The U.S. Africa Command Surgeon held a Health Security Synchronization exchange with the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces (FAR) from May 23-26, 2022, at Mohamed V Military Training Hospital in Rabat, Morocco.
The FAR is “committed to ensuring women have the place they deserve as full partners in all efforts to prevent conflict, respond to humanitarian crises, and promote peace as well as democracy,” said Brig. Gen. Doctor, El Mehdi Zbir, Ph.D., inspector of the Military Health Service.
Thirty male and female officers from the FAR participated in discussions surrounding UN resolution 1325, gender in military operations, and opportunities to promote female officer development within their armed forces. This event also focused on the important role healthcare workers have in promoting human rights and caring for vulnerable populations in times of crisis and conflict.
“Peace building goes beyond the negotiation table,” said U.S. Air Force Lt Col Chelsea Payne, an international health specialist and U.S. Africa Command's preventive medicine physician who implemented the exchange. “To achieve sustainable peace, we must focus on overcoming impediments to women’s meaningful participation in their local communities and society at large, by increasing access to education, economic empowerment, political inclusion, good health and wellbeing.”
According to the UN, peace agreements that include women are 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years.
“Morocco and the United States have a long history of peace and friendship,” said U.S. Army Col. George Smolinski, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, who represented the Uniformed Services University. “By working together to implement the WPS agenda, we can promote international security and prevent violent extremism.”
The Department of Defense published a Women Peace and Security Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan in 2020, which outlines three defense objectives. These include modeling and employing WPS, promoting partner nation women’s participation, and protecting partner nation civilians.
“[The] Utah [National Guard] works closely with Morocco and participates annually in African Lion, the largest military exercise on the continent,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Christina Jonkman, a critical care nurse and gender focal point with the Utah National Guard also taking part in the exchange. “This synchronization and the roadmap that was developed will be critical to helping us further integrate WPS into our future plans and operations.”
The Utah National Guard and Morocco have been state partners since 2003.
Morocco has set ambitious goals to improve equity at all levels through the three pillars of preventive diplomacy, women’s economic participation, and advancing a culture of peace. In March 2022, Morocco launched its National Action Plan for WPS, which outlines strategic objectives for its military that includes enhancing gender equity in its United Nations peacekeeping operations.