Our Secure Future and the Atlantic Council Host Discussion on the New U.S Strategy and National Action Plan on WPS

On November 7, 2023, Our Secure Future (OSF) and the Atlantic Council hosted a public event, “Assessing the 2023 U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace and Security.”

The event focused on the new U.S. Strategy and National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and how it may offer a way forward for the U.S. and its network of allies and partners, considering the ever-evolving geopolitical environment. Over 100 people registered to attend the hybrid event. To learn more about the 2023 U.S. Strategy on WPS, read OSF’s summary of the Strategy

The panel was moderated by OSF Director Sahana Dharmapuri and featured the following speakers: 

  • Irene Fellin, Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) 
  • Franklin D. Kramer, Atlantic Council Board Director and Distinguished Fellow for the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Transatlantic Security Initiative 
  • Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security 

Introductory remarks were provided by Jenna Ben-Yehuda, Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council.  

Ms. Dharmapuri led a discussion on the 2023 U.S. Strategy and National Action Plan on WPS, beginning with the panelists’ reactions to this new policy commitment. Following the panelists’ opening reflections, Ms. Dharmapuri posed a series of questions on the integration of WPS amid broader geopolitical challenges, the potential impact of these challenges on NATO’s new WPS policy, strategies for increasing women’s participation to deepen our understanding of security issues, and what has most surprised the panelists in their work on the WPS agenda. 

Irene Fellin (NATO Special Representative for WPS) highlighted the need to watch how the U.S. Strategy and National Action Plan on WPS is contextualized in today’s global challenges and strategic competition. Current global conflicts illustrate that there are more challenges ahead in protecting women and achieving their participation. Ms. Fellin also addressed that the participation of women in the military and peacebuilding continues to be a challenge that needs to be understood and overcome by leveraging NATO’s alliance network to implement change.   

As a NATO Representative, Ms. Fellin sees a diversion between political documents and strategy documents. The new U.S. Strategy and National Action Plan provides the opportunity to create mechanisms of translating the national U.S. Strategy into NATO’s security policies. Additionally, it is important for NATO’s armed forces to be trained in prevention and response to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) before they are deployed. NATO’s training guides should therefore be translated into concrete institutionalization of these strategies at the national level. 

Finally, Ms. Fellin remarked on the resilience she continues to see from women living in contexts of constant violence and their ability to engage with all the possible tools to promote WPS. This strength and resilience are what drives her to continue working on WPS.  

Franklin D. Kramer (Atlantic Council Board Director and Distinguished Fellow) discussed the implications of the newly released Strategy and National Action Plan, as well as highlighted WPS achievements in the U.S. government and hindrances to further progress. Mr. Kramer mentioned that today the U.S. government has a higher inclusion of women in senior-level government roles. Although the Strategy and National Action Plan sets out what needs to be done, Mr. Kramer acknowledged that “a vision without resources is a hallucination.” Therefore, adequate resources and a Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) framework are needed to support and assess the Strategy and National Action Plan’s implementation.  

Mr. Kramer also highlighted that since the passing of UNSCR 1325 in 2000 the global landscape has changed in three significant ways:  

  1. There are existential wartime challenges in Europe, and a potential of war over Taiwan.  
  2. Climate challenge is better understood, more acute, and obvious.  
  3. The U.S. now faces a geopolitical and economic challenge from China.  

The challenge now becomes incorporating WPS principles into a world where the rules-based order is under challenge. Knowing this, Mr. Kramer asks, “How do we create an orderly system that can allow for better circumstances, particularly for women and children?” He highlights the need for the U.S. to include more women in its decision making to allow for a safer, more inclusive world. However, the resources to implement this inclusivity are still insufficient and not widely spread, so more humanitarian groups and civil society promoting WPS need to be properly supported.  

Ambassador Melanne Verveer (Georgetown Institute for WPS Executive Director) emphasized that the U.S. Strategy and National Action Plan on WPS is part of an ongoing effort to promote women’s meaningful participation, leadership, and engagement in decision-making, which builds upon the U.S. National Action Plan on WPS released in 2011 and codified in 2017.  

The new Strategy and National Action Plan outlines core principles, such as the need to protect women and to ensure their participation in relief and recovery efforts. Recognizing the changing geopolitical landscape, which is marked by climate change and new technology like AI, Ambassador Verveer acknowledged that the U.S. framework on WPS cannot remain static and must constantly be updated. In particular, she highlighted “integration and institutionalization” as both a core priority and the biggest challenge we face today. While the United States has not come close to fulfilling the potential of the WPS mandate, the new U.S. Strategy and National Action Plan obligates the government to better integrate WPS principes into its policies, programs, and trainings. 

Conveying the central role of Women, Peace and Security in preventing and resolving conflicts remains a notable challenge for the global WPS community. In addressing this obstacle, Ambassador Verveer reiterated the findings of the Women, Peace and Security Index, which demonstrates that countries experience greater prosperity and peace when women are actively involved and gender equality flourishes. 

Moreover, Ambassador Verveer underscored the need to invest in the capacity of local women leaders to ensure global peace and prosperity. Despite women’s organizations serving as essential ‘first responders’ and playing a pivotal role in facilitating dialogues and reconciliation efforts, they receive minimal funding, and their peace work is often detached from formal peace talks, where they are excluded. Ambassador Verveer emphasized the importance of championing comprehensive, inclusive, and locally led approaches across the U.S. government, despite the challenges posed by entrenched norms and traditions. 

Watch the full event here: https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/assessing-the-2023-us-strategy-on-women-peace-and-security/