Women, Peace and Security

USIP provides expertise in support of the U.S. Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Act, the world’s first whole-of-government law on WPS. The Institute is a trusted convener and thought leader on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 and the global WPS agenda.

Through over 50 projects worldwide, USIP works with security actors, policymakers, civil society organizations, academics, practitioners and international institutions to increase understanding of gender dynamics and build capacity to create effective solutions for peace, security and equality. Key areas of focus include U.S. government and civil society engagement on WPS, advancing women’s participation in peacebuilding to address multi-sectoral and emergent security challenges, and connecting research to policy and practice on conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence.

What is Women, Peace and Security?

WPS is a policy framework that recognizes that women must be critical actors in all efforts to achieve sustainable international peace and security. WPS promotes a gendered perspective and women’s equal and meaningful participation in peace processes, peacebuilding and security. The WPS Agenda evolved from the U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, which was unanimously adopted on October 31, 2000.

UNSCR 1325 addresses not only the disproportionate impacts of war on women but also the pivotal role women should and do play in conflict prevention, conflict management and sustainable peace efforts. UNSCR 1325’s framework consists of four pillars—participation, protection, prevention, and relief and recovery.

In a statement in 2005, the Security Council called upon U.N. Member States to continue implementing UNSCR 1325 through the development of National Action Plans (NAPs) to articulate their priorities and detail actions they will take to implement the objectives of UNSCR 1325. As of 2021, 103 countries have created and adopted NAPs.

In December 2011, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order instituting a U.S. National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security (revised in 2016), making the WPS agenda an official national policy priority.

On October 6, 2017, the U.S. Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017 was signed into law by President Donald Trump. The Act mandates training for relevant government personnel on WPS issues, encourages consultation with stakeholders regarding women’s participation in peace processes, and requires that the President submit a National Strategy on WPS to Congress. The U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace and Security was released in June 2019.

The WPS national strategy outlines four primary lines of effort:

  • Seek and support the preparation and participation of women in decision-making processes.
  • Promote the protection of women’s and girls’ human rights.
  • Adjust U.S. international programs to improve equality and empowerment outcomes for women.
  • Encourage partner governments to adopt similar WPS focused plans.

On March 8, 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order establishing the Gender Policy Council (GPC), the first freestanding policy council focused on gender equity and equality within the Executive Office of the President. The GPC seeks to advance gender equity and equality in both domestic and foreign policy development and implementation, working in coordination with the other White House policy councils and across all federal agencies to instill a strategic, whole-of-government approach to gender equality and gender equity. The National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality was released in October 2021.

WPS: A Force Multiplier

Research confirms that the security of a nation is directly tied to the security and status of its women. At the same time, violent conflict upends and polarizes societies, disrupting social structures and gender roles. An expanding evidence base indicates that peacebuilding and security programs and policies are more successful when they address the different impacts of conflict on men, women and gender and sexual minorities and ensure full participation of diverse women in the design and implementation of solutions.

WPS Projects

Featured Resources

People walk through a refugee camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Feb. 17, 2017. (Ashley Gilbertson/The New York Times)

Going Beyond Accountability to Deter Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

In a historic move, President Biden signed a memorandum last November that bolstered the U.S. response to conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization and other forms of wartime sexual harm. The new directive was timed to coincide with an international conference in London that marked the 10-year anniversary of the U.K.’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative and sought to build on the initiative’s 2014 global summit as well as the “declaration of commitment” to end sexual violence in conflict that was signed by more than 150 countries in 2013.

A woman who says she was raped by armed men from a Mai Mai Cheka militia near Livungi, Republic of Congo. September 17, 2010. (Michael Kamber/The New York Times)

Sexual Violence Is Not an Inevitable Cost of War

The ever-growing list of conflict zones in which sexual violence has been reported globally this year, including in Israel, Ethiopia, Sudan, Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti, underscores the persistent horror of this scourge. Acts of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) violate not only the physical and mental integrity of the victims but also breach international humanitarian law and human rights principles. The consequences extend beyond the immediate trauma, impacting individuals, families, communities and countries for years, even decades, afterward.

Women in Ghazni, Afghanistan. September 22, 2021. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)

How the Taliban Enables Violence Against Women

Right now, women and feminist organizations around the world are commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women with the 16 Days of Activism campaign. Starting on November 25 and running through December 10, this year’s campaign calls on governments worldwide to share how they are investing in the prevention of gender-based violence.

A Yazidi woman in a refugee camp outside Dohuk, Iraq. July 24, 2015. Many Yazidi women were subjected to sexual slavery by the Islamic State. (Mauricio Lima/The New York Times)

Four Ways to Include Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Atrocity Prevention

Conflict-related sexual violence is not only an indicator of rising atrocity risk — it can also constitute an atrocity crime itself. And while the U.S. government has implemented conflict-related sexual violence response efforts, concurrent international efforts on the issue offer a solid foundation for the United States to go beyond responding to these crimes and toward prevention.

Women stage a protest in Kabul.

Protecting the Participation of Women Peacebuilders

On March 8, 2022, International Women’s Day, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet shared a statement with USIP wherein she urged for more women negotiators, mediators and signatories to take part in major peace processes worldwide.