This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, a landmark resolution recognizing the importance of women as leaders in the peace and security sector, not merely as victims of conflict. I recently hosted Nahla Valji—the head of women, peace, and security work at UN Women—to discuss international progress on the resolution and the U.S. role in its implementation.
In both 2004 and 2005, the president of the Security Council urged member states to adopt national action plans (NAPs) to guide implementation of resolution 1325. So far, fifty countries have done so, including the United States and—most recently—Afghanistan. The evidence from the last fifteen years demonstrates that increased participation of women in peace and security matters and is associated with reduced conflict, violence, and extremism.
Afghan civil society groups initiated the call for a national action plan in 2007, and official meetings on the potential document started in 2009. To garner support, activists and policymakers were careful to frame women’s social equality as critical to Afghan development and security priorities. Mahbouba Seraj, a member of the Afghan Women’s Network who worked on the NAP, asked “resistant men to imagine Afghanistan as a half-crippled body. Without the inclusion of 50 percent of its citizens, how could Afghanistan really achieve national peace and reconstruction?” Furthermore, the drafters worked with religious leaders to link the argument with Islam and de-emphasize the NAP’s Western roots.
Yet the implementation of the Afghan NAP will likely be dependent on foreign—predominantly Western—governments, as those donor countries will provide the funding for these gender initiatives. As Miki Jacevic, vice chair of the Institute for Inclusive Security, notes in ForeignPolicy.com, “If you don’t have the money for it, we should not kid ourselves that Afghans will implement this.”
Enter the U.S. National Action Plan—a document that calls for empowering “half the world’s population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity.” The U.S. NAP is international in focus, and though it does include mention of the “recruitment, retention, treatment, and integration of women into U.S. Armed Forces,” much of the strategy faces outward, on women outside the United States.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) criticizes this tendency in the NAPs of developed countries in its 2014 study on UNSCR 1325. “National implementation strategies are relevant for all countries, not only for those involved in conflict,” the report reads. “Several studies have already pointed out that including more women in military and peacekeeping structures and operations has the potential to greatly enhance management and military operational effectiveness.
“The Women, Peace and Security agenda not only focuses on situations where peace is immediately threatened, but also aims at ensuring higher female participation in the political sphere overall. It is not possible to comply with this agenda by suddenly including more women only in conflict or post-conflict situations—women must be included in everyday political and military life and operations to make their participation meaningful.”