Counter Terrorism Officer, NATO
Senior Advisor to Secretary General Special Representative (SGSR for WPS), NATO
Abstract. The Alliance's contribution to the global approach to Counter Terrorism was set out at the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago. This article describes its subsequent evolution and makes reference to NATO's current role in the international community's fight against terrorism. Particular attention is given to the intimately related field of Women, Peace and Security and the way that gender considerations have now been mainstreamed throughout NATO's counter terrorism approach and beyond. Some practical examples of relevant NATO activities are given.
Keywords. NATO, counter terrorism, women, peace and security
This edited volume and the Advanced Research Workshop (ARW) hosted by Hedayah and the Fundación para el Análisis y los Estudios Sociales (the Foundation for the Analysis and Social Studies, FAES) on “Enhancing Women's Roles in International Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Efforts” contribute to two of NATO's strategic objectives. First, they support co-operation as part of international efforts to meet the security challenges of counter-terrorism through the investigation of human factors and best practices. Second, they contribute to enhancing awareness of security developments in human and social aspects of security. Therefore, both enhance NATO's efforts, in the sphere of counter-terrorism, and in relation to the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. To put the contribution in context, it is important to outline NATO's key efforts to counter terrorism and to support the WPS agenda internationally.
As NATO Allies stated in 2014, “Terrorism poses a direct threat to the security of the citizens of NATO countries, and to international stability and prosperity as a persistent global threat that knows no border, nationality or religion and is a challenge that the international community must tackle together” . Allies recognize that the primary responsibility to defend citizens and territory against terrorist attacks lies with individual states but that International Organizations have a complementary and non-duplicative role to play. The United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy (General Assembly A/RES/60/288), a unique global approach to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism, has underpinned the international counter terrorism effort since 2006 . NATO, as a political-military Alliance, contributes its unique strengths primarily under the second and third pillars of the strategy, namely preventing and combating terrorism and building states' capacity. Also, while not directly part of its mandate, NATO acknowledges the importance of work related to foreign terrorist fighters and to preventing terrorism through countering violent extremism (CVE) and considers it relevant to its own contribution to the international community's fight against terrorism. NATO Allies' and Partners' promote the role of WPS within the framework of United Nations Security Council Resolutions as an integral part of NATO's wider policy objective of enhancing security and stability. It is also key to international efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism.
2. NATO's Evolving Contribution to the Fight against Terrorism
Although terrorism was recognized as a relevant threat in NATO's Strategic Concept in 1991, it was only after the attacks against the United States in September 2001, that NATO addressed it through a more structured and focused approach. As an external attack on an Ally, 9/11 gave rise to NATO's first, and to date only, invocation of its collective defense mechanism – Article 5 of the founding Washington Treaty. In 2011, the global threat environment demanded that NATO reconsider its contribution and employ a more comprehensive approach. Building on the institutional transformation within NATO in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, a review of NATO's approach to Counter Terrorism conducted in 2012 identified NATO's added value and specific roles in the global counter terrorism approach.
The 2012 Counter Terrorism Policy Guidelines recognized Counter Terrorism as an integral part of NATO's three core tasks . The Alliance was directed to address three pillars: Awareness of the threat (through intelligence exchange, political consultations etc.); Capabilities (to ensure NATO action remains possible despite the terrorist threat); and Engagement with partner nations and other international organizations (to ensure a cohesive international approach).
This 2012 CT political guidance was translated into military implications for the fight against terrorism. The Military Concept for Counter-Terrorism (MC0472/1) recognized that “terrorism poses one of the most immediate threats to the Alliance and its Members…” . The Military Concept defines counter-terrorism as “all preventive, defensive and offensive measures taken to reduce the vulnerability of forces, individuals and property against terrorist threats and/or acts, to respond to terrorist acts” . It builds extensively on the three key principles outlined in NATO's Counter-Terrorism Policy Guidelines and reaffirms NATO's commitment, with a specific focus on the military Counter Terrorism contribution.
Given the evolution of the threat and the changed security environment, in May 2017 Heads of State and Government endorsed an ambitious and detailed Action Plan to enhance NATO's role in the international community's fight against terrorism. This Action Plan was intended to strengthen and expand NATO's contribution to the broader international fight against terrorism. It covers the areas of awareness and assessment, preparedness and responsiveness, capability development, cooperation and capacity building for partners, and support to operations. It serves as an important aspect of efforts to project stability and contributes to the Alliance's approach to deterrence and defense.
Within this Action Plan, NATO recognized the need to better understand the impact of gender in order to be able to prevent and respond more efficiently to violent extremism and terrorism. The Alliance has therefore committed to study the impact of gender in the context of security and counter-terrorism as well as to mainstream gender issues more widely. Adequate support for the Alliance's WPS agenda is essential, as is its inclusion in existing NATO strategies, over and above those related to counter terrorism.
Recent years have seen an unexpected rise in women's involvement in terrorism, an activity which traditionally, had been considered as male-dominated. Daesh and other terrorist groups integrate gender into their messaging and social governance system and use the gender perspective as a strategic and operational tool. To date, too little attention has been paid to the lack of female participation in the fight against terrorism, despite a recognized, urgent requirement for a way to dissuade or deter vulnerable women and girls from joining terrorist movements.
