The U.S. Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security (CSWG) was created in July 2010 to encourage and to support the U.S. Government’s efforts in the adoption of a National Action Plan (NAP) focused on women. NAPs are a governmental tool for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), and subsequently, to assist governments define the main elements of such a plan and monitor its implementation. The United States joins 42 other countries in the implementation of a national action plan.
Adopted in 2000, UNSCR 1325 is an international framework for more effective conflict resolution and peacebuilding by recognizing the inclusion of women as necessary to these processes. The resolution was the result of active mobilization by civil society groups, particularly women’s peace groups who, caught on the frontlines of conflict and post-conflict situations, advocated for more inclusive international peacebuilding efforts and stressed the importance of including women in such efforts. While the resolution was remarkably forward-thinking and reflective of the changed nature of 21st century warfare, progress on its implementation suffered when U.S. and international attention became consumed by military responses to counter terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001.
Over the next decade, women’s civil society organizations in the United States and abroad continued to remind policymakers of their commitments made in 2000. While UNSCR 1325 remained politically sidelined, in 2008 one critical aspect of the agenda – the issue of sexual violence in conflict—rose to the forefront. In the latter days of President George W. Bush’s administration, U.S. leadership at the UN resulted in the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1820 (UNSCR 1820), which highlighted sexual violence in conflict as a threat to peace and security and reiterated the call for increased participation of women’s civil society groups in peace making. Though an unequivocally positive step, it took another two years and the tenth anniversary of UNSCR 1325 for the United States to make the commitment to incorporate the issue of women, peace, and security comprehensively into its foreign policies. In October 2010, the then U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced that the U.S. would be developing a National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security (NAP) and on December 19, 2011, President Obama signed the executive order making the U.S. NAP official policy. In doing so, the United States joined 42 countries that have developed such plans. Currently, the U.S. Government is working to implement the executive order in the work of government agencies. On July 31, 2013, the Women, Peace, and Security Act (WPS Act) was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill builds off of the implementation taking place within U.S. Government agencies by ensuring congressional oversight in regards to the funding and evaluation of the U.S. NAP.
Members of the U.S. Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security, some of whom had been actively involved in the adoption of UNSCR 1325 back in 2000, were early advocates for a United States National Action Plan (U.S. NAP). They understood the need for a coordinated strategy to create the space, raise awareness and build the political support necessary for the development and adoption of a U.S. National Action Plan (U.S. NAP). Reflecting on the development and progress of the U.S. Civil Society Working Group, this brief highlights key features that have characterized the group’s internal workings and core principles, as well as the key activities and contributions they have made to shaping U.S. policy and programming.