Security and defence policy

Hanna L. Muehlenhoff

All European Union (EU) policies are gendered in terms of their inclusion of women in decision-making processes, their norms and impact.Yet security and defence policy is a particularly strongly gendered field, visible in the dominance of men, the strong association of weapons and war with masculinity, and the disproportionate effects of war on women in terms of physical and structural violence. It is therefore not surprising — yet indispensable - that the EU has only recently considered gender as part of its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)1 and that research on gender in CSDP is rare. The EU is expected to be a frontrunner in gender equality because it understands itself and it is understood by others (even if debated) as a ‘normative power’ in the world promoting norms of democracy and human rights, including gender equality (Guerrina and Wright 2016; Manners 2006; see van der Vleuten in this volume).This stems from the EU’s equality policies in relation to the Single Market (van der Vleuten 2017; Woodward and van der Vleuten 2014) and is underlined by its commitment in the Amsterdam Treaty 1997 to implement gender mainstreaming in all EU policies (Guerrina and Wright 2016). However, not only in security and defence but in EU external relations more generally there is little evidence of gender-sensitive policies (cf. Special Issue ed. Muehlenhoff, van der Vleuten and Welfens 2020). By now, international organisations, states, practitioners and scholars have recognised that it is crucial to include gender considerations into security policies.The United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), in short: UNSCR 1325 as of 2000, including its follow-up resolutions, is the most powerful manifestation of this realisation.

Why do gender norms hardly figure in CSDP and its analysis? First, security and defence policy has remained strongly intergovernmental and been less subject to gender-mainstreaming efforts by the Commission and the European Parliament than other sectors. Second and related, EU scholars have focused on discussing the ‘capabilities-expectations gap’ (Hill 1993) in CSDP (cf. Bickerton et al. 2011). As a consequence, the mainstream literature has ‘been either descriptive or prescriptive or both’ (Bickerton et al. 2011,7).This ‘prescriptive concern’ is characteristic of EU’s Studies more generally; it has favoured further integration with little questioning of its politics and the consequences of specific policy choices (cf. Kurowska 2012). Unsurprisingly, an investigation and challenging of gender norms has not been part of this research agenda.

However, the EU Gender Action Plan (GAP I) for External Relations (SEC(2010) 265 final) and the EU Global Strategy (European Union 2016) promise that the EU includes gender considerations in all its external relations, including security and defence. The EU intends to implement the UN WPS agenda (15782/3/08/EC). Some feminist scholars have hence started analysing security and defence, pushing a research agenda on gender norms in CSDP institutions, policies and discourses.This work is especially important at this point in time when the EU and its member states are strengthening cooperation in security and defence as a reaction to what they perceive as an increasingly insecure geopolitical situation. In the following, I will first introduce EU security and defence policy and discuss mainstream approaches to CSDP pointing to their failure to consider gender. Second, I will present existing work on gender and CSDP. Third, 1 will discuss its gaps and suggest that future research should centre militarism in its analysis of EU institutions, policies and discourses and study security bottom-up.

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