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Interview with Ambassador Marriët Schuurman

13 July 2015

Interview with Ambassador Marriët Schuurman, Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security (NLD CIV)

Q: The recruitment and retention of women has been steadily increasing over the past few decades. What potential do you see with the increasing percentage of women in Allied armed forces?

Ambassador Schuurman: The percentage of women in the allied forces of NATO has been increasing, but has been increasing very slowly. In the past fifteen years we went up from 7% to 10%. If we want to continue to increase that percentage we must recognize that having a gender balance improves performance and that it is of critical importance to have women in the armed forces. We need to tap into all the potential our society has to offer in order to be more effective in our response to the new security challenges that we face today. NATO is an alliance of democracies and is built to defend equal rights and opportunities and fundamental freedom. As a matter of credibility we have to lead by example but it is also a matter of capability. We need to be more inclusive in order to find better answers to security challenges.

Q: With the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 NATO and its partners are committed to removing barriers for women’s participation in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building. They are also committed to reducing the risk of conflict-related and gender-based violence. Can you give us an example on how NATO aims to implement these goals?

Ambassador Schuurman: The Action Plan is to start in our own house. That means to integrate gender perspectives as our day to day work ethic and in the procedures on how we look at security, analyse, and find answers to security threats, along with planning, education and training. We have to ask ourselves what we can do to ensure that in our institutions we have a better balance in gender. This will lead to recruitment and the retention of women in our own armed forces but also in other security institutions that we have within NATO and our partner states. NATO is implementing military guidelines on the prevention and response to sexual violence in conflicts. Applying these guidelines to our planning measures, education and training of our troops and the reporting procedures will prevent sexual violence in the area of operations more effectively.

Q: The United Nations Secretary General stated “Forming gender equality is not optional – it is fundamental”. What more needs to be done to better integrate women in security?

Ambassador Schuurman: NATO has done a lot in terms of integrating gender perspectives and gender equality when it comes to planning and executing peace operations. The goal is to integrate gender perspectives in our daily tasks of NATO, which are not only peace operations and crisis management but also security cooperation and collective defence. It is not only on how we perceive security worldwide but also on how we perceive our own peace and security internally. This is the real challenge because it changes the mindset on how we perceive our own peace and security in a more comprehensive and inclusive manner. That is the leadership challenge that we face today to make sure that the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 is also relevant when it comes to defending our own peace and security. This can only be achieved with strong committed political leadership.