A representative from the U.S. European Command spoke in Kuwait recently as part of the Syria Stabilization Appreciation Seminar to prepare for upcoming Support to Stabilization operations.
Samantha Turner was requested to be a part of the seminar for her work as the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) program head and Gender Advisor to U.S. European Command Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.
"When thinking about what stabilization really means, my program is a natural fit," said Turner. "The WPS program is one that focuses on how natural disasters, war, and other conflicts affect men, women, girls and boys differently-and through those differences we can distill the best places to focus in order to help stabilize communities post-conflict."
The seminar focused on numerous topics, to include political vulnerabilities, economic vulnerabilities, and social vulnerabilities. Turner spoke specifically about gender equality and trafficking.
"Women play a central role in encouraging reconciliation and peace building through civil service-their participation in rule of law, peacekeeping, political, and economic systems have all been proven to help the stabilization of society as well as building lasting peace," said Turner. "My role in the seminar was to help show those who are on the ground planning and supporting Syrian stabilization how to apply WPS concepts to their operational setting."
Turner added that she spoke to military leaders about how sexual violence is a form of warfare and how it can degrade mission effectiveness. "It's an uncomfortable thing to talk about, but it is essential that we understand and emphasize that rape and sexual violence is a weapon of war for actors on the ground, and a breeding ground for violent extremism," Turner added, "Additionally, human trafficking, specifically of women and children should be a huge concern for commanders as well-it is one of the main ways that
violent actors raise money, and we need military operators to be able to identify it and know how to respond to it, just as they are trained to spot and handle an IED or weapons cache. You cannot have stability before you have security and the military is responsible for building security-sexual violence and human trafficking degrade
Turner frequently travels to speak at similar events and provide training as part of EUCOM's WPS and support to other WPS programs worldwide. The program aims to accelerate, institutionalize, and better coordinate efforts to advance women's inclusion in peace negotiations, peacebuilding activities,
and conflict prevention and response; to protect women and girls from gender-based violence; and to ensure safe, equitable access to relief and recovery assistance in areas of conflict and insecurity. This is achieved through the application of the U.S. National Plan of Action on Women, Peace, and Security into EUCOM's plans, policies, initiatives, operations, exercises, and security cooperation within the European theater.
"Ms Turner's efforts are a vital part of building resiliency in our Allies and partners around the globe," said Capt. Tim Newton, deputy director of EUCOM's J9. "I am proud that EUCOM is leading the way on the inclusion of gender perspectives and the Women, Peace, and Security program with a focus on increasing stability in the complex strategic environment."
This is achieved through the application of the U.S. National Plan of Action on Women, Peace,
and Security into EUCOM's plans, policies, initiatives, operations, exercises, and security cooperation within the European theater.
"There are a few things I emphasize wherever I go," said Turner. "Gender is a must-have tool to help you do your job better. When commanders take the time to implement a gender perspective into their operations it saves them time, money, lives and can reduce risk on the battlefield."
Tuner anticipates that demand for EUCOM's WPS program involvement in military training, planning and warfighting is only going to grow.