In October 2000, the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security (WPS) was hailed as a historic event and a turning point for women involved in conflicts, peacemaking, peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction . Resolution 1325 formally required political transitions to be inclusive, gender-sensitive and transformative for women . In particular, resolution 1325 called for the incorporation of a gender perspective in all peace efforts, including peacemaking, peacebuilding, peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations, and for the participation of women in all peace activities, including in the negotiation of peace agreements and in future governance and transitional institutions. The underlying aim of resolution 1325 was not only to protect women during conflicts but also to transform unequal gender relationships in transitional societies and to strengthen women's leadership at national and international levels within the area of peace and security. Resolution 1325 has generated many important UN documents, including yearly reports from the Secretary-General, two global studies on women, peace and security, and yearly Security Council presidential statements. Most importantly, resolution 1325 has paved the way for the adoption of seven additional resolutions on women, peace and security: resolution 1820 (19 June, 2009) ; resolution 1888 (30 September, 2009) ; resolution 1989 (5 October, 2009) ; resolution 1960 (16 December, 2010) ; resolution 2106 (24 June, 2013) ; resolution 2122 (18 October, 2013) ; and resolution 2242 (13 October, 2015) . While resolutions 1820, 1888, 1960, and 2106 are almost exclusively focused on the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, resolutions 1989 and 2122 adopt a broader agenda in relation to gender equality in order to focus attention on women's participation and empowerment in peace processes and post-conflict peacebuilding. The most recent resolution, 2242, makes the women, peace and security agenda a central component of efforts to address the threat of rising violent extremism.
In recent years, national action plans (NAPs) on women, peace and security (WPS) have become one of the most common tools used by States to channel, assess, and monitor the implementation of the UN's WPS resolutions. The first WPS national action plan was adopted by Denmark in 2005 and, since then, we have seen a proliferation of national action plans, particularly in Europe. Today, there are 61 national action plans on women, peace and security operative globally, though, as Swaine (2017, in this volume) notes, there is a regional disparity in relation to the distribution of NAPs, with Europe having the highest percentage of adopted NAPs (39 per cent) and the Americas and Oceania having the lowest (at eight and three per cent respectively). In Europe, many countries have gone through the process of adopting their second or third national action plans. The development of a national action plan is assumed to demonstrate a level of commitment to the UN resolutions on women, peace and security and to assist in pushing forward their implementation. Yet, questions remain about whether national action plans are appropriate and useful for all States, particularly those that have weak institutions and lack the capacity to implement them successfully.
In May 2016, the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University and the Institute for British-Irish Studies at University College Dublin, supported by NATO's Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, organised an Advanced Research Workshop (ARW) focused on WPS national action plans. The workshop brought together States' representatives, academics, and members of civil society and international organisations to discuss their experiences with national action plans and to critically reflect on the role of NAPs in supporting States' implementation of the WPS framework. The workshop represented a bid to take stock of the role that NAPs have played since the adoption of UNSCR 1325 and the progress achieved; its participants also sought to share best practice in terms of the adoption, revision, and implementation of NAPs and to explore potential sites for collaborations in these areas.
The aim of this edited volume is to disseminate the key arguments, findings, and recommendations which emerged from the discussions held at the Advanced Research Workshop. In its first section, the volume includes a summary report which sets out key arguments and recommendations. The second section offers a number of key papers from the ARW with the intention of contributing to academic and policy debates that concern gender and armed conflict, and particularly the women, peace and security framework.
2. National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security: Key Debates
The discussions that took place during the two-day Advanced Research Workshop on WPS NAPs were rich and wide-ranging, but the issues they raised can be broadly divided into six categories: women's participation; local priorities and international interest; new security threats and countering violent extremism; monitoring and evaluation; development aid and local ownership; and gender equality.
2.1. National Action Plans and Women's Participation
Women's participation is one of the key pillars of UN Security Council resolution 1325, which calls for the “increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict”.
See UN , para. 1.
See UN , para. 1.
Delegates also discussed the importance of women's participation in formal peace negotiations as a prerequisite for a more inclusive and durable peace. Women's participation in peace negotiations has been included in many national action plans as a key pillar. Some NAPs spell out targets and mechanisms for enhancing women's access to high-level roles as mediators and negotiators; for instance, in the Finnish and Swedish NAPs, there are references to the Nordic Women Mediators' Network. Nonetheless, delegates expressed concerns about the limited progress made in this area and argued that States continue to exclude women from formal peace negotiations and undervalue the mediation expertise that women have within their own jurisdictions. For example, delegates pointed out that, while women in Northern Ireland played a vital role in the negotiation of the Belfast agreement and developed considerable expertise that they could bring to other contexts, the UK government has never nominated these women for positions as mediators or negotiators.
Women's participation in peacebuilding was considered to be a vital component of efforts to build sustainable peace. Most European national action plans include commitments to promoting women's active participation in peacebuilding activities in partner countries; this help is intended to take the form of support and funding for economic, social, educational, and empowerment programmes, and countries often commit to working directly with women's organisations, civil society organisations (CSOs), and government departments in partner countries. The ARW discussion drew attention to the fact that the WPS framework to date has led to increased funding for women's groups and gender-related activities and it has also provided a recognised channel through which male dominance within peace processes can be challenged. However, workshops discussions raised questions about which women are benefitting from the increased funding made available through the WPS framework; some delegates expressed concerns that many of the funded projects in partner countries are run by elite, urban, middle-class women, which leaves most of the rural and disadvantaged population disengaged from the agenda. It was also noted that donor countries and organisations can often be guilty of marginalising women's participation in peacebuilding in developing countries where they are involved in administering development aid. This was the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where donors have typically prioritised the funding of projects that are focused around issues of sexual violence over those that concentrate instead on participation (see Davis 2017 in this volume).
Delegates also discussed women's participation in national militaries and in peacekeeping missions, arguing that this participation has created better dynamics within these units and has also resulted in greater interaction between peacekeeping forces and local women. Many national action plans have set specific targets for increasing the number of women in the military. For example, the UK national action plan (2014–2017) includes this kind of increase as one of its key outputs. The NAP states that the UK will “actively encourage the employment of women within UK government roles, security services, and the Armed Forces, and related Ministries, by continuing to review the employment of women within Her Majesty's Armed Forces; encouraging the deployment of female military and police officers on UN Operations; and positively training high-potential female FCO staff to be well-prepared for applications for UK Heads of Mission posts in conflict affected states” . Meanwhile, the second Irish NAP (2015–2018) pledges to “increase the participation of women at senior decision making and leadership levels in Irish defence, police and foreign services” as one of its major commitments . The Irish military is actively encouraging women's recruitment by running advertising campaigns online, on television, and in cinemas across Ireland. The ARW delegates emphasised that, in order for women to assert their influence within the military, they should be appointed to high-ranking positions and involved in planning and decision-making processes inside the military: women should not serve only as junior recruits. Furthermore, if qualitative change is to be brought about, increased access to the military for women needs to be achieved, in conjunction with the adoption of a more holistic approach to gender issues, and any such strategy should include the provision of gender-sensitive military training. As one of their NAP commitments to the women, peace and security framework, countries such as Ireland, the UK, and Finland have declared that they will provide gender-sensitive training for national armed forces and the military, with special emphasis on the training that is given prior to deployment and on contributions to the training of military personnel from other countries and missions in relation to this issue.
2.2. National Action Plans: Between Local Priorities and International Interest
Delegates at the Advanced Research Workshop highlighted the point that national action plans from countries in the West tend to be outward-looking and focus on issues in other countries, often in the developing world, rather than on the domestic scene (See Aroussi 2017 in this volume). Delegates were keen to stress that countries should strive to address domestic issues that are of relevance to the WPS framework in their national action plans in addition to overseas work. Many delegates pointed out that revised national action plans are now seeking to include policies on refugees and asylum seekers. For instance, Germany's new national action plan (2017–2020) pays more attention to the domestic context than the country's last NAP, and this can be seen as a response to the fact that Germany has received a large number of refugees and asylum seekers during the past few years. The German NAP includes provision for gender-awareness training for young male refugees, and it also pays specific attention to work that will improve the protection of refugees, especially refugee girls, within Germany. In Ireland, the second national action plan places far greater emphasis than did its predecessor on the situation of refugees and asylum seekers, and it commits to strengthening “outreach to women and girls in Ireland who have been affected by conflict, including migrant women, diaspora communities, and those seeking asylum, and those who have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM), to ensure raised awareness and increased utilisation of the services available”.
See Government of Ireland , p. 18.
See Government of Ireland , p. 18.
Delegates also emphasised the fact that States need to pay attention to their own local and national contexts and they stressed that particular attention is due to situations where conflict has occurred within State's own borders. Most European national plans are focused on conflicts in developing countries, but internal conflict and post-conflict situations in European States are generally ignored. The failure of the UK to include Northern Ireland within the scope of its national action plans, despite the existence of a post-conflict situation in Northern Ireland, was highlighted as an example of this issue (See Aroussi 2017, in this volume).
2.3. New Security Threats and Countering Violent Extremism
Since the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2242 in 2015, questions about how to counter violent extremism have become relevant to the WPS framework. Resolution 2242 requires States to pay attention to the devastating impact of extremism and terrorism on women and their communities, and it also obligates them to include women and gender expertise in efforts aimed at countering violent extremism. Since then, many countries have sought to include these new requirements in their national action plans. For instance, the new German NAP (2017–2020) includes commitments that require “the collection of data on the role of women and girls in terrorism and/or terrorism structures” and on “gender-inspired approaches to the prevention of violent extremism” . The German government in the new NAP is also committed to strengthening the equal participation of women in its efforts to counter and prevent violent extremism, and it has also pledged to develop strategies and programmes aimed at protecting women from radicalisation. The new Swedish NAP (2016–2020) also pays attention to terrorism and violent extremism when dealing with conflict prevention issues, and it states that Sweden will “ensure the inclusion of gender perspectives in measures intended to counteract and prevent conflict, radicalisation and violent extremism” .
ARW delegates were quick to highlight the difficulties and challenges involved in linking the WPS agenda with efforts to counter violent extremism when those efforts are traditionally associated with a “hard security” approach. Many security actors would categorise gender as a “soft” issue, and so any attempts to broaden the WPS framework to include strategies aimed at countering extremism will require continuous dialogue between different departments and actors in order for a gender-sensitive approach to be developed, one which moves beyond stereotypes that situate women as victims. However, the twinning of counterterrorism with the women, peace and security agenda endorsed by resolution 2242 (2015) was not welcomed by all participants, and some delegates expressed concern that WPS objectives may be lost in the pursuit of hard security goals. Delegates warned of the risk of States using their broader security objectives as an excuse to backtrack on their WPS commitments and obligations.
2.4. National Action Plans and Monitoring and Evaluation
The ARW delegates' discussion paid attention to the challenges that affect the monitoring and evaluation of national action plans, and participants deliberated at length over the use of indicators to measure the progress, success, and failure of NAPs. The delegates argued that national action plan indicators must be clear and measurable. The second Irish national action plan was highlighted as exemplary in this regard because it sets out “specific and measurable” indicators in both quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (categorical) formats that allow progress to be measured against both outputs (activities) and outcomes (the impact of those activities). Delegates also highlighted the fact that NAPs differ widely in terms of the number of indicators they contain: while the Finnish NAP arguably has too many indicators (See Haapalainen 2017 in this volume), others like the Swedish one have none at all. The new Swedish NAP leaves it to implementing agencies to develop suitable indicators that are appropriate to their specific area of implementation.
The role of civil society organisations in the monitoring and evaluation of NAPs was also discussed at the ARW. The UN Security Council resolution 1325 was established as, in essence, a civil society initiative. In accordance with best practice, many countries have organised broad consultations with CSOs during the processes through which they have adopted, reviewed and evaluated NAPs, and continuous and close collaboration with CSOs on NAP development, monitoring, and evaluation is essential in terms of their legitimacy and accountability. Some countries, such as Sweden, have taken this kind of collaboration with CSOs further by conducting consultations in partner countries, and discussion arose at the ARW about whether civil society organisations should be cosignatories of national action plans. It was noted that, in the Netherlands, the NAP was cosigned by over 50 CSOs; however, delegates argued that, where there is an open relationship between CSOs and a government, CSOs should not cosign a NAP in order to safeguard their independence and their role as watchdogs for the implementation of NAPs by their governments.
2.5. Development Aid and Local Ownership in NAPs
As was noted earlier, many European national action plans are outward-looking and focus their main efforts on conflict-affected countries. Often Western countries state in their own NAPs which conflict-affected countries they will support and what actions they intend to take. This kind of support may also involve the provision of financial and technical assistance to enable a country to adopt its own national action plan, as was the case when Finland supported the development of Afghanistan's NAP. In these situations, Western countries typically resort to the “NAP industry” for help. The multitude of NAP consultants available worldwide includes many consultants who have been involved in a large number of NAP development processes. The influence that arises from Western States' deep-level involvement, not just in NAP adoption, but also more generally in the wider gender policies of other countries, does raise questions about whether these NAPs can be said to have local ownership. The issue of local ownership also provokes debate about who is responsible for the implementation of a national action plan that was largely driven by donor funding and foreign States, particularly when national governments and institutions may have no capacities for the implementation of NAPs (See Davis 2017 and Basini 2017 in this volume).
