Federal Agencies Release Plans for the Women, Peace, and Security Act

4 min

On June 11, 2020, the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) released complementary plans to implement the Women, Peace, and Security Act (WPS) of 2017, Pub. Law No. 115-68.

The WPS, passed with bipartisan support and signed by President Trump in October 2017, recognizes the critical links between women’s empowerment and global peace and security. See The White House, United States Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security (June 2019). The Act—celebrated as a cost-effective foreign policy tool—seeks to advance meaningful participation by women around the world in security and conflict prevention and resolution. The WPS strategy aligns with the legislative mandates of the Global Fragility Act of 2019, Pub. Law No. 116-727, which requires various federal agencies (led by the State Department) to develop and implement programs to combat global fragility, stabilize conflict-affected areas, and increase U.S. capacity to be a leader in international efforts to prevent extremism and violent conflict.

The implementation of these complementary plans establishes a framework for achieving measurable progress toward WPS goals. Accountability is based on a set of interagency WPS metrics developed to evaluate success by the U.S. government in the ambitious WPS goals by 2023. For example, WPS training for diplomats, development professionals, and security personnel—especially those working in regions at risk of violent conflict—is now required. Likewise, agencies will increase emphasis on training that incorporates WPS principles and promotes improved standards guiding the conduct of those implementing U.S. government–funded programs abroad.

Furthermore, federal agencies will now integrate WPS requirements and standards into awards and notices of funding opportunities for grant recipients, sub-grant recipients, and contractors. To comply with the WPS’s goals, federal agencies will seek to ensure existing resources are rechanneled in ways that increase support for women and girls around the world. Accordingly, it is imperative that partners in the international development and security sectors understand and comply with requirements of the WPS, which includes a greater understanding of and experience with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Pursuant to the WPS, federal agencies are expected to lead by example through their recruitment, employment, development, retention, and promotion of women in their peacekeeping, defense, and security workforces. But the same can be said for companies looking to win grants and government contracts, as these workforce requirements will become increasingly prevalent in government solicitations for development and stability work abroad.

With the focus now on implementing WPS objectives, interagency metrics for proven success will become decisive in government bids. Effective WPS implementation will be measured by increases in, for example, the number of local women who participate in substantive roles or positions influencing peace efforts, both formal and informal, in which the U.S. is involved; the number of women who participate in U.S.-funded training for foreign nationals; and the number of people and projects benefiting from U.S.-funded support to both prevention and survivors of gender-based violence (GBV).

The WPS interagency strategic goals contemplate four lines of effort:

  1. Increased Participation of Women in Decision-Making Processes Related to Conflict and Crisis. This requires investing in the next generation of women leaders; advancing their civic engagement and political participation; developing and expanding women leaders’ access to professional networks and resources; and promoting women’s recruitment, retention, and professional growth in the justice and security sectors.
  2. Improved Access to Aid and Protection from GBV, Abuse, and Exploitation. Planned actions include promoting democratic institutions, the rule of law, and respect for gender equality; mobilizing the political will of the justice and security sectors to prevent and respond to GBV; ensuring access to justice, medical and psychological support, and economic opportunities; and assisting local peacekeepers in responding, investigating, and prosecuting gender-based violations and abuses.
  3. Enhanced Outcomes in Equality for Women Through Adjustments in U.S. International Programs. This line of effort includes diplomatic engagement, public diplomacy, and modeling of best practices in leadership, as well as incorporating WPS principles and themes into formal training for Foreign and Civil Service employees, contractors, and locally employed staff at every level, and leveraging relationships with civil society to signal U.S. leadership on WPS.
  4. Targeted Partnerships with Governments Committed to Adopting Policies That Will Improve Meaningful Participation of Women in Peacekeeping and Security. The aim is to develop and expand global coalitions, public-private partnerships, and other collaborations in support of WPS; to support access for women peacebuilders and survivors of violence to international institutions; and to promote the accountability of international organizations in meeting their responsibilities regarding WPS and women’s empowerment.

The development of these metrics represents a milestone in the implementation of important WPS policy objectives. Federal grant recipients and contractors in the international development and security industries are encouraged to seek guidance on how to best demonstrate compliance with and successful implementation of WPS objectives in all future bids and proposals.

*A special thank-you to Christina Pashaj for her contributions to this article.