The WPS agenda recognizes the vital role women play in contemporary security challenges, and terrorism is no exception. The adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2242 at the 15th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, addressed women's role in countering violent extremism and terrorism. At that meeting, the (now former) NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow pledged to the UN Security Council that NATO would finance research on the role of gender in countering and preventing violent extremism:
The world is changing rapidly. We face a rising tide of violent extremism and terrorism. And it will be women, once again, who are most at risk. It is therefore essential that women be involved at every stage, and every level, of our operations and missions…NATO is doing a lot. But, we need to do more, especially when it comes to promoting equal participation within NATO itself. We need to increase active and meaningful participation of women. To this end, we pledge…to finance gender-sensitive research aimed at identifying drivers of radicalization and violent extremism, and to develop targeted and evidence-based responses, including the empowerment of women to safeguard communities .
Since then, NATO has made good this pledge by contributing to efforts to better understand the role of women in preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism and continuously underlining the importance of the gender perspective. The implementation of the WPS agenda represents an important policy priority for NATO Allies and Partners across all areas of work. Importantly, the three pillars of NATO's Counter Terrorism Policy Guidelines – Awareness, Capabilities and Engagement – are now reflected in the Women, Peace and Security agenda. This is illustrated:
Awareness of the terrorist threat today and tomorrow includes gender analysis and early warning indicators.
Capabilities to counter terrorism effectively include gender expertise and improved gender balance, as well as awareness of the threat that women can pose to security.
Engagement with partner countries and other International Organizations includes commitment and strengthened efforts to integrate WPS in their daily agenda.
NATO Allies and Partners are made aware of the differing impact of terrorism and violent extremism on women, men, girls and boys, including in the context of health, education and participation in public life. Women and girls are known to be directly targeted by extremist groups and there is deep concern that acts of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)  are a deliberate part of the ideology and strategic objectives of certain terrorist groups. SGBV is recognized as a method of terrorism/war, and is used as an operational tactic by terrorist groups. It can further contribute to the power of such groups through drawing in finances and recruits and through the destruction of communities. SGBV's link to human trafficking and violent extremism is recognized in Security Council Resolution 2331 .
Whilst women can play a key role in preventing violent extremism that leads to terrorism, many also facilitate acts of terrorism, willingly support terrorist groups and perform terrorist acts. NATO recognizes that terrorism and violent extremism are gendered activities that usually exploit rigid stereotypes about gender roles and that, importantly, women's political participation can help counter acts of terror and violence.
3. Examples of NATO's Practical Engagement
The NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme (SPS) has long supported the Women, Peace and Security agenda. As a response to female migration to Daesh, and in addition to the ARW mentioned in this volume, SPS funded an ARW led by experts from Morocco and the United States on the “Prevention of recruitment of women to Daesh and other terror groups.” The goals of the workshop were to raise awareness about the issue and develop practical, concrete measures to help prevent women and girls from travelling to join terrorist groups as well as to conduct an evidence based review of reasons for women joining Daesh. It also looked at how to respond to the tactics used by Daesh in the recruitment of women and how to neutralize and counteract its messages.
NATO has initiated gender-sensitive research aimed at identifying drivers of radicalization and violent extremism, and developing targeted and evidence-based responses. NATO offers a wide range of training and education opportunities specific to the field of counter terrorism, including training on “Gender in Terrorism Education” which is provided to both Allies and Partners. NATO can draw on a wide network of educational assets, including the NATO School in Oberammergau and more than 20 Centres of Excellence – one of which, in Ankara, Turkey, specifically addresses Allies' and Partners' Defence Against Terrorism.
The 2017 Action Plan on NATO's enhanced role in the international community's fight against terrorism specifies that ongoing and future efforts should seek to include a gender dimension to promote their long-term sustainability and ensure they do not have an adverse impact on women and girls.
NATO's approach to the fight against terrorism has evolved since it was first set out in 2012. It will continue to do so in order to adapt to changing aspects of terrorism and violent extremism which have a much wider impact. The role of women is one such aspect. NATO is committed to the WPS agenda, and makes a connected effort to mainstream the role of gender including into the NATO's Counter Terrorism approach. Recognizing that the WPS agenda is much more complex than just protecting women from armed conflict, NATO is determined to contribute to changing the discourse. The application of the “gender lens” has already made a difference in operational contexts.
Women make unique and valuable contributions to various aspects of countering terrorism, including through analysis, fieldwork and policy development. Their participation in the wider fight against terrorism and violent extremism is essential and NATO will continue to encourage Allies and Partners to engage more systematically on issues of gender and counter terrorism. Through NATO's SPS Programme, NATO can contribute to evidence-based research to identify how women can be empowered to enhance the fight against terrorism and to identify opportunities for substantive, meaningful female roles across a wide spectrum of counter terrorism activities. The fight against terrorism requires a whole of society approach in which women's participation is essential. Greater social and economic empowerment will fuel improved involvement.
References and Endnotes
 NATO, Wales Summit Declaration, September 2014, https://www.nato.int/cps/ic/natohq/official_texts_112964.htm.
 United Nations General Assembly, The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, 2006, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/60/288.
 Cooperative security, collective defence, crisis management.
 North Atlantic Military Committee, Final Decision on Military Concept for Counter-Terrorism MC 0472/1, 2016, https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/pdf_2016_01/20160817_160106-mc0472-1-final.pdf.
 United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the High-Level Review of UNSCR 1325 – Women, Peace and Security, Remarks by NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, 2015, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_123768.htm.
 NATO defined SGBV in its Military guidelines on the prevention of, and response to, conflict related sexual and gender-based violence “Any sexual and/or gender-based violence against an individual or group of individuals, used or commissioned in relation to a crisis or an armed conflict.”
 United Nations, United Nations Security Council Resolution 2242, 2015, https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/wp-content/uploads/s_res_2242.pdf.