Dr. Karin L. Johnston, Dr. Diorella Islas, Larissa Abaunza
On October 31, 2000, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325),
the first of ten Security Council resolutions that together comprise the Women, Peace, and Security
(WPS) Agenda to advance gender equality and women’s representation and participation in all decision-making processes in peacebuilding and conflict prevention. Its passage was the culmination of decades
of international efforts to ensure women play an active role in addressing the impacts of war and conflict
on their lives along the spectrum of conflict resolution, peacemaking, peacekeeping, post-conflict
reconstruction, and conflict prevention. Since 2005, creating National Action Plans (NAPs) within
countries worldwide has become a major vehicle for institutionalizing the WPS agenda.
The focus on peacekeeping and the participation of women in security sector forces brought renewed
attention to the process of integrating a gender perspective in military and national police operations.
In 2020, Women In International Security (WIIS) was approached by the U.S. Southern Command
(USSOUTHCOM) to establish a baseline of data and best practices to assist partner nations in Latin
America and the Caribbean in evaluating the implementation of the WPS agenda in their respective
security sector forces.
WIIS reported its first findings on 14 countries (13 countries in the USSOUTHCOM area of responsibility
(AOR) plus Mexico) in the 2020 report “Enhancing Security: Women’s Participation in Latin America
and the Caribbean.” The present report continues the work that began in 2020 to study progress in
implementing the WPS agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean. This second report examines the
remaining 15 countries in the USSOUTHCOM AOR utilizing the research questions and methodology
framing the 2020 report.
Supporting the conclusions from the 2020 report, the 2023 study shows that despite many countries
lacking national militaries or NAPs, all countries in the study have strong normative frameworks in
place to advance gender equality at the national level. There is growing momentum in integrating gender
equality in military and defense forces, police forces, and other forces responsible for public security,
though the pace and scope among the countries vary. Nevertheless, the study also underscores that
the gap between the rhetorical support of gender equality and the implementation of the WPS agenda
persists, challenging governments to apply the necessary political will and resources to advance gender
equality and the WPS agenda in the region.
The findings of our assessment examining the level of integration of gender equality and the WPS agenda
in security forces in Latin America and the Caribbean are outlined below:
- Countries have developed a range of regional and state agencies, institutions, and agreements that
reflect a commitment to greater advancement towards gender equality in security forces, even in the
absence of a NAP and references to the WPS agenda;
- A broad commitment to gender equality and gender integration both nationally and in security
institutions has not seen consistent, transformational changes in policies and practices that can
recruit, promote, and retain women in security forces;
- Women’s representation in military and national police forces remains low;
- Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are poorly resourced, often lacking the data collection and
civil society interaction that allow decision-makers to identify problem areas in plan implementation
and make needed course corrections.
Based on these findings, the report proposes the following recommendations:
- Adopt a WPS NAP: A WPS NAP can be a valuable tool that supports and complements a nationallevel gender mainstreaming strategy. It induces government actors to work together at the national and
local levels and more closely with civil society. It also creates avenues for greater gender participation
throughout the plan’s design and implementation.
- Ensure Civil Society Participation: Include civil society actors from the earliest stages of plan
development and throughout the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation phases.
- Commit Human and Financial Resources: Using a gender-responsive budgeting process, governments
should ensure gender-equitable allocation and distribution of resources and provide sufficient staff,
including GENADs and GFPs, to ensure a NAP’s sustainability.
- Monitor and Evaluate Progress: An effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism should be in
place and appropriately funded.
- Ensure Transparency: The defense forces and public security institutions should consider
communication strategies to publicly share their progress and challenges in advancing their gender
- Expand Women’s Operational or Combat Positions: Efforts should expand beyond creating gendersensitive recruitment policies and material to aim for women’s unrestricted and equal access to all
military, police, and security forces positions. Often, restricted operational positions are pathways for
promotion to senior ranks.
- Evaluate Quality of Life and Force Retention Policies: Policies that provide support and incentive
for women to remain in the force should be institutionalized, e.g., providing and designing maternity
and paternity leave policies and available childcare facilities, extending family leave policies, and
providing equipment and facilities that serve women’s needs.
- Appoint a Gender Advisory Workforce: To support the effective implementation of gender
mainstreaming and WPS principles at all levels of decision-making—strategic, tactical, and
operational—security institutions should appoint GENADs and GFPs who have training in WPS and
- Institutionalize WPS Training: Implementing foundational training at all military service branches
and rank levels to educate and integrate the WPS agenda and gender equality should be a high priority
in the military and national police forces.
- Create an Annual WPS Summit: Representatives from the defense forces, national police agencies,
and subject matter experts (SMEs) should meet regularly to share best practices and lessons learned
to ensure continued advancement in gender integration.
- Create Regional Training Courses: Create a joint WPS strategy training for countries considering or
developing a WPS strategy or that have yet to appoint a GENAD.
- Gender and Regional Climate Cooperation: As regional cooperation increases in response to growing
alarm about the impact of climate on security, ensure that a gender dimension is an integral part of
any resulting regional framework for preventing, mitigating, responding, and adapting to climate
change and environmental disasters.