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Women, peace and security

The adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 in October 2000 signified a global acknowledgement that women’s participation, protection and gender perspective are central to the maintenance of international peace and security.

L–R: Major Kristin Saling (Deputy Gender Adviser), Maria Poulos (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade WPS Adviser) and Wing Commander Louise DesJardins (Gender Adviser) on board USS <em>Blue Ridge</em> during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015
Left to right: Major Kristin Saling (Deputy Gender Adviser), Maria Poulos (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade WPS Adviser) and Wing Commander Louise DesJardins (Gender Adviser) on board USS Blue Ridge during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015

The Women, Peace and Security agenda has since grown with the adoption of eight additional and related Security Council resolutions, four of which focus on conflict-related sexual violence.[1]

Australia launched the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security in 2012, and the Department of Defence has developed a Defence Implementation Plan, managed by the Office of the Chief of the Defence Force and led by the Director, National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security.

Defence recognises the significant value of gender diversity in enhancing capability and national security outcomes. Both in policy and in practice, the Australian Defence Force has an increased awareness and understanding of women’s unique experiences and contributions, whether to peace and security efforts or recovery from disasters.

These significant policy developments have been implemented into the ADF operational experience in conflict, including in Afghanistan, in exercises such as Talisman Sabre 15, and in response to natural disasters in the region—in particular Operation Fiji Assist.

The Australian Civil–Military Centre occasional paper Women, peace and security—Reflections from Australian male leaders (2015) reflects on successes and challenges in incorporating gender perspectives and Women, Peace and Security principles into leadership and command decisions, and the contribution this makes to meeting operational objectives.[2]

Sometimes deliberately, but often unconsciously or instinctively, contributors found themselves applying Women, Peace and Security principles in the context of leadership roles.

For example, Air Commodore Chris Westwood reflects on his command role during Exercise Talisman Sabre 15, where implementation of Women, Peace and Security principles represented a step from theory into practical application.

The exercise incorporated Women, Peace and Security considerations into the commander’s intent, strategic communications, rules of engagement, targeting directives and intelligence reports. This was the first time that gender advisers were appointed to the Combined Task Force, Land, Air, Maritime and Special Forces contingents to advise, share information and coordinate Women, Peace and Security activity.

‘Champion’ endorsement by key civilian and military leaders proved vital in implementing Women, Peace and Security principles across the exercise—from the delivery of training to the development of artefacts.

A common viewpoint expressed by contributors to the Reflections paper is that ‘in an organisation built on a chain of command, senior leaders can make a very real difference when they are determined to implement change’.[3]

Contributors also noted that the key to successful implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda is the collaborative efforts of both men and women working together.

1. UNSCR 1820 (2009) explicitly links sexual violence as a tactic of war with women, peace and security issues; 1888 (2009) mandates peacekeeping missions to protect women and girls from sexual violence in armed conflict; 1889 (2010) reinforces UNSCR 1325 and emphasises the participation of women in all phases of peace process, calls for monitoring and introduces accountability mechanisms; 1960 (2011) focuses on the issue of sexual violence against women and children in armed conflict and the importance of ending impunity and prosecuting those responsible for all types of violent crimes—it also emphasises the importance of clear guidelines for peacekeeping missions so that they are enabled to carry out their mandated tasks; 2106 (2013) affirms centrality of gender equality and women’s political, social and economic empowerment to efforts to prevent sexual violence in armed conflict and post-conflict situations; 2122 (2013) aims to strengthen women’s roles in all stages of conflict prevention and resolution; 2242 (2015) addresses women’s roles in countering violent extremism and terrorism and calls for improvement in the implementation of UNSCR 1325; and 2272 (2016) addresses sexual exploitation and abuse in peace operations.
2. Studdert, Helena and Shteir, Sarah (eds). Women, peace and security—Reflections from Australian male leaders. Civil–Military Occasional Paper No. 4/2015. Australian Civil–Military Centre, November 2015, pp. 2, 5, 23. Available at
3. Former Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison AO, speech to the United Nations International Women’s Day Conference, New York, 2013, cited in Women, peace and security—Reflections from Australian male leaders, p.3.