This is Your NAP: Action and Accountability in Ireland’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

25 june 2019

Author: Caitriona Dowd, Humanitarian Policy Advisor, Concern

On 21 June, Ireland launched its Third National Action Plan (NAP) for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 and Related Resolutions. The event at University College Cork brought together representatives from across government departments, Gardaí and Defence Forces; with Women, Peace and Security (WPS) activists, members of migrant communities, human rights defenders, humanitarian organisations and academics.

Three key strands ran through the event, and are reflected in the Third NAP itself:

Women’s vulnerability – and agency – in conflict:

At the heart of the WPS Agenda is the recognition that conflict, its impacts, and efforts to prevent, resolve and recover from it, are profoundly gendered. Central to this is an awareness of women’s vulnerability to violence – the devastating impact of armed conflict on women and girls; the sometimes less obvious ways in which violence and discrimination in the family, home and community take place in parallel to wider insecurity; and the long echo of discrimination, violence and trauma through generations.

At the NAP launch, Captain Deirdre Carbery shared powerful reflections on her deployment as a peacekeeper with the Irish Defence Forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she heard stories of extraordinary violence and suffering by women. But she also paid tribute to the hope, resilience, strength and leadership of Congolese women in the face of adversity. Nura Haji, of Mind the Gap, spoke passionately as a woman human rights defender on the significance of Ireland’s leadership on WPS to women fighting against injustice.

This dual focus – on the specific impacts of conflict on women, and on their agency, resilience and leadership – is echoed in the NAP itself, across the Prevention, Participation and Protection pillars. It also resonates with Ireland’s experience of transitioning from conflict to building peace, in which women activists and organisations played – and continue to play – a leading role. As plans are put in place for a complementary launch of the NAP in Belfast, a series of events aimed at learning from, and supporting, women’s peacebuilding in Northern Ireland point to the importance of seeing peacebuilding as a long-term and ongoing process.

Partnership, inclusion and diversity:

Ireland is almost unique among countries with a NAP in maintaining a dual focus on both international and domestic issues. In both of these dimensions, partnership, inclusion and diversity are increasingly reflected. At the global level, the new NAP takes a more explicitly intersectional approach, recognising that “Women are not a homogenous group and face many and varied forms of discrimination including being a member of religious, cultural, ethnic, LGBTQI+ and migrant communities and as a result of experiencing a disability.” Furthermore, the introduction of focus contexts for WPS in the new NAP is a welcome development intended to support deeper learning, strengthen implementation and better communicate activities and impact in a diverse range of contexts, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Israel and Palestine.

Domestically, inclusion and diversity were key themes not only in discussion at the launch itself, but also in the extensive public consultation process that produced the NAP. Led by the Conflict Resolution Unit (CRU) at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, this NAP is the outcome of three public consultation workshops and 48 submissions, with twice as many people involved in the consultation for the Third NAP as for its predecessor. CRU’s process of holding a preparatory and follow-up workshop in Cork as well as specific measures taken to support the full participation of women in the consultation process, were cited repeatedly throughout the day as crucial to meaningful engagement. It also serves as an example for other Departments and public engagement initiatives, demonstrating how good practice from WPS initiatives can inspire better practice more widely.

The beginning of a process:

A third key theme of the launch was the importance of seeing the NAP as just one step in a longer process. Delivering a keynote at the launch, An Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, praised the WPS Agenda as “a powerful tool for moving from gender equality to gender justice.” Salomé Mbugua, Independent Chair of the WPS Working Group, also spoke passionately about the Third NAP as a tool for women in Ireland to claim and access rights, and to hold Government to account. Similarly, Áine Hearns, Director of CRU, concluded the launch by remarking that “this is your NAP,” calling on those who participated in the consultation, attended the launch, and are engaged on these issues to continue to shine a spotlight on WPS and use the NAP to push for progress.

This use of the NAP as not only a plan, but also a tool for accountability, is reinforced by the most robust monitoring framework to date for tracking progress on putting gender at the centre of conflict prevention efforts; ensuring women’s meaningful participation in peacebuilding at every stage; and strengthening protection, relief and recovery.

The five-year plan comes at the end of a nine-month consultation process, and a year before the 20th anniversary of landmark UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. It is also published at a key point in Ireland’s candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council. As civil society actors look ahead to key milestones and opportunities for progress on WPS in the months and years to come, a key message from the launch day is that Ireland’s Third NAP provides a practical framework for action, a roadmap to mobilise for accountability, and a genuine opportunity for impact, but only with sustained engagement.

Read the National Action Plan here.

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dóchas.