Overview of 2013 U.S. Implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security
The Department of State (the Department) supports the United States’ unqualified commitment to empower and protect women in countries threatened and affected by war and conflict, violence, and insecurity. Given our leadership role in U.S. diplomatic engagement, our foreign assistance programming, and robust relationships with civil society actors across the globe, we are well-positioned to support the implementation of the United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security through the Department’s corollary implementation plan.
Throughout its second year implementing the National Action Plan, the Department built on longstanding efforts to integrate women’s views and perspectives into its diplomatic, security, and development efforts. In order to bolster the impact of its Women, Peace and Security (WPS) initiatives, the Department continued to invest in staff capacity and enhanced its internal and external coordination activities. Additionally, in 2013, the Department launched new initiatives, built on ongoing activities, and yielded positive outcomes in bilateral, multilateral, and civil society engagements that elevated the United States’ commitment to WPS issues. Lessons learned from obstacles to implementation will support the Department’s future agenda to empower and protect women and girls to achieve international peace and security.
The following captures an overview of some of the Department’s accomplishments in 2013. References to date correlate to calendar year 2013, while programming summaries are provided in the context of fiscal year (FY) 2013.
Objective 1: National Integration and Institutionalization
The Department focused on integrating comprehensive and sustainable attention to WPS priorities in its policies and programs and on enhancing staff capacity. For example, the Department:
- Integrated gender into strategic planning within the framework of the Department of State Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality to Advance National Security and Foreign Policy Objectives.
- Delivered and further developed the Foreign Service Institute’s (FSI) classroom training course on gender equality, in addition to integrating gender and WPS instruction into the curriculum of thematic FSI courses.
- Continued to refine new tools for budget formulation, operational planning, and performance reporting allowing the Department to track and report progress on WPS objectives, assess lessons learned, and identify best practices.
Objective 2: Participation in Peace Processes and Decision-making
At grassroots and international levels, the Department worked through bilateral and multilateral platforms, as well as with civil society partners, to advance women’s participation. The Department consistently used public diplomacy tools to mobilize public opinion regarding women’s political and civic roles. Among several achievements in regional and thematic engagement, the Department:
- Promoted activities to improve women’s political and economic participation and human rights as a core feature of policy and programmatic engagement in Afghanistan, such as pressing for the inclusion of Afghan women and civil society representatives at the local and national levels to ensure that advances for women achieved over the past decade are not reversed.
- Developed a strategic approach to gender and women’s empowerment in Burma, with a view toward advancing the active participation of women in conflict resolution, including the peace process and inter-communal peace initiatives.
- Actively integrated women as participants and agents of change in resolving the conflict in Syria by providing Syrian women’s groups with training and diplomatic support to prepare for future peace processes and promote their involvement in track one negotiations.
Objective 3: Protection from Violence
The Department expanded upon its efforts to protect and empower vulnerable populations in situations of conflict, crisis, and transition through bilateral, multilateral, and public diplomacy engagements as well as training and assistance. Among its achievements, the Department:
- Operationalized the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally, which includes a government-wide, multi-sector approach that identifies, coordinates, integrates, and leverages existing efforts and resources to address gender-based violence (GBV).
- Expanded efforts to hold perpetrators of GBV accountable through UN Security Council resolutions and G-8 commitments; building capacity for victim-centered prosecution in trafficking in persons prevention efforts; diplomatic mediation; and small grants focused on building capacity among health, legal, and law enforcement professionals to prosecute perpetrators.
- Enhanced multilateral efforts to strengthen peacekeepers’ capacity to protect civilians from sexual violence in conflict, including through renewed mandates for relevant UN missions and UN Security Council Resolution 2016 (2013), which strengthened the integration of Women Protection Advisors into such missions.
Objective 4: Conflict Prevention
Recognizing the influential role women can play in society as peacebuilders, the Department provided diplomatic support and capacity building to women leaders to enhance their engagement in conflict prevention and stabilization efforts. Toward these ends, the Department:
- Invested in building the capacity of women leaders and civil society to prevent and mediate conflict as well as participate in transitional justice processes.
- Supported networks of women to speak out against violent extremism, train other women to recognize the signs of radicalization to violence, and to mediate conflict within their communities to reduce violent extremism.
- Leveraged public-private partnerships to increase women’s economic security and improve women’s access to markets, including through entrepreneurship, artisan enterprise, and technology.
Objective 5: Access to Relief and Recovery
During 2013, conflict-affected environments presented uniquely challenging operating contexts for humanitarian operations. Through humanitarian diplomacy and assistance, the Department promoted women’s equal access to relief and recovery resources, advocated for their participation in managing those resources, and worked to advance the protection of women and girls. Among its achievements, the Department:
- Developed new commitments to protect women and girls at the onset of emergencies around the world, specifically by unveiling Safe From the Start, an initiative that ensures efforts to address GBV are routinely prioritized as a life-saving intervention along with other vital humanitarian assistance.
- Leveraged various multilateral and regional forums to highlight the importance of meeting the protection and health needs of women and girls in relief operations, such as through effective diplomacy at the Commission on the Status of Women and in developing the first regional training on first response support to victims of terrorism in Southeast Asia.
- Expanded efforts to prevent sexual violence and abuse perpetrated by humanitarian, UN and U.S. personnel, including through training, peacekeeping vetting procedures and expanded accountability mechanisms.
Unfortunately, contexts in which WPS progress is most necessary are often characterized by unstable security environments and weak governance institutions. These overarching challenges can adversely affect the implementation of WPS initiatives. The Department’s implementation of WPS objectives in 2013 was limited by additional external challenges ranging from lack of political will to societal discrimination. Internally, several factors limited the Department’s ability to fully integrate WPS objectives across all relevant work streams, such as resource and staffing limitations, insufficient training on gender-sensitive policy and programming, and uneven monitoring and evaluation. Mitigating and overcoming these challenges will require dedicated diplomacy, creative outreach, and sustained capacity building efforts in 2014.
In implementing the National Action Plan and accompanying Implementation Plan, the Department demonstrates its unfaltering commitment to the promotion of gender equality in service of U.S. foreign policy and national security. Achieving success requires addressing challenges through deliberate engagement that pairs unique WPS efforts with the full integration of gender perspectives into existing work streams. In 2014, the Department is committed to focusing on high impact actions that are necessary, achievable, and informed by those charged with implementation on the ground. We have identified next steps building on a range of recommendations identified through programming and our exchange of lessons learned with partners. These include:
- Internal process: Expanding staff understanding, capacity, and ownership of the National Action Plan; increasing the number of bureau and embassy strategies to advance gender equality; and strengthening gender assessments, program design, reporting, and evaluation mechanisms.
- External engagement: Identifying linkages between WPS and broader strategic priorities when engaging bilateral and multilateral partnerships; working with local and new civil society partners, including the private sector; implementing and expanding effective initiatives and programs at country and regional levels; and increasing use of public diplomacy and technology to challenge discrimination and expand women’s access to information.
- Technical effectiveness: Focusing on building the capacity of civil society organizations to promote necessary legal and policy reforms and fully empower women and youth; committing greater attention to gender-responsive justice and security sector reform; and focusing on women’s economic participation to advance stability and broader empowerment.
The Department is dedicated to bringing the ideas and goals expressed in the National Action Plan to life in its work around the world to achieve the United States’ interest in promoting gender equality to achieve national security and foreign policy objectives.