From Global Promise to National Action: Advancing Women, Peace, and Security in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines, Serbia, and Sierra Leone

Alexandra Amling and Marie O'Reilly | October 2016

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Executive Summary

Since 2010, conflict and displacement around the globe have increased. Unlike traditional conflicts typified by inter-state military confrontations, today’s hybrid wars increasingly threaten civilians, and state-centric approaches to peacemaking frequently fall short. As new evidence links women’s participation in a variety of peace and security processes with greater likelihood of successful outcomes, international frameworks for more inclusive approaches to building peace have advanced significantly. Less understood, however, is the role of more recent national initiatives in making these global aspirations a reality.

The number of countries creating national strategies to advance women’s participation in peace and security processes has tripled from 18 to more than 60 since 2010. National action plans for implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security were conceived to address the gap between prescriptive international frameworks and domestic realities. Nationally designed and owned, they reflect each country’s particular security needs and priorities for peace. But how are they developed in practice, and what impact do they have?

This report explores these questions in four diverse conflict-affected and post-conflict contexts, with a particular focus on the ways in which these plans influence collaboration between the state and civil society.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines, Serbia, and Sierra Leone all created national action plans (NAPs) in 2010 for implementing Resolution 1325. They took distinct approaches in many ways, often related to their varied peace and security challenges, levels of gender equality, and geographic and socioeconomic status. Nonetheless, the commonalities that emerged across these cases, as well as particular insights from each, offer valuable lessons for those seeking to create or strengthen NAPs in various contexts around the world.

In each country, the national action plan filled a gap in domestic policy relating to women, peace, and security, and raised awareness of these issues among a variety of actors who design, influence, or implement peace and security policies. In fact, the creation of each plan involved a broadly inclusive process that drew input from a variety of government ministries, security sector actors, and civil society organizations. Interviewees consistently reported that this process increased collaboration and communication between civil society and the state on issues relating to peace and security, and women’s involvement in them.

Indeed, this otherwise uncommon participatory policymaking has become standard practice for creating NAPs around the world. It brings to life the spirit of inclusion set forth in Resolution 1325 and is particularly significant in the aftermath of conflict, when there is a need to build trust between citizens and the state and to increase communication around peace and security issues. In particular, the involvement of civil society organizations as intermediaries between citizens and political elites allows for increased participation by women, who often face greater barriers to entry in other intermediary structures such as political parties.

Despite these achievements during the development phase, there were significant obstacles to implementation of the NAPs in each case. Structural gender discrimination consistently prevented states from meeting the objectives of their plans. NAPs were not flexible enough to adapt to new peace and security challenges that emerged, such as Ebola in Sierra Leone or election-related violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Those implementing the NAPs also frequently failed to get beyond the national level to address provincial and municipal priorities, or draw on local-level change-makers. In fact, in the implementation phase, all of the countries struggled with the key components associated with “high-impact” NAPs: political will, coordination, financial support, and monitoring and evaluation of the results.

These obstacles are significant but not insurmountable. As countries revise and renew their NAPs, and new countries seek to create them, this report offers a number of avenues for advancing progress and deepening impact:

  1. Address structural barriers to women’s participation in peace and security processes
  2. Create flexible plans that can adapt to new security threats
  3. Localize plans to address diverse priorities for peace
  4. Establish accurate cost estimates, and identify and allocate sufficient funding in the NAP’s development phase
  5. Strengthen political will and coordination for implementation
  6. Monitor, evaluate, and communicate results

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