The issue of local ownership also raises questions as to the relevance and priority, for local communities, of the issues identified and addressed by donor countries. While steps to integrate the women, peace and security agenda into decisions about development aid are positive, careful consideration needs to be given to the ways in which gender and women's needs are understood, and it is vital that questions are asked about who benefits from this aid and why certain issues are either prioritised or marginalised in donor-influenced plans. Delegates pointed out that donor countries often conceptualise women in the countries they support as a homogenous group and fail to give due consideration to their differences or to disparities in their needs and priorities. It is also often the case that donors choose to focus on certain issues based on their own priorities and interests and marginalise other concerns that may be of higher priority for partner countries. For instance, in the DRC, donor communities have focused substantially on rape as a weapon of war at the expense of women's participation and empowerment (See Davis 2017 in this volume). In response to these issues, ARW delegates emphasised the need for inclusive consultations with civil society organisations in partner countries and for rigorous research processes to be used to ensure that any chosen programmes and actions are likely to be effective in and appropriate to their contexts. When outward-looking NAPs that involve the implementation of the women, peace and security framework are being developed in other countries, key actions should include the gathering of comprehensive contextual information and the full involvement of diverse and large groups of local women. The use of this inclusive process will also be instrumental in increasing local ownership over donor-funded programmes.
2.6. National Action Plans and Gender Equality
The relationship between gender equality and the women, peace and security framework was also a focal point of discussion at the ARW. Concerns were raised by delegates about the possible disconnect in practice between the gender equality strategy and WPS policies and programmes. In most countries, NAPs are driven by ministries and departments of foreign affairs and they are separate from ministries or departments that deal with home affairs or women's issues. Failures to position the WPS agenda within States' broader machinery for achieving gender equality risk making the NAP an instrument of securitisation that is completely disconnected from women's rights. Delegates discussed the fact that national action plans, such as those developed by the United Kingdom (UK) and the Netherlands, often include commitments to women's rights and gender equality. In order to link gender equality with women, peace and security issues, many countries, including Finland, have also dedicated large amounts of international development funding to gender equality projects, and some have made project funding conditional on each project's compatibility with gender equality and women's rights. In the UK, the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014, which is applied to all Overseas Development Aid (ODA) spending, requires that all programmes that operate under the Conflict Stability Security Fund (CSSF) must be fully compliant with gender equality and the protection of women's rights.
The ARW delegates argued that, while the UN resolutions on women, peace and security have gender equality at their core, they are not instruments of international law that require accountability; hence, there is a need for improved synergies between the WPS agenda and the human rights system and, in particular, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which requires States' accountability. Delegates also discussed the potential for reliance on other instruments that involve implementation of the WPS agenda; these might include the UN's Sustainable Development Goals which now highlight gender as a priority issue. The targets set by the SDGs call on States “to end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere” and “to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation”;
UN General Assembly , p. 17.
UN General Assembly , p. 17.
3. Conclusion and Recommendations from the Advanced Research Workshop
Overall, the workshop represented an exceptional opportunity for experts working in the area of women, peace and security to gather and discuss national action plans. The workshop created a platform for continued dialogue and the sharing of experiences on NAPs. The interaction between scholars and practitioners at the workshop generated deeper knowledge about the use of national action plans in theory and practice, and the effects of that knowledge will reach beyond the workshop to influence future policies and scholarship in this area. The discussions at the Advanced Research Workshop resulted in agreement on the following recommendations:
• National action plans must include a clear strategy for nominating more women to high-level positions within government and in international organisations.
• National action plans must include a plan of action for nominating more women to mediation positions and increasing women's participation in peace negotiations.
• National action plans must include actions aimed at encouraging female recruitment into the military across all units and into high-ranking positions.
• Donor countries' national action plans must include support for the long-term and holistic participation of women in the receiving countries.
On national versus international priorities
• States must refrain in their national action plans from focusing only on international actions and must start looking at their own domestic contexts. In particular, national action plans must address the situations faced by women who live in conflict-afflicted and post-conflict regions within the State's own borders or jurisdictions.
• National action plans must take into consideration the needs of women refugees, asylum seekers, and migrant women who live within the State's borders.
• States must involve all relevant ministries and government departments in the development and implementation of NAPs.
