It’s Time to Move Forward with Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

by Sara Walde, former intern at WPSN-C and Nobel Women’s Initiative and MA in International Development and Global Studies (with a specialization of feminist and gender studies)

On April 20th, academics, students, government officials, NGOs, and other civil society members came together to discuss the WPSN-C’s latest publication “Looking Back, Looking Forward: Reflections on Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security”. The focus of this half-day workshop was to bring civil society, academia, and government together to guide the development of Canada’s new Action Plan for the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security (C-NAP).

As previous blog posts have outlined, Canada is at a critical time in terms of the women, peace and security agenda. The expiration of the original C-NAP on March 31, 2016 and the announcement of its renewal, provide the opportunity to learn from the past and strategize for the future. Members of the WPSN-C recognized this opportunity and, by bringing together various actors, broadened it. As was made clear by the workshop, civil society, academia, and the government all have a role to play in the development of a new Canadian approach to women, peace and security.

The level of interest in the event was a strong indication of the importance and relevance of its topic. The workshop was sold out and presenters included WPSN-C members, academics and government officials from two departments. Those present heard about issues with the previous C-NAP, the responses and strategies of Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and the Department of National Defence (DND), and recommendations for the future of the C-NAP.

Based on surveys submitted after the event, that government officials were present and engaged at the workshop was greatly appreciated. Indeed, that these officials were involved is a marked change from previous attempts to engage and collaborate. Having officials from two, very different departments both working on the women, peace and security agenda further added to the benefit of the workshop.

Attendees learned of different approaches and strategies the departments use to implement this agenda. For example, DND officials referenced their Chief of Defence Staff Directive for Integrating UNSCR 1325 and Related Resolutions and made it clear that, due to the chain of command culture of DND, this Directive is not an optional exercise. DND further outlined that three Gender Advisor positions are being established to advise key senior officials regarding gender perspectives and gender based analysis. GAC, on the other hand, was not able to present as concrete a strategy. Rather, we heard that higher-level decisions need to be made and thus no commitments would be provided at this point in time.

This workshop was one attempt of many at breaking the silos that exist between and within academics, civil society, and government. That this event took place and was sold out, with a waiting list, demonstrates the success of this effort. The survey responses, however, lamented the insufficient time allotted to discussion and workshopping ideas. The majority of the time was spent presenting the Network’s publication and hearing the government’s response to it. That said the discussions that did take place generated thoughtful questions and innovative ideas to the benefit of all in attendance.

Points raised by participants varied in nature and scope. Government officials looked for clarification surrounding some of the critiques of the C-NAP. DND noted that reporting the number of women deployed was insufficient and asked how to expand this reporting. GAC wondered if and how dedicated funding for local women’s organizations would make a difference. Attendees were able to answer these queries directly and robustly.

Philosophical discussions also occurred. Comments and questions surrounding the importance of addressing the gender hierarchy, why resolution 1325 isn’t being effectively implemented on a global scale, the substantial role that Canada plays in the global mining industry, the flow of small arms, and the need for better data on women, peace and security were raised and debated.

The time is right to move beyond preliminary discussions and begin to work together to craft a new C-NAP. More focused and productive workshops need to occur in the future. Government officials must work interdepartmentally to share best practices and lessons learned. The expertise of civil society must be sought by government officials to ensure a robust and ambitious plan is created. Academics and NGOs must marry research opportunities with practice to bridge the divide between them. It must be recognized that all groups have expertise to share with one another.

This event was the continuation of a conversation, not the end. The opportunity to innovatively craft a transformative policy with experts from all fields is here – let’s seize it.

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