WASHINGTON -- Representatives from ally and partner nations in southeast Europe today spoke at a conference about the important role women play in their armed forces.
Laura K. Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, represented the Defense Department at the virtual Conference of the U.S.-Adriatic Charter on Women's Contribution to Peace and Security: Lessons Learned and Challenges Ahead.
Cooper said the DOD has been making significant strides in working to integrate gender considerations into policies, plans, operations and training to ensure women participate across all ranks within our force since implementing its Women, Peace and Security, or WPS, in 2020.
"We view our own WPS initiative, which is aimed at achieving a more stable world and safety, equality and opportunity for women and girls, as absolutely critical to U.S. national security," she said, adding that there is still more work to be done.
One WPS priority is to establish gender advisors across the entire department, she said, noting that there are now full-time gender advisors at every geographic combatant command.
The advisors will work to implement the DOD's 2020 WPS strategic framework within their components, advising their commanders or senior staff on how to better integrate gender into a wide swath of defense activities, Cooper said.
Another priority is developing and conducting training on WPS principles across the department, she said.
In addition to U.S.-based training, personnel have been sent to leading partner-country WPS initiatives, such as the Nordic Center for Gender in Military Operations in Sweden, she said.
Also, the Defense Security Cooperation University in the U.S. is working to build partner-country capabilities in support of WPS goals, she said.
"Our security cooperation activities seek to increase gender diversity across all ranks of partner security sectors and to consider the security needs of women and girls, particularly when faced with conflict or crises," she said.
Cooper said allies and partners in Europe — including the five U.S.- Adriatic Charter nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Albania — have made critical contributions to the collective WPS effort. She also mentioned noteworthy progress in Serbia and Slovenia, the latter of which appointed its first woman as chief of its armed forces in 2018.
Croatia is currently advancing through a partnership with the U.S. government-funded project to strengthen gender equality within the Croatian army's peacekeeping missions, she said.
Part of that effort is the first-ever analysis on the status of women in the Croatian armed forces and peacekeeping missions. As a result, Croatian leaders will be equipped with recommendations and measures to improve the status of women in the military and promote a culture of zero tolerance to violence, Cooper said, mentioning that the U.S.'s WPS efforts will be informed by what is achieved in Croatia.
The U.S. is also working through NATO channels to support WPS efforts, including through the NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives and the integration of gender considerations into joint exercises, she said.
"[WPS] initiatives do not only benefit women, they also benefit the entire population and contribute to the security of our partnerships and, in the case of NATO, to the strength of the NATO alliance. History shows clearly that the inclusion of women is critical to establishing lasting peace and prosperous futures," she said.
History of WPS
On Oct. 31, 2000, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325, the Women, Peace and Security initiatives.
The resolution calls for the participation of women in: the prevention, management, and resolution of conflicts; peace negotiations; peace-building; peacekeeping; humanitarian response; and post-conflict reconstruction. It also stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts to maintain and promote peace and security.
In addition, the resolution urges an increase in the participation of women and the incorporation of gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts. It also calls on the parties involved in armed conflicts to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse.