Statement on Women, Peace and Security

Delivered by Military Adviser Arne H. Knapskog at the Forum for Security Cooperation, Vienna, 25 October 2023.

Madame Chair,

Allow me to begin by thanking the panellists for their insightful contributions. Integrating gender perspectives into military planning is indeed an aspect of the WPS Agenda which requires increased attention. Incorporating gender perspectives is integral to responding to the gendered dimensions of conflict, while also increasing military effectiveness.

Informed by our own experience of the importance of gender considerations in military operations, the Norwegian Armed Forces have created gender advisor positions dedicated to implementing the WPS Agenda in military planning. Last year, it was announced that eight additional gender advisors would be appointed at the regiment level to support the integration of gender perspectives. It is our view that integrating gender in military planning leads to concrete results on the ground. Failure to do so opens us up to significant operational risk: we therefore have everything to gain by delivering on this, and nothing to lose.

Madame Chair,

Last month, Norway launched its fifth National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. This new Action Plan was prepared by six different ministries, facilitating coordination on a wider array of issues compared to previous plans. Our long experience with National Action Plans has shown that examining gender and WPS through a wider lens is key to a more profound impact both nationally and internationally.

For over seventeen years, Norway has undertaken significant efforts to implement the WPS Agenda. Yet, since the development of our first National Action Plan in 2006, the world has changed significantly. We have witnessed global backsliding on gender equality, with women and girls around the world fighting for rights their parents and grandparents were awarded decades prior.

At the same time, the significance of the WPS Agenda has never been clearer. The events currently unfolding in Ukraine following Russia’s illegal invasion have confirmed – like so many wars have done before – that conflict impacts women and men differently. The war has also provided further proof that women are indispensable to Ukraine’s response to Russia’s aggression: Ukrainian women have played a key role on the frontlines, as first-responders, as human rights defenders, as peacebuilders, and much more.

We commend Ukraine’s efforts to revise their National Action Plan to reflect these experiences. We hope that this signals the practical relevance of the WPS Agenda to the rest of the international community, not least during wartime. Allow me to repeat once again that failure to integrate gender perspectives and to implement the WPS Agenda is a security risk that we cannot afford to take.

Madame Chair,

Dear Colleagues,

The Norwegian Armed Forces have enjoyed occupational equality for almost forty years. We are proud to have introduced universal conscription in 2015, making us the first country in the world to conscript women on the same formal terms as men. At the same time, we are under no illusion that our work on WPS and gender equality is over.

While this Security Dialogue is largely dedicated to taking stock of progress, it is our duty to also reflect on how far we have left to go. Norway introduced gender advisors to our Armed Forces precisely because our current efforts were inadequate. Despite equal access to all positions within the Armed Forces, Norwegian women still face significant social and practical barriers to reaching the highest echelons of leadership. In order to achieve full gender equality in the security sector, we must initiate a transformative change in social attitudes, including in how we think about gender equality, and about integrating gender perspectives in our defense structures. This is the only path to women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in the security sector; and the only path to achieving security and stability in the OSCE region.

Thank you.