In a significant step forward for effective global peace building, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Act on Tuesday, November 15th. The act promotes the meaningful participation of women in peace negotiations with the goal of preventing, mitigating and resolving violent conflict.
Four years in the making, the bipartisan legislation acknowledges the critical role that women play in national security and foreign policy. Historically, women have been excluded from or underrepresented at the negotiation table in the U.S. and around the world, and extensive research exists to show that this has likely prevented progress in fostering sustainable peace. For example, a 2015 publication by the International Peace Institute entitled “Reimagining Peacemaking: Women’s Roles in Peace Processes” reported that when negotiations include women, peace agreements are 35 percent more likely to be successful for a period of 15 years or longer.
This type of evidence helped fuel the creation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which has existed since 2011 and is aligned with the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). However, the WPS Act, if passed by the Senate, would establish legislation to ensure that the plan is fully implemented. Essentially, it would turn our action plan into law.
Connecting Gender Equality And Peace
There is an undeniable link between peace, gender equality and women’s rights. Globally, women and girls are disproportionally affected by most types of violence – war, violent extremism, terrorism, domestic abuse, sexual violence and harmful practices (such as female genital mutilation or honour killings).
They are also disproportionally victims of discrimination in education and employment. Creating peace and equality in our relationships, communities and governments, and acknowledging the important roles women play in our society, are critical to achieving sustainable peace on a global scale.
The Women, Peace and Security Act will now make its way to the Senate. If the bill passes there, it will become law. Global Rights for Women encourages you to contact your senators and ask them to put the bill up for a vote and to vote in favor of it.
Helping women to emerge as leaders and mandating their involvement in peace processes is essential. Women’s participation in peace negotiations has been overlooked for too long. In a world where violent conflict is on the rise, gender-based violence is a consistent threat and women’s rights have stalled, women must emerge as leaders.
Heidi Larson, a senior content strategist at FindLaw, part of Thomson Reuters, is a volunteer contributing writer for Global Rights for Women.