Four things you should know about the Canadian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security… and Some Questions to Ask

This article has been contributed by Beth Woroniuk, Independent Consultant and member of the WPSN-C Steering Committee

In October 2010, the Government of Canada launched its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

The press release announcing the National Action Plan noted:

“Our action plan will guide the way Canada develops policy, how we select, train and deploy Canadian personnel, and how we ensure they have the right knowledge and guidance for implementing Canadian policies effectively in the field,” said Minister Cannon. “It will steer Canada’s interventions abroad so they encourage the participation of women and girls, promote their rights and advance their equal access to humanitarian and development assistance.”

National Action Plans are a tool used by numerous governments around the world to set out how they are going to fulfill their commitments under various United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) on women, peace and security (WPS).

So, what should you know about the Canadian WPS National Action Plan?

First, the international call for National Action Plans was a response to widespread disappointment regarding the lack of progress on implementing the UN Women, Peace and Security Resolutions.

At a global level, there has been much frustration and disappointment regarding the general failure to implement the commitments in the Security Council Resolutions.

National action plans were seen as one possible mechanism to accelerate progress, ideally with governments making concrete commitments and dedicating specific resources.

One UN guiding document on WPS national action plans highlights how – in the best of all circumstances – action plans can provide a comprehensive approach to the implementation of the WPS Resolutions, enhance coordination among the relevant actors, raise awareness among stakeholders, create ownership among those responsible for implementation and support a culture and system of accountability.

Yet we should remember that an Action Plan is just a framework for action. In looking at the forthcoming report on how the Government of Canada has implemented its National Action Plan, we need to ask not just did the Government do what it said it would do but also did it commit to doing the right things.

Second, the Government of Canada made broad commitments in the Plan.

The National Action Plan outlines the Government of Canada’s commitments to:

  • Increasing the active and meaningful participation of women, including indigenous and local women, in peace operations and peace processes, in the management of conflict situations, and in decision making in all of these areas.
  • Increasing the effectiveness of peace operations, including the protection and promotion of the rights and safety of women and girls.
  • Improving the capacity of Canadian personnel to help prevent violence and to contribute to protecting the human rights of women and girls in the context of peace operations, fragile states, conflict-affected situations and in humanitarian crises or relief and recovery operations.
  • Promoting and supporting relief and recovery efforts in fragile states and conflict-affected countries in a manner which takes into account the differential experiences of women and men, boys and girls.
  • Making the leadership of peace operations more accountable for carrying out their mandated responsibilities by realizing, to the maximum extent practicable, the intent of the SCR’s on Women, Peace and Security.

In general, these are broad and ambitious commitments. (But notice the absence of any commitment on investments or resources.)

Third, the Canadian National Action Plan includes specific actions and indicators.

The Plan includes 28 actions and 24 indicators. Many actions don’t have indicators and some actions have more than one indicator.

Some actions are concrete (for example, “ensure that all organizations receiving Government of Canada funds for humanitarian assistance have organizational codes of conduct relating to sexual exploitation and abuse.”)

Some actions are vague and general (for example, “continue to engage in policy dialogue with multilateral partners …to encourage the strengthening of their capacities to plan for, implement and report on issues relating to Women, Peace and Security…”)

Some actions are along the right lines but will be difficult to monitor or assess whether or not they have been implemented ( for example, “integrate the promotion and protection of women’s and girls’ human rights… in Government of Canada international security policy frameworks and projects…”)

There are however, no targets in the plan. There are few indications that the Government plans to increase resources, attention, or focus on women, peace and security issues. For example, there is a call to measure the number of projects and funding for projects in peace operations, fragile states and conflict affected situations that integrate support for women’s and girls’ human rights. We don’t know however, if the government aims to increase this type of project by, say, 50% over the life of the Action Plan or if this type of project should make up 50% of the overall portfolio by 2016?

Fourth, the National Action Plan includes monitoring and evaluation commitments.

The document commits the government to annual reports and a mid-term review.

As of January 2013, we’re waiting for the first report.

Questions to consider

So when the first monitoring report is released, here are some of the questions we could ask:

  • What has the Government of Canada achieved relative to the five general commitments reproduced above?
  • Does the report document increased attention to the issues of WPS since the National Action Plan has been approved?
  • Is there evidence that – as the Minister at the time promised – that the action plan did “guide the way Canada develops policy, how we select , train and deploy Canadian personnel and how we ensure that they have the right knowledge and guidance for implementing Canadian policies effectively in the field”?
  • Has the Government of Canada capitalized on the transformatory potential in the Resolutions or have departments just attempted to “add women” to ongoing initiatives?
  • Does the report address the full range of actions and indicators included in the National Action Plan, including both qualitative and quantitative indicators?
  • Is the report a robust analysis of progress (including gaps and difficulties) or is it a public relations puff piece?
  • Does the report include lessons learned and commitments to improve, demonstrating that there is a real consideration of how to implement the WPS commitments going on in government departments?
  • Does the report include information on resources dedicated to WPS issues and ensure that there are departmental mechanisms in place to track whether or not these investments increase over the life of the National Action Plan?

For more information on WPS National Action Plans, see:

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