Women. Power. Peace.

White House Establishes National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security

Yesterday, President Obama announced an executive order to establish the United States' first-ever National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. Formalizing the U.S.’ commitment to promoting women's role in conflict prevention and resolution, the National Action Plan (NAP) outlines five steps for cooperation and action among numerous governmental agencies to increase women’s security in zones of conflict and to implement their voices in government and peacekeeping operations around the world.

The NAP is the outcome of a process that began over a decade ago with the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which encouraged the UN and its member states to integrate a "gender perspective" in all aspects of peace and security. In October 2004, a subsequent Security Council Presidential Statement called on the “development of national action plans” to further implement SCR 1325.

The NAP states that the US will "institutionalize a gender-responsive approach to its diplomatic, development, and defense-related work in conflict affected environments," and will work to increase women's rights and "substantive participation in peace processes, conflict prevention, peacebuilding, transitional processes, and decision making institutions in conflict-affected environments." In institutionalizing this framework, the United States joins over 30 countries that already have adopted similar foreign policies to promote the welfare and the security of women and girls.

In an address yesterday at Georgetown University, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it is time for the U.S. to “fundamentally change the ways we do business” with regards to women’s issues and implored the audience to join the fight for equal protections and opportunities for women the world over.
Nowhere is this lesson more applicable than in Afghanistan, as we look to move away from war toward a political peace process that can and should include women’s voices. Civil society cannot exist harmoniously without the equal participation of women. After 10 long years of war, States must make a commitment to provide for long-term, sustainable investments in development programs that support and empower Afghan women.

“Too few (women) are empowered to be instruments of peace and security,” Secretary Clinton said yesterday. “That is an unacceptable waste of talent.” To build a stronger Afghan civil society that fosters gender equality and human rights, more women’s voices must be heard and recognized. In an attempt to draw conflicts to an end sooner, the NAP will expand women’s participation “before, during and after” wartime.

As Secretary Clinton emphasized, “women are not just the victims of war. They are agents of peace.” The time has come not only to end the war in Afghanistan, but to also ensure that women play a prominent role in the peacemaking process, taking a seat at the tables of power during all phases of negotiation.

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This post was written by WAND Policy Associate Elizabeth Holland.

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