Clinton introduces National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security in Gaston Hall speech
The first-ever National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security lays out five steps for cooperation and action among numerous governmental agencies to increase women’s security in zones of conflict and implement their voices in government and peacekeeping operations around the world. President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order that directed for the plan’s implementation earlier this morning.
Clinton emphasized, “women are not just the victims of war. They are agents of peace.” Accordingly, the first area of the National Action Plan emphasizes partnering with women in vulnerable regions and countries to prevent conflict before it begins. Women’s health and security issues are often “canaries in the coal mine”, said Clinton, and can act as “early warning systems” to not only highlight where women are being oppressed, but where conflict is likely to occur in the future.
When armed conflict does break out, the second prong of the National Action Plan is designed to strengthen and expand efforts to protect women in conflict zones. Clinton said the plan will compel American diplomats and humanitarian workers across the globe to reach out to “political leaders and local influentials” and “poorly trained soldiers and police” in efforts to combat the use of rape as a war tactic and to provide adequate aid services to women.
The US government will also work to reach out to men and boys at all levels of society to end discrimination—including combating tribal and religious-based gender discrimination. Clinton said that many of these efforts will remain sensitive to local norms and cultures, but “you must draw lines in certain areas.” “Beating women is not cultural,” the Secretary said. “It is criminal.”
In an attempt to draw conflicts to an end sooner, the Plan will expand women’s participation “before, during and after” wartime in the peacemaking process. “Too few (women) are empowered to be instruments of peace and security,” Clinton said. “That is an unacceptable waste of talent.” Under the new policies, the US will encourage women’s involvement in governments, peacekeeping operations, and civil society across the world, as well as granting more legitimacy to institutions and political solutions to conflict that include women’s voices. “Women in peacekeeping is both the right thing to do, and the smart thing as well,” Clinton said.
Once conflicts subside, the fourth area of the National Action Plan looks to strengthen recovery efforts and peacekeeping operations focused on women’s needs. Women and girls are at the most risk for harm during recovery operations, said Clinton, but at present do not receive the needed aid and protection to ensure their safety and prosperity. To change this, the Plan directs American officials to involve women in discussions about American aid and recovery operations, as well as working to increase their influence and representation in government.
The fifth area of the plan deals with governmental cooperation and accountability in the United States as the National Action Plan is taken from paper to policy. Clinton said implementation of her blueprint will rely on “a whole of government effort, as well as an international effort.” The Executive Order signed today mandates that the State Department, Department of Defense, USAID and other agencies involved have plans in place for cooperation and action on the Plan within five months.
Clinton said the US will also work with over 30 countries that already have similar foreign policies promoting the welfare of women, as well as the UN and NATO, in building security and opportunity for women and girls. The Secretary also praised the new Georgetown initiative on Women, Peace, Security and Development, which she said will fill a needed role in “developing sound metrics to guide us” in the goal of empowering and protecting women and girls across the world.
“You should care because this is not just a women’s issue,” Clinton said directly to students in the audience. The empowerment of women “is the future of peacekeeping” around the world because “they speak up for other marginalized groups.” The Secretary said it is time for the US to “fundamentally change the ways we do business” with regards to women’s issues and implored the audience to join the fight for equal protections and opportunities for women the world over.
Photos: Helen Guo