Taking action nationally on the Women, Peace and Security agenda

  • 11 May. 2016 - 12 May. 2016
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  • Last updated: 24 May. 2016 16:08

National action plans on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) are today the most common strategy used by 63 nations globally to show their commitment to the United Nations’ WPS agenda. While in the last few years there has been a proliferation of national action plans, implementation remains problematic.

Experts from public institutions, international organisations, academia and non-governmental organisations gathered for a workshop in Dublin, Ireland on 11 and 12 May to discuss national action plans as a strategy for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and other Resolutions related to Women, Peace and Security.

Michael Gaul, NATO Senior Advisor in the Emerging Security Challenges Division, stressed the importance of Women, Peace and Security in NATO’s Strategic Objectives. “Since 2013 the SPS Programme supports not only projects with a scientific focus, but also fosters activities related to human and social aspects of security, such as the implementation of the UNSCR 1325 agenda”. Furthermore, he underscored the benefit of cooperation with Ireland, taking into account the outstanding Irish experience of developing, revising and partnering on national action plans on WPS.

The participants of the workshop highlighted the current challenges in terms of development and implementation of national action plans. Nora Owen, the independent chair of the group overseeing Ireland’s action plan, emphasised, “We need to see more policy coherence among all government’s departments, demarcated budgets, stronger monitoring and evaluation processes and more robust accountability mechanisms”.

More women in leadership roles

Participants discussed at length the low number of women in leadership positions. Kersti Siilivask, Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association, explained, “In Estonia, the low number of women in political leadership and within the military remains one of the main challenges today”.

Mireille Affa’a Mindzie, Policy Specialist, Peace and Security Section at UN Women, underlined, “We need to see more women as appointed as peace mediators and in leadership positions”.

Annika Schabbauer, Operation 1325 Sweden, highlighted the need not only to appoint women to senior positions but also men who respect gender equality and women’s rights in senior positions in order to bring about change.

Svanhvit Adalsteinsdottir, Advisor to the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative on WPS, similarly emphasised, “Leadership is key – teach people to step up and speak for this agenda – when men hear other men speak about gender it makes a difference”.

Case studies of national action plans in the field from West Africa, Liberia, the Republic of Sierra Leone, and Bosnia and Herzegovina were also examined in the workshop. Dr Sahla Aroussi, Coventry University, warned of a “flat-pack” or “one-size fits all” approach in Western states’ support for the adoption of national action plans in developing countries and the danger of overriding the important principle of local ownership in this process.

The importance of the continuous development and revisions of national action plans by states was also discussed in the workshop. However, despite the feeling of frustration in relation to the slow path of progress, participants highlighted the added value of these plans in many areas. Finally, the participants concluded that states should always keep the focus on the implementation and on fulfilling their commitments to gender equality as their ultimate responsibility.

NATO sponsorship

The workshop was jointly organised by Dr Sahla Aroussi (Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University) and Dr Melanie Hoewer (The Institute of British-Irish Studies, University College Dublin). It was sponsored by the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme.