Two U.S. government agencies, the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, recently issued detailed implementation plans to carry forward the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. That roadmap, released last December with anexecutive order, aims to accelerate and institutionalize efforts to advance the participation of women in peace negotiations, conflict management and peacebuilding; help protect women from gender-based violence; and ensure equal access to relief and recovery aid in conflict zones.
For the past two years, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) has been deeply engaged in supporting the government's initiative on women, peace and security. In 2011, USIP's edited volume, “Women and War: Power and Protection in the 21st Century,” provided guidance for engaging women in all stages of peacebuilding. In addition, over the past year, staff and officials from at least four government agencies consulted with the U.S. Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, which is convened by USIP.
The Working Group is the main forum for nongovernmental groups to offer suggestions and insights to the U.S. officials responsible for developing the Action Plan and the implementation documents. Through these roundtable discussions, government officials have had the opportunity to draw on the knowledge of civil society specialists with experience in the field of gender and conflict, learning directly from their efforts to collect relevant data and to resolve violent conflict.
The U.S. Civil Society Working Group has also provided background on and technical analysis of the issues to lawmakers interested in advancing the National Action Plan. Bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate that would codify the National Action Plan and put Congress on record as supporting efforts to ensure women's participation in peace and security activities.
“USIP has provided an important bridge between government officials and those civil society organizations with significant experience in conflict settings,” says Kathleen Kuehnast, who directs USIP's Center for Gender and Peacebuilding. “We provided a nonpartisan table around which people could meet and communicate about best practices and lessons learned.”
As the National Action Plan moves ahead, notes Kuehnast, the Working Group's role will continue to evolve to provide support for officials who must put the plan into action. “USIP is committed to this role as convener of the Civil Society Working Group and looks forward to continuing this leadership,” she says.