Deep Dive Recap: Advancing Women, Peace and Security through National Action Plans

  • 19 Mar. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 18 Apr. 2024 12:33

On 19 March 2024, the NATO International Military Staff (IMS) Office of the Gender Advisor convened a Deep Dive session on advancing Women, Peace and Security (WPS) through National Action Plans (NAPs). It provided a global overview of WPS NAPs before hearing individual national perspectives from Romania, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

Map of 108 NAPs adopted by countries and territories to implement the WPS agenda

Source: WPS Focal Points Network (

Subject matter expertise was provided by Ms Harriette Williams Bright, WPS Focal Points Network Secretariat Coordinator and WPS-HA Compact Lead for UNWomen, Colonel Manuela-Elena Mihai (Bercea), the Chief of the Gender Management Office for Romania’s Ministry of National Defence, Ms Joanne Crouch, the Policy Lead on Human Security for the UK’s Ministry of Defence, and Major Caroline Burger, the Gender Advisor for the Directorate of Operations Dutch Ministry of Defence.

Ms Williams Bright opened the session by providing an overview of the WPS NAP global landscape, emphasising the critical need for effective tools to tackle the record number of conflicts worldwide. With over 600 million women and children affected by conflict, she stressed the importance of WPS NAPs in strengthening women's leadership, preventing conflict, and addressing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). WPS NAPs also provide an opportunity for national stakeholders to identify priorities, determine responsibilities, allocate resources, and initiate strategic actions.

Ms Williams Bright traced the evolution of WPS NAPs, noting the seminal role of United Nations Security Council Resolutions in shaping global commitments to WPS and encouraging the adoption of NAPs across 108 countries. From Resolution 1325 in 2000, to subsequent resolutions such as 1889, 2122, 2242, and 2467, there has been a consistent effort to broaden and deepen commitments to the WPS agenda. She stated that these resolutions underscore the importance of inclusive consultations, multi-stakeholder engagement, adequate funding, and monitoring and evaluation in achieving the objectives of WPS NAPs. As a result, WPS NAPs have become more inclusive, comprehensive, and actionable in recent years.

Discussing the incorporation of the Security Sector into WPS NAPs, Ms Williams Bright highlighted significant achievements and persistent challenges. Notably, 88% of NAPs advocate for increased female representation in the defence sector and armed forces and 55% promote gender-responsive policies and operations. However, she also noted that only 11% of NAPs include mechanisms for improving accountability for SGBV in the military and none include strategies for vetting new soldiers for SGBV. Ms Williams Bright recommended that more progress be made in the defence sector by comprehensive provisions on gender integration and WPS priorities, clearer delineation of responsibilities among relevant ministries and improved knowledge sharing and communication campaigns.

Colonel Mihai then introduced Romania's approach to the implementation of WPS NAPs, led by the Ministry of National Defence and its Gender Management Office. She described Romania's concerted efforts to convene inter-ministerial working groups with representatives from the entire security sector and secure governmental endorsement for its NAP.

Czech soldier Pavel and the Czech 24-hour ration pack

Key aspects of Romania's approach include the establishment of a robust legal framework to facilitate collaboration with civil society and academia, as well as the appointment of a dedicated national implementation group for monitoring and evaluation. Colonel Mihai emphasised the importance of transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement in ensuring the success of NAP implementation efforts. She also discussed Romania's ongoing efforts to develop and refine its second NAP, drawing on best practices and lessons learned from continuous evaluation.

Taking the floor next, Ms Crouch discussed the UK Ministry of Defence’s approach to WPS integration. She emphasised the importance of reshaping the narrative surrounding WPS since it is imperative to position the gender perspective as central to military objectives rather than a peripheral issue. Incorporating the human environment can enhance operational success and contribute to more conflict sensitive and stable outcomes. The UK has embraced a collaborative political-military approach to implementation with the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office having joint ownership of the WPS NAP.

Ms Crouch noted the practical aspects of the UK’s NAP, which focuses on strategic objectives, implementation, focus countries and fragile contexts, governance and accountability, and delivery plans. She underscored the significance of internal progress as well as external support for other countries, citing the UK’s concerted efforts to address internal challenges and promote gender equality in its military and society as a whole. This includes a commitment to recruiting, retaining, and promoting women in the military, as well as improved responses to sexual exploitation and abuse in the defence sector.

Concluding her presentation, Ms Crouch discussed how the UK is integrating the gender perspective into the way Defence operates and engages. In terms of operations, WPS considerations are integrated into military planning and operations, intelligence, and partner force training. In terms of engagement, the UK supports WPS delivery in target focus countries and participates in multilateral forums such as NATO, the UN, and the OSCE.

Czech soldier Pavel and the Czech 24-hour ration pack

Closing the discussion, Major Burger outlined the Netherlands’ collaborative effort in developing and implementing WPS NAPs, which include partnerships between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Culture and Science, Justice and Security, the police, and 60 different civil society organisations. She explained how, in addition to the NAP for WPS, the Netherlands implemented its Defence Action Plan 1325 (DAP 1325) in 2021 after recognising that the security sector had unique needs and actions in terms of gender.

Major Burger highlighted several positive outcomes of the DAP 1325 (2021-2025), including the international visibility gained by the Gender in Operations course. She explained that the DAP is both outward and inward facing. By emphasising the “essence” and “necessity” of the gender perspective for all military operations, the DAP aims to raise gender awareness and expertise, increase gender responsiveness within the organisation and in missions or operations, create an inclusive culture, collaborate with diversity and inclusion colleagues, and engage with partners on WPS. Major Burger emphasised that through extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders during the DAP's development, all those affected and involved were able to achieve a sense of ownership.

The evolution of WPS NAPs has seen a significant increase in global commitments. Insights from Romania, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands demonstrate different approaches to NAP implementation characterised by inter-ministerial collaboration, robust legal frameworks, and dedicated monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Furthermore, the emphasis on internal progress, external support, and collaboration with civil society organisations highlights a holistic approach to advancing WPS objectives. WPS NAPs have a transformative potential in promoting peace, security and gender equality globally. By leveraging best practices, fostering collaboration, and enhancing accountability, nations can continue to advance the WPS agenda.