Mobilizing Men as Partners for Change

The Women, Peace and Security agenda, as laid out by UN Security Council Resolution 1325, presents many opportunities to transform the peace and security sector. First and foremost, to make formal peacemaking and peacebuilding processes and structures more inclusive, effective, and responsive to the needs and capacities of the entire population.

Men are critical partners in this endeavor. Men have the power to move this agenda forward—or to obstruct it—because of their dominant roles in peace and security structures and decision-making. But this isn’t simply about men advocating for increasing the numbers of women in peace and security decision-making. As one male ally remarked in our research, “The point of 1325 is not to have more women doing what we were doing before. It’s about including women to transform security. Parity is important, but it is not 1325.”

The good news is that there are a growing number of male champions of gender equality within the international peace and security sector who are starting to speak out.

In honor of Father’s Day in the United States and- in conjunction with our event with the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security- on Male Allies, we are featuring interviews with male allies, and shining a light on the power that they have to push the movement forward. 

Why Men?

Male allies have an important role to play in advancing gender equality and WPS. While they still dominate leadership positions within national and international security structures, there is a common view that current approaches are failing to achieve peace and security. Norms and social biases that prevent women from fully participating in international peace and security decision-making are able to be challenged effectively by men’s movements that promote women’s rights. Creating partnerships with men is critical to establishing gender equality and ending gender-based violence globally.

What we need now is to move from raising awareness about gender equality with male leaders to cultivating male champions of gender equality, who actively advocate on behalf of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. 

Mobilizing Men as Partners for Change

Our Secure Future Fellow Ambassador Don Steinberg, the Executive Director of our project Mobilizing Men as Partners for Women, Peace and Security is doing just that. The project brings together global leaders—including prominent men from the defense, diplomacy, development, and business arenas—more fully into the campaign, along with the courageous women leaders who have long driven this advocacy, including grassroots advocates from war-affected countries is one of the key parts of the project.  


As part of our research, Our Secure Future interviewed 70 male champions of Women, Peace and Security. One of the key reasons for embarking upon this study was to better understand the factors and motivations that lead certain men to internalize this agenda personally and to promote it professionally. 

The participants in this study, reflecting on their experiences and lessons learned, recommended three approaches in our policy brief to moving Women, Peace and Security forward in practice:

  • Cultivate Champions—Women and Men—on the Inside of Institutions

  • Address Gender Norms as a Foundation for Peace

  • Tailor the Women, Peace and Security Message to Your Audience

Here are the recommendations and actions to consider taking:

Cultivate Champions—Women and Men—on the Inside

  • Consider Women, Peace and Security and gender equality to be both an internal and external policy issue. Peace and security institutions need to improve gender equality internally in order to make a case for gender equality externally in bilateral and international relations.

  • Cultivate support from senior-level men in order to overcome skepticism, resistance, and inertia in peace and security bureaucracies. Support gender-equality champions in the mid-level ranks of these institutions who will move into senior ranks.

  • Increase opportunities for men and women in peace and security institutions to build competencies on gender equality and Women, Peace and Security. Facilitate more opportunities for learning best practices from gender experts.

  • Bridge civil-society and security-sector communities working on Women, Peace and Security.

  • Integrate gender advisors and focal points—both male and female—in peace and security bureaucracies to ensure policy documents or programs do not move forward without adequate consideration of gender implications.

Address Gender Norms as a Foundation for Peace

  • Focus on listening and open dialogue as the first steps in starting conversations about gender norms and equality principles in local contexts.

  • Conduct participatory research to examine gender relations and behaviors, and how these relate to peace and security in specific contexts.

  • Address the role of masculinities in peace and security—including the connections between masculine norms and violence—and the development of healthy masculinities and caregiving/fatherhood attitudes. Focusing on people as fathers, brothers, and sons helps them think differently about themselves and how violence affects others.

  • Utilize mixed-gender teams on the ground to facilitate contact with both women and men on peace and security issues, and to send a visible message that gender equality is relevant to everyone. When designing research and programming, communicate with women’s civil society groups to determine if women-only or mixed-gender workshops are most appropriate for the context.

  • Partner with civil society and women’s organizations on the ground to identify genuine champions, and to formulate approaches to Women, Peace and Security and gender equality that will resonate with the population. 

Tailor the Women, Peace and Security Message

  • Tailor the gender equality message very carefully for specific audiences, based on an understanding of the institution and individual. Engage people from “where they are.” Consider strategic opportunities to draw attention to the gendered aspects of high-profile peace and security issues to gain the attention of policymakers and build increased support.

  • Emphasize that gender equality is smart policy because it makes communities and countries safer. Offer country-specific examples to illustrate the importance of gender in a direct and powerful way. Counter the perception that this is a zero-sum game—women’s gains are men’s losses—to mitigate overt and subtle pushback.

  • Push peace and security institutions to utilize data about local needs and solutions to inform policy and programs in specific, gender-sensitive ways.

  • Broaden the framing for discussions to include different audiences and encourage new approaches. Develop coalitions and alliances among advocates of gender equality who approach the issue from different fields and/or disciplines to influence specific policies and programs.

  • Find ways to engage young people, and other sectors, including business and media, to help formulate innovative approaches to gender equality goals in countries and communities.