United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 launched the global agenda on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) 20 years ago. After two decades, several resolutions came out to reiterate the commitment to WPS: 1820 (2013), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2010), 1960 (2011), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015), 2467 (2019), and 2493 (2019). These resolutions provide the policy frame and guidance for the promotion and protection of women’s rights in conflict and post-conflict situations.
In our country, the Philippine National Action Plan (NAP) was launched in March 2010. It was the first ever NAP adopted in Asia. A decade later, what do we have to show for it aside from the bragging rights of being the first?
FIRST GENERATION: BUILDING THE AGENDA AND INSTITUTIONS
The first generation NAP WPS was largely a civil society-led endeavor. Back then, women and peace groups came together and organized dialogues to craft the document. It was a nationwide campaign that yielded commitments contained in 2010-2016 NAP WPS. It had three main pillars: protection of women and the preservation of their rights in armed conflict situations; women empowerment and participation in various aspects of peace and security work; and mainstreaming of gender perspective in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and peace building.
Along the way, partnerships with government agencies were forged and commitments to advance WPS in the country was secured. From there came Executive Order 865 that mandated the creation of the National Steering Committee on Women, Peace and Security (NSC WPS) as the inter-agency body to strategize the implementation of the NAP WPS.
SECOND GENERATION: OF PROCESSES AND INSTITUTIONALIZATION
The second generation NAP WPS was adopted in 2014 after the first NAP was reviewed. Apart from streamlining and focusing on priority areas, the amended 2014-2016 NAP WPS introduced indicators side by side with action points. This essentially intended to measure the implementation of the NAP based on how near (or far) they are in light of identified targets.
Operationally, the implementation infrastructure was enhanced with the expansion of the NSC WPS to include implementing agencies of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program of the Philippine government. In a sense, such a move paved the way for the convergence of WPS with development. Accordingly, the NAP WPS implementation was anchored on Gender and Development (GAD) in terms of planning, budgeting, and implementation. This meant that NAP WPS was essentially GAD in conflict-affected/vulnerable communities, in services that cater to women’s issues and concerns as they relate to conflict and peace, and in policies that seek to further advance women’s participation in conflict transformation. Thus, although it was from a distinct discourse and agenda, the NAP WPS in the Philippines was strategically and practically harmonized with GAD.
Substantively, it was during the second generation NAP WPS that key milestones were achieved: the inclusion of gender provisions in Philippine Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace agreement, the first woman chief negotiator to sign the peace agreement with a rebel group, and the adoption of the first Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (RAP WPS) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
THIRD GENERATION: STRUGGLE FOR RELEVANCE
The third generation of the NAP WPS in the country was adopted in March 2017. It started on a high note as it touted to articulate broader framing of addressing the situation of women in armed conflict and recognizing their contributions to conflict transformation. As such, the 2017-2022 NAP WPS “incorporates some key recommendations made in the 2015 Global Study on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 such as the prioritization of conflict prevention, framing women peace and security from a human rights perspective, participation and leadership of women in all levels of the peace project, transitional justice, inclusive and participatory localization efforts, combating extremism by supporting women peacebuilders, multi-level and multi-stakeholder approach to implementation, and financing initiatives aimed at materializing women, peace and security” (NAP WPS 2017-2022).
The new NAP WPS also privileges women’s agency as leaders and participants in the peace process in the country as it continues to support empowerment and participation of civil society and grassroots women in the process. Methodologically, the Agency Strategic Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (ASAP WPS) was adopted and it entailed implementing agencies to formulate their own plans and implement them.
Then the Marawi Siege happened. In theory, this particular humanitarian crisis should have mobilized clearly and concretely the implementation of the NAP WPS. It did not primarily because WPS was only known to those who had made it part of their job. There has been no escalation nor cascade within implementing agencies; no internalization within relief and recovery institutions in terms of gender-sensitive responses during emergencies; and WPS was seemingly seen as a non-essential activity at the height of the conflict.
Ironically, the only clearly WPS response then was not even because of WPS. This was the deployment of the so-called hijab troopers (or the all-female contingent of soldiers and policewomen) which was because of an identified need to assist the internally displaced and not explicitly because of the NAP WPS.
And then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. National level implementing agencies refocused all their attention to responding to the pandemic. Somehow, the discourse and practice of WPS seemed to have been lost. WPS was a conversation in retrospect — as what has been but not as what should be. Is WPS even still relevant?
Of course, it is.
There are still things that need to be done now more than ever. Now that masculinist policies have hegemonic command, now that both vertical and horizontal conflict situations continue in different parts of the country, now that internal displacement is rendered more difficult in a pandemic situation. WPS should not be a casualty of this time. In fact, it should remain at the center where peace and security are still problematic.
But right now, who is even talking about it? Certainly, not the National Government — not the NSC WPS, not the PAMANA-implementing agencies, not the implementing panels of peace and/or closure agreements, not any institutional body formerly active in the implementation of the NAP WPS.
Has the implementation been in a pandemic lockdown as well?
TOWARDS A MEANINGFUL WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY
On Oct. 30, the Bangsamoro Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security was launched. According Minority Leader, Bangsamoro Transition Authority, Member of the Parliament Laisa Masuhud Alamia, “the region’s approach to Women, Peace and Security has since encouraged more community-led and driven initiatives, guided by the Bangsamoro Women’s Commission and in coordination with civil society and grassroots organizations.”
From civil society-led to government partnership then state-driven initiatives and back to collaborative politics — after a decade, I think this is where the relevance of the Philippine NAP WPS can be unraveled. It is alive where meaningful politics thrive.
At the end of the day, WPS must have a multi-level application: national, regional and local; within and outside government agencies and parallel to civil society. And all must work for WPS as a matter of imperative and not mere as compliance. Pandemic or not, WPS is beyond policy… it is a commitment to sustainable peace and accountable society.
Ma. Lourdes Veneracion-Rallonza is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, Ateneo de Manila University. She currently serves as Director of the Gender Program of the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, University of Queensland.