Creating an Enabling Environment for Inclusion: The Role of Traditional Leadership

   •    April 6, 2015

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Masjid-e Jami - Herat, Afghanistan

Photo: Marius Arnesen

National action plans (NAPs) are policy documents that articulate a government’s commitment to promote women’s inclusion in national security and peace processes. They outline a strategy to coordinate ministries, civil society organizations, and other relevant actors to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

We convened experts from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, the Philippines, and the US to share best practices and lessons learned in ensuring NAPs are politically supported, inclusive, measurable, and resourced – in other words, impactful and successful. In this series, we’ll summarize key issues from these discussions and explore how countries are approaching the challenges head-on.

The Challenge
Lack of public awareness is a key obstacle to designing and implementing high-impact NAPs. In many countries, citizens have little to no knowledge that NAPs exist, let alone about their potential to strengthen security, buttress development, and improve lives. Key concepts like gender and peacebuilding are also misinterpreted in many communities, complicating implementation. For example, gender is often mistakenly understood as a “women’s issue.” Without adequate public understanding and support, NAPs will fail to deliver meaningful change.

Unique Solution
Afghanistan and Ghana are tackling this issue by using traditional leaders to broaden public awareness on NAP priorities. In Afghanistan, the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs has been heavily involved in designing the country’s first NAP. The Ministry has partnered with several mosques in Kabul to disseminate information about the plan. As a result, several prominent mullahs have conducted Friday sermons specifically focused on women’s contributions to society and their role in building peace. These discussions are highly valuable since mullahs are esteemed leaders. Their endorsement of the value of inclusion and similar themes reverberates across communities and increases the prospects for effective implementation of the national plan.

Ghana implements a similar approach through its National Peace Council. Established in 2011, the 13-member body, comprised of leading religious and chief leaders, is responsible for implementing the country’s peace strategies, including the NAP. At the local level, the entity operates through regional and district councils, which include prominent chieftains. Through these individuals, the country is introducing topics like gender, inclusion, and conflict resolution to communities. While not explicitly addressing the NAP, these conversations cultivate public support for the plan to be realized.

Moving Forward
These solutions embody the bold thinking required to maximize the impact of national action plans. Still, more needs to be done. Additional research is necessary to document other existing best practices, as well as pitfalls, on this issue. Developing recommendations for creating and sustaining partnerships with traditional leaders can assist other countries facing similar challenges. These measures will help to disseminate knowledge and spur new innovation in the field—a prerequisite for countries across the globe to achieve their ambitious NAP goals.

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