Twenty-one years ago, decades of advocacy work culminated in the passing of UN resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security (WPS). This landmark achievement recognised that for peace and security, women´s rights need to be advanced and protected.
Nine resolutions form the normative WPS framework and enable a holistic approach to security. Since 2005, 92 UN member states (47 percent) have adopted National Action Plans (NAPs) to implement the WPS agenda according to their specific needs and context. Through the NAPs, concrete and measurable political commitments are connected with global and local efforts.
In many ways, the lessons learned from the WPS implementation can help advance other multilateral peacebuilding efforts. One potential beneficiary could be the climate security agenda, which today is a top global priority.
In terms of climate security, this makes sense because the same structural inequalities that disproportionately exclude women — from political participation and other decision-making processes, from access to and management of resources, and from conflict mediation initiatives — make them more vulnerable to climate change. Additionally, the climate security agenda seeks to achieve many things similar to the WPS agenda of two decades ago. Climate security experts need to understand the complex drivers of crises and conflicts through context-specific, inclusive, locally-informed, and interdisciplinary analysis. They want to address these drivers in an integrated way, overcoming siloed approaches, and informing policy making. It is necessary to move away from analysis towards swifter and adequate action. These connections between the WPS and the climate security agenda imply promoting women as agents of change and enablers for sustainable peace and climate resilience.
To a certain degree, the climate security agenda developed similarly to the WPS one. It started from the recognition that climate impacts interact with other drivers of instability, such as social inequality or weak governance, that inhibit peace prospects in many regions around the world. Climate change can undermine livelihoods, increase poverty, and exacerbate vulnerabilities. It can destabilise political, social, and economic conditions, intensifying conflicts and tensions.
Thanks to the strong and growing multilateral engagement by some countries, climate-related security risks have gained prominence in the UN Security Council’s agenda, including in debates on geographic regions, such as the Sahel. However, there is no UN Security Council resolution — yet. There is neither consensus nor global guidance for an evidence-based and integrated approach to climate security risks. Bilateral and multilateral donors call for more integrated programming that connects sectors to address complex risks more comprehensively.
A similar approach to the WPS NAPs could be applied to the climate security agenda. This would lead to more contextualised and concerted efforts. Commitments on the national and global level could be combined with multilateral collaborative efforts based on locally-informed programmes that consider climate-related cross-border security risks.
The need for context-specific approaches means that WPS NAPs do not take a uniform approach to structure, format, or content. However, certain elements of NAPs have contributed to the implementation of the WPS agenda. From previous implementation results, we know that budgeting, capacities, and coordination are stumbling blocks. It is therefore ever more important to ensure that they are included in climate security NAPs from the very beginning. NAPs increase the visibility of national implementation efforts. They improve transparency and accountability. For example, Burundi’s NAP contains a strong M&E framework, despite persisting challenges posed by the government. The framework defines objectives and expected results, and clarifies the activities that ministries will implement, including partners and indicators.
NAPs also help to integrate policy frameworks to achieve the WPS agenda´s goals. This increases coherence and coordination between government agencies. An example for this is Norway, which promotes a whole-of-government approach. The country recognises WPS as cross-cutting and requires expertise from — as well as implementation by — all parts of the government. Some WPS NAPs also incorporate other topics. Among them are human trafficking, climate change, and preventing violent extremism. This advances a cross-sectoral approach to multidimensional problems and speaks in favour of interconnecting agenda.
High-level support, governmental commitment, and international peer pressure are central elements for NAP development and implementation. Moreover, processes must consider the inclusion of civil society and marginalised groups. In Liberia, the most recent NAP (2019-2023) is the result of a consultative process led by the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection with support from UN Women. The participatory approach included consultations with line ministries, agencies and commissions, civil society organisations, women’s groups, youth groups, media, and international partners. Two other examples that demonstrate a strong inclusive commitment during the NAP development process are East Timor and Togo.
However, especially in contexts with weak governance, NAP implementation faces challenges. Mali, for example, adopted its third NAP in 2019 (2019-2023). One of the central goals — the representation and participation of women in the monitoring of the peace, security, and reconciliation process — is not achieved yet. Other aspects of the NAP are also only implemented to a limited degree.
The WPS trajectory shows that NAPs are a useful and viable tool for countries to move the climate security agenda forward. This means moving away from the mere recognition of climate change as an emerging challenge to peace and security, to identifying concrete opportunities for action on the local, national, regional, and global level. In contrast to the WPS agenda, bilateral and multilateral diplomacy drive the climate security agenda from ‘top-down’. An inclusive NAP development process helps to strengthen bottom-up processes that engage civil society, locally-led organisations, youth, and other, often still excluded, drivers of change. Given the significant role that women need to play in the implementation process, WPS and climate security NAPs should be intertwined and complementary. They should apply both lenses and use existing synergies, for example in programming, peacebuilding, and mediation activities.
NAPs should support and sustain evidence-based policy-making, as well as transparent and accountable implementation. To this end, adequate budgeting for concrete activities with a clear objective and timeline is important. Specific indicators with benchmarks to monitor and evaluate progress should also be part of the NAP.
The financing of climate security mainstreaming must be ensured by the individual ministries, or a stand-alone NAP budget should be provided. This requires adequate capacity building and training of civil servants in national government bodies, including at the regional and local levels. Anchoring climate security in relevant government agencies ensures the long-term implementation of the climate security agenda and minimises the dependency on legislative cycles.
Given the various benefits for ensuring sustainable implementation, the authors encourage governments to develop integrated and inclusive climate security NAPs. Because we are stronger together, the climate security agenda needs to be driven forward hand in hand with the WPS agenda. Knowledge transfer from WPS NAPs represents a timely opportunity to strengthen an inclusive climate security agenda and increase the required international support for a normative UN Security Council framework to follow soon.