NATO

HQ SACT Office of the Gender Advisor

Following the violent experience of wars in the 20th century and the changing global context of peace and security, in the late 1990s women’s groups came together and pushed for gender perspective to be included in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) international peace and security agenda.

In 2000, the UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security recognizing for the first time that gender inequalities exacerbated during the conflict impede the establishment of sustainable peace and development. The UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions acknowledge the disproportionate impact that armed conflict has on women and children, and calls upon international actors to introduce specific measures to remedy this.

NATO as an intergovernmental military alliance committed to international peace, sees the integration of gender perspective as one of the methods to improve its operational effectiveness and to help provide the most appropriate response to a crisis.

In 2007, NATO and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) adopted its first policy on the implementation of UNSCR 1325. The policy paved the way for further integration of gender perspective and gender balance within NATO military and civilian structure, and gender mainstreaming within the NATO policies and programmes. In 2010 the North Atlantic Council adopted the first result-oriented NATO Action Plan for the implementation of the NATO/EAPC Policy on Women, Peace and Security, which is revised every two years. Finally, in 2012 the NATO Secretary General appointed a first NATO Special Representative for Women, Peace, and Security – the position held by Mrs. Clare Hutchinson.

Whereas the above-mentioned developments occurred at the political level, the adoption of the Bi-SC Directive 40-1 in 2009 was a milestone achievement for the NATO military component. The Directive gives clear guidelines and instructions for the implementation of Resolution 1325 at all levels of the NATO military structure. It also provides for the integration of gender perspective into NATO planning, operations, missions, education, training, exercises and evaluation, and for gender mainstreaming in all NATO policies and programmes in all areas and at all levels. Implementation needs to be matched with institutionalisation, and the latter is enabled through the establishment of gender advisory positions throughout the organization. Therefore, the Directive establishes and clarifies the role of Gender Advisors and Gender Focal Points, who are responsible for providing advice and operational support on the implementation of the Resolution 1325 to the Commander and NATO personnel.

Gender and Gender Advisors

NATO defines gender as the social attributes associated with being male and female learned through socialisation and determines a person’s position and value in a given context. Given that social value and positions are always defined and negotiated between men, women, boys and girls, gender does not exclusively refer to women.

Gender, together with other factors such as ethnicity, religion, age and economic situation shape and regulate social relationships, expected behavioural norms, and gendered roles within a given community that will expose men, women, boys and girls to different threats to varying degrees, depending on a variety of factors. The vulnerability of particular groups within a community is exacerbated when it comes to particular forms of violence, for instance the risk of Conflict-Related Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (CRSGBV) to women and children. Therefore, understanding such intersecting factors and social dynamics within a population or community is crucial for understanding how the security needs of different groups develop and change, and how military operations and armed conflict affect them.

This understanding is crucial for the effective analysis, planning, conduct, and evaluation of military operations. Armed conflicts and crisis situations create different gender experiences for men, women, boys and girls; their security needs will be different and they will be affected differently by NATO and NATO-led military operations. NATO uses the integration of gender perspective as a way of assessing gender-based differences between women and men as reflected in their social roles and interactions, in the distribution of power and access to resources.

The primary job of the Gender Advisor is to provide guidance and advice to NATO commanders on how to integrate gender perspective into operations and missions, crisis and conflict analysis, concepts, doctrine, procedures, and education and training. Even though there are these specialists working with a gender perspective within the command and force structure, it is always the responsibility of the Commander to make sure that a gender perspective is properly integrated.

Gender Advisors also represent the Office of Primary Responsibility regarding United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and related Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security. Please see the ‘Women, Peace and Security’ below for more information.

Gender Advisors are supported in their work by Gender Focal Points (GFP), the Gender Advisors’ ‘eyes and ears on the ground’. GFPs are located in each division of the respective Headquarter.

Women, Peace and Security

Women’s rights organizations have always been very active in making sure that the protection of women and children is on and remains part of the international agenda. First, during the course of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, women’s organizations successfully lobbied for the inclusion of wartime rape and sexual violence against women on the agenda. As a result, the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action reaffirmed that women’s rights are human rights and that sexual violence against women is a dire violation of these. Second, the 1995 Beijing Platform, with an exceptionally large number of NGO representatives present, included “Women and Armed Conflict” as one of its twelve strategic objectives and actions.

As a culmination of the efforts of NGOs, various UN bodies, and the contribution of a number of smaller member states and non-permanent members of the Security Council, including Namibia, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Mali, and Canada, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1325, a landmark resolution on women, peace and security on 31 October 2000.

Resolution 1325 has three fundamental pillars to implementing the work on women peace and security:

  1. Prevention means all efforts to prevent violations of men and women’s human rights. Efforts can include preventing gender-based sexual violence, prosecute offenders of sexual violence and strengthen legal support for women’s rights.
  2. Protection – Since armed conflict affects men, women, boys and girls differently, they may need different sorts of protection.
  3. Participation – Women and men should participate on equal terms in all levels of the peace process, in the post-conflict work and before, during and after the conflict. At the moment, this is rarely the case and women often have less influence than men in these processes. The results of the misrepresentation of women in peace processes is that their rights often are overlooked in the post-conflict work.

