NEWPORT, R.I. (Dec. 12, 2013) A panel group discussion highlighting the challenges and issues of women in a military environment is held during the Women, Peace and Security conference in Mahan Hall at U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. The 2013 conference served as an opportunity to hold discussions related to the implementation and sustainment of the Dec. 19, 2011 U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Panel members pictured above: Janet Fleischman, Global Health Policy Center, Center for Strategic and International Studies; retired Rear Adm. Thomas R. Cullison, Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; U.S. Army Col. Ellen Haring, Women in International Security; and Lauren Mackenzie, U.S. Air Force Culture and Language Center. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl/Released)
By Cmdr. Carla M. McCarthy, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs
Dec. 17, 2013
NEWPORT, R.I. -- Military and civilian experts assembled at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) for the 2013 Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Conference Dec. 12-13, to discuss issues related to the U.S. National Action Plan (NAP) on WPS.
“This year there was an effort to discuss how components of the U.S. National Action Plan are being implemented through a variety of lenses,” said conference organizer Mary Raum, a NWC professor of national security affairs. “Last year’s conference primarily brought together people to exchange thoughts on why WPS is an important element of national security.”
The NAP was released by the White House in 2011 “to empower half the world’s population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity.”
“Because the scope and nature of armed conflict has changed from 90 percent of the population losing their lives being military personnel to up to 90 percent of today’s casualties being civilians, gender becomes one of the greatest concerns of our time in the security sector,” explained Raum. “One notion in particular that is no longer a truth is that women and other noncombatants and neutrals are the passive victims in conflict and war.”
Recognizing the goal of the NAP as critical to national security, the Department of Defense (DoD) released a formal revised implementation guide in October 2013, following earlier activities to coordinate progress in this area.
“I think at the end of the day, the military has a very interesting opportunity to make sure that we can be building on past U.S. investments in these critical areas,” said Janet Fleischman, a senior associate for the Global Health Policy Center of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She provided a non-governmental organization (NGO) perspective on priorities for women’s global health within military environments, particularly in U.S. Africa Command.
Speakers and panelists represented an extensive set of viewpoints from the armed services, as well as non-profit, government and academic organizations, while presentations explored national and international political, military, educational, institutional, sociological and anthropological perspectives essential to attaining the goal of empowering women in conflict prevention and peace.
“Bringing together disparate groups – military, NGO’s, private organizations who are working to build programmatic and process components of women, peace, and security is a valuable exercise,” said Raum. “This form of information exchange puts a face on these programs and allows for increased capacities to effect change.”
Candid panel discussions were based on NAP’s high-level objectives, focused around national integration and institutionalization, participation in peace processes and decision-making, protection from violence, conflict prevention, and access to relief and recovery. Participants emphasized various aspects of the issue, such as how the DoD is implementing the NAP, case studies, documented experiences in recent conflict zones, and how WSP issues are and should be included in joint professional military education.
“I think the reality is that over the past several years, we’ve seen that U.S. policy makers have also increasingly recognized that advancing women’s global health and gender equality is in fact one of the most pressing challenges of the twenty-first century,” said Fleischman, highlighting the reasons for addressing the needs of women and girls in humanitarian crisis or conflict situations.
“For women in particular, the concept of the United Nations Women, Peace, and Security resolution 1325 has evolved from an awareness of inequalities that exist for gendered groups in peacetime,” said Raum.
Adopted in 2000 by the U.N. Security Council, the resolution reaffirmed the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction. It stresses the importance of equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
“These inequalities are exacerbated exponentially during conflict and war and may include lack of societal status, extreme poverty, displacement, destruction of social networks as well as limited opportunities for employment and income generation,” said Raum. “Understanding these changes in the nature of conflict are instrumental to not only a better situational awareness but to leading effectively within the varied phases of peacekeeping, build ups to conflict, fighting, reconstruction and rehabilitation.
“There is still a lot to do to internalize and create formal long-term process and programmatic changes that are inherent to women, peace, and security components. This is why there is more to come, the discussion is just beginning.”
The conference was made possible through the generous support of the Naval War College Foundation.
Posted by Daniel S. Marciniak