National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security: Entry Points for Increasing Women’s Participation in UN Peace Operations

Bangladeshi FPU women

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

Caption: All female Formed Police Unit from Bangladesh serving the UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for post-earthquake relief.

National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security (NAPs) are a tool for states to define their priorities and coordinate implementation of UNSCR 1325 at the national level. NAPs have the potential to mobilize different government branches and stakeholders tasked with security, foreign policy, development and gender equality. While more attention has been paid to ending sexual violence and increasing women’s participation in peace negotiations, NAPs can be important tool to guide policies and programs that aim to increase women’s participation in peacekeeping.

There are now over 35 Member States that have National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security.[i]  However, all NAPs are not the same. NAPs adopted by developed countries tend to focus on security issues outside of the country, on issues such as implementing UNSCR 1325 in peacekeeping operations.  In contrast, NAPs developed and adopted by post-conflict countries tend to focus on internal security needs and threats within the state.  For example, addressing the problem of sexual violence, training of national security forces to use a gender perspective in their work and planning post-conflict reconstruction projects may be emphasized.


NAPs and troop-contributing countries

A closer look at the existing NAPs on women, peace and security reveals that there is a difference between troop contributing countries that have NAPs and those that do not.  The matrix below shows which top 10 troop-contributing countries had national action plans at the end of 2012. Those that have gone through the participatory process of creating a NAP within their security institutions and frameworks have stronger political will and more commitment to advance this issue. This is because the internal decision-making process rigorously weighs the pros and cons of gender equality to security interests. For example, in the Netherlands, when the government initiated the development of its first NAP, civil society organizations joined together to regularly consult with government officials and provide the government recommendations on the draft. Due to the participatory nature of the consultation process, the civil society organizations became an integral part of the planning process and eventually became official implementing partners of the plan.[ii]

The NAPs which result from this kind of regular participatory consultation with civil society recognize that increasing women’s participation in peacekeeping is a multidimensional process that is not dependent on increasing the numbers of women alone.

Cross-reference of the Top Ten Troop Contributors and

National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security

(as of October 31, 2012)


Country/Rank Number of Military and Police UN Contributions   National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security
Male Female Total
1. Bangladesh 8917 225 9,142 No NAP; Have a “Call to Action” which refers to women in Peacekeeping and Police
2. Pakistan 9072 41 9113 No
3. India 7761 138 7899 No
4. Ethiopia 5398 303 5701 No
5. Nigeria 5263 327 5590 No
6. Rwanda 4390 206 4596 Yes; 2010Specific language on women in the police and national defense forces, and recruitment of women in peace and security sector (p6,18)
7. Nepal 4427 107 4534 Yes; 2011Specific language constitutional changes to women’s participation in the National government; anti-trafficking and SGBV
8. Egypt 4128 0 4128 No
9. Jordan 3573 21 3594 No
10. Ghana 2562 242 2804 No

The top three troop-contributing countries have no National Action Plans on the Women, Peace and Security agenda, which has significant implications for achieving gender balance and an integration of gender perspectives in UN operations. It raises the question: if the top countries do not demonstrate a commitment to gender equality at home, how will they do so abroad?

NAPS of countries to which UN peacekeeping missions are deployed

National Action Plans are not only relevant to troop and police contributing countries’ performance on gender equality. The nations to which the blue helmets are deployed might have their own National Action Plans that need to be taken into account by a mission. The matrix below presents four countries where some of the largest UN peacekeeping operations are deployed, of which three have their own national plans which identify peacekeeping as a priority.

