The Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies collaborated with the U.S. Pacific Forces (PACAF) in a Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Symposium (March 29 – April 1) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

The event was attended by over 300 participants, primarily female defense officials, from more than 20 countries in the Indo-Pacific, including Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the United States. A fireside chat featuring Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Commander Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, and former PACAF Commander retired Gen. Lori Robinson was one of the event highlights. Robinson became the highest-ranking woman to lead the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command in 2016.  Offering his leadership insights on WPS, Wilsbach remarked that it “is ultimately about ensuring that women are equally and meaningfully engaged in every space where conversations and decisions about peace and security are being made. We’ve made a lot of advances in the past few years, like opening up career fields in many countries to women, but there’s still some room to grow.”

Major General Suzanne Vares-Lum, Mobilization Assistant to the Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, in her remarks at the Symposium, noted that in 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense began training personnel on how to conduct a gender analysis as part of the military planning process leading the development of a network of gender advisors and gender focal points across the agency. She stated that understanding gender differences in the operational environment is important, as is increasing women’s participation within the defense and security sectors.  She emphasized, however, that it “isn’t just a numbers game. Meaningful participation means more than just presence. It means women can bring their whole, authentic selves to work every day alongside male counterparts and feel like a respected member of the team.”

Dr. Saira Yamin (DKI APCSS Academic Lead), along with DKI APCSS faculty members, Dr. William Wieninger and Dr. Miemie Byrd, extended substantive content support to the event with presentations on UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, the global framework advancing women’s meaningful participation in peace and security efforts. They offered data on regional trends and women’s contributions in crisis management and conflict resolution in the Indo-Pacific. Women’s indispensable roles in building and sustaining democratic institutions were also highlighted.

Yamin observed that “Women matter to peace and security because they have alternative leadership styles and are force multipliers.  They build institutional credibility, expand societal participation in advancing human security, and broaden the understanding of peace and security by bringing their experiences, skills, and resources to the table.” Resonating with this, several studies suggest that mixed-gender teams make significantly superior and more innovative decisions.

The event showcased DKI APCSS alumni experience in advancing National Action Plans on WPS in the region with presentations by Dr. Lailufar Yasmin (Bangladesh, ASC 19-2) and Ms. Daniela Sepulveda (Chile, ASC 17-1). Discussions also considered opportunities for diversifying women’s roles in security sector institutions and proportionately integrating their perspectives in problem-solving.

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