February 3, 2016

USAID Implementation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security

On February 3, 2016 Georgetown’s Conflict Resolution Program hosted two representatives of USAID for a discussion on the implementation of the U.S. National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace, and Security, with a focus on the NAP and its effects on USAID’s international work. The first speaker was Amber Ussery, a gender advisor and program specialist in USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA). The second representative was Jennifer Hawkins, a democracy fellow and women, peace, and security advisor in USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance.

Hawkins and Ussery discussed how USAID has implemented and integrated the NAP into its international development work. They noted that the NAP “builds on the recognition that countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women and girls are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity.” Hawkins and Ussery described how the NAP is very well aligned with USAID’s overall approach to gender integration—“recognizing gender equality and female empowerment as fundamental for the realization of human rights and key to achieving effective and sustainable development outcomes within every sector of [their] work.” They noted that in 2012, USAID released its own implementation plan of the NAP, and both are now “integral parts of the agency’s architecture for advancing gender equality and female empowerment” and help guide the organization as its “roadmap for promoting the empowerment and protection of women and girls in crisis and conflict situations.”

Both speakers discussed examples of participation barriers for women in crisis and conflict. The barriers sometimes related to cultural and logistical issues, many of which had never been recognized fully or discussed within the community. One cited the example of demining projects in Angola. In this case, women had not been included in the process to negotiate the peace agreement and related implementation plans. The international and local community realized this was a problem, however, when undiscovered land mines were still killing community members at a high rate. When the issue was addressed and discussed openly, it was discovered that women had been attempting to highlight that the demining plans didn’t take into account the kinds of activities performed by women, the locations where women and children frequented, or how they used these spaces. Once the women were brought into the discussion about how to move forward in demining activities, casualties decreased.

Ussery and Hawkins said that a growing body of research, as well as examples from USAID’s own reporting, indicated that women’s meaningful participation has led to notable practical suggestions for how to improve the reach and effectiveness of projects. They cited the example of Aleppo, where USAID support for Syrian women’s participation in local peace circles helped to expand the discussion about the real needs of the community with leaders, and they noted several instances where women’s participation helped address pressing local problems like negotiating the re-opening of local schools or access to humanitarian supplies.

For more information on USAID’s work on women, peace, and security, please visit their webpage.