Thoughts for December 19th: Women, Peace, and Security Two Years Later
by Tanya Henderson, Esq., Public Policy Director
Two years ago, the U.S. Administration took an extraordinary step forward to advance women’s role in leadership, peace-making, and building stable societies. On December 19th, 2011, President Obama introduced the first-ever National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (U.S. NAP). The goal of the U.S. NAP “is as simple as it is profound: to empower half the world’s population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace.” (U.S. NAP: December 2011).
The U.S. NAP calls for women’s meaningful participation and leadership in advancing U.S. foreign policy on all matters of peace and security. It aims to protect women and girls from rape and gender-based violence and guarantees equal access to humanitarian aid in crisis situations. Rooted in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (SCR1325) on Women, Peace and Security, the U.S. NAP recognizes that the engagement and protection of women as agents of peace and stability is critical to our national and global security.
In the U.S., we have seen the effectiveness of women in resolving conflicts. As Time Magazine recently observed, women legislators in Congress did what the men could not: they shut down the government shutdown. From here at home, to our world at large – women’s leadership is changing the face of peace and conflict.
Early this fall, a delegation of Syrian women leaders traveled to New York and Washington urging U.S. and international leaders to accelerate progress toward Geneva II peace talks to end the Syrian civil war, and to ensure the inclusion of women in this process. The Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace developed a Seven Points Road Map to Gender Sensitive Peace Building Process in Syria that includes the full involvement of key players in the civil society ─ specifically women ─ recognizing that no peace agreement can succeed or be implemented without the support and participation of local communities.
Today, on the second anniversary of the U.S. NAP, let us applaud the achievements of women in resolving and preventing conflict and building peace.
Today, on the second Anniversary of the U.S. NAP, let’s take the next step in advancing women’s equality, and our national and global security.
The U.S. NAP is an executive order, which means it is at risk of termination upon the election of a new president. Therefore, we must support the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2013 (WPS Act: H.R. 2874), an act that will transform the U.S. NAP into permanent U.S. national law.
We must support the WPS Act, because of the 40 conflicts in the last decade, 31 represent repeated cycles of violence with a disproportionate impact on women and children. For instance, in Afghanistan though the overall number of casualties finally decreased in 2012, the number of casualties among women and girls increased by 20% during that same period. The WPS Act seeks to protect women from violence, especially gender-specific violence such as sexual abuse, rape and human trafficking
We must support the WPS Act, because women frequently have critical, inside-information related to impending crises and can greatly contribute to conflict prevention work, but are often overlooked or are unable to report their concerns safely. The WPS Act requires the integration of a gender perspective in conflict early-warning and response systems and investments in women and girls’ health, education, and economic opportunities to create conditions for stable societies and lasting peace.
We must support the WPS Act, because women who endure violence, and support communities during conflict also carry much of the burden of healing and rebuilding communities in the aftermath of conflict. Still, these female leaders and their unique understandings of communities’ needs are excluded from peace conversations—perhaps explaining why more than half of all peace agreements fail within the first ten years. The WPS Act will ensure women have equal access to and influence over peace negotiations, post-conflict reconstruction, and relief and recovery measures.
We must support the WPS Act, because women understand that “security” is not just about removing tanks and troops from a territory. True security only comes with human security—with access to clean drinking water, food, healthcare, shelter and bodily integrity.
Today, on the second anniversary of the U.S. NAP, I encourage my members of Congress to cosponsor the WPS Act (H.R.2874), because it recognizes that women are successful leaders in preventing and resolving conflict, and their inclusion in our decision-making processes is vital to the maintenance of international security and peace.
-Tanya Henderson, Esq., Public Policy Director, Women's Action for New Directions (WAND)