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Gender equality has a place in civilian CSDP


Implementing the Women, Peace and Security agenda, including enhancing women’s participation, is a current priority in civilian CSDP. The need for action is clear: security sector reform has traditionally been designed by men, however, it requires a gender perspective and participation of both women and men.


We need a better representation of women in our civilian CSDP Missions,” says Francisco Esteban Perez, the Civilian Operations Commander. “More women will contribute to a better balance in the representation of women and men, reflecting the citizens of both the European Union and of the areas where our Missions are deployed. Therefore, enhancing the diversity will make EU civilian crisis management more credible, as a diversity of perspectives are critical to any policy development.

The EU aims to lead by example when it comes to gender equality. Still, women constitute currently a mere 24% of the approximately 2,100 staff of the 11 civilian CSDP Missions deployed in Africa, the Middle East and Europe and in some Missions as low as 15 %. The figures are particularly low among operational experts and in leadership positions. The low number of women is a preventive factor for the EU to lead by example in its interaction with local stakeholders. Taking further steps to improve gender representation will thus improve the efficiency of civilian CSDP action, as it will include people from a more diverse pool of talents.

Member states signed December 2019 a common development plan to strengthen civilian CSDP. This so-called “Compact” does not only speak about the proper representation of women in civilian CSDP Missions, but it foresees a systematic and in depth integration of a gender perspective into Missions’ planning and conduct.

Why this current focus on one particular topic, is a frequently heard question. The answer is in essence following: Gender equality is a fundamental principle of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), and as such, also a central consideration for crisis management capacity. Gender mainstreaming in the area of CSDP is not a goal in itself; however, it contributes to the effectiveness and impact of the EU's crisis management. Not considering a gender perspective on the other hand may constitute a risk of missing targets by disregarding the security risks of the entire population.


Gender equality is a fundamental value of the European Union

CSDP actors are naturally bound by the fundamental EU values: Respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights. Gender equality is a political objective and priority of the European Union.  Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union states: “These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

The reality stands in contrast to the wording of article 2. The first woman was appointed Head of Mission in 2015. Currently, three out of 11 heads of Mission are women. Women make up only 24 % of the overall staff while the ratio in operational and management functions is even direr: a mere 20 %. The need for action is clear.

Gender mainstreaming brings operational advantages and enhanced security

Gender mainstreaming in civilian CSDP is not only a goal in itself,” outlines Francisco Esteban Perez, the commander of the 11 civilian CSDP Missions and thus general manager of a staff of over 2,100 persons. “The further objective is to increase the EU's crisis management credibility and impact, as well as to safeguard the security, and promote the human rights, of both men and women.

There are also distinct operational advantages to increase the number of women among international experts in Missions: they are role models in their daily interaction as trainers or advisers to local counterparts and interlocutors. Police and rule of law organisations need to reflect in their composition the populations they serve. A sufficient number of women is thus a precondition for any successful modern security, rule of law or police service. This applies naturally also to our partner countries. By increasing the representation of women among the leadership and international experts, the CSDP Missions can lead by example.

Many positive developments have been initiated in the two and half years since the signing of the Compact. For example, over 120 Gender focal points, men and women, serve in the currently 11 civilian CSDP Missions - in addition to the fully-fledged Gender Advisers serving in currently nine of the 11 Missions.

A dedicated mentoring programme for female leaders has been launched

To retain women in the Missions, and support women to break the so-called glass ceiling to enter into management positions, a new initiative was launched in 2021: the CSDP Mentoring Programme for Women, kicked off this April, as a new initiative offered to international personnel in civilian CSDP missions by the European Centre of Excellence for Civilian Crisis Management (CoE) and the CPCC. It offers support and guidance for mentees and mentors in a structured seven-month mentoring programme. While this pilot project intends to foster the personal and professional development of the mentees as managers, the aim of this programme goes further beyond the individual mentoring relationships: it aspires to expand networking, to create a community, and to support a more inclusive workplace culture. A positive sign was that both men and women signed up to be mentors. It is important to demonstrate that gender equality is for women and men, in the benefit of all.

Currently in the pipeline: dedicated strategy and action plan on women’s participation

Improving the gender balance in CSDP had been a policy objective for already over a decade. While the percentage of women has increased over time, there is little progress in the last few years despite the ambition set out in the civilian Compact. The CPCC is currently elaborating a strategy and action plan to come up with stronger and more concrete action.

The Civilian Operations Commander says:  "We have analysed the personnel figures and our actions from all angles and we have concluded that we will not improve much unless we come up with a more ambitious gender parity strategy. We must not forget that the gender imbalances in the CDSP context reflects our societies in Europe.  For example, the police services in many EU countries struggle as well to enhance the participation of women. Only one in 6 police officers in the EU is a woman. Therefore, we will have to consider stronger, affirmative measures to reach above the current level."

This must be a joint effort with member states, as Missions are staffed with both international seconded and contracted experts. Still, it is more than numbers that is required. Achieving gender equality requires a gender-responsive leadership and an inclusive workplace culture in which the Mission leadership is committed to creating an environment in which all individuals are included and feel safe and comfortable.

 While much needs to still to be done in the area of gender mainstreaming in civilian CSDP Mission, concrete steps have already been taken to remedy the current situation. In the future civilian CSDP will be more equal and more efficient among others due to a more equitable representation of female experts in its ranks.