Women in the Security Sector

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The OSCE participating states had a chance to review the latest developments on making the security sector gender-inclusive at the OSCE conference on “Women in the Security Sector: Challenges and Opportunities for the OSCE Area and Beyond” on the 1 October 2018.

The conference had representatives from the military, academia and think tanks, as well as professionals from OSCE’s field missions and independent institutions to speak on gender equality in the security sector. One of the main topics for the event was the relation between participation in the security sector and operational effectiveness. The event emphasized that gender equal participation could ensure local ownership, situational awareness, effective delivery of security services, and strengthened oversight and accountability.

On this topic, one of the conference’s speakers, Mr. Daniel De Torres from DCAF, expressed that arguing for women’s inclusion in the sector should be simple. In order to have the strongest candidates working in the security sector, women have to be included. If you exclude them, you exclude 50% of the talent pool for these positions. Furthermore, women should not have to defend their inclusion in the sector, due to their gender. Male staff is never asked to explain how they could compensate for being male, and neither should female staff.

Further, as stated by Dr. Susan Atkins, the security sector and in particular the military, is an arena where traditional values often still dominate. This makes it more difficult for women who choose a career in the sector, to feel included as the culture within the sector continues to be primarily accommodating to male staff. Inclusion is in this context not solely about recruitment or quotas, but also about changing institutional norms and adapt practical things like equipment to accommodate for men and women on an equal basis.

Gender and equality are one of the top priorities for Norway. Equality for women, meaning representative inclusion and participation in all aspects of society, is key to creating a prosperous, fair and sustainable future. The approach to gender mainstreaming must be cross-dimensional, so that the gender perspective is part of every project or program that is implemented by the OSCE. According to ODHIR’s recent report on Women in the Armed Forces in the OSCE Region, the average representation of women across all service personnel in the region is 10%. In order to help drive a stronger inclusion of women in the security sector within the OSCE area, continued efforts are necessary.