Brenda Law and Cori Fleser - U.S. Africa Command
U.S. Africa Command has developed a new tool designed to measure progress in advancing women, peace and security as part of its security cooperation effort.
Participants in U.S. Africa Command’s Women, Peace and Security forum for female military leaders from seven African nations pose for a photo at National Defense University in Washington, Sept. 19, 2017. DoD photo by Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ben Flores.
The WPS Security Force Assistance assessment tool establishes criteria to help Africom have a more informed understanding of how an African partner nation implements WPS within its capacity and capability building activities.
The SFA assessment tool is the brainchild of Africom’s gender advisor, Cori Fleser.
“In my role as the gender advisor, I am responsible for providing recommendations to staff at the command for implementing WPS within our security cooperation activities,” said Fleser. “I developed this tool as a method for informing my understanding to provide more tailored recommendations into that annual planning process.”
With the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017 signed into U.S. law in October, Africom looked for new and innovative ways to integrate women, peace and security into one of its core mission areas: security cooperation.
Since 2011, the command has worked to integrate the mandate in its activities with African security forces. Annual training courses sponsored by Africom and conducted for African partners consistently have only male participants. Consequently, Africom saw the need to develop specific training opportunities specifically for women from African militaries. Beyond such skilled areas as communications and intelligence, the command has cohosted workshops and seminars on gender integration, the role of women in peacekeeping operations and responding to gender-based violence.
Despite these successes, integrating women, peace and security into existing military planning, execution, and assessment processes, such as those for security cooperation, has been more of a challenge, which inspired Fleser to develop the SFA assessment tool.
Assessing Women, Peace, Security Implementation
Informed by the Defense Department’s Implementation Guide for Women, Peace and Security, the tool defines women, peace and security-related criteria within DoD’s doctrinally defined security force functions and identifies proxy indicators measured in data sets and global indices that can be used to make an informed assessment of that specific criteria.
The tool leverages open source data sets from international organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank, and World Health Organization, and uses indicators from global indices, such as the Fragile States Index and Women, Peace and Security Index.
The tool provides a rationale for why the command can confidently use those proxy indicators to assess the women, peace, and security criteria in lieu of having access to a more preferred metric. The assessment of these proxy indicators can provide an understanding of cross-sectoral gender dynamics within an African partner nation and its security forces and institutions, allowing for tailored approaches to working on women, peace, and security implementation through security cooperation activities.
A Step in the Right Direction
While there is utility in this new tool, like many analytic tools, Fleser acknowledges that it has its limitations. “It is important to remember that proxy indicators are an indirect measurement,” she cautions, “and they do not give us the full picture of how our partners are implementing the women, peace, and security mandate within their security sectors. They will, however, point us in a direction that is useful to security cooperation planning.”
The WPS criteria established do not represent an exhaustive list of criteria necessary for implementation but allows the command to work together with African partners to identify new criteria for advancing the WPS mandate through security cooperation activities. “Now the command has an initial set of criteria that tells us what WPS looks like within our doctrinally defined security force assistance categories,” Fleser said.
The SFA assessment tool advances the command’s implementation of the WPS mandate in several ways. First, it introduces quantitative data to complement the qualitative data that currently informs the inclusion of WPS pillars in security cooperation planning. Second, it provides security cooperation planners with a defined set of WPA criteria that nest within an annual process they already support, simplifying and clarifying WPS implementation. Third, the tool supports one of the key principles underpinning the mandate by including nontraditional security indicators and using them to inform a uniquely military planning process.
"Although not perfect, the SFA assessment tool is designed to facilitate better security cooperation planning and WPS implementation," Fleser said. "It does not provide a binary good/bad assessment of African partner nations. Rather, it enables the command to better understand how gender influences the security sector using quantitative data to support that analysis and opens the opportunities for working together with our partner nations to advance a mandate critical to achieving our mutual security objectives."