International Women’s Day 2024: update on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the NAP

This International Women’s Day, 8 February 2024, ABColombia would like to draw attention to Colombia’s progress in developing and implementing a National Action Plan as part of the Women, Peace Security (WPS) Agenda, and celebrate the incredible and tireless work of Colombian women civil society organisations (CSOs) in this process.

In 2000, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. This was the first landmark resolution that recognised the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building and humanitarian responses. The resolution also stressed the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the prevention of conflict and the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Notably, UNSCR 1325 also “calls upon parties to armed conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict”.[1]

In a statement by the President of the Security Council in 2004, the Council recognised the importance of civil society to the development and implementation of UNSCR 1325, and called for the development of national actions plans (NAPs) in order to strengthen implementation of the resolution, and the WPS agenda. According to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (which has been advocating for the development of NAPs for over 15 years), NAPs are national-level strategy documents that outline a government’s approach and course of action for localising action on the WPS agenda. To date, over 100 countries have developed NAPs for the implementation of UNSCR 1325, with some developing up to four subsequent plans upon the lessons learnt in their first plans.

Until 2022, Colombia had not taken any major steps towards developing a NAP. Under the Duque administration (2018-2022) the process of developing a NAP began, but no CSOs were engaged with. However, after President Petro took office in August 2022, the Foreign Ministry decided to begin a consultation process with women CSOs, who have been advocating for the development of a NAP since the early 2000s, in order to further develop the NAP. The coalition of CSOs designed the consultation process, and the Comité de Impulso (consisting of the Foreign Ministry, UN Women, the Council for Women’s Equality, the coalition of women CSOs and three further organisations) was established to oversee the work.

This process has included the participation of over 1500 women from all over Colombia who belong to diverse populations including Indigenous, Afro-descendant, palenquera, raizal, Romani, mestizo, peasant, LGBTQI+, disabled, urban and rural populations, as well as women peace signatories, activists and academics. Through engaging in regional, population and territorial forums, these women have worked to guarantee that the NAP has a territorial, age, ethnic and intersectional focus and that it recognises women’s organisations’ contributions to peace throughout Colombia.

In October 2023, the Colombian government and the coalition of women CSOs came together to present the progress made and challenges in the development of the NAP to the UN Security Council. At this meeting, the Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs, Elizabeth Taylor Jay, highlighted the importance of working with women CSOs. Despite the original hope that a finalised NAP 1325 would be presented to the Security Council, the simple act of this recognition constituted the first step in the fulfilment of a historical debt to the many women who have worked tirelessly for peace in their territories and lives.

Consulting civil society is an important task that Colombia is so far succeeding at, and doing this appropriately necessitates time for the participating women to be listened to, and for their experiences to be consolidated and plans resulting from these incorporated into the NAP.

Colombia’s active women’s organisations have already achieved a remarkable first in ensuring that the 2016 Peace Accord had a gender perspective in all of the agreements in the Accord. They have worked tirelessly since 2000 to pushing consecutive governments to develop a NAP on UNSCR 1325. When the current Petro Government agreed to move forward on developing a NAP, women’s organisations were ready, and working together with the Colombian Government have ensured    real consultations with grassroots women across the country and from their diverse perspectives in this process.

However good the NAP 1325 is, it will only be effective if it is implemented, and this demands resources and appropriate governance structures. It is essential to include women CSOs in the governance structures. They must be part of the overall planning, setting of priorities and monitoring of the NAP. This needs to be within a legally recognised structure. Equally essential will be the allocation of a budget to each aspect of the plan. There is good practice from countries like the Netherlands on implementation:

[Dutch] National Action Plans have always been developed and are carried out and monitored by government in close cooperation with civil society. This broad strategic partnership and shared responsibility between government and civil society actors is a natural working method, known as the Dutch ‘polder model’, but it is still virtually unique in the world.[2] Good practice ensures that funding for implementation is delivered to the grassroots as well as to more structural top-down projects. Both are needed if there is to be peace and security for women in local, rural and regional areas, especially in Colombia, due to the difference of each region and population group. Continued political and financial international support will be needed for the implementation of the NAP 1325, as well as funding at the grassroots, regional and national levels to ensure its effective implementation, and more structural governance projects.

[1] UNSCR 1325, Article 10.

[2] Dutch National Action Plan 1325-IV Women, Peace and Security p20