The UNSCR 1325 states that the method to achieve protection, prevention and participation is through gender mainstreaming of all activities. This means that a gender perspective should be used in all activities in order to address the whole population (men, women, boys and girls).

Currently, there are ten resolutions on the topic of Women, Peace and Security. The landmark resolution 1325 came in 2000 but the progress with the implementation was slow. Nine more resolutions were adopted from 2008 and forward to promote the implementation of the original UNSCR 1325.

UNSCR 1325 (2000): Prevention, protection and participation
UNSCR 1820 (2008): Protection against sexual violence (systematic)
UNSCR 1888 (2009): Reaffirms the importance of 1325 and 1820
UNSCR 1889 (2009): Peace building, anniversary of 1325 & indicators
UNSCR 1960 (2010): Monitoring and reporting system on CRSV
UNSCR 2106 (2013): Need for gender education and gender advisors, and CRSGBV recognized as affecting boys and men as well
UNSCR 2122 (2013): Female Participation, gaps in WPS implementation
UNSCR 2242 (2015): Addressed women’s role in countering terrorism
UNSCR 2467 (2019): Sexual violence in conflict
UNSCR 2493 (2019): Urges member states to commit to implementing the nine previously adopted resolutions.

Furthermore, while they are not part of the WPS framework, it is important to mention two additional resolutions:

UNSCR 2272 (2016): Sexual exploitation and abuse in peace operations
UNSCR 2331 (2016): First resolution on human trafficking and its impact

The implementation of these Resolutions is governed by a variety of documents in NATO, please see ‘NATO Key documents’ below for more information.

For further information, please see Recommended Reading on NATO and Women, Peace and Security.

NATO Key Documents

In 2007, NATO and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) adopted its first policy on the implementation of UNSCR 1325. The policy paved the way for further integration of gender perspective and gender balance within NATO military and civilian structure, and gender mainstreaming within the NATO policies and programmes. In 2010 the North Atlantic Council adopted the first result-oriented NATO/EAPC Action Plan for the implementation of the revised NATO/EAPC Policy for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and Related Resolutions.

The NATO/EAPC Action Plan supports greater synergy and more effective implementation of UNSCR 1325 and related Resolutions through cooperation with and between international organisations. The plan also supports the integration of UNSCR 1325 and related Resolutions into curricula of training and education activities at all levels. Such integrated gender training should also include modules on analytical methods and approaches for understanding the level of risks for conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, as well as modules on how to counter such behaviour, including measures that take the protection needs of the civilian population into account, in particular the needs of women and girls.

Finally, in 2012 the NATO Secretary General appointed a first NATO Special Representative for Women, Peace, and Security.

Whereas the above-mentioned developments occurred at the political level, the adoption of the Bi-SC Directive 40-1 in 2009 further revised in 2012 and in 2017, was a milestone achievement for the NATO military component. The Directive gives clear guidelines and instructions for the implementation of the United Nations Council Resolution 1325 at all levels of the NATO military structure. The directive provides guidance on the effective and continued practical implementation and institutionalization of gender perspective in all activities within the Strategic Commands. In line with the NATO/EAPC Action Plan, the document draws attention to the integration of gender perspectives both internally within NATO forces and externally with regard to the operations and missions. It highlights the integration of gender perspective as an operational tool to be used at all levels and at all stages of operational analysis, planning, conduct and evaluation, in order to enhance Operational Effectiveness and Situational Awareness. The directive also details the utility of integrating gender perspective in the development of gender-related Early Warning Indicators that may provide assistance in identifying and preventing emerging conflicts or security threats.

Crucially, the revised version of the directive operationalises MCM-0009-2015 Military Guidelines on the Prevention of, and Response to, Conflict-related Sexual and Gender-Based Violence; providing advice on understanding the dire impact CR-SGBV has on peacebuilding efforts, and practical solutions to preventing/addressing CR-SGBV. Lastly, the directive also puts forward a proposed NATO-wide Standards of Behaviour and Code of Conduct for the reference of commanders, while emphasizing that the Standards of Behaviour and Code of Conduct is not currently enforceable. Personnel are bound by the regulations outlined by their respective Troop Contributing Nations, and the nations have the authority for taking disciplinary action. Nevertheless, commanders are free to impose stricter regulations than those outlined by the Bi-SC Directive 40-1 Rev 2. Furthermore, the directive outlines the tasks and roles of the Gender Advisor (GENAD) and the Gender Focal Point (GFP). It explains why Gender Advisors (GENADs) are needed to ensure that gender perspective is an integral part of the planning of operations, that can contribute to mission success. It emphasizes that the integration of gender perspective should not be a separate, one-time occasion, but an integral and continuous effort by all personnel. GENAD positions are full-time positions that require adequate training, education and experience.

