What’s next for Women, Peace and Security in Middle East and North Africa: The Potential of National Action Plans


On 24 January 2019, the missions of Germany, Peru and the United Kingdom an Arria Formula meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the future of Women, Peace and Security in Middle East and North Africa. The meeting was framed as an opportunity to elevate the visibility of National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security in the Middle East and North Africa region [1].

The participants discussed National Action Plans (NAPs)’ potential to advance change in the region, recommended ways for the Security Council and the international community to support governments in implementing the plans, and encouraged other countries to adopt such plans in the lead up to the 20th anniversary of Resolution 1325 (2000) in 2020.

The following key themes emerged in the discussion:

1. Women’s and Civil Society Meaningful Participation:

The representative of Indonesia was the first to outline that women in the MENA region face multidimensional challenges to participation and empowerment. The key barriers include the lack of access to economic and social rights, along with ongoing instances of violence, including sexual violence.

As pointed out by the representative of France, the Member State committed to advance the WPS Agenda through its membership in G7, there are some positive developments to address these challenges, including the repeal of the rape-marriage law in Lebanon. However, more work is yet to be done.

In line with the ongoing calls from civil society, the participants agreed that Resolution 1325 is an important tool to advance a better and more peaceful world. National Action Plans (NAPs) are specifically capable of addressing structural challenges, including by advancing women’s empowerment, providing legal infrastructure and and appropriate monitoring of all actions.  

The role of civil society, in this vein, has particular importance. The representative of Germany also recommended that the Council considers the role of women in each and every country under its consideration, including by inviting women civil society to brief the Council. Supporting this statement, the representative of the United Kingdom noted that engagement of women’s group is crucial on the local and national levels, recommending that grassroots organisations get the access to national politics because this is where the implementation of UNSCR1325 happens and that NAPs need to be developed in consultations with civil society organisations. Suzan Aref, a Coordinator of the Iraq Cross Sector Task Force, also shared a good practice of engaging civil society in the development of Iraq’s NAP through the Cross-Sector Task Force.  

2. Policy Coherence Across Different Agendas:

Asa Regner of UN Women outlined that the WPS achievements mostly come from countries with NAPs; however, it is not always the case. The role of women in Syria and Yemen, and other projects led by women in countries when NAPs are present were all presented as good practice example of women’s engagement beyond the frameworks of NAPs. The civil society representative from Lebanon shared how women’s groups worked to advance reconciliation along the former demarcation line far before the development of a NAP in Lebanon. “We must perceive women’s presence on the ground as an asset, not a liability”, she stated.  

The representative of Iraq, in this vein, spoke about how Iraq’s NAP has become an inspiration for the development of other plans in the country, including in the Kurdistan region, and reiterated the need for the WPS provisions to be integrated across different national priorities and various Agendas, including development and security.

3. The Need to Shift the Focus from Adoption and Commit to Implementation:

The representatives of Member States agreed that each and every state has an extraterritorial obligation to support the role of women in conflict. As an example, UK’s NAP provides support for the NAP implementation across the MENA region. This includes state-level support in Jordan, civil society engagement and capacity building in Libya and Yemen, among other projects.  The idea of strengthening subregional cooperation, including with the African Union and ECOWAS, the bodies that have a strong record of the commitment to the WPS Agenda, was proposed by a number of speakers.

As the new Co-Chair of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security (IEG), the representative of Germany reiterated that the recommendations that the IEG submits on specific country considerations should carry more weight and inform the Council’s decision-making. The representative of the UK suggested also that the IEG should hear from women civil society directly, while this is still being contested by some Council’s members.

4. Access to Justice and Accountability:

As pointed out by the representative of Indonesia, NAPs are a good starting point (they provide a framework for all segments of society). Indeed, some NAPs, including in the MENA region, are stronger than others, others are completely neglected. Therefore, the existence of the NAP does not mean that these Plans have a capacity to change the situation of women in conflict. The implementation and follow-up are of the essence, agreed many speakers at the event.

The speakers also invited Member States to commit to implementation of existing NAPs with a focus on accountability, which, ten years after the adoption of Resolution 1888, is still lacking significantly. As an example of such implementation within an extraterritorial context, Germany has initiated the prosecution of sexual crimes by Yazidi women and collaborates with the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict on that matter.  The representative of South Africa also reiterated that it is important to take punitive measures when sexual violence occurs.

5. Sustainable Funding for the WPS Agenda:

The lack of sustainable and allocated budget for the development and implementation of the NAPs was also highlighted by the speakers. Some of the good practice proposed to change the current trend were the initiation of costing workshops for the NAP in Lebanon and gender budgeting, as recommended by the representative of Indonesia.

Want to learn more about how the Security Council can act in a way that works for women? Find our  Feminist Security Council Guidance Note for the Security Council members here>>

[1] Currently, Tunisa, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan have National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security in the MENA Region. Learn more here>>