Gender and Oversight: new guidance notes for managers, policymakers and practitioners

06/05/2014 @ 09:41
by Megan Bastick

Why focus on gender and oversight?  DCAF has been working on - and producing resources to support - the integration of gender perspectives in the security sector for almost a decade. You are probably familiar with the DCAF, OSCE-ODIHR, UN-INSTRAW Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit, and with the Gender Self Assessment Guide.

Too often, a police force or armed force makes a policy commitment to gender, but doesn’t follow though in implementation. Internal systems and structures don’t adapt. Progress is not tracked. There is no external accountability. This is why we decided to focus on integrating gender into bothinternal oversightwithin police and armed forces, and intoexternal oversightof security sector institutions.

The result is three new gender and SSR guidance notes, on:

Integrating Gender into Internal Police Oversight (

Integrating a Gender Perspective into Internal Oversight within Armed Forces (

Integrating Gender into Oversight of the Security Sector by Ombuds Institutions & National Human Rights Institutions (

OK – not the catchiest titles in the world, but the content is concrete, practical, and littered with useful checklists and examples.

The guidance notes were developed collaboratively by DCAF, OSCE ODIHR and the OSCE Gender Section supported by the Swiss Agency for Development & Cooperation. They are based upon desk research, interviews, and expert input from acting and former police and armed forces personnel, acting and former ombudspersons, academics, consultants and ministerial staff from: Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Liberia, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

They are particularly grounded upon good practice within OSCE participating states. We found some really exciting examples, like the strategies used  by Georgia’s Public Defender’s Office to proactively enable complaints concerning gender equality; the practice of the Norwegian armed forces’ ombudsman of meeting with local women’s NGOs in Afghanistan; integration of equality issues within police performance evaluation in Britain; tools for commanders to prevent sexual assault within the US military; and an observatory dedicated to gender and equality issues within the Spanish military.

From this wealth of experience, the guidance notes distil systems and processes needed to ensure that gender issues are integrated both in personnel management, and in operations. From learning lessons on missions, to preventing sexual harassment, to monitoring performance in responding to domestic abuse, the guidance notes aim to help police and armed forces realise the benefits of integrating gender. They show oversight bodies how they can be an effective gender watchdog, for example, through examining gender issues on site visits. The guidance notes include a basic self assessment table, listing key questions and data to be collected.

We are launching the notes today, first in English, with Russian, French and Bosnian translations in the pipeline.

Do you have any examples of good practice in integrating gender in security sector oversight that you can share?

08/07/2014 @ 10:04
by Azra Avdagic

Dear Megan,

These guidance notes do a great job at addressing a gap in documentation on successful initiatives taken to address gender issues within the security sector. 

In terms of oversight, what immediately comes to mind is civil society and their engagement with security sector institutions. CSOs can play a major role in holding security sector institutions accountable to legislation on gender equality, both national and international. For example, the Nigerian government established an Inter Ministerial Committee on Gender and Peace with members from the military, police, ministries and departments and CSOs. The initiative notes that women CSO participation was increased in the SSR and peace building process, and that dialogue was improved between CSOs and government.

Strengthening such links opens opportunities for exchange of knowledge and ideas, and is successfully integrating gender into security sector oversight. 

Thank you for sharing these guidance notes.

Best wishes,