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Women, Peace, and Security

What is Women, Peace, and Security?

Women, Peace and Security (WPS) is the title given to the body of research and policy practices that seeks to more fully integrate women into security and conflict resolution processes. For the United States, WPS implementation formally began with United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, continues with the WPS Agenda and the National Action Plan on WPS, and extends to the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017.

UNSCR 1325 and the WPS Agenda:

UNSCR 1325, adopted in 2000, is a landmark resolution that recognizes that women and girls are impacted by conflict and war in ways that men and boys are not. With the lived experiences of all humans in conflict in mind, 1325 recognizes that women and girls play a critical role in conflict negotiation, conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and peacekeeping efforts. Finally, 1325 recognizes that peace and security are more achievable and sustainable when women are part of conflict solutions and security processes.[1]

UNSCR 1325 was years in the making, but energy to develop the resolution rose after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were agreed to during the Fourth UN World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. These were the first substantive statements on gender and conflict produced by this level of international consensus and contained key objectives.[2]

Highlights of 1325 include a broad swath of mandates:

1) Civilians, particularly women and children, are those most likely – and disproportionately – hurt by armed conflict and are increasingly targeted by combatants. This has deep, long-term implications.

2) Women have critical roles to play in the conduct of peace and security, in the processes in place to resolve conflicts and address the drivers of conflict, and in negotiations and agreements for peace.

3) International Humanitarian Law, the UN Charter, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – ratified by 174 countries – protect noncombatants and acknowledge human rights, yet violence against women and girls, and noncombatants in general, is increasing.

4) A gender perspective – to include the masculine and the feminine ends of the spectrum – should be included in peacekeeping, peace negotiation, and peace building efforts.

5) A full understanding of how conflict impacts women and girls, along with the creation of effective institutions and enabling of women’s full participation in peace and resolution processes, can increase peace and security.

6) Women must be included at all decision-making levels, applications, and processes for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict to be effective and lasting.

7) Gender-based violence, genocide, and war crimes during conflict are endemic and the responsibility of all to stop and to protect women and children – indeed all humans – from.

8) Refugee camps and settlements are similarly problematic for women and girls, and leaders must apply a gender perspective to the set up and monitoring of refugee camps.

9) A gender perspective if required for successful disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) because female and male ex-combatants have different needs during the DDR process.

These 1325 mandates fall into four pillars for all Member States to take action on:

Participation – develop increased participation of women at all levels of decision-making, to include national, international, and regional institutions; in mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict; and in peace negotiations and operations

Protection – protect women and girls from sexual- and gender-based violence, including in emergency and humanitarian situations such as refugee camps. These acts further drive conflict while hurting women and girls disproportionately.

Prevention – improve intervention strategies in prevention of violence against women (VAW), including by prosecuting those responsible for violations of international law, strengthening women’s rights under law, and supporting local women’s peace initiatives and conflict resolution processes

Relief and recovery – relief and recovery measures must address international crises through a gendered lens, including by respecting the civilian and humanitarian nature of refugee camps and considering the needs of women and girls in the design of camps and settlements[3]

[1] USIP, “What is UNSCR 1325?”
[2] United Nations Development Fund for Women: “Security Council Resolution 1325 Annotated and Explained.”
[3] Ibid.

What are the follow-on resolutions of the WPS agenda?

In the wake of 1325, a series of resolutions concerning women, gender, and international security were adopted. These are collectively known as the “WPS Agenda.” All work toward WPS in some form can span these resolutions, and Department of Defense requirements relevant toward 1325 can touch these as well. However, while connected, each resolution is also important in its own right. They are:

UNSCR 1820 (2008): recognizes that conflict-related sexual violence is a tactic of warfare and calls for training on prevention and response to sexual violence in war, more women in peace operations, and zero tolerance of sexual abuse or exploitation.

UNSCR 1888 (2009): strengthens 1820, calls for leaders to address conflict-related sexual violence, deployment of teams to critical areas, and improved monitoring and reporting.

UNSCR 1889 (2009): addresses obstacles to female participation in peace processes, calls for global indicators to track implementation of 1325, and requires improvement of responses to needs of women in conflict/post-conflict settings.

