The primary objective of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) conferences at the U.S. Naval War College is to foster discussions, facilitate knowledge sharing, and provide education on the goals of WPS. This aligns with our mission to develop future leaders and is guided by the policy framework outlined in UNSCR 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security, the U.S. WPS Act (2017), the U.S. National Strategy on WPS (2019), and the U.S. Department of Defense WPS Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan (SFIP 2020).
Specifically, the forum aims to advance three key defense objectives:
- To model women’s meaningful participation in the management, development, and employment of the Joint Force.
- To promote the meaningful participation of women in all occupations in the defense and security sectors of partner nations.
- To ensure that vulnerable women and girls in partner nations are safe, secure and protected -- particularly during conflicts and crisis.
Women Peace and Security National Action Plan Implementation in Moldova: Lesson Learned and Good Practices
Dr. Natalia Albu
National Action Plans (NAPs) for implementing UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) are relevant for all countries, not only those experiencing armed conflict. The 1325 framework provides Member states a strategic opportunity to leverage women’s human capital in building effective and inclusive security sector institutions. In keeping with its international commitments, the Republic of Moldova determined the need to develop the first National Action Plan in 2018. The process facilitated the creation of several ministerial action plans addressing institutional barriers to gender mainstreaming. Since the implementation of the first NAP, the security environment in and around the Republic of Moldova has become more complex. It faces an active war at the border and must make every effort to advance peace and stability. Additionally, it’s relatively new EU candidate status commits it to undertake structural reforms. Effective and efficient delivery of security in Moldova calls for strengthening human rights and the rule of law, and the integration of the gender dimension in the security and defense sectors. On March 22, 2023, the Government approved the second generation of the WPS NAP responsive to UNSCR 1325 for the next four years. This framework provides a renewed opportunity to build a more inclusive security sector enabling increased and meaningful participation of women and eliminating gender-based discrimination and abuse.
Capt. Christa N. Almonte
Understanding the application of strategic planning, adapting problem-solving skills to get at the operational challenges of America’s navy, bridging the civil-military divide, and enhancing international security cooperation is a gender-ignorant process. Leadership in these essential missions, leadership at the helm of the U.S. Navy, belongs to the self-assured, the professional, the impassioned. To be successful in this as a woman - as in most career fields - takes stamina. The headwinds can, at times, be overpowering. But the sworn duty of the nearly 150,000 women in navy service today is to support and defend the constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic – and headwinds and unfavorable tides will be a part of a daily effort to fulfill that oath. To surmount those challenges, women must be confident in their knowledge of the subject matter, their ability to strengthen navy operations, and their unique problem-solving and communications skills. Accomplishment comes from putting one’s life’s energy into a chosen path. In the U.S. Navy, that means being consistent and being determined and taking the helm.
Dr. Curtis Bell
The WPS strategy, which was first established in 2000 by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, aims to address the impact of conflict on women and to ensure their meaningful participation in peacebuilding and conflict resolution processes. The strategy recognizes that peace and security cannot be achieved without the full and equal participation of women. By integrating WPS into PME curriculum (first pillar of the strategy), students in joint military PME institutions are provided with a comprehensive understanding of the role of women in conflict and peacebuilding, as well as the importance of their involvement in these processes. The integration of WPS into PME curriculum has numerous benefits for students in the security sector and for meeting the strategy goals of the WPS strategy. By promoting gender equality and highlighting the importance of women's participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, PME programs can contribute to a more inclusive and effective security sector and help to achieve the goal of a safer and more secure world through educating mid-grade officers and civilians who will likely be involved in these operations.
The Frailty Myth: The Case for Gender-Neutral Physical Fitness assessment practices among the United States Airmen
Dr. Magdalena T. Bogacz and Lt. Col. Stephanie Fraioli
The military is not adequately preparing female Airmen for the physical rigors of combat. Low expectations for female Airmen have caused their physical fitness standards to stagnate. The Physical Fitness Assessment requires female Airmen to perform fewer repetitions and slower run times on all events compared to their male counterparts. However, despite three congressional decisions aiming at directing the establishment of gender-neutral physical fitness standards, including the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act that would create gender-neutral physical fitness standards for combat arms and other non-specified positions across the military, the United States Air Force has yet to adopt such standards. This is problematic because the insistence on maintaining outdated standards for female Airmen that have been debunked by current scientific research supports the concept of "learned female weakness" that has been systematically entrenched in American society.
