Women. Power. Peace.

Anniversary of the US NAP

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December 19th marks the one year anniversary of the first ever U.S. National Action Plan on women, peace and security (U.S. NAP) issued by Executive Order of President Obama. In enacting this plan, the U.S. joined 37 other countries around the world committed to ensuring women’s full and meaningful participation in all matters of peace and security. Women’s Actions for New Directions (WAND) offers its highest praise for the Obama Administration’s commitment to empower women “as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace,” and its recognition that “achieving this goal is critical to our national and global security.” Today, WAND reaffirms our own commitment to work tirelessly, along with our civil society partners and government allies, to advocate for effective and full implementation of the U.S. NAP in 2013 and beyond.

For more than 30 years, WAND has worked “to empower women to act politically to reduce violence and militarism, and redirect excessive military resources toward unmet human and environmental needs.”  WAND believes that increasing women’s political participation as decision-makers, leaders and agents of change can help lead the United States, and our global partners, towards establishing sustainable and just peace through this vision of true security. Based on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 (SCR1325), the U.S. NAP recognizes that women possess half the world’s intelligence, creativity, capabilities and wisdom, and that women and girls uniquely experience war and conflict. Excluding women is no longer a viable way to achieve peace and security in our increasingly integrated and complicated world.

In contemporary conflicts, as much as 90 percent of casualties are among civilians. Of the 39 conflicts in the last decade, 31 represent repeated cycles of violence with a disproportionate impact on women and children. Women are the first to be affected by infrastructure breakdown as they struggle to keep families together, care for the wounded and rebuild their communities. Women and girls face devastating forms of gender based and sexual violence that are increasingly deployed systematically to achieve military or political objectives. Despite the uniquely gendered impacts of war, women represented less than eight percent of the participants in key peace negotiations, and less than three percent of the signatories of the resulting accords, in the past two decades. More concerning is that only 16 percent of agreements during this period mention women at all.

Historically peace agreements are negotiated between warring factions, and focus only on ending the fighting. Frequently such agreements do not address the critical tasks necessary to sustain peace, such as ensuring stability and provision of basic services, building trust amongst opposing parties, fostering institutions that can uphold the rule of law, and promoting legitimately-elected leadership. Yet, when included as meaningful participants, women broaden the scope of agreements to include matters of ‘human security’.

Evidence from around the world and across cultures shows that when women participate in peace processes they focus discussion on issues like human rights, transitional justice, governance, reconstruction and economic renewal that are critical to making and sustaining peace. From Northern Ireland to Guatemala to Darfur, women have acted as mediators to bring about compromise, built coalitions across ethnic and sectarian lines, and stood up to protect minority rights and marginalized groups. Most recently, fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan illustrated how empowering women as agents of change can advance fundamental progress in this modern era. Despite suffering a vicious attack by Taliban gunman who boarded her school bus and shot her in the head, Malala issued a global call to protect the human rights of women and girls everywhere. Read about WAND’s effort to name  Malala 2012 TIME Person of the Year here, and read about her second place finish here.

So today, on the important first Anniversary of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, WAND asserts our commitment to advancing the rights and status of women everywhere, and ensuring that women are well-positioned to influence vital matters of security and foreign policy.

-Tanya Henderson, Public Policy Director

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