UNSCR 1960 (2010): calls for end to sexual violence in conflict, particularly against women and girls, and provides measures for greater punishment of perpetrators including sanctions and reporting.

UNSCR 2106 (2013): offers operational guidance on addressing sexual violence

UNSCR 2122 (2013): calls on all parties to facilitate equal and full participation of women in decision-making, aims to increase women’s participation in peacekeeping by increasing resources for women in conflict zones, and acknowledges critical contributions of women’s civil service organizations.

UNSCR 2242 (2015): reaffirms commitment and highlights role of women in countering violence extremism and addresses differential impacts of terrorism on rights of women and girls.

What are WPS National Action Plans?

Starting in 2005, Member States of the UN have developed NAPs in order to implement 1325. Since 1325 is a global commitment, it is likewise a global effort. Member States are primarily responsible for implementing 1325 in practice. NAPs allow a country to figure out where it needs to act and how that activity will be shaped, led, and funded.[1] As of last year, 72 states have developed NAPs, with some on their second or third NAP.[2]In 2011, the U.S. developed its first NAP on WPS, which was revised and re-released in 2016. The next review and revision should be in 2021.[3]The U.S. NAP is a policy tool/framework that enshrines the inclusion of women as part of U.S. conflict prevention and resolution. Its development was the result of an interagency process between State, DoD, and AID, and each agency must submit its own implementation and evaluation plans. The NAP mandates a progress review and report to the President every five years.[4][1] United Nations: “National Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325.” womenwatch/ianwge/taskforces/wps/national_level_impl.html.

[2] Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom: “National Action Plans for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security.”
[3] Witkowsky, Anne. 2016. “Integrating Gender Perspectives within the Department of Defense.” PRISM Vol. 6 (1).
[4] Barth, Jody L. 2018. “Hurry Up and Work: DoD’s Lack of Momentum on the Women, Peace, and Security Act.” Small Wars Journal.

Key Provisions of the U.S. NAP

In 2011 the Obama Administration issued the first NAP for WPS, updating it in 2016. The NAP recognized the U.S.’ role as an international leader and included both domestic and international components. These provisions represent a whole-of- government approach and contain particular provisions for the Department of Defense.

While the NAP has been in existence for 9 years, there is no comprehensive mechanism for oversight of its implementation. Meaningful oversight represents an opportunity for impact on the security of women in the U.S. and around the world. The WPS Act of 2017 creates more oversight mechanisms, but the NAP has expanded provisions not covered in the Act that would still benefit from increased oversight. These provisions include:

National Integration and Institutionalization: Interagency and integrated gender-responsive approach in conflict-affected environments.

Participation in Peace Processes and Decision-making: A dedicated focus on promoting and strengthening women’s rights and effective leadership and substantive participation in peace processes, conflict prevention, peacebuilding, transitional processes, and decision-making institutions in conflict-affected environments.

Protection from Violence: Strengthen efforts to prevent and protect women and children from harm, exploitation, discrimination, and abuse, including sexual and gender-based violence and trafficking in persons, and to hold perpetrators accountable.

Conflict Prevention: Promote women’s roles in conflict prevention, improve conflict early-warning and response systems through the integration of gender perspectives, and invest in women and girls’ health, education, and economic opportunity to create conditions for stable societies and lasting peace.

Access to Relief and Recovery: Respond to the distinct needs of women and children in conflict-affected disasters and crises, including by providing safe, equitable access to humanitarian assistance.

The WPS Act of 2017

The WPS Act was signed into law on October 6, 2017. The Act strengthens the U.S. government’s efforts to ensure women’s inclusion and participation in peace and security processes. It ensures Congressional oversight of government efforts to integrate gender perspectives across diplomatic, development, and defense-related work in conflict-affected environments, and it represents a government-wide strategy implemented through the interagency process – to include coordination, policy development, professional training and education, and evaluation.

In June 2019, the National Security Council adopted the U.S. Strategy on WPS, which requires the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, and the Agency for International Development to implement the WPS Act and seek change in strategic objectives by 2023. Successful implementation can improve national security. Poor implementation can have the opposite effect. Having leaders who understand WPS and why it matters will be critical for implementation and compliance with the WPS Act.

As Jeannette Rankin explained,

You can’t win a war any more than you can win an earthquake.

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