NATO launches PR offensive in support of women’s rights

NATO marked International Women’s Day (8 March) with a series of events, initiatives and a blitz of public relations’ messages. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen used an article in the influential Huffington Post to say that greater empowerment and more effective protection of women against the dangers of armed conflicts benefits everyone, not only women. He called for more attention to be given to women's concerns in NATO operations, more women in NATO forces and greater cooperation and coordination among international institutions on women, peace and security.
 
In a complementary op-ed, “NATO's Women”, Stefanie Babst, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy sets out how the Allianceis taking a number of actions to increase the representation of women both in policy and on the ground. And then there is the obligatory video message posted on You Tube – “rather good actually”, said Ian Davis, director of NATO Watch – as well as an online video discussion, the first in  a promised series of video debates on empowering women in conflict zones. One of the key stated aims is to highlight UN security council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in October this year.
 
Finally, NATO also announced the women ‘back to school’ initiative, which aims to encourage more future female leaders to take part in building peace and security. Under the programme, female NATO staff members will be sent back to the schools and universities where they earned their degrees to present themselves, their work, the role of NATO and how they are taking part in international security. Giji Gya, Executive Director of ISIS Europe welcomed these initiatives saying ““We have been waiting 10 years for concrete action on implementing UNSCR1325. Finally, it is good to see it not only taken seriously at the highest level in political-military bodies, but in parallel with actions at the working level and not just rhetoric. NATO has advanced well in addressing gender perspectives and should now work with other organisations such as the EU to help to consolidate work on gender and women across the board”.