Inclusive Leadership for the Security Sector 2019: A Critical Mission
Rapid demographic change and emerging security challenges require security organizations to strengthen diversity and inclusion in order to fulfill their missions. The German Marshall Fund of the United States’ Leadership Programs team organized with Deutscher.Soldat e.V., the European Organization of Military Associations and Trade Unions, and Women in International Security the three-day Mission Critical conference in Berlin in June to discuss gender, religious, ethnic, and many more forms of diversity in armed forces. This transatlantic leadership development and exchange opportunity allowed for key personnel and stakeholders from countries including Canada, Germany, Malta, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States to gain new strategies for inclusive leadership in security contexts.
Mission Critical was held as part of Germany’s Diversity Day 2019, with support from the country’s Ministry of Defense among others. The conference kicked off on June 19 with opening remarks from Stéphane Dion, Canada’s ambassador to Germany and special envoy to the European Union and Europe, and by Germany’s Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen.
GMF spoke to two participants in the conference who are leading women on the diversity debate on both sides of the Atlantic.
Nariman Hammouti-Reinke is the president of Deutscher.Soldat e.V. and an S2 officer with the rank of senior midshipwoman with the naval base at Nordholz. She is very active on diversity and integration questions. With her Moroccan and Muslim heritage, Hammouti-Reinke has been a strong advocate of broadening the diversity conversation and creating greater support for military personnel of the Muslim faith. She started in 2005 on the sergeant track with the German armed forces (Bundeswehr) and has served twice in Afghanistan with the electronic combat unit. In 2016, Hammouti-Reinke switched to the officer track.
With 12 percent of the Bundeswehr being women and 13 percent having a migration background, the question is how to make the armed forces more appealing as an employer to the general citizenry. In 2010, Germany made the decision to terminate the draft. Consequently, the Bundeswehr no longer enjoys a steady influx of young recruits. Serving in the armed forces is now a choice and many Germans consider other professional avenues much more attractive. This first and foremost includes groups of people who regularly experience discrimination: women, LGBT+, and ethnically diverse individuals. With the professional prospects it offers, the Bundeswehr appears tailored to only a specific part of the population, predominantly that of white men.
People such as Hammouti-Reinke aim to change this view of the German armed forces. In her book Ich Diene Deutschland (I Serve Germany), which was published earlier this year, she counters clichés around the Bundeswehr and advocates for more visibility for the armed forces in general but also for their actions in combat. For example, as a woman with a migration background, she says, being part of the Bundeswehr and fighting for Germany is the ultimate form of integration. She wants to steer people away from narratives around neo-Nazis among recruits and sadistic officers to a view that lets go of ideological blinders, that asks why soldiers are viewed negatively in society, and that takes an in-depth look at what the Bundeswehr does for Germany.
According to Hammouti-Reinke, while wearing the uniform makes soldiers uniform on the surface, one cannot ignore their underlying differences that equip them with the unique assets they add to the Bundeswehr. Rather, she would like for the Bundeswehr’s entire diversity to be displayed publicly, so diverse parts of the citizenry can recognize themselves in it. This argument is one she connects particularly to women, taking herself as an example: “If we see someone like ourselves in a successful position, we are filled with the idea of ‘I can do this, too’” (see Q3 series). Members of the armed forces like Hammouti-Reinke, therefore, aim to further this narrative and establish a more positive discourse focused on the benefits of diversity.
Clare Hutchinson took office as the NATO special representative for women, peace, and security in 2018. She is the high-level focal point on all aspects of NATO’s contribution to the women, peace, and security agenda. Hutchinson worked as a senior gender adviser with the United Nations for over a decade. She has been instrumental in setting the strategic development of the women, peace, and security agenda for the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping in New York, Kosovo and Lebanon.
The role of women in peace and security has been much debated, from women bringing unique perspectives to peace negotiations to the role of female combatants in armed conflict. The prominent view in the field still centers around language, discussions, and actions defined by (supposedly) male characteristics such as aggression, assertiveness, and strength. However, the conversation has also advanced to more detailed questions such as the role of women as victims and perpetrators in conflict, the role of women in armed forces, sexual violence against women as a mode of combat, and the difference of security and protection with women and men.
According to Hutchinson, we have yet to fully understand the unique role women play in conflict. Little is known particularly about their motivation and drivers to engage in conflict and become perpetrators rather than victims. This is rarely explored but adds a unique perspective to the analysis of how conflict comes about. Do women have similar motives to engage in violence than men? Do women engage in conflict as defenders or aggressors?
One recurring theme in Hutchinson’s and Hammouti-Reinke’s comments is the question of female leaders as role models. In Germany, for example, having women as chancellor and as defense minister has not generated a greater debate on gender and security. In fact, the nomination of Ursula von der Leyen as defense minister in 2013 predominantly led to comments about her being more suitable for her prior position of minister of family affairs.
Hutchinson advocates for women to speak up further and to bring men into the debate so we change who our visible leaders are and instill in younger generations the idea of being able to achieve the same. Additionally, it creates a world view for boys and younger men that takes the presence of strong female leaders as granted. It is also up to conferences like Mission Critical, with its diverse panels and female and ethnically diverse speakers, to become more routine occurrences to further settle these conversations within our societies.
For more information about the ongoing work of Mission Critical: Inclusive Leadership for the Security Sector” contact Lora Berg, Counselor for Inclusive Leadership, email@example.com.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.