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Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

U.S. Launches National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

It has been an encouraging few weeks for advocates working on issues related to the role of women in peacebuilding, reconstruction and recovery processes. On December 10, three courageous women, two from Liberia and one from Yemen, inspired people everywhere when they received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo for their efforts to bring peace to their countries. And yesterday, President Obama released the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

The U.S. is the 33rd UN Member State to adopt a National Action Plan designed to implement the goals of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. That landmark resolution underscores the central role that women in conflict-affected countries must play if peace initiatives, reconciliation efforts and rebuilding programs are to be sustainable and effective. As we discussed last month in this blog, UN Member States and UN agencies have a mixed record in advancing the women, peace and security agenda. It is a record characterized by inconsistent implementation, a lack of accountability and scant systemic change.

The release of a U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security represents an important opportunity to make significant progress on these issues over the next several years. As a permanent member of the Security Council and a leading contributor to humanitarian and development efforts, the U.S. is ideally positioned to play a key role in the full implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. Indeed, the U.S. has exhibited strong bipartisan leadership at the United Nations on Resolution 1325 and related resolutions dealing with sexual violence in conflict, but the absence of a U.S. Plan represented a missing link in U.S. advocacy and action. Now that the Plan has been launched and the President has signed an Executive Order directing federal agencies to implement the Plan, the U.S. will be in a much stronger position to help the international community realize the goals of Resolution 1325 and the subsequent resolutions that address women, peace and security concerns. 

In the months leading up to the release of the U.S. National Action Plan, the Women’s Refugee Commission joined with other civil society organizations to make a set of recommendations to the U.S. government on the essential components of a National Action Plan.  As an organization with a special concern for women and girls displaced by conflict, we are particularly pleased to see a number of our recommendations reflected in the section of the National Action Plan dealing with safe and equitable access to humanitarian assistance. Safe and equitable access is essential to securing the safety and well-being of the millions of women and girls living in war-torn areas.

Key federal agencies must now develop implementation plans to meet the objectives and carry out the associated actions laid out in the Action Plan. Agencies will be required to report annually to the National Security Council on the progress they have made in meeting their commitments. This is an important step in establishing accountability for implementation across the government. So, too, is the commitment to establish a mechanism for regular consultation with civil society representatives. The full U.S. National Action Plan can be found here.

As implementation plans are developed, the Women’s Refugee Commission is heartened by the pledge the U.S. government is making under the National Action Plan to “integrate women’s views and perspectives…not simply as beneficiaries but as agents of peace, reconciliation, development, growth and stability.” This is the key to effective implementation—engaging women as equal partners and recognizing the critical role they play in effective peacemaking and development. It is crucial to ensuring that the promise of U.N. Resolution 1325 and the promise of the U.S. National Action Plan result in real, tangible improvements in the lives of women and girls in conflict-affected areas. When their lives are changed for the better, so too are their families, communities and countries. 

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence