Peace is hard to come by. And a peace that is robust and lasting is all the more difficult to secure when a major stakeholder is left out of the peace process: Women.
Today, the US Congress took a big step in recognizing the critical role that women all over the world play in the prevention and resolution of violent conflicts through the introduction of the Women, Peace and Security Act (WPS) of 2012 (H.R 6255, S.3477).
Thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) and Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), the WPS Act will ensure that the US promotes the meaningful inclusion and participation of women in all peace processes that seek to prevent, alleviate, or resolve violent conflict.
In the last two decades, women comprised fewer than eight percent of the contributors in significant peace negotiations and represent less than three percent of those who signed the subsequent accords. Even more startling, only 16 percent of peace agreements during this time span mention women at all. With so many peace agreements excluding women, is it any wonder that 50% percent of agreements fail within five years?
When passed and signed into law, the Act will require the US government to help women be a part of peace negotiations. Women are working hard to secure their seat at the table but they need support. For example, in Afghanistan, to date, only 9 women have been included on the High Peace Council out of a total of 70 members, and they have largely been shut out of discussions related to the transition.
The WPS Act will help end the cycle of women’s exclusion. The legislation enacts key parts of the first-ever US National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAP) announced by the Obama Administration in December 2011. The US’s National Action Plan implements UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which aims to empower women as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace.
Knowing that women and girls are disproportionately affected by armed conflict, isn’t it time to formally recognize the power that women bring to all aspects of the peace process? If you think that women deserve a seat the peacemaking table, tell your Member of Congress to cosponsor the Women, Peace and Security Act today!