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.