SEESAC Regional Project Successfully Strengthens Gender Mainstreaming in Western Balkans' Security Sector Reform – as Confirmed by UNDP Independent Evaluation
The "Strengthening of Regional Cooperation on Gender Mainstreaming in Security Sector Reform in the Western Balkans" regional project, has made significant steps in bolstering women's participation in the military, strengthening regional cooperation, and combating gender-based discrimination, sexual abuse, and harassment - as highlighted by an independent UNDP evaluation conducted from May to September 2023.
The evaluation identifies the project's unique regional approach model as a best practice - fostering learning, and exchange in achieving gender equality in line with the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. The approach of building internal capacities within Ministries of Defence (MoDs) and Armed Forces (AFs) participating in the project, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, is also deemed highly successful, contributing to the project's sustainability. Other contributions include:
- Strengthened regional cooperation on gender mainstreaming in Security Sector Reform in the Western Balkans. Thirty-four (34) regional meetings and workshops were organized through two regional platforms for knowledge exchange and information sharing among representatives of gender equality mechanisms, decision-makers, high-level military officials, gender advisers, and gender military trainers.
Increased participation of women in the military. Comparative data from 2012 to 2023 show an increase in the share of women among uniformed personnel in the MoDs and AFs in BiH, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia.
- Raised gender awareness in MoDs and AFs through training activities delivered by an innovative network of regional gender military trainers in the Western Balkans, now recognized globally, and through the development of knowledge tools tailor-made for military context. The Regional Network is an internal mechanism comprised of representatives of MoDs and members of AFs who are NATO Certified Gender Trainers that enable continuous and contextual peer-to-peer learning.
- Increased understanding of the importance of combatting gender-based discrimination, sexual abuse, and harassment. The MoDs in the Western Balkans jointly developed a tailor-made Handbook on Preventing and Responding to Gender-Based Discrimination, Sexual Harassment and Abuse, and continuously work on the eradication of gender-based discrimination to contribute to a discrimination-free working environment.
- Enhanced capacities of military leadership for gender-responsive human resources policies, through the Gender Coach Programme. Eight gender coaching programs were completed with high-level military officers to enhance their skills and knowledge to effectively integrate the gender perspective in defence policies and practice.
- Improved integration of gender perspective into military education and training through implementation of the Baseline Study on Integrating a Gender Perspective in Military Education and Training policy recommendations. MoDs integrated teaching on gender in their annual training plans thus making the learning on gender sustainable.
The evaluation recommendations emphasize the continuous improvement of capacity development approaches, encouraging MoDs to transition from recipients of learning to knowledge providers.
The independent evaluation aimed to provide an unbiased assessment of the project's relevance, coherence, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, and sustainability, alongside considerations of communication and visibility. The key findings and recommendations will serve as a compass for UNDP in shaping its future initiatives and actions - ensuring both accountability and transparency.
Moreover, representatives of MoDs acknowledged the projects sustainability, flexibility, and its positive role in shaping policies and practices.
The UNDP SEESAC has been implementing the "Strengthening of Regional Cooperation on Gender Mainstreaming in Security Sector Reform in the Western Balkans" regional project in collaboration with the MoDs and AFs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, since 2012, with the financial support of the Norwegian government and the Government of the Republic of Slovakia