Progress Toward Inclusive Security: Recommendations for the New Administration

Allison Peters, Angelic Young, and Olivia Holt-Ivry | October 2016

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In the face of complex global threats, from terrorism to resource scarcity, the US must expand its foreign policy toolbox. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that inclusion of women improves peace and security outcomes. When women participate in negotiations to end war, agreements last longer. When they serve in police forces, countries are better able to prevent and respond to violent extremism. Women’s inclusion in decision making helps close the trust deficit between government and citizens that often erupts in bloodshed. While not a one-size-fits-all solution, time and again, inclusive approaches to security have proven effective when properly implemented.

The 2017 presidential transition provides a window for cementing and expanding upon crucial US policy commitments to women’s inclusion. The following recommendations outline specific, achievable steps that the incoming administration can take to strengthen the framework, leadership, and accountability of US efforts to propel more inclusive, more sustainable security at home and abroad.

Current US Policy

The 2010 and 2015 US National Security Strategies note that countries are more likely to be peaceful and prosperous when they draw on the potential of their full populations. Yet both documents focus more on advancing women’s access to justice, politics, education, and employment, than on their inclusion in preventing and resolving conflict—an issue most commonly referred to as women, peace, and security (WPS).

The US National Action Plan on WPS, launched in 2011 by Executive Order, is the most significant policy to institutionalize and expand upon US commitment to inclusive security. Importantly, it does so not only as a moral imperative, but as a central pillar of national and global stability. By adopting this Plan, the US joined the ranks of more than 60 countries with national-level strategies for increasing women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution. The US Plan directed the Departments of State (DoS) and Defense (DoD) and the US Agency for International
Development (USAID) to submit measurable and resourced agency-specific implementation plans, and charged the National Security Council with interagency coordination. This year, the US government (USG) re-signalled its dedication by releasing an updated version of its National Action Plan.


Because it was launched by Executive Order, however, the US Plan risks being repealed or diminished by future presidents. To protect against this, the “Women, Peace, and Security Act” has been introduced with bipartisan support in both the US House of Representatives and the Senate (if it does not pass this session, it will need to be reintroduced in the 115th congress). The bill would codify a WPS national strategy into law, and strengthen the ability of Congress to exercise its oversight role.


1. Reaffirm our policy commitment through strong, visible leadership

Within the First 100 Days

The President should reassert and expand, through Executive Order, government-wide policy commitments—particularly the US National Action Plan—that advance and institutionalize inclusive security.


The administration should signal US leadership on WPS by integrating the topic of inclusion into high-level peace and security summits and other events attended by USG personnel, particularly through the US role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

2. Translate our national objectives into action
While the US National Action Plan provides vision and goals, agency-level operational plans and leadership are vital to translating that vision into practice.

Within the First 100 Days

DoS, DoD, USAID, and other relevant agencies should issue updated policy guidance, beginning with a new Secretary of Defense Memorandum and Secretary of State Cable.


DoS, DoD, USAID, and other relevant agencies should create implementation plans for the updated National Action Plan, outlining the specific steps each will take to secure sufficient human, technical, and programmatic resources.

These should prioritize:

  • Expanding experiential learning opportunities that demonstrate the practical application of key WPS concepts for all staff, including contractors;
  • Integrating core principles of inclusion throughout existing training curricula and agency-specific standard operating procedures, including contracting procedures;
  • Bolstering reserves of skilled, deployable gender experts; and
  • Regularizing coordination across agencies and with Congress.

3. Link career advancement to action
A strong WPS policy framework is only as effective as the people who implement it.

Within the First 100 Days

The Secretaries of State and Defense and the USAID Administrator should direct agency supervisors to integrate “demonstrated commitment to inclusion” into employees’ annual qualitative reviews.


The President should direct the Office of Personnel Management to integrate “demonstrated commitment to inclusion” into qualification standards for General Schedule employees, the Senior Executive Service, the Foreign Service, and other position classifications, as appropriate.

4. Strengthen transparency and accountability
By measuring which interventions are most effective, agencies can evaluate whether changes are needed. Widespread dissemination of that data can also inspire greater global commitment. Yet the US National Action Plan lacks a formal USG-wide monitoring and evaluation plan and existing agency-specific indicators for gender-related programming were not designed to measure progress towards its specific objectives.

Within the First 100 Days

To measure interagency progress, DoS, DoD, USAID, and other relevant agencies should strengthen the National Action Plan logical framework, including through creation of outcome-level indicators.


The President should establish a high-level interagency working group to create a USG-wide monitoring and evaluation plan for the updated US Plan. This should include midterm and summative evaluations and public dissemination of reports.

5. Improve collaboration with Capitol Hill
A collaborative relationship with members of Congress bolsters congressional knowledge of USG-supported WPS initiatives and allows Congress to provide strategic resources for these efforts. It also strengthens congressional oversight of administration policy commitments.

Within the First 100 Days

The Secretaries of State and Defense and the USAID Administrator should task the heads of each agency’s legislative affairs office to work with relevant congressional committees and lead sponsors of the “Women, Peace, and Security Act” on a way forward for the Act and any other relevant authorizing legislation.


The administration should work with relevant congressional committees of jurisdiction to establish a regular series of briefings on its policy and funding priorities related to women’s inclusion, particularly on key regional and thematic areas of interest.

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