Security institutions around the world—armed forces, police units, border guards, and corrections officials—are predominately male-dominated. As institutionalized gender imbalances become less socially acceptable, the common solution has been to add more women into these security institutions to obtain gender parity. However, simply increasing the number of women does not comprehensively reform security sectors in a way that dissolves gender biases or builds sustainable and effective security institutions that protect the entire population equally.

Security Sector Reform (SSR) is a process of strengthening justice and security institutions to become more effective, accountable, and responsive to the security needs of all people. This reform process usually occurs in post-conflict and transitioning societies. Gender is usually an aspect of the SSR process that is long-forgotten about or approached in a mismanaged way. In addition to adding more women to a male-dominated field, inclusive security sector reform must also act to ensure that all security officials, both men and women, are more gender-responsive. This means that security institutions must begin to incorporate gender concerns into the fabric and culture of their standard operating procedures.

But this is not to say that gender-balanced security institutions are unimportant. On the contrary, women’s inclusion in the security sector is critical to enhancing institutional capability to be more responsive to the entire population it is to protect, including men, women, boys and girls. For instance, evidence has proven that adding more women to peacekeeping missions improves the operation’s overall effectiveness within a conflict or post-conflict setting. But in addition to increasing women’s participation in the security sector globally, it is important to institutionalize gender awareness and responsiveness training for all security officials when reforming institutions.

The level of security and insecurity that an individual feels is compounded by factors such as class, race, and gender. Men and women may experience similar violent occurrences, yet the impact of these experiences affect each gender quite differently. Historically, men and boys experience more instances of forced recruitment into gangs or violent groups, whereas women and girls are more affected by sexual violence within conflicts. This is not to say that women are not forcibly recruited into violent groups or that men are not sexually abused; the security needs and experiences of men and women are very different and, in many cases, based on specific societal gender norms. It is based on these specific needs that gender responsive SSR needs to be included in all reform processes.

Simply increasing the percentage of female participation in security institutions will not sustainably change the deep-rooted stereotypes or toxic gender norms that exist within societies, particularly in traditionally hyper-masculine cultures common in the security sector. Rather, it is important that security institutions and officials understand that gender perspectives and concerns need to be a focal point of security sector reform so that the security needs of the entire population can be served—considering the varying needs of both genders. It means that male security actors should also develop their tools of being gender responsive so that they can do their job more effectively. SSR sometimes fails to achieve this as they add more women into their organizations to conduct only “soft tasks” or women’s issues. Indirectly, by training male security officials to have these tools, the overall security institutions will become less hyper-masculinized and will better support their populations.

For example, a project conducted by Saferworld in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province Pakistan successfully worked with police stations to create more gender-responsive policing units. The organization helped set up model police units in the province, including help desks to provide protection services for women, that were mainly staffed by male police officers. With the model units, police units were given an example of how to better be able to provide protection and effective security services to women and include gender responsiveness into their practices. Additionally, in the 1990s South Africa reviewed its defense institutions and consulted specifically with women representatives to better understand the security issues women face. By consulting key women community members, authorities were able to understand issues that male officials may have neglected in SSR processes, such as continued sexual harassment of women. They began to include new policies and structures into the male-dominated defense institutions to be more representative and responsive of gendered needs. This is a key example of how security institutions can be gender responsive even when they are male-dominated.

It is important to remember that gender does not only refer to women. In many cases within SSR, many implementers only view gender as a concern of women and they add women security officials to handle women’s issues and do not equip male counterparts with the same tools. The implementation of SSR should include a focus on gender, both men and women, to ensure that the entire population is adequately protected, according to their particular needs. NATO and Georgia conducted an assessmentof the Georgian armed forces to better understand gender equality, or lack thereof, within the organization. The review included looking at harassment and abuses of both sexes. As the project aimed to reform the armed forces sector to be more gender responsive, it sought to include and understand both men and women’s perspectives throughout the reform and assessment process. By not viewing gender simplistically—that is, by seeing the unique experiences of both genders—the SSR project was able to begin to integrate gender responsiveness into the Georgian armed forces.

However, it is not easy to reform security institutions that typically promote a masculinized culture and may have little institutional desire for change. Gender inclusive SSR will have to included changes to the institutional structure, policies, and culture of the specific organization and can take many years to become a sustainable change. It is important that both male and female security officials are able to build their capacity to be gender responsive so that the needs of the entire population they are to protect is fulfilled.

About the author: Renee Coulouris is a Master's degree candidate at Johns Hopkins University, studying Global Security. She has previously worked at Women in International Security and in the Africa II Division of the Department of Political Affairs at the United Nations. She has conducted research in Tunisia, Israel, and the West Bank and Jordan on issues relating to international security, foreign policy, and women's roles in extremist organizations. Renee graduated from Northeastern University in 2014 with a BA in International Affairs and Political Science. 

Photo: Flickr

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.