The Women, Peace and Security Bill [HL] would require the secretary of state to have regard to the UK’s national action plan on women, peace and security (NAP) when formulating and implementing policy. A NAP is an action plan that has been adopted to meet commitments under United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325. The resolution concerns the participation of women in peace and security efforts.
Since the adoption in 2000 of the resolution, the security council has encouraged member states to develop national action plans on women, peace and security. To date, around 50 percent of UN member states have adopted such NAPs. The UK is currently on its fourth NAP, which was launched in 2018 and spans 2018 to 2022. The 2018–2022 UK NAP is based on the four pillars of the WPS agenda, which are:
- Prevention: Prevention of conflict and all forms of violence against women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations.
- Participation: Women participate equally with men and gender equality is promoted in peace and security decision-making processes at national, local, regional and international levels.
- Protection: Women’s and girls’ rights are protected and promoted in conflict-affected situations.
- Relief and Recovery: Women and girls’ specific relief needs are met and women’s capacities to act as agents in relief and recovery are reinforced in conflict and post-conflict situations.
The plan also identifies seven strategic outcomes, selected for their contributions to the four pillars of the women, peace and security agenda: peacekeeping; gender-based violence; decision-making; security and justice; humanitarian response; preventing and countering violent extremism; and UK capabilities. The UK’s fourth NAP includes a commitment to annual reporting to Parliament. On publication, the reports are deposited in the libraries of both Houses.
The bill would require the government to report annually to Parliament on the progress made in relation to the NAP. In addition, the bill details considerations the secretary of state must have regard to, particularly where the UK is participating in a multi-national organisation, such as the United Nations.
Baroness Hodgson has previously spoken about the need for women’s participation in all peace and security efforts and women’s involvement should be a “core part of every FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] policy”. For example, in a House of Lords debate in March 2022, she said:
Now more than ever it is vital to include women’s voices in peace processes. Evidence that gender equality is essential to building peace and security has grown substantially since UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was adopted in 2000. In fact, involving women increases the chances of longer-lasting, more sustainable peace, yet women continue to be excluded. You cannot build peace by leaving out half the population—look at Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. We should not have to justify why women should be included; we should ask the men with guns why they are there when they have caused all that misery. How do we ensure that women play a meaningful role and that their voices are heard? Will the minister agree that the women, peace and security agenda is now more important than ever and should be a core part of every FCDO policy?