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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Executive Summary, The Case for Women in Peace and Security and Implementing the Natiional Action Plan

Washington, DC
August 15, 2012


Executive Summary

The goal of the first-ever United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAP) is as simple as it is profound: to empower half the world’s population to act as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity. Achieving this goal is critical to our national and global security and it builds on the work of the Department under Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, since the first United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace, and Security was passed in 2000.

As directed by Executive Order 13595, “Instituting a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security,” the NAP describes the course that the United States (U.S.) Government will take to accelerate, institutionalize, and better coordinate our efforts to advance women’s inclusion in peace negotiations, peacebuilding activities, conflict prevention, and decision-making institutions; to protect women from gender-based violence; and to ensure equal access to relief and recovery assistance, in areas of conflict and insecurity. Further, the Executive Order requested the Departments of State and Defense (DoD) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop implementation plans identifying the actions each agency plans to take to implement the NAP.

The following Department of State Implementation Plan of the United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (Department Implementation Plan) provides guidance for how the Department of State (Department), both in Washington and at U.S. embassies and consulates, can advance the NAP. In implementing the NAP, the Department demonstrates its unfaltering commitment for furthering the promotion of gender equality in service of America’s foreign policy and national security. This effort builds upon the goals for gender integration included in the U.S. National Security Strategy (2010) and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (2010). The U.S. Department of State Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality (2012) further identifies peace and security as one of three priority areas in which advancing the status of women and girls and promoting gender equality should be integrated across our diplomacy.

The Department will continue to promote Women, Peace, and Security in our bilateral relationships, our engagement with civil society and the private sector, and in the Security Council and other multilateral forums. We will also continue to embrace the principles of country ownership, partnership, and mutual commitment and accountability, such that these partnerships reflect the sound principles set forth in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the Accra Agenda for Action, and the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.

The Department is committed to leveraging existing resources to advance the outcomes, actions, and commitments contained in the NAP as well as the Department Implementation Plan. This may include implementing Women, Peace, and Security activities through a variety of funding streams that support bilateral, multilateral, humanitarian, military, and law enforcement assistance programs.

In developing the Department Implementation Plan, the Department worked hard to ensure that it was informed by the widest base possible. We are deeply indebted to our interagency partners, Congressional staff, bilateral and multilateral partners, civil society, and the private sector, who — from the beginning — informed and inspired the development of these documents. We are confident that the actions proposed in this Department Implementation Plan are high-impact, necessary, achievable, and informed by those charged with implementation on the ground.

The Case for Women in Peace and Security

The NAP outlined how deadly conflict can be more effectively avoided, and peace can be best forged and sustained, when women become equal partners in all aspects of peacebuilding and conflict prevention, when their lives are protected, their experiences considered, and their voices heard.

“Whether it’s ending conflict, managing a transition, or rebuilding a country, the world can no longer afford to continue ignoring half the population.”

-Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, December 19, 2011

Women as Equal Participants in Conflict Resolution. When included as meaningful participants in peace processes and decision-making forums, women can enlarge the scope of agreements, focusing on issues like human rights, justice, national reconciliation, and economic renewal, which are critical but often overlooked in formal negotiations. Women often build coalitions across ethnic and sectarian lines, and speak on behalf of other marginalized groups. They can act as mediators and help foster compromise, as well as find creative solutions. And, as witnessed in numerous conflicts, when women organize in large numbers, they galvanize opinion and draw in support for peace. Yet, too many peace negotiations and processes exclude women and miss this valuable input.

Protections for Women During and After Conflict. In conflict zones around the world, women and girls are often deliberately targeted and attacked. Gender-based violence,[1] including rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, mutilation, forced prostitution, and sexual slavery, can be both a cause and consequence of a societal breakdown, and is increasingly recognized as a facet of many conflicts. In places where wars have officially come to an end, women and girls often continue to be plagued by high levels of violence and insecurity; widespread impunity and breakdown in the rule of law can contribute to high rates of gender-based violence. When countries are not experiencing active conflict, evidence shows that rates of violence against women can be a primary indicator of a nation’s stability, security, and propensity toward internal or external conflict.

Women and Conflict Prevention Efforts. Mitigating cycles of conflict and preventing wars before they occur are the most important ways to ensure stability and prosperity around the world. Too often, women have critical knowledge about impending or escalating conflict, but are overlooked or unable to report their concerns safely. The status and treatment of women and girls may serve as signals of broader vulnerability to the onset or escalation of conflict or atrocities, and can be monitored by incorporating gender analysis in mechanisms for conflict early warning, atrocity prevention, crisis prevention, and conflict mitigation and management. More broadly, evidence indicates that investments in women’s employment, health, and education, as well as health and education for girls, correlate with greater economic growth and more successful development outcomes, including stability.

Women’s Access to Relief and Recovery Assistance. Women and children are particularly affected by conflicts, comprising the vast majority of forcibly displaced persons around the world. As the primary caregivers in many families and communities in crisis situations, women’s perspectives are crucial in ensuring that relief and recovery assistance addresses the needs of the entire affected population. Women and girls, including former combatants and those with disabilities, have distinct needs and vulnerabilities that can often times be overlooked in traditional demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration (DDR) programs.

[1] For the purposes of this Implementation Plan, “gender-based violence” is defined as violence that is directed at an individual based on his or her biological sex, gender identity, or his or her perceived adherence to socially defined norms of masculinity and femininity. It includes physical, sexual, and psychological abuse; threats; coercion; arbitrary deprivation of liberty; and economic deprivation, whether occurring in public or private life. Sexual violence is considered a form of gender-based violence.

Implementing the National Action Plan

The Department recognizes that promoting women's participation in conflict prevention, management, and resolution, as well as in post-conflict relief and recovery, advances core U.S. national interests of peace, national security, economic and social development, and international cooperation. The Department will apply this implementation plan to a range of countries: those in or emerging from conflict, experiencing high levels of insecurity, in a significant political transition, or recovering from a natural disaster. The Department also intends to maintain its energetic efforts to build strong coalitions with likeminded states in furtherance of the goals described in this document. In this regard, implementation of the NAP complements efforts at the UN Security Council by addressing the agenda’s core pillars, to include taking action in a broad array of situations that do not necessarily fall within the scope of that body’s mandate.

The Department identified a select number of Focus Country Embassies through which to advance our initial efforts on gender equality in areas of conflict and insecurity by considering the following factors:

  • The country is in an active conflict or has recently emerged from conflict.
  • The country is in political transition.
  • The country has active peace negotiations.
  • The country is at high risk of instability or fragility.
  • The country has high levels of human insecurity.
  • The country is impacted by regional security concerns.
  • The country is the site of an international peacekeeping mission or significant U.S. military engagement.
  • The country has a National Action Plan or Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security of its own.
  • The Department is able to have a positive impact on the status of women and girls in the country.

The Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues leads the coordination of NAP implementation through a Department-wide working group. 

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