While the plan is "in the works" and won’t be made public for some time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s commitment to making an impact in women’s lives by advancing 1325 is generating interest in Washington and around the world.
Denmark recently held a high-level conference with U.S. officials on Women and Global Security to discuss how they developed their National Action Plan. The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) is convening a civil society working group on 1325 with think tanks and humanitarian organizations providing input to government officials. Internal inter-agency meetings between the Department of State, Department of Defense, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are ongoing, and expectations are high.
The United States has much to offer the international community in enhancing the Resolution’s four pillars: women’s participation, protection, prevention of violence, and relief and recovery. The U.S. has the power of example, the economic resources and the eyes and ears on the ground that can make a real difference in women’s lives.
First, on participation the U.S. can serve as a model of the long historical road to gender equality. There can be no participation in the political affairs of the state without equality under the law. Women in the U.S. were not eligible to enter the Foreign Service until two years after the women’s right to vote was embedded in the Constitution in 1920. American milestones in women’s rights have not yet reached their centennial.
A study on women in the executive branch of the US Government conducted by Women in International Security (WIIS) in 2010 shows that while women make up 45% of the federal government workforce, they account for fewer than 30% of the most senior positions held and fewer than 30% of the workforce in agencies responsible for international security. These figures show that while efforts to recruit and elevate women in those fields have made considerable progress, equal opportunity is still continually advancing.
Second, the United States is the largest donor to multiple agencies within the United Nations (UN) system mandated with the protection of vulnerable groups, prevention of violence, and relief to recovery. The U.S. is often the largest donor to the UN Secretariat, UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Recognizing the need for coordination between all these agencies the U.S. made its first contribution to the Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) last year, an organization charged with instituting predictable leadership in emergencies.
The challenge of protecting women from violence, particularly when the state and national police forces are unable or unwilling to do so, is evident from ongoing high instances of rape in crisis’ such as Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This has lead to several new, high-level UN offices charged with ameliorating the problem, including a new Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) for Sexual Violence in Conflict and the consolidation of gender focused agencies such as the UN Fund for Women (UNIFEM) into a strengthened entity called UN Women. Both of these offices have incredible potential to leverage the knowledge, tools, and resources of operational agencies trying to make a difference on the ground. Doing so will also require renewed cooperation with international police and peacekeeping forces.
Third, the U.S. government can keep itself, its allies, and multilateral partners honest about the progress being made. Through diplomatic and development personnel in country missions, the U.S. can determine the result of its investments and share that knowledge with its partners. The UN Secretary General has recommended that nation states use 26 indicators to determine whether 1325 is being effectively implemented. A simpler analysis might include basic questions such as; Are more women involved in the decision making process? Has the number of incidences of violence against women and girls gone down? How do women perceive the effectiveness of international efforts to assist them?
Humanitarian agencies that regularly show up in the most remote places help women realize what happens when countries don’t invest in 1325. Relief agencies get the call when a woman in a refugee camp has been raped. They work with peacekeeping missions struggling to determine what protecting civilians means in practice. They organize consultations with men, women, and adolescent girls. Harsh realities on the ground shared by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies alike prove that while 1325 is ten years old, U.S. influence to make good on the resolution’s promise is needed now more than ever.
Sarah Williamson is a Senior Consultant for the Global Emergency Group (GEG).
This article was submitted for the atlantic-community.org's
competition: "Empowering Women in International Relations." It coincides
with the 10th Anniversary of UN resolution 1325 calling for an
increased influence of women in all aspects of peace and security. The
contest is sponsored by the U.S. Mission to NATO and the NATO Public
You can read more submissions from the competition here.