National Action Plan Kick-Starts Banner Year for Women, Peace, and Security

   •    January 28, 2013

This post is by Martha Engole and Travis Wheeler.

Author’s note: On Wed., Jan. 30, 2013, Inclusive Security and its civil society partners will be participating in an event hosted by the US Institute of Peace to commemorate the first anniversary of the US National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. This post looks back at the US NAP and the many achievements it catalyzed in Year One. Click here to RSVP for the event.

The World Takes Note

In 2000, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), the international community’s landmark recognition of women’s dynamic, yet underutilized, contributions to ending violent conflict and stabilizing societies in its wake. Subsequently, nearly 40 countries and regional bodies launched NAPs or similar policies, which offer frameworks to uphold the letter and spirit of UNSCR 1325 across doctrine, programming, and operations.

The US Stands Up

For more than a decade, US civil society organizations clamored for the country to put its diplomatic clout behind the “women, peace, and security” agenda. Thanks in part to their advocacy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the US’s commitment to developing a NAP in a speech before the Security Council marking Resolution 1325’s 10th anniversary.

In December 2011, President Obama signed Executive Order 13595 instituting the first-ever US National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. In a speech at Georgetown University, Secretary Clinton celebrated the US NAP’s fruition, hailing it as a “comprehensive roadmap” for reorienting US foreign, defense, and development policy to better protect women and promote their inclusion in decision-making. Importantly, she addressed the skeptics directly, cautioning them against viewing the plan as pertaining to so-called women’s issues, rather than matters of war and peace: “It truly does cut to the heart of our national security and the security of people everywhere, because the sad fact is that the way the international community tries to build peace and security today just isn’t getting the job done.”

Taking the NAP to the Next Level

The administration didn’t stop there, instead following the NAP’s release with a flurry of additional policies designed to reinforce the plan, among them:

  1. USAID’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) Policy [PDF] (February 2012). This policy builds on the “three Ps” of counter-trafficking—Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution—with emphases on strengthening partnerships with governments, the private sector, and local civil society, as well as increasing the evidence base to drive investments in proven strategies.
  2. Secretarial Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality to Achieve National Security and Foreign Policy Objectives (March 2012). The third of seven policy guidance issued on Secretary Clinton’s watch, it requires the State Dept.’s bureaus, offices, and embassies to account for gender in their strategic planning and budgeting in addition to improving monitoring and evaluation of foreign assistance programs.
  3. USAID’s Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy [PDF] (March 2012). The agency’s first revamped gender policy in three decades seeks to eliminate gender disparities, protect women and men from gender-based violence, and increase women’s access to decision-making opportunities.
  4. State Dept. and USAID’s NAP Implementation Plans [PDF] (August 2012). These twin plans detail emblematic, in-progress, and planned activities designed to instigate progress toward specific outcomes, such as women’s leadership in the security sector. They delineate clear roles and lines of responsibility in addition to discussing regional programming in-depth.
  5. United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally [PDF] (August 2012). Mandated by the Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations legislation, among the strategy’s goals is changing the way USAID determines its gender-based violence programming priorities by factoring in the political will and technical capacity of US and host government stakeholders, as well as local civil society.

Legislative Action on Capitol Hill

The impressive rollout of administration policies was matched on Capitol Hill by efforts to strengthen the prospects of effective implementation of these policy reforms through legislative action.

In early August, Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) was joined by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) in introducing the bipartisan, bicameral Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2012 (S. 3477, H.R. 6255), the first stand-alone legislation in congressional history to address “inclusive security.” The act’s authors considered the US NAP’s implementation “paramount… [to] increasing overall global stability and prosperity,” and its provisions were designed to give Congress a role in ensuring this outcome. For instance, the House version required the Secretary of State to submit an annual report to Congress outlining US diplomatic and assistance initiatives’ impact on women’s participation in peace negotiations. While there wasn’t enough time remaining on the 112th’s legislative calendar to move the bill forward, it ultimately secured the backing of 30 men and women legislators, including three Senate Republicans and about a dozen influential committee chairs.

Besides the Act, legislative provisions promoting US NAP implementation and Afghan women’s security were prominent in this year’s State, Foreign Operations, and Related Appropriations Bill and National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The bill introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) called for an appropriation of $50 million to finance a multiyear strategy to ensure the US NAP’s implementation. [PDF] Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) championed a bipartisan amendment to the NDAA requiring the State Dept. and Pentagon to compile a report assessing the transition’s impact on women’s security. Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA) was one of many members of Congress who spoke in favor of this amendment on the House floor.

What’s Next?

From the US National Action Plan to the Women, Peace, and Security Act, 2012 was without a doubt a banner year. Now that the US has adopted strong policies, civil society will take on the task of holding the government accountable for the promises made to women leaders from Cairo to Kandahar. Inclusive Security Action is looking forward to ensure US NAP implementation is not only fully resourced with the requisite finances, political will, and technical capacity necessary for success but also continuously monitored, evaluated, and improved. The goal is to set our ambitions high, secure the inclusion of women and civil society in the range of endeavors aimed at ending war, and, ultimately, ensure peace processes around the world achieve and sustain the peace they seek to provide.

Martha Engole is an IREX fellow at The Institute for Inclusive Security. During her fellowship, she’s conducted a needs assessment with Women Waging Peace Network members from Burundi, Eritrea, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and South Africa. Currently, Martha is in Uganda continuing her work with Teso Women Peace Activists. For the next several months, she’ll apply the insights gained at Inclusive Security to equip women peacebuilders in the Teso and Karamoja regions of Northern Uganda with conflict transformation skills.

Travis Wheeler is a senior policy adviser at Inclusive Security Action, where he shapes advocacy, analysis, and technical assistance to advance implementation of the US National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.

Inclusive Security Action partners with The Institute for Inclusive Security to increase the participation of all stakeholders—particularly women—in preventing, resolving, and rebuilding after deadly conflict.

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