On the threat from violent extremism
• States need to revise their NAPs in the light of their new obligation under resolution 2242 to counter violent extremism.
• Actions set out in NAPs for countering violent extremism must be carried out after due consultation with local communities at home and abroad.
• NAP actions that aim to counter violent extremism must not lead to the stigmatisation of migrant women and communities living in the West.
• Careful consideration must be paid to the women, peace and security framework and to gender equality when planning programmes for countering violent extremism.
• National action plans must be used as a mechanism to guard against any backtracking on the gender agenda that may result from actions designed to counter violent extremism.
• National action plans must include strategies to initiate a dialogue with security actors and to develop a gender-sensitive approach to countering violent extremism that moves beyond stereotypes that represent women as victims.
On evaluation and monitoring
• States must develop specific and measurable indicators for their NAPs.
• In order to adequately measure progress, States should conduct baseline studies for their national action plans.
• States should continue to work closely with civil society organisations in the development and implementation of NAPs.
• International organisations should collaborate both on their NAPs and on their women, peace and security strategies, particularly in areas of overlapping interest.
• States should enhance the cross-fertilisation of learning, and foster learning from others' experiences, through their funding of and support for NAPs in other countries.
• Governments have to demonstrate their political commitment to the WPS agenda in practical ways, including through the provision of funding.
• Governments should ensure greater coordination across ministries in relation to UNSCR 1325.
On development aid and local ownership
• In developing NAPs, there is a need for greater consultation with local women on issues, whether social, economic, or political, that affect them.
• When funding projects in conflict-affected countries through NAPs, States must conduct rigorous research and undertake broad consultation with development actors, local women's groups, and communities to identify local needs and priorities.
• Greater coordination between donor countries on national action plans is needed to prevent the duplication that occurs when similar projects are established in similar areas.
• National action plans should include funding plans for long-term projects that lead to meaningful change rather than short-term projects confined to the duration of a NAP.
On national action plans and gender equality
• In their national action plans, States need to work towards the harmonisation of their gender equality and women, peace and security agendas.
• National action plans must be used to implement the gender equality agenda inwardly at the national level as well as outwardly at the international level.
• States should explore the potential of drawing on additional international legal tools, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in their implementation of WPS commitments.
• States should maintain closer engagement with existing women's rights instruments and bodies.
• States must use the full potential of CEDAW to enhance and monitor the implementation of the WPS agenda.
 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, S/RES/1325 (2000).
 Aroussi, S. (2015) Women, Peace, and Security: Repositioning Gender in Peace Agreements, Antwerp: Intersentia.
 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820, S/RES/1820 (2008).
 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1888, S/RES/1888 (2009).
 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1889, S/RES/1889 (2009).
 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1960, S/RES/1960 (2010).
 United Nations Security Council Resolution 2106, S/RES/2106 (2015).
 United Nations Security Council Resolution 2122, S/RES/2122 (2013).
 United Nations Security Council Resolution 2242, S/RES/2242 (2015).
 Foreign and Commonwealth Office. (2014) United Kingdom National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2014-2017. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/319870/FCO643_NAP_Printing_final3.pdf (Accessed: 1 February, 2017).
 Government of Ireland. (2015) Ireland's Second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2015-2018. Available at: https://www.dfa.ie/media/dfa/alldfawebsitemedia/ourrolesandpolicies/ourwork/empoweringwomen-peaceandsecurity/Irelands-second-National-Action-Plan-on-Women-Peace-and-Security.pdf (Accessed: 1 February, 2017).
 Government of Germany. (2017) Action Plan of the Federal Government to Implement Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security for the Period 2017-2020. Available at http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/cae/servlet/contentblob/756368/publicationFile/223345/Aktionsplan_1325_2017-2020_in_Deu.pdf (Accessed: 1 February, 2017).
 Government of Sweden. (2016) Sweden's National Action Plan for the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security 2016–2020. Available at http://www.government.se/49ef7e/contentassets/8ae23198463f49269e25a14d4d14b9bc/swedens-national-action-plan-for-the-implementation-of-the-united-nations-security-council-resolutions-on-women-peace-and-security-2016-2020-.pdf (Accessed: 1 February, 2017).
 UN General Assembly. (2015) Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Available at: http://www.un.org/pga/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2015/08/120815_outcome-document-of-Summit-for-adoption-of-the-post-2015-development-agenda.pdf (Accessed: 1 February, 2017).
Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University
(Sahla Aroussi, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University, Priory Street, Coventry, UK. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)