5-6 JUNE 2018 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Security for development; development for security

Shaping the EU's new civilian security instruments to promote resilient and gender equal societies

Lab debate
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
09:00 to 10:15

The EU is rapidly moving ahead with the development of its autonomous security capabilities, combining both military and civilian instruments to better respond to crises around the world and build resilience in partner countries. In 2018, the EU and its Member States will take concrete steps to update and expand the Union's civilian capability in line with the EU Global Strategy, with Council Conclusions in the Spring and national implementation plans expected before the end of the year. As this process unfolds, this session will look at CSDP from a gender perspective and seek to highlight recommendations to inform the implementation of the EU's integrated approach, looking at how CSDP missions and operations can better promote security and development, including the human rights and empowerment of women and girls.

Key points

  • Women should be seen as key agents for security. 
  • To ensure women's security, conflict resolution needs to focus on human rather than state security.
  • Integrating the gender perspective in security policy and implementation in a holistic way is vital. 
  • Simple representation of women is insufficient, since not all women can be expected to be women’s rights activists. 


The experience in Afghanistan has taught military officials and policymakers that conflict resolution cannot be achieved by purely military means and that the international community needs to take hearts and minds into account when devising its strategy.

Politicians and policymakers need to reach out to women. Women need to be heard not only on issues that are traditionally associated with them, such as education, but on security as well. Conflict resolution cannot succeed if 50 % of the population is ignored. NATO eventually recognised the need to include civil society and women into conflict resolution.

In Afghanistan, military planners began to reach out to civil society to understand people's security needs better in order to achieve sustainable peace. But security means different things for men and women. Military checkpoints, guns on the street represent deterrent force and power for men and make them feel secure. On the other hand, these very same things mean insecurity to women.

The understanding of security also needs to be redefined. States should not be the focus of understanding security. Human security should be at the forefront, which requires a holistic approach from policymakers. It not only means physical safety but economic safety, such as having access to safe employment, and a sustainable physical environment.

Nation states cannot secure this alone; good governance and peace agreements are not enough. Transnational political and economic actors are able to undermine any national work on women’s security, so the international community needs to stand up to those companies and transnational actors that trample on women’s rights.

Women need to be part of the peacebuilding effort in order to achieve sustainable peace. That means not only having women in missions and policymaking, but also including the gender perspective from the onset of a conflict, its management, and its resolution.

The silo mentality regarding gender issues need to be broken down. Gender has to be relevant for the political, strategic, and operational planning. A European Union (EU) study concluded that although EU leaders think equality is important, the actual work of promoting equality is in the hands of gender advisors. Gender knowledge or methodologies have not yet been integrated into the work on the ground.

Women's representation in policymaking as well as in security and development missions is important, but is insufficient. Not all women are competent gender advisors, and not all have the required knowledge on gender structures and how relations of power work.


Infrastructure suited for gender needs is often a key tool for protecting women’s rights and security. Safe transportation enables women to travel independently, while adequate road access to markets could empower women to be economically self-sufficient. 

One idea to make Afghan women’s voices heard by western politicians and policymakers would be for them to accompany their colleagues throughout a visit, rather than just being given a courtesy meeting at the end of lunch.

Organised by


Kirsi Henriksson
Crisis Management Centre Finland
Carol Cohn
Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights
Mara Marinaki
European External Action Service (EEAS)
Sari Kouvo
Associate Professor
Department of Law, Gothenburg University
Clare Hutchinson
NATO Secretary Generals Special Representative for Women Peace and Security