From the pen of an anti-feminist president, a victory for women
During a month in which the president has both endorsed legislation that would make abortions after 20 weeks illegal and rolled back a mandate that limited employers’ ability to deny birth control coverage, no one is heralding Trump as a feminist hero. Yet on October 6, the president signed into law an act advocates say will make feminist history.
The Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 aims to ensure that women have a place at the table in conflict negotiation and peace talks. This is significant considering that women made up less than 4 percent of signatories to peace agreements, and just 9 percent of negotiators between 1992 and 2011, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Not only that, but of 1,168 peace agreements CFR looked at between 1990-2014, only 18 percent made any reference to women. The law is a local application of an international resolution, called 1325, which was adopted by the UN Security Council in 2000. In 2005, the council asked UN member states (including the U.S.) to come up with national action plans to cement the principles of 1325 in their own countries.
“Women are significantly underrepresented in the peace-building and conflict resolution process, yet they are disproportionately impacted by violence and armed conflict,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who sponsored the bill. “They deserve to be fully represented at the negotiating table.”
Passing through Congress with bipartisan support, the act was approved in both chambers without opposition on voice votes. It builds on an executive order on women, peace, and security introduced by Obama in 2011, and cements the role of that strategy in the administration’s work.
The law now requires the administration to “provide technical assistance, training, and logistical support to female negotiators, mediators, peacebuilders, and stakeholders.” Rather than viewing women around the world as victims of conflict, the law recognizes their agency and acknowledges that non-male perspectives add great value to the future stability of a country.
So, why is it so important to include women in the management, prevention, and resolution of global conflicts? If the fact that they make up more than half the world’s population isn’t enough, how about women’s effectiveness: An analysis from a New York-based think tank called the International Peace Institute found that in the short term, “peace processes that included women as witnesses, signatories, mediators, and/or negotiators demonstrated a 20 percent increase in the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least two years. This percentage continues to increase over time, with a 35 percent increase in the probability of a peace agreement lasting 15 years.” The institute posits that this could possibly be due to the fact that societal equality contributes to peace.
With the law in place, the administration has one year to submit a plan on women, peace, and security to Congress. That strategy will be made publicly available. The law requires regular reports to Congress, and a new strategy four years after the introduction of the first. It also calls for collaboration across federal departments—from State, to Defense, to Homeland Security, to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)—and mandates training for diplomats, development professionals, and security personnel.
Trump’s 2018 budget proposal requested to dramatically cut foreign aid to women, peace, and security efforts—a move that is clearly at odds with the law he signed. Now, supporters of the law must wait to see if the Trump administration actually implements it.
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