The Olsson Matrix on Gender in Military Operations. Illustration: Louise Olsson, PRIO
The Olsson Matrix on Gender in Military Operations. Illustration: Louise Olsson, PRIO

To be able to realize the content of Women, Peace and Security, and gender equality in practice, it is necessary to contextualize and substantiate the content with specific geographical areas. To enable this, NATO International Military Staff (IMS) Office of the Gender Advisor has conducted a regional series of Deep Dive sessions. On February 21, 2024, the final session in the series explored the critical nexus between the High North's security landscape and gender perspective.

The High North session featured Dr. Louise Olsson, Research Director at the Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO), and expertise from Dr. Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv of The Arctic University of Norway. The session delved into the intricate dynamics of gender and regional security threats, including the complexities of hybrid attacks, and examined how gender intersects with other marginalized identity markers within the context of security preparation, prevention, and response strategies in the High North.

Olsson based her remarks on a study conducted for the Swedish Armed Forces and her systematic Matrix framework outlining four key policy areas for integrating gender into military organizations and operations: external integration, external participation, internal integration, and internal participation.

External integration involves considering what gender dimensions are relevant and key to realizing the mission objective, including the formulation and interpretation of the core organizational mandate and improving situational awareness. Lessons drawn from Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine underscore the importance of understanding the societal impact of war in relation to the military mission, particularly considering effects on vulnerable groups, and how the impact may differ based on factors such as gender or age. In terms of external participation, Olsson emphasized the significance of inclusive decision-making processes to ensure legitimacy and diverse voices, particularly concerning women and other often excluded groups such as indigenous populations.

To be able to effectively integrate gender and ensure diverse participation, there is a need for building organizational capacity, including collecting and analyzing gender-disaggregated data – i.e. internal integration. An analytical approach helps identify vulnerabilities and patterns of potential outcomes, informing more effective planning and operations. Lastly, internal participation involves fostering inclusive environments and addressing issues such as recruitment, retention, and professional conduct within military units. Recognizing the gendered labor distributions underscores the importance of supporting childcare and elderly care to ensure broader participation during crises.

Both Hoogensen Gjørv and Olsson emphasized the strategic imperative of integrating gender perspectives into military planning in the High North. Hybrid campaigns underscore the importance of addressing gender disparities and vulnerabilities of marginalized groups in democratic societies. Using the Matrix can also help map and systematize the work of enhancing resilience and inclusivity in the face of evolving threats, emphasizing the utilization of gender-disaggregated data and improved decision-making capacities. Now that all the Nordic countries have joined NATO, gender dimensions need to be central to discussions on defense cooperation in the High North.

Read more about the event at this link: NATO - News: Deep Dive Recap: The High North and the Gender Perspective, 22-Mar.-2024