Statement of WILPF, U.S. Section on the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
North America
United States of America


This Statement by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom–U.S. Section (WILPF U.S.) raises critical concerns and questions about the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (NAP) issued by President Barack Obama on December 19, 2011. After ten years of unrelenting activism towards this goal, WILPF U.S. acknowledges the Obama Administration's effort to draft and launch the National Action Plan, which has the potential to be a milestone in advancing the role of women as agents of peace through U.S. policy.

Committed to holding our government accountable to the original spirit and intent of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (SCR 1325) on women, peace, and security, WILPF appreciates the Administration's articulated goal of the NAP: “to empower half the world's population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity.” However, while the U.S. NAP makes certain advances and provides an action plan more substantive than a mere gesture of goodwill, the questions it raises are more profound than the ones it answers.

WILPF U.S. questions; Is it possible for the U.S. NAP on Women, Peace and Security to make a substantive difference in the lives of women around the world, including women living in the U.S., when over $700 billion of our federal tax dollars are consumed by the military budget and armed interventions annually? Put simply, can we avoid diluting the transformative potential of the Women, Peace and Security agenda when ‘peace and security' continue to be understood and acted upon through a framework of militarized security, as opposed to a human security or human rights approach?

Critical questions such as this arose during the five historic civil society consultations on the formulation of the NAP facilitated by WILPF U.S. in September and October 2011. The consultations were attended by nearly 400 women from over 60 different partner organizations, as well as representatives of the Department of State‘s Office of Women's Global Issues, in Detroit, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; San Diego, California; Portland, Oregon; and Boston, Massachusetts. The participants offered input resulting in 64 concrete recommendations on protection; participation, prevention and process, and described their personal definitions for peace and security.

These unprecedented consultations called for a redefinition of America's concepts of peace and security, especially in terms of women's experience of conflict and violence. If entirely adopted and implemented, the recommendations would necessitate a doctrinal shift in foreign and military policy; a shift that firmly situates women's equality and protection, at home and abroad, at the center of establishing long-term sustainable peace. In essence, consultation participants echoed what peace activists have repeatedly said: If you want to make war safe for women, end war; if you want to end war, bring women to the peace table.

In addition, we would like to highlight further areas where the current NAP needs development or remains silent:

  • An important recommendation arising from the consultations was ratification of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). WILPF U.S. questions the exclusion of the legislative branch, specifically bodies responsible for treaty ratification, from the NAP process—particularly when U.S. CEDAW ratification is so critical to the women, peace, and security agenda.
  • It is important to note that many local environments within the U.S., most notably those surrounding military bases and nuclear production facilities, have been adversely affected by armed conflict in enduring, consistent ways. What does it mean that the NAP sets clear objectives for protecting and promoting women's rights in conflict-affected areas, yet never explicitly acknowledges these same rights at home?
  • What does it mean that a National Action Plan intent on building inclusive peace and preventing future wars is illustrated throughout with unsettling photos of female Marines interacting in social service roles with Afghan women, blurring the crucial distinction between military and humanitarian missions? What does it mean that the NAP is silent on protecting these same female Marines from sexual violence while in service, when this problem has been well documented and is so pervasive?
  • The National Action Plan for implementing Security Council Resolution 1325 barely references SCR 1325 itself. Is it a meaningful step forward that our government commits, as part of its national action plan, to training its diplomatic, defense, and development personnel in international human rights and humanitarian law, yet it denies human rights education to its children, spending instead nearly $400 Million dollars on militarized junior officer training delivered in civilian public schools?
  • WILPF U.S. would like to call attention to logistic weaknesses in the National Action Plan itself. Specifically, what does it mean that the NAP does not have an official, committed budget for implementation? Further, what does the omission of a Monitoring and Evaluation section mean for transparency in evaluation and revising the NAP? Despite the articulated timelines, accountabilities and processes that include civil society and grassroots women's organizations for its implementation, review, evaluation, and revision, it is unclear how civil society will be really engaged in the process. To achieve true progress, civil society must hold a substantial role in NAP implementation moving forward.

For almost a century, WILPF has articulated the need to address the root causes of war and the necessity of women's participation as being fundamental both to prevention and to ending armed conflict as a means of dispute resolution. A true and sustainable peace will only be achieved when our nations commit to goals of total disarmament, universal human rights, economic, justice and care for our planet; if clarified and implemented effectively, this National Action Plan can act as a powerful tool in achieving these aims.