Hence, the purpose of this presentation is twofold: first, to make the case that female Airmen have the strength and ability to perform the same fitness assessment as their male counterparts, and they should be required to do so, and second, to offer a solution – a more fair and more equitable standards based on fitness assessment metrics commensurate with women's size and not their gender.
Cdr. Sarah Boutwell
During the global conflict of World War II, women did not fight on the front lines but provided critical intelligence support to the war effort as code breakers and analysts, considered clerical jobs. As computing matured and evolved into the modern internet, women continued contributing in programming and security fields. The joint force relies on what we now refer to as cyberspace for most aspects of operations, and women have taken part in conflict in this domain well before legally allowed to fight in physical domains.
Effective cyberspace operations require understanding targets at the physical, logical network, and cyber persona layers in order to identify vulnerabilities and relationships between users, information, and network systems. Planning for cyber effects involves extensive thought to branches and sequels, collateral damage, risk, and potential higher-order effects due to the possibility of unforeseen linkages within cyberspace. The best planning cells will apply diverse teams with a mix of technical and cognitive skills to synchronize actions across domains and provoke the desired action, or non-action, from the adversary.
Dr. Venessa Brown, Mr. Björn Lagerlöf, and Ms. Kristine St-Pierre
The Canadian Armed Forces has a responsibility to integrate the guidance provided by UN Resolutions on WPS into its operational planning, conduct of missions, and across its institutions. The Canadian Defence Academy (CDA) plays a critical role in advancing equity, diversity and culture change as the lead authority for the development of common military training and education. The CDA promotes the professional development and education of members of Canada’s Armed Forces through two undergraduate universities, a Command and Staff College, and a Non-Commission Officer Academy.
Our presentation will discuss how the CDA mainstreams WPS and Gender-based Analysis Plus, including through the institutionalization of its Gender Advisor and Gender Focal Point Network, through the integration of WPS and GBA Plus in academic programs and as part of faculty and staff development, and through collaboration with international PME institutions.
Dr. Miemie Wynn Byrd
Women in Myanmar have played a vital role in the pro-democracy movement since the 2021 coup. They have taken on combat roles and have been involved in non-lethal resistance efforts, such as mobilizing and organizing the local population and fundraising.
However, despite their critical roles and contributions, they lack proportionate representation in leadership positions within the pro-democracy National Unity Government (NUG), National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), and People Defense Forces (PDF). This has resulted in non-lethal efforts receiving very few resources and provisions. Additionally, the lack of representation in leadership positions has led to discrimination and sexual assault for women soldiers on the frontlines.
It is crucial for the NUG and resistance coalition forces to harness the power of these women influencers and leaders by using a coherent Strategic Communication strategy and providing the resources and support they need to continue their efforts.
Furthermore, it is important for the NUG, NUCC, and PDFs to address the issue of discrimination and sexual assault against women soldiers and ensure that women have equal representation in leadership positions. The participation and leadership of women in the pro-democracy movement can greatly contribute to the resiliency of the people and the sustained rejection of the military junta.
Dr. Olga R. Chiriac and Dr. Jahara “FRANKY” Matisek
The 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russia represents a logical step in the Russian war against women, minorities, and “Western values.” The discussion aims to better understand the complexity and fragility of the contemporary security environment by presenting an effective frame for correctly analyzing women’s influence and experience as both agents and subjects of change. The panelists explore the conflict through the weaponization of gender in the global information war against the U.S., NATO, and Ukraine. Furthermore, they highlight the correlation between the weaponization of gendered narratives and its relationship to fostering societal resilience and networks of resistance. The discussion introduces the conceptual framework of information warfare, narrative warfare, and civilizational confrontation, and its linkages with resilience and resilient societies. It provides an analysis of the deeper meaning of WPS in the macro context of the assault on democracy, human rights, and rule of law – to include the role of women in building resilient societies. Information and cognition have impacted the war-fighting experience in the current conflict and its marked role in gendered narratives, which have been utilized by both the Russians and Ukrainians. Lessons learned and policy recommendations for developing a more effective and robust WPS agenda for U.S. (and allied and partner) foreign policy and information operations, especially in advancing new notions of integrated deterrence, while expanding the development of resilience are brought to the fore. Achieving unity of effort is crucial because there can be disjuncture between the declaratory level and WPS policies.
Lt Col. Joe Evans
This presentation will examine the advantages of integrating Women, Peace, and Security into military security cooperation, using post-conflict Nepal as a case study. This project provides special emphasis on the simultaneous goals of gaining a strategic advantage and establishing peace and justice by promoting the participation and perspectives of women. I will draw on my research of religious peacebuilding and my security cooperation experience in Nepal during the 2015 earthquake, post-conflict transition, and growth of Nepal’s contribution to United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. First, I will examine the contextual aspects of the security situation for women in Nepal and South Asia, the influence of UNSCR 1325, and methods of overcoming obstacles to cooperation. I will then describe the specific women, peace, and security efforts by the Office of Defense Cooperation in Kathmandu from 2014 to 2017. Finally, I will evaluate the results of these efforts with a focus on women’s participation in peace and security, disaster response, and overcoming a patriarchal culture to protect and empower women. The highlights of this analysis will consider participation, collaboration, overcoming social discrimination, the correlation of conflict and disasters, and the strategic advantages gained from these efforts.
CMC Joseph Fahrney
Command Master Chief Joe Fahrney will be presenting on the conceptual and practical application of Key Enablers (KE) and the leader's obligation to create a Culture of Inclusion (CoI) in his breakout seminar at the USNWC Women, Peace, and Security Seminar. In his 33 years of active duty and operational experience as a Command Master Chief in the Naval Service, Joe has developed an understanding of the role of merit, character, competence, diversity, attracting and retaining talent, and creating positive reputations to improve trust in leadership.
Drawing heavily on the literature of Jennifer Brown and Ijeoma Oluo, Joe will explore the obligation of leaders to set the conditions for organizations to thrive in both competency and control of the organization's epistemology of cultures. He will highlight observations from highly successful organizations in public administration, military, academia, and private corporations and discuss the extent to which leaders must establish positive and developmental Cultures of Inclusion.
Attendees of Joe's breakout seminar will leave with a better understanding of the key enablers for team development and a culture of inclusion, the role of merit, and the obligation of leaders to create a learning culture that supports the highest potential of every individual in the organization. Joe will provide a practitioner's perspective and observations of the most successful organizations' ability to establish a genuinely thriving Culture of Inclusion (CoI) and provide a rubric of observations and recommendations for adapting educational practices to match better the cultural frames of public administration education, training, and development.
Dr. Shabana Fayyaz
An understanding of the phenomenon of ‘Female Radicalization’ in Pakistan remains either an ‘exaggerated fact’ or a ‘conveniently ignored reality’. This paper aims to deconstruct this nexus from an ‘inside-out and outside-in’ approach focusing on the case of the Jamia Hafsa (a female seminary affiliated with the lal Masjid) in Islamabad. Major takeaway is, female role in the radicalization process sliding into political violence range from eihter being a ‘facilitator, fundraiser, silent spectator’ or ‘an agent of moderating extremism and societal peace’ in the country.
For ‘sustainable peace’, women as an equal stakeholder in the state’s CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) policy is proposed. That is, contextual and ideational pathways of how and why women join and how best female agency can mediate, subvert and resist such trends remains a complex reality.
In crux, there is an urgent need to ‘learn to unlearn’ the prevalent modus operandi of the countering violent extremism at the state and international level both in theory and practice. To ensure a meaningful role of women in the CVE policy an equal access to education, economic, social, political is critical as stipulated in the UN 1325 resolution. Here, sharing best practices through dialogue and debate can be one of the most viable mean to craft an inclusive CVE (countering Violent Extremism) enterprise.
