Overview of our work in WPS

The prime goal of NATO is to safeguard peace and security based on its common values of individual liberty, democracy, and the rule of law. It does so through its three core tasks of collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security. NATO recognises the disproportionate impact that conflict has on women and girls, the vital roles women play in peace and security, and the importance of incorporating gender perspectives in all that the Alliance does.

Women, Peace and Security

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda is a long standing commitment of NATO and its allies. NATO is committed to integrating gender perspectives to all aspects, levels and stages of its activities at civilian and military level, from planning to execution and evaluation.

In 2007, reflecting on its previous experience with WPS, especially in Afghanistan, NATO Allies and Euro-Atlantic Partners agreed the first dedicated WPS policy on gender in the context of military operations. On the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (2000) (UNSCR 1325), NATO adopted a supporting Action Plan at the Lisbon Summit 2010. The WPS policy has been refreshed regularly. The 2018 Policy and Action Plan underline three core principles: integration, inclusiveness and inclusivity.

Gender perspectives in NATO Armed Forces

The increasingly challenging and complex security environment requires a diversity of considerations, qualifications and resources to secure and maintain peace. The unique and complimentary experiences and perspectives of women and men can significantly improve NATO’s military abilities and effectiveness. NATO, through the International Military Staff Office of the Gender Advisor and the NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives (NCGP), is therefore actively working towards not only increasing the representation of women within its forces, but also towards the full integration of gender perspectives in all stages and levels of its military activities.

In terms of inclusiveness, NATO is convinced that any military force should properly represent the society that it protects. The Alliance therefore encourages all its members to adopt measures to increase the representation of women within their military forces. Over the past 20 years, the average participation of women in NATO states’ militaries doubled, reaching 12% in 2020. Furthermore, the NCGP is working towards incorporating gender into the Capability Development processes of NATO with the goal to ensure that everyone in the increasingly diverse armed forces will be properly equipped with tools that are fit and safe to use for each individual soldier. NATO has taken specific actions to further the integration of gender perspectives into its military activities. Since 2009, dedicated Gender Advisors have been deployed to missions and operations to help foster the integration process. NATO’s Mission in Iraq is now the first NATO mission to integrate gender perspectives into every stage of the initiating, concept development, and planning process.

It is a high priority of NATO to ensure its personnel adheres to the highest levels of standards. To this end, NATO has developed and implemented specific training and accountability systems on WPS for all its military personnel. Gender-specific briefings have been incorporated into the pre-deployment training at the Joint Force Training Centre (JFTC), into online modules available through Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL), and at the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations (NCGM). In order to facilitate further gender-specific training, NATO has made some of its educational materials available to the public, such as the Training Materials on Gender Perspectives or the Guidelines for Gender Mainstreaming in Small Arms and Light Weapons. NATO also adopted a zero-tolerance policy on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in 2019. The Policy applies to the conduct of all Alliance personnel and recognises the necessity of establishing adequate reporting mechanisms to ensure appropriate action can be taken against incidences and perpetrators of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Gender balance and diversity in NATO

NATO is an equal opportunities employer committed to valuing everyone as an individual. In 2003, NATO agreed on its first Equal Opportunities and Diversity Policy, which serves as a guiding document on gender balance throughout NATO structures, alongside diversity and inclusion action plans and policies on protections against discrimination and harassment.

Over the years, NATO has achieved significant improvements in gender mainstreaming and balance. Women now make up 41% of the International Staff, which is the highest representation ever recorded at NATO. Women are also holding the most diverse set of positions, with the percentage of women in leadership positions extending to 30% often seen as a tipping point for sustained, meaningful change.

Highlights of our work

* The data provided on this site are for informational purposes only. The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by NATO. The coloured overlays used to highlight countries are approximate markers.