An in-depth discussion on gender perspectives with Dr. Smolynec

Article / March 11, 2016

Dr. Gregory Smolynec, Director General Strategic Initiatives, shares his perspective on integrating gender perspectives into Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) operations.

Can you explain how integrating gender perspectives into the planning of operations will improve their effectiveness?

When we talk about integrating gender perspectives, we’re looking at analyzing operating environments as thoroughly as possible and understanding how conflict may affect segments of the population (i.e. men, women, boys and girls) in different ways. Doing so provides a greater appreciation and understanding of the dynamics of conflict situations and it helps tailor operational plans to address those dynamics.

The CAF has actually integrated gender perspectives in the past, but didn’t have a name for it at the time.

For example, in Afghanistan, the CAF used female engagement teams on patrols to connect with local women and collect intelligence. This approach proved to be very beneficial for the operation and it helped CAF leaders, including General Jonathan Vance (Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS)) realize the value of integrating gender perspectives into operations in the future.

As we begin the process of formally integrating gender perspectives into CAF plans, operations, doctrine and training, we will be able to realize the full potential behind this theory.

The CDS Directive on gender perspectives states that three Gender Advisors will be staffed in the next year. What will a Gender Advisor (GENAD) actually do? What role will they play in integrating gender perspectives?

Gender Advisors will be fully integrated into all operational planning activities. They will ensure that the incorporation of gender perspectives is thorough, comprehensive and runs across all plans and all operations, from start to finish.

When we talk about a new operation that’s being stood up, for instance, the Gender Advisors will bring to bear the competencies required to understand the conflict in question and all its dimensions, especially from the gender perspective. They will incorporate the competency that we call Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) into the planning process and the subsequent operations.

We keep hearing different terms: GBA+, gender mainstreaming, gender perspectives. Are these the same thing or is there a distinction between them?

There is overlap between these terms in the way they are used, which can be confusing. Thankfully, the CDS Directive includes definitions on each of these terms in Annex A.

Why is the integration of gender perspectives into operational planning such a big deal now? Were we not integrating gender perspectives before?

Gender perspectives were considered in past operations, but not in the structured and integrated approach that we are working toward today. The reason this initiative has recently received so much attention is because October 31, 2015 marked the 15th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. This resonated with CDS, General Vance, largely because of his operational experience in Afghanistan. He saw the utility in moving the yardstick on the issue. So he directed that a full CDS Directive be developed to ensure that gender perspectives are fully integrated into future operations, plans, doctrine, training and so on. There were things that were going on earlier but the idea is that now it will be more comprehensive, more thorough and pervasive.

Will the Defence Team receive training on this?

A training package is in development and the plan is that all CAF members, regardless of their role, will develop the GBA+ competency and implement it so that it automatically becomes a part of the operational planning process.

On the civilian side, currently, there are training tools available through Status of Women Canada.

Any final thoughts on this initiative?

From my perspective, it’s a very positive initiative that has quite a bit of potential. Our goal is to improve international peace and security, which can be very difficult. Incorporating gender perspectives will help the CAF develop knowledge about the dynamics of conflict and assist in developing better plans to achieve our strategic objectives.

At the same time, gender perspectives should not be held up for any kind of special scrutiny. This is one strategic element being used to help achieve our objectives and should not be thought of as the complete solution.

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