10 Countries Commit to Meaningful Inclusion of Women
WASHINGTON – It felt like the final session of a summit convened to launch a global movement: One by one, the delegations announced their country commitments to advance women’s leadership in building security and keeping the peace.
Afghanistan pledged to organize quarterly monitoring visits to relevant ministries.
Ghana committed to “popularize do’s and don’ts” to foster women’s leadership.
Bosnia and Herzegovina vowed to develop local and regional plans in addition to the national strategy.
Japan promised to complete its first national action plan by March.
Netherlands agreed to continue equal collaboration between government and civil society as they develop the country’s third national action plan.
Those were just a few of the commitments made at the first National Action Plan Academy, co-hosted by The Institute for Inclusive Security and the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, in Washington, DC.
Catalysts for a New Movement
The three-day academy, held from December 3-5 at Georgetown, brought together 55 people from 10 countries for intensive workshops on how to carve out decision-making roles for women in security and conflict resolution. Represented were Afghanistan, Bosnia, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, the Philippines, and the US. Officials from NATO, UN Women, Cordaid, and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders also contributed their perspectives and expertise.
The academy opened with a plenary session featuring an address by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who underlined the importance of ensuring women are at the peace table. Norway’s Defense Minister, Ine Eriksen Soreide, spoke about her country’s decision to improve the gender balance in their armed forces by making women and men equally eligible for conscription for national military service, as well as programs to integrate women into elite military units, including special forces.
Ambassador Swanee Hunt, founder and Chair of The Institute for Inclusive Security, said the delegates would one day remember that they took part in the launch of a campaign designed to change the security landscape for men and boys as well as women and girls. She called the delegates “a cadre of catalysts” for a new movement.
Countries Share Lessons
Then the delegates got down to work, sharing in a series of sessions over the next three days the challenges they have faced in bringing alive UN Security Council Resolution 1325. That resolution, adopted in October 2000, is the backbone of the global effort to ensure women assume bigger roles in shaping national security. A total of 48 countries have now adopted national action plans to implement the UN directive.
The delegates spoke in depth about the need for monitoring and evaluation of progress. Some felt the reviews should be public; others argued for limiting open evaluations so that government officials will be more transparent about shortcomings – and fix them.
Among the pitfalls raised by delegates was a warning to avoid “too many acronyms and shorthand for ideas that are not widely enough known.”
Another session raised the question of media coverage. One delegate argued that “gender is controversial, so when it hits the media, that response generates impetus on the political and public level.”
Ambassador Carol Rodley, Director of Inclusive Security’s national action plan program, announced the launch of an online Resource Center, designed to be a toolkit for countries that want to create or improve their action plans. The Resource Center offers a training course, as well as detailed country pages with links to reports and analyses. The Resource Center is just one of the support services offered by Inclusive Security to countries developing or revising action plans.
Inclusive Security hosted a forerunner of the NAP Academy with a symposium of delegations from 16 African countries in Nairobi in July, where participants outlined creative ways to measure and promote their national action plans.
Ambassador Don Steinberg, leader of the US nonprofit organization World Learning, closed the NAP Academy by declaring, “There is no longer any doubt in people’s minds about including important women as implementers and beneficiaries of peace processes around the world.”
Irene Santiago, an architect of the women, peace, and security field who herself negotiated a ceasefire between the government and armed rebels in the Philippines, told the final session: “If we want to be effective with national action plans, we have to have a movement. When it’s a real movement it will become a social movement, in which women are taken seriously and indispensable to peace.”
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