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WDSN Panel Discussion: Women, peace and security, and the role of gender advice

Speakers: Leanne Smith, COL Brad Orchard, Comm and er Jennifer Wittwer

ASPI’s Women in Defence and Security Network hosted a panel discussion exploring the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda, and the role of gender advice and other mechanisms to better incorporate gender perspectives into defence and security policy and planning. Panellist’s included Leanne Smith, Chief of the Policy and Best Practice Service of the United Nations (UN) Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in New York, COL Brad Orchard, Director of the National Action Plan for WPS with the Australia Defence Force, and COL Orchard’s predecessor, Commander Jennifer Wittwer, currently Technical Adviser, Women, Peace and Security in the Office of the Chief of Defence Force. 

After welcome remarks from ASPI’s Lisa Sharland and Kendall Kuczma, Senior Manager Customer Engagement, Lockheed Martin Australia & New Zealand, Leanne Smith kicked off the discussion, outlining the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on WPS, challenges to implementation from the UN perspective, and promising signs, including emphasis on the importance of strong leadership and accountability.   

COL Orchard dove more specifically in the ADF’s plan to implement Australia’s National Action Plan 2012-2018 (NAP). Noting that the ADF’s approach to incorporate gender perspectives was constantly evolving, COL Orchard singled out core focuses around policy and doctrine development, the role of key personnel (i.e. gender advisers), training and global engagement. He noted that the ADF is pursuing the development of its own gender training course to get more personnel trained on gender issues.  The intersection of the defence approach with civil society and the development sector was also discussed. 

CMDR Wittwer rounded out the discussion with ‘ten learnings’ from her experience as a Gender Adviser with NATO in the field in Afghanistan. She noted that a successful gender strategy requires planning, evaluation and communication, including adapting the language of WPS to the military sphere, as well as strong networks, both internally in the implementation of the strategy, and through external relationships. 

The evening closed with an engaging Q&A session which explored the intersection of integrating gender perspectives into policy and operational approaches related to issues such as security sector reform, some of the challenges associated with implementing Australia’s first NAP, and how to draw upon the experience of deployed female personnel.