A new National Action Plan aims to fully integrate women in diplomacy and defense, but holding on to the progress they’ve already made may be a greater challenge.
The abuse of women protesters in the streets of Cairo earlier this week shocked many onlookers and met with sharp rebuke from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “The systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform, and is not worthy of a great people,” she said in a speech at Georgetown University on Monday. “As some Egyptian politicians and commentators have themselves noted, a new democracy cannot be built on the persecution of women, nor can any stable society.”
Quite ironically, the headlines from Cairo coincided with Clinton’s release Monday of a U.S. National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace, and Security. The detailed plan is meant to integrate women as full and equal partners by applying gender considerations as a tool of analysis across all U.S. diplomatic, defense, and development policies. The NAP brings the U.S. into compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and four subsequent UN resolutions adopted since 2000 as a global framework for more effective conflict resolution and sustainable peace-building. It also institutionalizes priorities long promoted by Clinton personally, even before she became Secretary of State.
Clinton traveled to the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, and it was there that she delivered the landmark speech of her years as First Lady. In no uncertain terms she staked a claim for the fundamental principle of the global women’s movement — that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are the right of every woman. Drawing a direct corollary between societies that oppress women and states that fail on a larger scale, she also memorably repositioned women’s rights not just as a moral imperative, but as a necessary condition of success in U.S. foreign policy — not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do if our aim is to meet the world’s most critical security and development challenges.