Cross-Reference of the Largest UN Peacekeeping Missions


Host Nation National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security


Host Nation of UN Peacekeeping Mission Number of UN Military and Police Present(statistics as of 10.31.12) Host Nation National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security
  Male Female Total  
1. UNAMID/Darfur 20,458 1035 21,493 No 
2. MONUSCO/Democratic Republic of Congo 18,462 59 19,055 Yes; 2010. Specific language on the promotion and protection of women.
3. UNOCI/Cote D’Ivoire 10,853 162 11,015 Yes; 2007. Specific priority areas of increasing the role and contribution of women in peacekeeping and national reconstruction, and addressing SGBV.
4. UNMIL/Liberia 8,585 377 8,962 Yes; Specific language on the protection of rights and security of women, the inclusion of women in security sector institutions, and collaboration with UNMIL on HIV/AIDS training.

Thus, even if troop contributing countries do not contribute significant numbers of women to Missions, or do not have their own national action plans on women, peace and security which could direct or focus their efforts with regard to the inclusion of women in peacekeeping operations, it is possible that the Host Nation will have an action plan that will overlap with the goals of the UN mission mandate, as can be seen in the cases above. In the matrix above the Host Nations identify both the increase in the number of women military and police in peacekeeping missions and the use of a gender perspective in various trainings and reconstruction programs as a priority.

Those countries which have gone through the internal participatory process of creating National Action Plans to implement the goals of UNSCR 1325 have specific language, goals, action points and clear lines of responsibility designated to increase the number of women in peacekeeping operations and to include a gender perspective in operations. This is true for other countries that do not make the top 10 or even the top 20 list for troop contributing nations, such as Norway, Ireland, Canada, the US, Australia and Sweden but which nonetheless contribute military and police contingents to peacekeeping operations.   Each of these countries has identified specific actions to address the following: recruitment and retention of women in national defense forces, the inclusion of more women in international peace operations, the application of a gender perspective in peacekeeping, the increase in the number of women police, and assisting other countries in recruiting more women to their Ministries of Defense.[iii]

Challenges and opportunities

There is still a lack of analysis of how National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security have been used in peacekeeping operations.  Such an analysis could help to identify the best practices and lessons learned from the process of integrating UNSCR 1325 into military and police components of international operations.

Some opportunities for progress lay in “twinning” and in regional action plans. Twinning is when two countries support each other on the development or implementation of national action plans. The countries may exchange ideas, experiences and resources in the creation of their plans. Most recently, cross-learning partnerships have been announced between Liberia and Ireland and between East Timor, Finland and Kenya. See for more details.

Regional action plans are also useful tools in this regard. The Civil Society Advisory Group to the UN on Women, Peace and Security stated that, “In some cases, regional action plans can play an even more important role than individual NAPs in promoting peace and security, particularly given the cross-border nature of many conflicts.”

However, both twinning and regional action plans have drawbacks. Twinning inherently involves a relationship between developed states that have resources and poorer states that do not.  Regional action plans may outline strategies that are too general in comparison to clear tasks and lines of responsibilities that might be set out in a national action plan.

In the November 2012, Secretary-General’s report on women, peace and security, the Secretary-General requested UN Women to review national commitments on women, peace and securing, noting that “one third of existing national action plans…are schedule for review or renewal in the coming year. This presents a major opportunity for sharing good practices and identifying constraints to national implementation of the resolutions.”[iv]  Closer monitoring of whether and how NAPs are being implemented with regard to increasing women’s participation in peacekeeping is important if the international community wants to see improvements in both the numbers of female peacekeepers in missions, and the integration of a gender perspective in a missions work. Hopefully, women’s participation in peacekeeping will be high on the agenda.

[i] See for a full, updated list of current National Action Plans

[ii] Popovic, Lyytikaninen and Barr, Planning for Action on Women, Peace and Security, 60.63-64 in draft. See also Popovic and Barr, Background Paper, From Global to Local: How UN Agencies Build Capacity to Implement the Women, Peace and Security Resolutions at the National Level, Peacebuild, June 2011,16.

[iii] See the National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security for Norway, p 10; USA, Outcome 2.1; Australia, p21,28; Ireland, Pillar 2.

[iv] United Nations, Report of the Secretary-General on women, and peace and security, S/2012/732, (25).