Assessing the UK's Commitment to the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda

May 7, 2024

The following brief report provides an overview of the recent UK Government meeting held at the House of Lords, which focused on an analysis of the UK's Commitment to the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Agenda, with emphasis on the progress of the 5th National Action Plan (NAP).

Lord Benyon, Minister of State in the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)

Lord Benyon reiterated the government's commitment to prioritizing women and girls in foreign affairs and security policies. He emphasized the cross-agency scope of the NAP, with contributions from seven departments which demonstrates a coordinated approach to tackle WPS issues. Lord Benyon noted that 75% of the 117 commitments in the WPS NAP are currently in progress, reflecting a clear effort to track progress effectively. He highlighted the importance of these new commitments being more specific than in previous iterations to allow for better tracking and evaluation of their impact.

Lord Benyon also provided insights into recent developments, including a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where nine individuals from the FCDO are actively engaged in WPS and Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) efforts. Positive language was secured in new resolutions at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) concerning women’s participation in conflict situations with gender-based violence. Lord Benyon highlighted the recent conference at Wilson Park, which showcased statistics indicating a 60% increase in sustainability when women are actively involved in peace processes. He reiterated the UK’s commitment citing initiatives such as:

·      The establishment of the Women Mediators across the Commonwealth, which has mediated conflicts in 50 regions. And additional support for over 15,000 women peacebuilders through funding.

·      Commitment to supporting women's rights organizations with a £38 million program to fund organizations in conflict-affected areas.

·      Achievements of the PSVI Initiative, including the launch of the International Alliance on PSVI and its positive impact across focus countries.

o   For instance, the contribution of the PSVI program to legislative changes and governance initiatives in Kosovo.

Lord Benyon highlighted the UK’s commitments in 13 focus countries, detailing initiatives in Afghanistan, Palestine, Ukraine, and Sudan. These range from supporting community-level initiatives for women’s protection in Afghanistan to providing funding for women’s health services in Gaza.

In terms of future plans, Lord Benyon expressed the government’s commitment to achieving 100% progress on NAP commitments, finalizing a new monitoring and evaluation framework, and exploring the intersection between climate security and WPS. He encouraged participants to maintain open communication with FCDO staff for future collaborative opportunities.

Vice Admiral Phil Hally, Ministry of Defence (MOD) Representative

Vice Admiral Hally discussed the MOD's progress in delivering commitments outlined in the 5th NAP. Despite challenges like the escalation of violence in the Middle East, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and global setbacks on women's rights, he highlighted positive steps taken to increase women's representation in the Armed Forces.

It was outlined the specific measures to enhance women’s representation, including adjustments to improve fitted uniforms and body armour, better education on women’s health initiatives, flexible working practices and improved access to childcare to support female career progression. He emphasized the importance of a zero-tolerance policy for sexual offences and announced plans for a training needs analysis to integrate training and awareness of women in security effectively.

Moreover, Vice Admiral Hally detailed the MOD’s efforts to engage with state and non-state groups to address conflict-related sexual violence. By increasing the number of UK WPS advisors and deploying dedicated women security advisors in conflict-affected regions such as Ukraine and Nigeria, the MOD is actively working to prevent and mitigate the impact of gender-based violence. It was also mentioned the MOD’s participation in international forums, such as hosting an international round table on integrating gender perspectives into military situations, which demonstrates the UK’s leadership in advancing the WPS agenda and commitment to gender equality at all levels of security.

Looking ahead, Vice Admiral Hally affirmed the MOD’s continued work to implement defence commitments outlined in the NAP, promote WPS across different defence sectors and empower women to assume leadership roles within the Armed Forces.

Eva Tabbasam, GAPS – Civil Society Representative

Ms. Tabbasam acknowledged the progress made since the launch of the 5th iteration of the NAP on WPS. While expressing satisfaction that implementation is underway, she highlighted ongoing challenges around the world, such as the disproportionately high number of women and children killed in Gaza and the resurgence of anti-gender movements in countries like the USA, Ghana and Uganda leading to a rollback on reproductive and LGBT+ rights. Because of these challenges, she stressed the importance of laying the groundwork for institutionalizing core WPS principles in the UK for the coming years.

Ms. Tabbasam introduced GAPS’ annual report on the UK government’s action on WPS implementation, acknowledging improvements in including civil society and strategic partnerships but urging greater prioritization of such partnerships. She stressed the need for direct consultation with local partners on the ground and highlighted instances, like in the Doha meetings, where women’s rights organizations and activists felt tokenized, advocating for the inclusion of WROs as frontline experts to avoid sidelining gender injustice.

Furthermore, it was highlighted the need for coherence between domestic and foreign policies to prevent clashes with decisions made elsewhere. She pointed out examples, such as the UK’s humanitarian pledge for Gaza while trading arms with Israel. There were also concerns about draconian domestic policies, like the Illegal Migration Bill and the Rwanda Bill, undermining the UK’s credibility on its WPS commitments. She emphasized the need for consistent application of the WPS agenda both domestically and internationally, calling for the UK to fulfil its responsibilities and ensure alignment across policies to effectively promote gender equality and peace.


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