In 2021, 1st Lieutenant Morgan Fleming Served with Task Force Bliss in Operation Allies Welcome at the Dona Ana Range Complex, New Mexico. The operation hosted thousands of Afghan refugees and provided housing and immigration assistance to these guests for just over six months. As part of the operation, Task Force Bliss created the first domestically operational Female Engagement Team (FET) in the U.S. Army. The FET, initially intended to gather soft data within the Afghan population, evolved in nature and scope over the duration of the operation. 1st LT Fleming’s experiences on the FET provide a case study on the nuances of leading an all-female unit within an Armored Brigade Comat Team (ABCT), successes and failures in the operation at a tactical level, and with ideas for improvement to integration of the FET model for use in future operations as the U.S. Army transitions from Counterinsurgency (COIN) to Large Scale Combat Operations (LSCO).
Dr. Namrata Goswami
The paper examines the role of women within an insurgent group called the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) in Northeast India. The author highlights the different motivations, allegiances, and expertise women bring to the insurgent group both as combatants and in their noncombatant roles. Data for this paper is drawn from primary sources (field work, interviews with women insurgent leaders and cadres) and secondary sources.
The author dwells on the stature of women in the larger conflict affected society, highlights the juxtaposition between the influence of modernity and tradition, and how women both in the society at large and within the insurgent group navigate their roles and negotiate for better means of livelihoods. Dr. Goswami specifies that the antecedent conditions for women joining the insurgent group include a need for physical security, kinship bonding, and ethnic connections, but the reasons evolve and change over time specifically determined by the framing of the conflict that the armed group provides to its members.
The NSCN leadership structure is hierarchical and dominated by men, with women rarely making it to its top decision-making structure, not dissimilar to women’s role in Naga society.
Capt. (ret) R.V. Gusentine
Learning to See is short for developing a useful strategic awareness and understanding of a dynamic and complex world. Preparing leaders for 21st Century challenges requires learning environments that are not only safe for honest intellectual inquiry and discourse but that are also richly diverse for fostering new and creative thinking. The Strategic Leaders International Course (SLIC) engages visual, musical, and written art and design in the classroom in order to better explore the human experience and create a learning environment that is conducive to creative thinking and self-discovery. Engaging art – viewing, reading, listening, creating - in the process of structured national security related learning introduces unexpected, uniquely-related content that offers intellectual and cultural on-ramps to new ideas and cultivates our capacity to think creatively. However modestly applied, art engagement can likewise offer untrodden pathways for Learning to See the relationships between Women, Peace, and Security in new ways. This presentation will offer a brief overview of the 4-week strategic leaders course, examples of uses and outcomes of art engagement in SLIC’s learning environment, and how the important relationships between Women, Peace and Security can be approached by an art-inspired journey toward Learning to See.
Dr. Christopher Harmon
Before near-erasure in 2009, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were among modernity’s most potent insurgents. Essential to LTTE influence over swaths of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka was the recruiting of women and girls into the political, administrative, economic and martial sides of the conflict that had begun in the mid-1970s.
Among the leaders of Tamil efforts was Adele Ann Balasingham, an Australian, allied with and married to the Tigers’ top diplomat. She was involved in female recruitment, politicization, and training in a system that eventually drew thousands of women and girls into the insurgency. Many were combatants in mixed or all-female infantry units.
To attract and develop female cadres, Ms. Balasingham authored a sophisticated training manual covering political, social, cultural, and physical/martial elements of the conflict against the Sinhalese ethnic majority and the state government. Despite its significance, proven success, and availability on the world wide web, the forty-page text Women Fighters of Liberation Tigers has been largely ignored by Westerners--including commentators focusing on women in terrorism in Sri Lanka. This chapter/paper will begin to remedy the oversight.
Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese
This session will provide an overview regarding the “what” and “how” of teaching WPS based on personal experience over the past ten years teaching WPS civilian graduate and undergraduate courses, integrating WPS into PME core classes, WPS lectures to domestic and international military and civilian audiences, and as part of security cooperation modules. Information provided will focus on learning objectives currently used, challenges encountered, curricular material and methods that has been found useful, best practices to date and ideas regarding what needs to be done going forward to fully integrate WPS into PME and military operations. The intent is to generate discussion integrating the experiences presented with those of others in the audience toward maximizing efforts and effectiveness.
Dr. Lauren Mackenzie and Dr. Claire Metelits
This panel presentation will review the WPS efforts underway by Marine Corps University faculty. Moving from macro to micro-level examples, the first presenter will discuss university-wide programs and the second presenter will emphasize the various ways in which WPS has been integrated into the curriculum at the Command & Staff College. The session will begin by tracing the development of a WPS writing award as well as the execution of a WPS Scholars Program – both of which are open to all MCU students and bring together faculty/staff from across the university. The presentation will continue by reviewing specific WPS curriculum efforts at the Command & Staff College– ranging from the delivery of a “Gender, War and Security” elective to the process of integrating WPS considerations into the core curriculum. The speakers’ overarching objective is to share a set of effective WPS interventions in Professional Military Education that could be replicated and built upon by other military education institutions.
Dr. Amanda Metcalfe
Peace insights from Rwanda and Serbia will be highlighted using in-country qualitative leadership data collected by Amanda Metcalfe. Her work spans multiple international regions and concerns itself with working leadership strategies that promote ethics of gender equality. For this review she narrows her research to the attention of two grassroots movements using micro-sociological approaches. These regions are of particular importance because of their socio-political history, encounters with violent conflict and authoritarian rule. Women have, through the complexity of that history, managed to address future violence in unconventional ways. Those involved use feminist compelled social strategies to interface peace and create “movement.” The theoretical grounding of each movement will be discussed, as each target certain situational opportunities and interpersonal dynamics that fuel violence– and while movement are important to study, so too is the ability to re-perform them for future peace efforts.
Dr. James M. Minnich
Women’s inclusion in the security sector is viewed often as a social issue. States, however, are increasingly seeing it as a matter of national security as they struggle to fill ranks. To address this dilemma, many more women are needed to work alongside men in defense, intelligence, police and border protection. Unbarring the door to women through legislation and policy is a typical approach toward gender integration. It is needed, but not sufficient.
Inclusion and integration are used interchangeably. They are not the same. Yes, both bring women into the security sector, but integration expects women to adapt to the existing system while inclusion ensures that the system adapts to women. A gender integrated approach permits women to serve alongside men in masculinized units with some accommodations but little acceptance. Such organizations are male dominated, exhibit deep-seated masculinized cultures, forge obstacles to women’s full participation and experience high levels of sexual violence. A gender inclusive approach is different as it merges men and women together with full system access. In these organizations, the default gender is not male, barriers for women are eliminated, all are valued, and the structure and its leaders do not permit the “strong” to prey on the “weak.” This discussion draws upon personal experiences to consider how leaders create cultures of belonging for women’s meaningful inclusion.
Dr. Jennifer Santiago Oreta
Many of the provinces in the Philippines still have small enclaves populated by armed rebel groups and/or organized criminal syndicates. These groups have the capability to disrupt the security, stability and development progress of communities. Women pay a disproportionately high price during armed conflict as existing inequalities are magnified and women become more vulnerable to sexual violence. Despite the significant role of women in peace and conflict, women are underrepresented in spaces dealing with conflict management, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
The session looks at security sector institutions in the Philippines, particularly the institutional responses on mainstreaming the agenda of women, peace, and security. It argues that interventions and affirmative actions on gender mainstreaming, while notable, are still obviously lacking. Pushing and expanding the boundaries of gender rights in security discourses, especially in the context of a non-international armed conflict, remain a challenge.
Col. Dana Perkins
This presentation provides an overview of the similar principles and shared tenets of the UN Security Council’s WPS Agenda and those established by the collective of 193 UN Member States in the General Assembly on Women, Disarmament, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control. The author argues that applying a gender lens to recruitment, participation, promotion, leadership inclusiveness, and education may correct the noticeable gender imbalance in disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control, where women are underrepresented at all levels. Empowering women in WMD non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament negotiations and governance will underwrite global peace and security at a time when new approaches and synergies are sought in order to counter grave and persistent WMD threats and violent extremism.
