In 2011, the United States established a national action plan to implement a
U.N. resolution that calls for the equal participation of women in resolving
conflicts and building peace.
The U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security reflects that
countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women have equal rights and
opportunities. The plan ensures that gender concerns are fully integrated into
diplomatic, military and development activities.
The plan specifies how U.S. international engagements involve women — half
the world’s population — as equal partners in preventing conflict and building
peace in countries threatened by war, violence and insecurity.
According to President Obama’s executive order establishing the plan,
achieving this equality is critical to U.S. and global security. The United
States joined more than 30 countries that have adopted similar plans. These are
among the U.S. plan’s guidelines:
• Promote gender equality and advancement of women and girls in areas facing
• Support the full participation of women in preventing and resolving
conflict and building peace.
• Protect women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by conflict,
from gender-based violence, exploitation, discrimination, trafficking and other
• Promote stability by investing in health, education and economic
opportunity for women and girls.
• Provide for disaster and humanitarian responses that respect the specific
needs of women and girls.
IMPLEMENTING A VISION
In October 2000, the U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution 1325 to
recognize “the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of
conflicts and in peace-building … and the need to increase their role in
decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution.”
Lessons from Northern Ireland, Liberia and other areas already had shown
that, when involved, women are more likely to support agreements that restore
security and services to their communities, without regard to “winning” or
Women participants tend to focus on issues critical to peace but sometimes
overlooked in formal negotiations, including human rights, justice, national
reconciliation and economic renewal. They tend to build coalitions across ethnic
and provincial lines and speak for other marginalized groups. They may act as
mediators and foster compromise during the rebuilding process.
The significance of including women in peace and security issues has been
demonstrated in many places. Women from rival communities in Northern Ireland
built bridges through the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition and contributed to
the end of a decades-long conflict. Rwandan women helped put their communities
on the road to peace and prosperity after the horrific violence between Hutus
and Tutsis, and they laid the foundation for the highest percentage of women in
parliament in the world.
The U.S. plan requires government agencies working with other countries to
help increase women’s skills for political peacemaking; this includes training
women to take active roles in their local and national governments. Other tasks
include helping develop laws and policies that promote women’s rights;
increasing the capacity of U.N. systems (law enforcement, military and others)
to prevent and respond to conflict-related violence against women; and helping
ensure women’s equal access to aid distribution and other emergency
The State Department is helping to implement the U.S. plan by supporting the
roles of women in peace-building and recovery in Afghanistan, South Sudan and
Burma, among other countries. In “Arab Awakening” countries, the State
Department is supporting women’s participation in politics and promoting their
roles in reforming security.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal and El Salvador, the State
Department works with women’s groups to pursue justice for survivors of
gender-based violence related to conflict. In addition, the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) builds women’s negotiation skills in the
Mindanao region of the Philippines, trains police in Nepal, and increases the
number of registered women voters in Yemen, among other initiatives.
The United States recognizes that millions of women and girls worldwide are
excluded from public life, subjected to violence or barred from education. Such
exclusions inhibit economic growth and opportunity in the countries where they
are practiced. They defy America’s sense of justice — the belief that no country
can advance when it suppresses half its population and fails to apply those
talents, energies and gifts in building a future. The United States will
continue to empower women as agents of peace.