U.S. 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 the second year of the National Action Plan’s implementation, the Department built on longstanding efforts to integrate women’s views and perspectives into diplomatic, security, and development efforts. To bolster the impact of Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) initiatives laid out in the Department’s implementation plan, we continued to invest in internal staff development as well as external coordination activities. In 2013, we launched several new initiatives, built on ongoing activities, and coordinated through bilateral, multilateral, and civil society engagements, elevating the U.S. commitment to WPS. The lessons we have learned are helping us strengthen the Department’s agenda to protect women and girls, as well as empower and enlist them in efforts to achieve international peace and security.
The following captures a sampling of the Department’s 2013 achievements, grouped by the five key objectives of the National Action Plan. 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 and sustaining attention to WPS priorities in its policies and programs and on enhancing internal staff development. For example, we:
- Continued to integrate gender into our strategic planning in the Department of State Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality to Advance National Security and Foreign Policy Objectives.
- Further developed a classroom training course on gender equality at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and continued integrating gender and WPS instruction into the curriculum of other FSI courses.
- Continued to refine new tools for budget formulation, operational planning, and performance reporting, improving our ability 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 the grassroots and international levels, we worked with bilateral and multilateral partners, as well as with civil society stakeholders, to advance women’s participation in peace processes and decision-making. We also used public diplomacy tools to better mobilize public opinion regarding women’s political and civic roles. Among several achievements in regional and thematic engagement, we:
- 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 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
We expanded upon our 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. Our achievements included:
- Operationalized the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally, which includes a government-wide, multi-sector approach identifying, coordinating, integrating, and leveraging 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, we provided diplomatic support and training to women leaders to enhance their engagement in conflict prevention and stabilization efforts. Toward these ends, we:
- 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 women to recognize the signs of radicalization to violence, and 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 environments for humanitarian operations. Through humanitarian diplomacy and assistance, we 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 our achievements, we:
- 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 ensuring 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, where WPS progress is most often needed is in unstable and insecure environments with weak governance institutions. This can adversely affect the implementation of WPS initiatives. Our implementation of WPS objectives in 2013 was limited by additional external challenges ranging from lack of political will among international partners to societal discrimination. Internally, several factors limited our 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. However, we remain firmly committed to mitigating and overcoming these challenges which will require dedicated diplomacy, creative outreach, and sustained capacity building efforts.
In implementing the National Action Plan and accompanying Implementation Plan, we demonstrate our unfaltering commitment to the promotion of gender equality in U.S. foreign policy and national security. Achieving success requires addressing challenges through deliberate engagement pairing WPS efforts with the full integration of gender perspectives into existing work. Moving forward, we are committed to focusing on high impact actions that are necessary, achievable, and informed by women on the ground. We have identified next steps building on a range of recommendations developed 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 of State 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.