The Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) program fits right into the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) breadbasket because “it is a tool for smart power,” U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Rebecca J. Sonkiss, the Joint Staff J5 deputy director for Counter Threats and International Cooperation said.
Brig. Gen. Sonkiss was among the many luminaries discussing the ways the DOD is adopting the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 in all it does. The United States Institute of Peace sponsored the virtual event on March 29.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks put it in perspective in her remarks helping open the conference. “Around the world, the advancement of women is linked to the advancement of good governance,” she said. “And good governance often leads to a more stable and less turbulent world, which directly impacts our work at the Department of Defense. Our work on women, peace, and security is critical not just for U.S. national security, but equally importantly, for the safety, equality and opportunity of women and girls around the world.”
Around the world, the advancement of women is linked to the advancement of good governance… And good governance often leads to a more stable and less turbulent world, which directly impacts our work at the Department of Defense. Our work on women, peace, and security is critical not just for U.S. national security, but equally importantly, for the safety, equality and opportunity of women and girls around the world,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks.
Women are underrepresented in the security sector, and that gives a skewed picture of the needs, wants, and fears of a society. “By understanding the security needs of the entire population during conflict, the DOD enhances its operational effectiveness and mitigates disproportionate harm against vulnerable populations that can adversely affect long term stability,” Brig. Gen. Sonkiss said.
Part of the program is to model an inclusive military. Women must be in meaningful security jobs, Hicks said. “While we have made progress … we know that there [is] much more work to be done in the years ahead, including within our own forces as we seek to model and employ the WPS principles we work with partner nations to uphold,” she said. “That is why I recently stood up the Deputy’s Workforce Council, which will bring high-level sustained leadership focus to topics that include diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Security cooperation is key to the program. The 2017 law came from the United Nations Women, Peace, and Security resolution passed in 2000. All nations should abide by this resolution, and DOD reaches out to allies and partners to include the voices of women in their security debates.
“Professional military forces have legitimacy to their populations,” U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), told the conference. “You can have the best combat power, the best gear, be the best marksmen or communicators and lose because you don’t gain legitimacy with our populations.”
To Adm. Faller, professionalism equals profound respect for human rights, respect for the laws of armed conflict, and respect for the rule of law. These are key to everything SOUTHCOM does and that means the inclusion of women and diversity, he said. “And again while we’re not perfect, we’ve made progress and we continue to,” he said. “So that professional conversation is carried on with each and every one of our counterparts.”