Prof. Jody Prescott
From the perspective of operational risk, that is, risk to mission accomplishment, gender is not always relevant. This is likely true in equipment-heavy, force-on-force engagements that occur outside the presence of civilians, whose perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors might otherwise be crucial to mission success in civilian-centric operations. In civilian-centric operations such as counterinsurgency or stability operations, the failure to consider gender likely does pose a risk to mission accomplishment. DoD's implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 has resulted in important progress in bringing greater attention to gender considerations in operations, but it has a gap in coverage. Consistent with the law, DoD's implementation of it does not meaningfully consider the operational relevance of gender in the kinetic parts of operations. However, the new DoD program on Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response provides an opportunity to factor gender into the kinetic parts in an operationally relevant way.
Dr. Mary Raum
Most curricula relative to Congress and its interface with the Department of Defense relate to the topics of war, weapons, conflict and budgets. An important subtopic of national security studies are Congressional interventions into the Defense Department related to soft policies which are more nearly categorized as micro sociological issues due to their touching people within the massive security bureaucracy at the individual and personal level. Early congressional interventions among this categorization include concerns about suicide, benefits, health and well-being or the 1940s GI Bill which encouraged personal growth through educational and training benefits in order to decrease a reduction in unemployment post war. During the 2020s’ Congress has begun to intervene in military conduct specifically as this conduct relates to sexual harassment and rape. Due to the importance being placed legislatively around this subject matter, its inclusion in a military professional college curriculum is an imperative. Dr. Raum will discuss the evolution of a public policy session for national security professionals around the primary topic of sexual harassment. Covered will be the importance of where such a curriculum topic should be placed, potential content and pitfalls of attempting to teach within this subject area.
Women, Peace, and Security and Defense Objective 1: Assessing Meaningful Participation of Women in U.S. Army Combat Arms Units
Ms. Antonieta Rico
Defense Objective 1 in the U.S. Department of Defense WPS Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan (SFIP) focuses on ensuring the DOD exemplifies an organization that “allows for women’s meaningful participation” across the U.S. military. The ban on women in combat arms jobs was long seen as one of the most significant structural barriers to women’s meaningful participation in the U.S. Army, denying women access to promotion to the highest echelons of military leadership—which often includes officers who come from the combat arms branches—as well as generating a culture that viewed women as second-class citizens within the military. In 2015, DOD lifted the ban on women in combat arms jobs, but there is more to be done to ensure successful gender integration.
This presentation will include an analysis of women’s integration into U.S. Army combat arms jobs through the lens of WPS and Defense Objective 1 of the DOD SFIP: examine a concrete and actionable definition of “meaningful participation” within the military context; assess meaningful participation of women in U.S. Army combat arms jobs thus far; and make recommendations for the U.S. Army to remove barriers to women’s meaningful participation in combat arms—leading to greater mission, functional, and operational effectiveness.
Ms. Daniela Sepúlveda Soto
Every year, more countries commit to Feminist Foreign Policies (FFPs). Most of them come from the global North; however, the emergence of FFPs in Chile, Colombia, and Mexico suggests the shape of renewed designs of global governance regimes and new struggles in the search for international status. In seeking why these countries pursue FFPs, I link different bodies of scholarship and disciplines to better understand the transformative potential of the global South FFPs. In doing so, I challenge the historical and contemporary conventional assessments of the relative unimportance of small states, the Southern region, and feminism/gender in affecting international politics and international security. In this context, the WPS framework has been a crucial component of the design of FFPs. This Agenda has consolidated the predominance of the global north perspective to address the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. However, while for some scholars WPS represents a western global governance regime based on women's economic empowerment, critical perspectives have denounced the absence of alternative and dissenting voices from the global South in producing what is considered "valid knowledge." I argue this lack of diverse perspectives perpetuates the immovable categorization of women by subordinating them as subjects receiving violence and protection while limiting their transforming agency.