Increasing capacities of the Armed Forces in the Western Balkans to respond to gender-based discrimination

Regional workshop on combatting gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse, took place on 18 and 19 June 2019 in Jahorina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

21 representatives from the Ministries of Defense (MoDs) and Armed Forces (AFs) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia participated in the Regional Workshop on Combating Gender-based Discrimination, Sexual Harassment and Abuse organized by UNDP SEESAC to increase the institutional capacities of MoDs and AFs in responding to gender-based discrimination. The meeting is part of the second phase of the Strengthening of Regional Cooperation on Gender Mainstreaming in Security Sector Reform in the Western Balkans Project.

The regional workshop ensured that the participants understand the different types of discrimination, what they mean in practice and how they negatively affect personal and professional lives. It also established an understanding of the importance of reporting and responding to gender related complaints and enabled the sharing of practices on complaint mechanisms in the AFs – General Brigadier Mirsad Ahmić, Inspector General shared his exemplary experiences with the complaint mechanisms in MoD, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The workshop also provided the opportunity to prepare for the development of knowledge tools for awareness raising activities.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Muhamed Smajić, Secretary of the Ministry of Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina, emphasized the importance of regional cooperation, facilitated by UNDP SEESAC, in achieving gender equality in the military. Mr. Amer Kapetanović, Head of Political Department, Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), confirmed RCC’s continuous support to gender mainstreaming, including in the security sector reform, and underlined SEESAC’s important work in this area. Mr.  Geir Myrseth, the Defense Adviser from the Royal Norwegian Embassy in BiH stated that gender-based violence, sexual harassment and abuse, if not addressed adequately, can undermine the effectiveness of militaries. Mr. Slobodan Tadic, UNDP BiH Sector Leader on Human Security and Justice, emphasized the role of leaders in MoDs and AFs in increasing the response to gender-based discrimination and reiterated UNDP’s support to the MoDs and AFs in this area.

The Strengthening of Regional Cooperation on Gender Mainstreaming in Security Sector Reform in the Western Balkans project is financed with funding provided by the Governments of Norway and Slovak Republic. With the support of UNDP SEESAC, the project provides the Ministries of Defense and the Armed Forces in the Western Balkans with a platform where, over the next three years, they can exchange ideas and develop policies to ensure long-term and sustainable inclusion of the gender perspective in defense policies and practices.