The Status of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Colombia and Progress Toward a 1325 National Action Plan

Claudia Gonzalez, intern at Our Secure Future, examines the role of WPS and women peacebuilders in Colombia's peace agreement, as well as the country's progress in creating a WPS National Action Plan.

Why Women? 

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda underscores the fundamental human rights of women, affirming their active and meaningful participation in decision-making processes across political, economic, and public spheres. Globally, it is imperative for governments to integrate a gender perspective and to systematically include women for more effective conflict prevention, management, and sustainable peace efforts. Women’s active engagement in peace processes yields transformative outcomes, influencing the incorporation of gender considerations into peace agreements, increasing community support, and exerting added pressure on negotiating parties to either reach an agreement or return to the negotiating table. Substantial evidence highlights the positive impact of women’s participation on achieving peace, indicating a 20% increase in the likelihood of a peace agreement lasting at least two years and a 35% increase in the probability of a peace agreement lasting 15 years. 

The Role of Women in the Development of Colombia’s Final Peace Agreement 

In 2016, a historic milestone was achieved when the Government of Colombia and the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC-EP) signed the Colombian Final Accord to End the Armed Conflict and Build a Stable and Lasting Peace. This marked a significant turning point in the country’s efforts to close the book on five decades of internal armed conflict, which had resulted in more than 220,000 deaths and the forced displacement of more than 5 million Colombians. Unfortunately, when the peace talks commenced in Oslo, Norway in October 2012, and moved to Havana, Cuba shortly thereafter, Colombian women were almost entirely excluded from the negotiating teams on both sides. Despite the round-the-clock engagement of women in the peace process, all of the “plenipotentiaries” with full negotiating power and all but one of the negotiators were men

A year later, nine Colombian women’s organizations convened a National Summit of Women for Peace with support from international allies. Attended by 450 Colombian women representatives with different ethnic, regional, and cultural backgrounds, the summit culminated in three demands: 1) a commitment from both parties to remain at the negotiation table until an agreement was reached; 2) the inclusion of women at the peace table and at every stage of the peace process; 3) and consideration of women's needs, interests, and experiences of conflict during the talks. The pressure from the summit led to greater inclusion of women in the peace process. In November 2013, the Colombian government designated Nigeria Rentería and María Paulina Riveros as plenipotentiary negotiators. On the FARC side, Commander Victoria Sandino joined the delegation in April 2013, giving women 20 percent of the seats at the main negotiation table.  

A Gender Sub-Commission (GSC) was also established to provide the negotiators with recommendations on how to address the gendered aspects of the conflict. Members of the GSC from both parties, alongside women in technical support roles, emphasized the significance of women’s engagement and why that engagement is essential for lasting peace. The GSC played a pivotal role in integrating language into the Final Peace Agreement, obliging both parties to implement “specific affirmative actions across all five substantive chapters of the Agreement.” Moreover, it ensured that a gender approach was mainstreamed throughout the Agreement, resulting in over 130 gender and women’s rights provisions. Colombian women’s organizations leveraged the Women, Peace and Security agenda to champion the inclusion of Colombian women in the peace process. Today, the Final Peace Agreement is recognized as a “model of gender-sensitivity and the inclusion of women’s rights,” reflecting the vision and principles outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 1325. 

Challenges and Achievements in the Implementation of the Gender Approach 

As Colombia enters the eighth year of the Final Peace Agreement, members of the Security Council have reiterated the importance of ensuring its comprehensive implementation, as well as continuing efforts to seek broader peace. At the same time, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the official monitor of the Final Peace Agreement, has observed a slowdown in the implementation pace, with significant delays identified across a majority of the gender-related commitments. Based on their most recent analysis, 13% of the 578 commitments had not yet initiated implementation; 37% were at a minimum state of implementation (no evidence to ensure that full implementation could occur within the 15-year period); 20% were at an intermediate state (full implementation is viable); and 31% were complete, as of November 2022. Despite the significant contributions of LGBTQI+ and women’s organizations in building peace, the analysis revealed even more pressing challenges for the 130 gender commitments. Specifically, 18% had not yet initiated implementation, 52% were at a minimum level, 18% were at an intermediate level, and only 12% were complete. Notably, there was little improvement in implementation levels compared to the previous year. In a recent report on the implementation status of the gender approach, the Kroc Institute highlighted the need for “reinvigorated planning and concerted mainstreaming efforts” and offered concrete recommendations for the Colombian government and international community, including increased funding and technical support and the establishment of a “high-level position” to ensure that gender commitments are fulfilled. 

