An Overview of Women, Peace, and Security
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Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) is an international and national policy agenda that promotes the role of women in preventing and resolving violent conflict, protects women and girls from gender based violence during war and crisis, and advances the full and equal participation of women in all efforts to create and maintain national and international peace and security.
The Issue: The nature of war has changed. Unlike traditional wars fought between nations, a rise in intra-state violent conflict concerning ethnic and religious identities, control of natural resources, and economic and political power has resulted in modern day conflicts characterized by systematic acts of violence against civilian populations.
- Today 90% of casualties in armed conflicts are civilians, an overwhelming majority of whom are women and children.
- Sexual violence, abduction for sexual slavery and for fighting, and forced displacement emerged as strategic new tactics of war.
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (SCR1325): Enacted in 2000 by the United Nations Security Council, along with its 4 follow-up resolutions (1820, 1888, 1889, and 1960), SCR1325 collectively seek to address the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on women and girls; and promote female leadership in conflict prevention, resolution, and peace building.
- SCR 1325 requires UN Member States to develop National Action Plans (NAPs) that provide for women’s participation in peace and conflict decision-making; the protection of women and girls; and gender training.
U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security: In December, 2011 President Obama issued an Executive Order outlining a U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (U.S. NAP) that contains commitments from the Department of State, Department of Defense, USAID, and other relevant federal agencies.
The US NAP actively works to:
- Integrate and institutionalize a gender-responsive approach to all diplomatic, development and defense related work.
- Foster women’s rights, leadership, and participation in all aspects of peace-building, conflict prevention, and decision-making in matters of peace and security.
- Strengthen efforts to protect women and children from gender based violence and discrimination and hold perpetrators accountable in conflict affected environments.
- Create conditions for stable societies and lasting peace by investing in women’s health, education, and economic opportunities.
- Provide safe and equitable access to humanitarian assistance by responding to the distinct needs of women and children.
The U.S. NAP’s lifespan is only guaranteed under the current administration. The WPS Act of 2013 will codify the US NAP and guarantee congressional oversight and evaluation of its implementation.
If enacted the WPS Act of 2014 would:
- Require the Secretary of State to work with counterparts at the Pentagon and USAID to provide Congress with an annual report on women, peace, and security that includes an overview of how U.S. taxpayer dollars are being spent to promote women’s inclusion and participation as directed by the U.S. NAP;
- Institute comprehensive training programs on the value of women’s participation in such areas as conflict prevention, resolution, and peacebuilding for all relevant diplomatic, defense, and development personnel;
- Encourage the United States to assist women mediators and negotiators by eliminating barriers to their equal and secure participation in peace processes and to support partner governments that demonstrate a commitment to recruiting and retaining women in leadership roles;
- Require the head of each relevant agency of the Federal Government to identify common indicators to evaluate the impact of United States foreign assistance on women’s meaningful inclusion and participation and revise approaches to ensure improved outcomes.
Why it Matters
The U.S. is currently advocating for an end to active conflicts in places like Syria, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic (CAR), and the Middle East. In recent history, peace agreements have fallen apart at a startling rate, returning societies to war before they’ve wholly recovered from strife. Research and experience increasingly point to one major explanation: the failure to include a broad range of stakeholders, especially women, in peace processes.
Robust implementation of the U.S. NAP is a means to ensuring sustainable peace and lasting stability in the aftermath of violent conflict, and preventing violent conflict in unstable areas or those prone to natural disasters. Passing the WPS Act will capacitate Congress to hold the Administration accountable for implementation of the policy and coordinate the funding that has already been employed to resource it.
- Of 39 conflicts in the last decade, 31 represent repeated cycles of violence with a disproportionate impact on women and children.
- Peace negotiated solely between armed combatants is not sustainable; 60% of armed conflicts re-erupt within 5 years.
- Women are grossly underrepresented in negotiations, representing less than 8% of peace negotiators and 3% of peace agreement signatories. UN-sponsored peace talks have never been led by a female chief mediator.
- Women often have critical, inside information related to impending crises and can greatly contribute to conflict prevention work.
- When included women expand peace and conflict negotiations to include unmet human and environmental needs, including healthcare, education, and food security.
- In-depth knowledge of local community needs enables women to bridge political, economic, social, and cultural divides to build coalitions and negotiate peace.