Mari Skåre, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of NATO on Women, Peace and Security, with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. (Photo credit: NATO HQ)
The key to including more women at the table in defense and security matters at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) “is recognizing that women have a rightful place there,” said Mari Skåre, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of NATO on Women, Peace and Security.
“And to achieve such recognition, leadership is everything,” she said. "So, I am very pleased that I have a very strong backing from the Secretary-General of NATO, showing his leadership on this issue, and it is key to continue to raise awareness among the leadership of the organization in NATO."
Ms. Skåre said her role as special representative—created in 2012, though NATO has had a policy on women, peace, and security since 2007—is to push for implementation.
“Gender integration—or mainstreaming of gender into our everyday business—is indeed the core aim, I would say, of our policy on women, peace and security, and we see today a much stronger degree of integration of this perspective into, for instance, our operational planning,” she said. Operational planning is one of three areas targeted for implementation, she said; the other areas are defense planning and cooperation with partners.
“I see great opportunities working with our partners,” she said. “My experience is that I am met with open doors and a real commitment, a real understanding that if we are going to meet the security challenges of this century, we do need to understand the gender dimension of them, and we need to have women on board.”
When asked about lessons learned for NATO from an independent study on the impact of women in peace and security on operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan, she said, “This review documents, in a sense, what we already knew. It documents that we need to have the competence—within our troops, within the leadership of the missions and operations—on gender. It documents that we would benefit greatly from having expertise on gender matters deployed. It documents that we really would benefit from a stronger engagement with the local population, with women—that we would be better able to understand the situation in the area where we operate if we also engage with female activists and female leaders.”
She said her ambition is to influence how NATO is conducting its work. “If I can, when I finish this position, look back and say I managed to make a difference, if only for a miniscule part, I will be really happy because this is a really complex and vast agenda to move.”
The interview was conducted by Maureen Quinn, Director of Programs at the International Peace Institute.
Listen to interview (or download mp3):
Maureen Quinn: Good morning, welcome to the Global Observatory. I am Maureen Quinn, Director of Programs at the International Peace Institute, and I'm very pleased to have with us today Mari Skåre, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of NATO on Women, Peace and Security. Mari, welcome to the Global Observatory and thank you so much for being here.
We here at the International Peace Institute have a program of research and convening on women, peace, and security, and we're very pleased to have you in your groundbreaking role at NATO to speak to us today on the Global Observatory.
My first question is: Since 2007, NATO has a policy on women, peace, and security and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, but you assumed this roll in 2012. What obstacles to meeting the NATO goals for full and equal participation of women did you find when you took the position, and what strategies are you pursuing to overcome those obstacles?
Mari Skåre: Thank you, Maureen, and thank you for having me here at IPI. It's my pleasure to be here. You're asking good questions.
It’s correct that we've had a policy, together with our partners, in place since 2007, and the political momentum has really been growing over the past years. The intention by having a Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security is really to push for implementation. When it comes to reaching the objectives of including women more at the table when defense and security matters are being discussed and decided on—and include women also in the execution of these tasks—I think that the key is really to raise awareness, recognizing that women have a rightful place at the table when we are deciding on these matters. And to achieve such recognition, leadership is everything.