Gender Education & Training Package for Nations

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HQ SACT supports NATO Nations and Partners in their efforts to deliver education and training. Based on Training Needs Analysis, HQ SACT developed in 2015 and updated in 2017, with the full support of the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations (NCGM) as a Department Head, a package of training materials known as Gender Education and Training Package for Nations.

The Gender Education and Training Package for Nations is provided as guidance to nations and partners, offering best practice examples and advice from different nations on the institutionalization of gender perspective. It is a training tool composed of series of Power Point presentations. The presentations constitute a major tool with detailed guidelines for instructors on how to proceed with the lesson. It is important to remember that these are only guidelines on how the material can be presented, and when used it should be tailored to the specific training audience.

The package is designed to support increased awareness on gender perspective in military operations and to assist NATO Allies and Partners to build their gender related capacities and capabilities and successfully integrate gender perspective within the three core tasks of the alliance: collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security.

The Gender Education and Training Package for Nations has three modules:

  • Module 1 - Strategic-Operational Level: to strengthen the integration of gender perspective at the national level for the staff in national military headquarters

  • Module 2 - Tactical Level: to strengthen integration of gender perspective at national level for the personnel at the tactical level

  • Module 3 - Pre-Deployment: for the national armed forces personnel deploying to operations and missions


Every module consists of two lessons. At the strategic-operational and tactical levels the lessons have been broadly divided into the categories per individual training audience and are considered to be ‘standalone’. The pre-deployment module builds upon knowledge from one lesson to the next and is to be treated as a single module with two dependent lessons, while also including a short presentation which covers the essential elements of gender mainstreaming.

  • National and international legal framework relevant for integration of gender perspective into military operations (e.g. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and Women, Peace and Security Agenda)
  • Key terminology related to integration of gender perspective (e.g. sex, gender, integration of gender perspective or gender equality)

  • Topics related to Conflict-Related Sexual and Gender Based Violence, and Exploitation

  • Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda within the NATO structure

  • Gender perspective in Code of Conduct and Standards of Behaviour

  • Gender perspective in Standard Operating Procedures

  • Gender perspective in the military Education, Training and Exercises

  • Gender perspective in planning, execution and assessment of military operations

  • Host Nation history, gender roles, gender analysis and Key Leader Engagement

  • Operational Impact of gender perspective

  • Liaison and Coordination with Key Leaders and external actors

In 2017 HQ SACT added 3 more modules on gender perspective and terrorism with a specific focus on

  • How groups integrate gender perspective into their strategies
  • The role of men and women and how they change within groups
  • CR-SGBV as a tool of terror,
  • Gendered assumptions and force protection,
  • Protection of Civilians and mitigating harm to avoid radicalisation,
  • Conducting operations with a Counter Terrorism component in urban operational environments

Please find the whole package below.

Gender Education & Training Package for Nations - Documents

The Gender Education and Training Package for Nations was last updated on December 2017. Being an evolving product, we greatly appreciate your feedback HERE.

Click here to open the Gender Education and Training Package for Nations.

Click here to open the Gender in Terrorism Education and Training Package for Nations.

The Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations (NCGM), Department Head (DH)

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On 22 February 2013, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Gender Education and Training between the Swedish Armed Forces, Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (HQ SACT) and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) was signed by the Swedish Chief of Defence. The MOU serves as a blueprint for co-operation by formalising the designation of the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations (NCGM) as Department Head (DH) for the delivery of all Gender Education and Training.

As the NATO DH for gender education and training, the NCGM, under HQ SACT guidance:

  1. Translates operational requirements into education and training objectives within the subject of gender and related programmes, modules and courses that are delivered by NCGM with the objective to support NATO on both the operational and tactical levels;
  2. Establishes training standards to which the NATO gender programme courses adhere;
  3. Collaborates with both HQ SACT and SHAPE to ensure courses and curricula conform to NATO requirements;
  4. Recommends Gender E&T Programme changes to HQ SACT and SHAPE;
  5. Collaborates with HQ SACT to coordinate an annual Gender Discipline/Education and Training Conference to discuss NATO Gender E&T programme changes;
  6. Collaborates with other NATO Education and Training Facilities (NETFs) on a case-by-case as coordinated with HQ SACT.

201506gender seminarThe NCGM has several more tasks (other than courses and education):

  1. NCGM as the Gender DH and recognized expert for gender in operations supports HQ SACT and SHAPE, upon request, with analysis of gender related Lessons Identified by Gender Advisors (GENADs) and Gender Field Advisors (GFAs) deployed to NATO-led operations;
  2. NCGM, as the Gender DH, supports other NATO-led tasks related to gender in military operations on a case by case basis upon request from HQ SACT or SHAPE;
  3. NCGM, as the Gender DH, supports individual and collective NATO-led training with Subject Matter Experts and/or other gender-specific advice at exercises and pre-deployment training.