There are many issues Democrats and Republicans disagree on, but elevating women in peace negotiations should certainly not be one of them.
Just a few weeks ago, the United States under the Trump administration became the first country in the world with a Women, Peace and Security (WPS) comprehensive law (2017) and strategy (2019) bringing women to the negotiating table in global peace efforts. This is something to be widely celebrated.
I have proudly worked with women across the aisle to train, support and empower women around the world — because ending poverty and violence against women, and increasing their participation and agency in all spheres of life should be a bipartisan issue everyone can get solidly behind,
The U.S. Women, Peace, and Security strategy shows just how far the elevation and participation of women has come. It is more than a token gesture to women’s empowerment; it is a priority for U.S. national security and defense strategies. This means it’s not just good for women, it’s good for our country. Also, the WPS strategy calls for promoting and tracking women’s “meaningful participation” in peace processes which U.N. Women defines as contributing in a way that is more than just representation and filling quotas. It means that “women are at the table when negotiations are taking place, women’s interests and lived experiences are fully reflected in peace processes, and that women are equally considered in recovery efforts in the aftermath in conflict.”
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.N, and other international bodies including women in peace and security processes will “reduce conflict and advance stability” in key regions. Even with all the data to back this up, women are still only 3 percent of mediators, 9 percent of negotiators, and 3 percent of witnesses and signatories in peace processes. So, instead of gathering more data and talking about its importance, the Trump administration is actually doing something about it.
What’s more, this strategy is linked to the success of yet another U.S. global initiative — which just announced partnerships in 22 countries and the updating of women’s rights laws in Cote d’Ivoire — the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), the women’s economic initiative led by Ivanka Trump. The two strategies together combine the promotion of women in peace processes with their economic empowerment — both strong contributors to family and regional stability.
Here’s how: Economically empowered women (who can own, earn, save and spend) support their families and have better household and political bargaining power, resulting in the ability to contribute “meaningfully” in peace processes. For nations, encouraging the other half of the population to contribute to the economy leads to regional stability.
In turn, these are crucial for the success of the three stages where the strategy promotes women as change agents:
• Preventing and resolving conflict: Economically stable families and communities are less prone and vulnerable to war.
• Countering terrorism and violent extremism: Economically stable individuals, especially youth, are less likely to join terrorist groups.
• Building post-conflict peace and stability: Economic growth and job opportunity are necessary to rebuild lives and sustain communities.
Three U.S. agencies have been directed to set measurable goals for the WPS strategy and implement them. Those on both sides of the aisle — right and left — would be wise to dump their partisan ways and whole-heartedly support these steps.
• Shea Garrison is vice president of international affairs for Concerned Women for America and a policy fellow at the George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government.