National Action Plans (NAPs) have formed the major means for UN member states to translate international commitments on Women, Peace and Security into national policies and programmes. However, the 55 NAPs that have been adopted to date vary greatly, and opinions about their efficacy are divided. Do NAPs constitute a useful tool for states to fulfil the Women, Peace and Security objectives or are they only an incentive to “free ride” on international obligations? How can NAPs ensure the meaningful implementation of the UN Resolution 1325?

This is an introduction to National Action Plans and why they are important to ensure implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR 1325).

Women, Peace and Security agenda

Last October we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR 1325). The adoption of this resolution was remarkable for a number of reasons.

UNSCR 1325 is the first resolution of the most powerful UN body that exposed the gender specific impact of armed conflicts and acknowledged women’s voices in international peace and security. The provisions of the resolution encompass women’s participation in peace and security governance, women’s (and men’s) protection from sexual violence, conflict preventions, and post-conflict peacebuilding. Resting on these four pillars, UNSCR 1325 challenges the traditionally masculinized and militaristic peace and security realm, which excludes the experiences and contributions of women.

UNSCR 1325 is by all means a great victory for women activists and WILPF has played a prominent role in lobbying the Security Council and UN member states for its adoption and implementation. But after 15 years have passed, the impact on women’s lives appears to be uneven, and in many cases elusive.

Localising UNSCR 1325

For UNSCR 1325 to bring about the promised change, the implementation must go beyond the UN Headquarters and trickle down to national and local levels where women experience violence and insecurity on a daily basis.

In the multilateral system, states continue to hold the major responsibility for ensuring the respect and protection of women’s rights. Thus, UN member states have been encouraged to develop national strategies as a form of compliance with UNSCR 1325.

National Action Plans (NAPs) are one critical part of localising commitments in UNSCR 1325 into concrete action. Put simply, NAPs are documents outlining domestic and/ or foreign course of policy of a country to meet the Women, Peace and Security objectives: women’s participation, protection from sexual violence, conflict prevention and post-conflict peacebuilding.

In essence, NAPs should provide a tool to contextualize UNSCR 1325 and translate its objectives into national and local realities.

National Action Plans worldwide

National governments have started to develop their action plans on Women, Peace and Security since 2005. The European countries pioneered in this process, and particularly Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom who all launched their plans as early as in 2005 and 2006.

Over the next years the adoption of NAPs has accelerated and spread around the world.

In 2008 and 2009 the first plans were introduced in conflict-affected countries in Africa, e.g. Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda and Liberia. Chile was the first country in Americas to release the plan in 2009, while the Philippines led in the Asia-Pacific region with the NAP adoption in 2010. In 2011 the United States launched its NAP, followed by Australia in 2012. In 2015, five new NAPs were released from: Afghanistan, Japan, New Zealand, Palestine and Paraguay.

As of this month (January 2016), 55 nations have created a NAP, which accounts for about 28.5% of the countries worldwide.

While there is still much work to do, it is a positive step forward to have 10 new countries commit to developing a NAP in 2016: Algeria, Angola, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Portugal, Thailand, Ukraine and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Furthermore, others have committed to reviewing or revising their NAPs.

Timeline of ratified National Action Plans from the adoption of UNSCR 1325 to today

Timeline of ratified National Action Plans from the adoption of UNSCR 1325 to today. Illustration made by PeaceWomen.

Lessons learned

WILPF’s Women, Peace and Security programme, also known as PeaceWomen, monitors all NAPs on their comprehensive website.

One of the lessons learned over the last decade is that NAPs must be designed holistically, with particular emphasis on prevention and inclusion of demilitarisation and disarmament, a major gap area within the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

WILPF has adopted a Congress Resolution on National Action Plans (Congress 2011) that calls for NAPs to have an increased focus on the prevention of conflict, including regulation of arms trade and disarmament, to fully remedy violations of women’s human rights in conflict.

NAPs must be developed, implemented, and evaluated inclusively with early, extensive, and genuine engagement of a broad constituency of civil society, including women-led civil society organisations. An inclusive process both upholds women’s equal human rights and also strengthens action plan content and local implementation through diverse stakeholder engagement and buy-in.

Nevertheless, we must refrain from a one-size-fits-all approach because, after all, NAPs are a localisation strategy and must remain context specific.

/by Ghazal Rahmanpanah and Barbara Trojanowska

National-Action-Plans-on-Women,-Peace-and-Security_716The upcoming WILPF webinar “National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security: What is the experience on the ground?” (19 January 2016, 9-11 PM CET) will look into the African context and explore the case studies of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, where the NAPs were released in 2010 and 2013 respectively, and Cameroon, where the NAP is in preparation.

Register to the webinar today!