The U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security

On December 19, 2011, the U.S. government created an unprecedented policy mandate in support of women’s protection and participation in conflict-affected environments. The White House released the first U.S. National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace, and Security, and the president signed an executive order instructing U.S. government agencies to implement the plan. Although women’s protection and participation issues have been referenced in previous foreign policy mandates, NAP is historic because it is the first legal and policy framework that recognizes women’s inclusion as a central aspect of U.S. conflict prevention, resolution, and post-conflict reconstruction efforts and the first to require specific agency actions and coordinated interagency approaches to fulfilling gender equality goals.

In releasing this plan, the U.S. government joins more than 30 other governments around the world that have already completed national action plans to guide their implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) and other international commitments. With Resolution 1325, the Security Council for the first time formally recognized women’s contributions to peace building and committed member states to support women’s inclusion in all aspects of peace processes.

Q1: What are the key objectives included in NAP?

A1: The U.S. NAP includes five cross-cutting pillars:

  • National Integration and Institutionalization
  • Participation in Peace Processes and Decisionmaking
  • Protection from Violence
  • Conflict Prevention
  • Access to Relief and Recovery

In each of these areas, NAP includes actions and matches those actions with the specific agencies that will implement them. NAP articulates ways in which the agencies will integrate the objectives into strategic and operational planning; training, education, and exchanges; data gathering; technical assistance; bilateral and international engagement; policymaking; and other actions.

Q2: What agencies have been involved in completing NAP and which will be tasked with its implementation?

A2: The U.S. NAP is an interagency effort. The National Security Council coordinated with the relevant agencies to develop the plan along with working groups and the leadership from the following agencies:

  • Department of State
  • Department of Defense
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Treasury
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • U.S. Mission to the United Nations
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

The executive order provides that within 150 days of NAP’s release, by mid-May 2012, the Department of State, Department of Defense, and USAID will identify personnel in those three agencies to coordinate the implementation and will submit agency-specific women, peace, and security implementation plans to the National Security Council.

Q3: Are there other governmental or nongovernmental entities that might be affected or play a role in the implementation?

A3: Yes. NAP includes specific requirements relating to training and education for civilian government personnel, members of the U.S. military, and U.S. contractors. NAP also includes various actions relating to bilateral relations with partner countries to promote women’s participation and assist other nations with increasing the inclusion of women in their governance and security structures.

Civil society organizations have been critical advocates and sources of knowledge on women, peace, and security issues. Women In International Security (WIIS), for instance, as a member of the U.S. Civil Society Working Group, played an integral part in providing input to the National Security Council during the drafting process. Regional and international organizations have also been working for a number of years on mainstreaming gender and supporting women’s inclusion, and many other governments are now well into the implementation processes of their own NAP’s. All of these stakeholders have critical information to share, and the United States will need to find ways to partner with these other stakeholders outside of government to implement this agenda fully.

Q4: How will progress be evaluated?

A4: For women, peace, and security advocates around the world, there is an ongoing frustration with the slow pace of implementation of Resolution 1325 and other mandates that support women’s inclusion and gender mainstreaming in peace and security. Thus, the establishment of effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and clear forward movement on this agenda will be critical to demonstrate full commitment to this issue across government.

NAP includes some discussion of monitoring and evaluation requirements. The plan tasks the National Security Council with chairing the Women, Peace, and Security Interagency Policy Committee (WPS IPC) to monitor the actions taken and ensure that NAP is integrated into national policies. There will also be an annual report provided to the president. The WPS IPC is envisioned to handle interagency coordination as well as outreach with civil society organizations. However, NAP does not include very many details about how this will be done.

Q5: How can peace and security professionals best engage in this issue area, considering that it may be new to many of them?

A5: For those who are working in the U.S. government, there are opportunities to join the agency-level Women, Peace, and Security Working Groups. In addition, it will be useful to begin looking at ways in which you can integrate gender considerations into your existing funded programs to ensure that appropriate data is being gathered on women’s participation and protection, and to devise innovative new initiatives to implement NAP. For those outside the government, there are many civil society organizations working on specific aspects of this agenda. Women In International Security continues to be involved in promoting women’s participation in peace and security decisionmaking in the security sector and other roles. We will continue to provide input and assist the U.S. government during implementation of NAP. WIIS is also a member of the U.S. Civil Society Group on Women, Peace, and Security, facilitated by the U.S. Institute of Peace, and we coordinate with the Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security, based in New York. Both are umbrella networks of civil society organizations that are working closely on advocating for full and speedy implementation of policy mandates in this area.

Jolynn Shoemaker is director of Women In International Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

© 2012 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.

Jolynn Shoemaker