Letter from the Director: Make 2019 the best year yet for Women, Peace and Security

Sahana Dharmapuri Women Peace Security 2019

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, we are reminded of this quote and the many ways that Women, Peace and Security is both a goal and the means by which we arrive at peace. Looking forward to the new hopes and challenges that await us, we are resolved to make this the best year yet for Women, Peace and Security. Here are six actions for peace that we can take to honor the work of Dr. King this year.

1. Make peace, not war

Women, Peace and Security is one of our biggest opportunities to create a pathway to peace—for ourselves and for the world, for today and in the future.


Passed unanimously in October 2000, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR 1325) underscores women’s agency, voices, and capacities as being intrinsic to creating better policies and more equitable peace agreements. UNSCR 1325 was drafted and adopted by the UN Security Council with significant leadership from women-led civil society groups around the world. It has been followed by seven other resolutions (UNSCR 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122, and 2242) which together make up the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the blueprint for a more peaceful and equitable world.

In 2017, the US Congress led the way in passing the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, one of the first laws in the world to implement the tenets of a more inclusive and equitable foreign policy. The end of 2018 saw robust momentum as Congress took measures to provide the Department of Defense with resources it needs to implement the law: the FY19 Department of Defense Appropriations Act includes an additional $4 million to advance the inclusion of women and a gender perspective in international security and peace decision-making. We expect others in Washington to lay out more detailed plans on how to implement the Act in 2019. This year, keep a close eye on what Washington does to implement this fledgling law.

2. Listen, Then Act

Let’s resolve to listen to women and men about their security needs and then act on their recommendations. We need to keep the security conversation focused on the most important factor in security and peace: people. This includes both men and women. How? It is important to remember to always ask: “Who is in the room where decisions are being made?” And “How are women and men, girls and boys differently affected by these decisions, these policies, and these conflicts?” These simple questions can lead to life-changing results, for both policymakers and those on the receiving end of the policy or program. This is a fundamental lesson of the Women, Peace and Security agenda: the more we take into account a diversity of experiences, views, and priorities, the more effective the policies will be.

3. Sex Matters: Aim for the end of all-male lineups in 2019

Women’s underrepresentation remains a significant challenge in security-focused conversations. And yet, studies show that when women are included in decision-making, peace is more possible. An often-quoted statistic shows that when women participate in peace negotiations, it’s 35 percent more likely that peace will last 15 years or longer.

This is low-hanging fruit in 2019. There are scores of female experts who can be tapped on foreign policy matters. To get started, check out our friends at Foreign Policy Interrupted and their Experts List.

4. Commit to more NAPS—more National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security, that is!

According to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), 79 countries (40 percent of all UN Member States) had National Action Plans (NAPs) on Women, Peace and Security at the end of 2018. However, of those, only 34 (or 43 percent) include an allocated budget for implementation. In 2015 the Global Study on UNSCR 1325 found that despite the crucial contributions made by women to conflict prevention and peacemaking, policies and programs that promote gender equality and peace remained drastically underfunded. Unfortunately, four years later we aren’t much further along. It’s time to address this deficit.

As WILPF states: “you get what you pay for: trillions on war and pennies for peace will only lead to violence. It is time to invest in gender equality and social justice policies and movements for peace.”

5. Be open to new ideas

It’s a fact: the world is changing. The question is, are we smart enough to not only be prepared for these changes, but to also adapt to them? What do we need to know about the global economy, technology trends, shifts in climate and water resources, governance, and inequality in order to survive and thrive today? How do we stay secure in this dynamic environment?

In order to gain insight into some of these questions, we challenged our traditional notions of security and asked women around the world, “How do you define security?”  

Their responses were eye-opening. In collaboration with our partners at Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership and World Pulse, Our Secure Future plans to release the results of this global survey in 2019 to help us all learn what security means to 50 percent of the world’s population. Stay tuned for the results in March.

6. Bet on a long shot: Women, Peace and Security is the underdog that just won’t go away

As we forge ahead into 2019, we’re betting on a long shot—the Women, Peace and Security agenda—to create a more peaceful and equitable world. While resistance to women’s rights becomes increasingly visible, there are more opportunities than ever for men and women to champion gender equality and create a better world for everyone. For example, many are now asking, “What does a feminist foreign policy look like?” Sweden and Canada have laid some groundwork with their pioneering policy efforts to establish feminist foreign policy agendas both domestically and abroad. In 2018, Canada invited representatives from almost 20 countries to participate in the . Even civil society leaders are envisioning what a would look like, and there’s much more to do.

Skeptics may say that it takes more than one summit and a few countries to cement any kind of feminist policy agenda or make significant advances toward a more peaceful world.  

But my view is that betting on a long shot means betting on us. It’s up to us to track deeds as well as words. We need to measure the advancement of the Women, Peace and Security agenda by the actions and investments by our countries, our leaders, our peers, and ourselves. The above is a short list of actions that we can take to honor the work of peacebuilders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and create a more peaceful and just world together.