Updated March 02, 2012
On December 19, 2011, President Obama issued an Executive Order implementing his administration's National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, an initiative intended to increase the involvement of women in U.S. foreign policy, national security and peacekeeping processes.
Also See: What is an Executive Order?
Simply stated, the goal of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security is: "to empower half the world's population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity."
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Or, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it in her remarks on the plan, "A growing body of evidence shows that women offer unique contributions to making and keeping peace - and that those contributions lead to better outcomes not just for women but for entire societies."
The Basis of the Action Plan
Based on his administration's belief that the world's most "peaceful and prosperous" nations are those that afford women equal rights and opportunities to fully take part in diplomatic, peacekeeping and humanitarian processes, President Obama issued an Executive Order on December 19, 2011, requiring all executive branch federal agencies to implement the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.
According to the White House, the National Action Plan represents a "roadmap" of how the United States government will advance the participation of women in preventing conflict and maintaining world peace. The plan, says the White House, represents "a fundamental change in how the U.S. will approach its diplomatic, military, and development-based support to women in areas of conflict, by ensuring that their perspectives and considerations of gender are woven into the fabric of how the United States approaches peace processes, conflict prevention, the protection of civilians, and humanitarian assistance."
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The Executive Order and National Action Plan demand specific commitments for action from the Cabinet-level departments of State, Defense, Justice, Treasury, and Homeland Security, as well as the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
UN Resolution Drives the Plan
Impetus for the White House's National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security grew largely from the United Nations Security Council's adoption of Resolution 1325 in October 2000.
While mainly aimed at the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence worldwide, UN Resolution 1325 also requires all nations adopting the resolution to create and implement plans to ensure that women play decision-making roles in those nation's conflict resolution and peace negotiations.
Speaking in Munich, Germany on Feb. 5, 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that implementing UN Resolution 1325 "is of critical importance in which we are making some, but not enough, progress."
"When the Security Council passed Resolution 1325, we tried to make a very clear statement, that women are still largely shut out of the negotiations that seek to end conflicts, even though women and children are the primary victims of 21st century conflict," she said.
As of January 2012, the United States and 32 other nations have adopted plans similar to the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security implementing UN Resolution 1325.
Enforcing the Action Plan
Under President Obama's Executive Order, the Departments of State and Defense, and USAID are held responsible for ensuring that the federal agencies actually follow-through to implement the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.
Officers of those agencies are required to create plans for the timely and measureable implementation of the National Action Plan. All of the agency's implementation plans must be approved by the White House National Security Advisor. Once they are approved, the implementation plans will be coordinated and overseen by a standing interagency committee chaired by the White House National Security Staff.
The interagency committee is assigned the task of evaluating the actions taken by the federal agencies to implement the National Action Plan. The committee will also submit annual reports on the progress, or lack thereof, made in implementing the National Action Plan to the National Security Council Deputies Committee.
In 2015, the interagency committee will conduct a comprehensive review of the National Action Plan and update it based on consultation with other nations that have developed similar plans and other organizations involved in peacekeeping, conflict resolution and humanitarian interests.