Security and sustainable development: including a gender perspective

12/06/2018 - 09:14
News stories

Security and development are two-sides of the same coin, and neither can be achieved without fully engaging women's organisations and taking into account women's concerns. As the EU moves to strengthen its ability to promote security and stability around the world, ensuring a strong gender perspective through policy-making and implementation is critical. At the European Development Days (EDD), the European External Action Service took the opportunity of the presence in Brussels of thousands of international development and gender experts to organize an open debate and gather recommendations to promote a gender-balanced and sustainable approach to its evolving security and development cooperation policies and actions.

women, security, development, gender

Photo: Jurgita Vilpisauskaite with young child, by Adam Jacobi Moller, EUMM Georgia

Women are often the first to detect and suffer from the consequences of insecurity; at the same time, they are generally the last to be invited to the table to discuss security. There is a lack of inclusiveness and of awareness that security is not only state security but also – and in the first place – human security, the security of women and men and communities as a whole. This limits the effectiveness and sustainability of much of the international security agenda.

Including women in peace negotiations and discussions regarding security, and implementing an integrated and gender-sensitive approach to security and development are critical if the EU and its partners are to deliver on their commitments to support sustainable peace and development, concluded the panel members at the debate organized by the EEAS at the European Development Days on 6 June in Brussels and moderated by Kirsi Henriksson of the Crisis Management Centre Finland.

“The EU knows from experience that peacekeeping without women's engagement is not sustainable” said Mara Marinaki, EEAS Principal Advisor on Gender and UNSCR 1325, and has made progress over the years to ensure women’s participation in EU military and civilian missions and operations, engagement with women on the ground as well as the integration of a gender perspective. The EU also pioneers an integrated approach to security and development and is extremely sensitive to human security.

More however, needs to be done to allow women to participate and ensure that development and security cooperation are meaningful for them.

“We have to move away from doing the easy box ticking. Simply adding numbers is not sufficient and only one indicator among many others regarding women participation”, said Carol Cohn, Director of the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights. Women need to be heard not only on issues that are traditionally associated with them, such as education, but on security as well, added Sari Kouvi, an expert on human rights and crisis management. Then, women and men often have a very different perspective on security, pointed out Clare Hutchinson from NATO: "tanks and guns do not make women feel more secure".

With respect to the ongoing development on strengthening EU security capabilities, the panel came up with the following key points:

  • Women should be seen as key agents for security. 
  • To ensure women's security, conflict resolution needs to focus on human rather than state security.
  • Integrating a gender perspective in security policy and implementation in a holistic way is vital. 
  • Simple representation of women is insufficient, since not all women can be expected to present a gender-sensitive perspective. 
  • The EU and NATO need to continue to strengthen their cooperation and work with other international partners to break silos.