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The role of women and gender policies in addressing the military conflict in Ukraine

21/09/2015 - 22/09/2015, Kyiv

The IAI - Istituto Affari Internazionali (Institute of International Affairs) of Rome and the Democracy Development Centre of Kiev collaborated at the organization of a workshop focusing on “The role of women and gender policies in addressing the military conflict in Ukraine". The initiative was funded by the NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme in the broader framework of the implementation of NATO’s Policy on Women, Peace and Security.

15 years after the adoption of the United Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and the following related Resolutions, the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda is far to be ideal. The ongoing security crisis in Ukraine is a good example of how the contemporary conflicts can heavily affect women and girls, without fully involving them in the management and resolution of the crisis.

The IAI-DDC project was intended to support the analysis of the current gender policies in Ukraine in order to promote a major inclusion of women in the management of the ongoing crisis. The meeting gathered together international experts, representatives from the Ukrainian Government, members of the Armed Forces and the police, and civil society.

IAI has been researching on the current Ukrainian security situation, but this workshop is part of the first research project focusing specifically on the gender dimension of the crisis and with the ultimate objective of providing guidance and support in the final drafting of the Ukrainian 1325 National Action Plan (NAP). “We know the huge economic problems and security challenges that this country is facing, and we can understand how difficult it might be in these circumstances to move towards the implementation of a 1325 National Action Plan and on women’s full participation in the promotion of peace and security. But notwithstanding the present time of crisis, UNSCR 1325 represents an element of civilization, social improvement and policy normalization for all countries and this is the importance of this workshop”, said Gianni Bonvicini, Executive Vice President of IAI – Istituto Affari Internazionali.

IAI strongly supports the Women, Peace and Security agenda and promotes the inclusion of the gender perspective as integral part of its research projects. “This is a unique opportunity to tackle the gender perspective as an essential dimension of the new concept of security. Women can play an increasingly important role both individually as policymakers, as members of the Armed forces and police, and as group of women and representatives of civil society”, stated Nicoletta Pirozzi, Senior Fellow at IAI and co - director of the project.

Svana Adalsteinsdottir, NATO’s Advisor for Women, Peace and Security, addressed the Ukrainian authorities underlining how “Gender perspective is a tool to your advantages. It is not a women’s issue, it is a human rights and a security issue. It shouldn’t be an afterthought, on the contrary, it should be a fundamental process of your security and defense planning calling for specific and concrete actions. A comprehensive reform of the defense and security sectors is vital for Ukraine’s democratic development and its ability to defend itself.

Participation of women in all sphere of public life is a key aspect for achieving gender equality and ensure a sustainable peace, as it was reiterated in one of the sessions of the workshop that addressed the main pillars of UNSCR 1325, from prevention to protection and participation of women in the security and defense sectors.

During her welcoming address, Ms. Iryna Lutsenko, member People's Deputy of Ukraine shared the experience of female Parliamentarians working personally on the frontline where they provided assistance to volunteers and to hospitals, and mobilized the community raising funds in the support of IDPs, who are mostly women and children. “We are only the 12% of the Parliament and we could do so much for our soldiers and volunteers, and for the population living on the frontline. Imagine how much more could be done if we only were the 30%. Women are not passive. Women can, want and do”, she stated.

The important role women play in the Armed Forces, mostly on voluntary basis, was widely discussed. Stereotypes, lack of institutionalization, lack of proper salaries and social support, together with limited rehabilitation programmes were among the issues raised and they represent one of the biggest challenges that Ukraine has to address in its forthcoming 1325 NAP.

We are making a great effort in order to bring the gender perspective in all issues we work on and have it on our agenda. We aim at having it as one of the top 5 priorities of our society in this hard time. I’m grateful to IAI and DDC for organizing this workshop with the support of NATO. This event will bring an impetus to our work”, said Serhiy Ustymenko, First Deputy Minister on issues of European integration from the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine.

More than 110 participants were in attendance all through the event and contributed to a lively and interesting discussion highlighting a number of areas for potential future action and research.

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