The Current Status of Women in Colombia 

In the 2022/23 Women, Peace and Security Index, Colombia is globally ranked 132nd out of 177 countries. Most of the 8.8 million people in Colombia who have been officially registered as victims of armed conflict are forcibly displaced women and children. Notably, more than two in five women in Colombia have experienced some form of gender-based violence due to the conflict. A subnational analysis of Colombia reveals significant geographic disparities, which can be attributed to persistent conflict in specific departments, along with pervasive racism and discrimination against indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations. Georgetown University's Institute for Women, Peace and Security offers insightful statistics to illustrate these differences. For example, in the department of Santander, women have high rates of education and financial inclusion, along with “low proximity to conflict,” earning the department a top-ranking spot for women’s inclusion, justice, and security in Colombia. Conversely, in the lowest-ranked department, Casanare, 80% of women reside within 50 kilometers of armed conflict, leading to the “lowest life expectancy for women among departments” and the “second-highest prevalence of intimate partner violence in the country.” 

The Need for a National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security 

In October 2004, the President of the Security Council called on all Member States to develop National Action Plans (NAPs) to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. NAPs represent an essential first step for states to put resolution 1325 and the nine subsequent WPS resolutions into action, transforming international commitments into domestic policies and programs. As practical documents, NAPs allow governments to outline their national-level strategies, incorporating substantial input from civil society on the implementation of the WPS agenda, as well as specific governance, funding, and monitoring mechanisms. 

As of July 2023, 107 UN Member States have adopted a National Action Plan for UNSCR 1325; however, approximately 30% of those NAPs are outdated, expiring in 2022 or before. Europe and Africa have the largest number of countries with NAPs, while Latin America trails behind. Chile set a regional precedent when it adopted its first NAP in 2009, followed by Argentina (2015), Paraguay (2015), Guatemala (2017), El Salvador (2017), Brazil (2017), Peru (2021), Uruguay (2021), and Mexico (2021). Despite gender equality being enshrined in the Colombian Constitution and a robust civil society network advocating for gender equality in political reform processes, the government of Colombia has yet to adopt a 1325 National Action Plan. By developing and releasing a NAP in collaboration with civil society, the Colombian government will secure the rights, active participation, and protection of women in conflict prevention, resolution, and peacebuilding efforts. 

Colombia’s Progress on a 1325 National Action Plan 

Since 2000, a coalition of Colombian women’s organizations, including Red Nacional, Limpal, Codacop, Humanas, Colombia Diversa, Ciase, and Casa de la Mujer, have tirelessly advocated for the development and implementation of a 1325 National Action Plan in Colombia. After President Petro was inaugurated in August 2022, he announced his plan to engage with civil society organizations to co-construct the inaugural Colombian NAP. A dedicated committee of women’s organizations and civil society was established to oversee this participatory process. Since March 2023, the Petro government has actively engaged with more than 1,500 women who took part in 21 distinct forums, including six regional gatherings, seven forums catering to specific populations, seven territorial forums, and a national forum. Throughout these sessions, Colombian women shared their experiences as peacebuilders, articulated the daily challenges they encountered in advancing the peace and security agenda, and proposed essential actions to achieve lasting peace. In October 2023, a year after the commitment was announced in Quibdó, Chocó, the Government of Colombia presented the road map for the construction of the 1325 NAP and its strategic lines to an international audience for the first time. 

“We are building a robust institutional architecture where all women will be present, their voices will be heard, their leadership recognized, and their actions included, to go beyond a National Action Plan towards structural transformations that will allow us to achieve gender equality and reconciliation and to ensure violations are not repeated in Colombia.” – Translation of remarks by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Álvaro Leyva on October 11, 2023 


Local women’s organizations have brought about transformative change in Colombia by defending and pushing for the active participation and protection of Colombian women within the framework of the United Nations’ Women, Peace and Security resolution. The inaugural National Summit of Women for Peace, organized in 2013, guaranteed the inclusion of women’s voices during the Colombian peace process and the incorporation of a gender perspective in the Final Peace Agreement. Despite these achievements, there have been significant delays in the implementation of gender-related commitments in the peace accord, highlighting the need for a renewed commitment from the Colombian government. The current status of women in Colombia, as reflected in the Women, Peace and Security Index, underscores the need for a National Action Plan (NAP) on resolution 1325. Since 2023, the Petro government has engaged women’s organizations to inform the development of the country’s first NAP, laying the groundwork for meaningful advancements in the WPS agenda at the national and local levels in Colombia.