATO is highly scrutinised by the media, NGOs and other international actors on its ISAF operation.  

As we move toward a post-2014 presence in Afghanistan, many of your governments are taking a more quid-pro-quo approach, whereby any future support to Afghanistan is conditional to its ability to – among other things – demonstrate that it respects human rights, particularly those of women and children.

This is a good approach but not without risk, and here is why.   

The new NATO-led mission after 2014 will not be a combat mission but a train, advise and assist mission.

This means that NATO's presence will lessen from 49 contributing nations to, as of today, 36.  

Expectations need to be managed – NATO alone cannot improve the plight of women in Afghanistan.

After 2014, NATO will have less people on the ground and therefore less people who can access and positively influence the Afghan Government and its institutions. 

Other actors in the international community will need to step up to hold the Afghan Government to account and ensure it has adequate governance systems in place to enforce its constitution.

Nonetheless, although NATO's influence is decreasing, it is still strong.

NATO and its partner countries like my own must learn from their experiences.

Our own national experience in Australia may be worth reflecting on as you contemplate how NATO might better apply UNSC 1325.

Australia's Experience in Post-Conflict Security Development Programs

Allow me to explain how this approach works for Australia.

Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands – for decades Australia's security forces have managed cooperation programs to rebuild and develop post-conflict regional military and police forces.

Programs range from high-end joint special forces training in Indonesia to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises in the Pacific.

They range from leadership courses for commanders to intensive human rights and rule of law training at all ranks and levels.

Through our engagement programs, we have learned that the passage of large numbers of the best and brightest regional officers through Australian war colleges or police academies has suffused them with our universal values. 

They learn our way of war, rule of law and respect for human rights. They also learn our philosophies of civil-military relations. 

Australia has learned that in countries with a relatively underdeveloped civil society, the army is often the most respected institution and has some capacity for autonomous policy-making. 

Our women and men in our security forces have played a critical role in demonstrating to regional police and military organisations that they can be forces for social cohesion, and not repression, as they have been the past.

Our international security programs have also helped build mutual respect, trust and cooperation. 

They have they helped minimise tensions, misunderstanding, misjudgment and miscalculation.

It is a way to establish trust when it is lacking. 

At times, the personal links forged through these programs have served Australia well as a back-channel when conventional diplomacy was not enough.

To this point I have spoken with you as an Australian diplomat and a senior bureaucrat. Now I wish to change tack and speak as a soldier.

Throughout the Western World Governments are directly intervening in society to increase the number of women on boards of Corporations and in senior executive positions. That caused me to reflect on the first pillar of UNSCR 1325 – 'PARTICIPATION'. The reason business wants more women in decision making is to produce better outcomes. Surely we then, from a military perspective, have something to learn here.

Now my son (28 years old) and I both attended the Australian military Academy. The difference is that when I was a cadet women were forbidden from the college (we couldn't even marry!). My son was in a graduating class with 23% females Progress!

Participation is as you know only one of the four pillars of UNSC 1325 (also protection, prevention and 'relief and recovery'). But in my view participation is the key. Women must participate increasingly in military planning and mission execution.  Women and children must be a principle focus during the planning and conduct of our operations.  They are vital for post-conflict resolution and normalization.

Three weeks ago the NATO Secretary-General Special Representative, our distinguished colleague, Mari Skare, said in a statement "we have learned that female soldiers in Afghanistan are able at times to better connect with members of the population otherwise closed off from their male colleagues."

On this point let me share my experiences. In 2001, as the Special Operations commander in Australia I introduced the first women into the Special Forces. My motives were less to do with 'political correctness' and all to do with getting the job done better – this was all about maximizing of operational effectiveness. I had learned my lesson in Lebanon during the 82 war that if you really wanted to know what was going on in a community; if you really wanted your intelligence assessments to be right, you must engage fully with the female population.

The men I found to be full of bluster. The women were typically the source of ground-truth. We were fortunate in the Australian Special Forces to have some women in our ranks who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. I had also experienced the power of women in society when I commanded the UN forces on the East Timor / West Timor border in 2000. Once again in my civil-military cooperation team I used women soldiers (largely New Zealand) to engage the local East Timor women to very good effect.

Most recently I was the National Security Adviser in Australia travelling to Afghanistan with our Prime Minister. During a briefing by our S.A.S. Commander in Tarin Kowt I noticed on the briefing power-point map a series of markings 'R.A.K.'. Finally my curiously got the better of me and I asked what R.A.K. stood for.

He replied "Oh they are the "Random Acts of Kindness"! These acts, the placing of a town water pump, the provision of books for a school, the establishment of a medical centre were of course not random at all, but very carefully targeted acts based generally on advice from the women soldiers accompanying the special forces patrols and seeking information on a community needs from the women in the villages. Now all of this is not rocket science – it is plain and simple logic.

If you want to improve military outcomes; if you want to win the peace, like every good soldier I have ever met from every country on earth; and you want to achieve the mission, then use women to talk to women. At the end of the day I am appealing to your own sense of self-interest for these soldiers (sailors and airmen and women) and for those who may not wear a uniform but are involved in planning and support to military operations. I exhort you and urge you to bring more women into your force and into your senior planning process, celebrate the diversity they bring and the successful focus they will give you in your dealings with women (and kids) in the target communities.

Women and acceptance of their interests will bring you military success – you will win the war and more importantly you will win the peace. If you accept my proposition you will need to leave this seminar and tomorrow begin spreading the word among your doubting colleagues. You can have all the reports and conferences you want. You can appoint special representatives, Gender advisers and field advisers. You can create support teams and consultative bodies all you like. But ladies and gentlemen participation by women in war is essential to rapid and lasting success in your missions.

When I was a young major attending the British Army Staff College at Camberley we were all encouraged to read a seminal work by Trevor N. Dupuy called "A Genius of War". It is interesting to reflect on the fact that the geniuses listed by Dupuy were all men! How pompous and misguided it is to think that while women provide 50% of the genius in our wider community, that it is only men who have a genius for war. I put it to you women have both a genius for war and a genius for peace.

My question for ongoing discussions is how do we better convince our colleagues that:

  1. Participation is the key.
  2. The mission is best achieved through harnessing the diversity women bring to the planning and execution process and
  3. How do we better harness the other half of any communities genius for war and peace.

Thank you.