Women’s voices and leadership are key to sustaining peace, stability and development in the region. ASEAN is making concerted efforts to elevate their commitment to advancing women, peace and security (WPS), making it a regional priority agenda.
To further enhance women’s engagement for sustainable peace, ASEAN has embraced an all-encompassing approach to women, peace and security from the angle of preventing and countering violent extremism, disaster management and climate change to women in peace processes and post-conflict rehabilitation. Recognising the mutual reinforcement and interconnectivity of economics and peace, regional efforts are forged to articulate women, peace and security in the context of economic integration. Women’s economic empowerment is also enforced as a form of conflict prevention, resolution and recovery.
The WPS agenda in ASEAN is guided by the commitments to implement the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) and other related resolutions on women, peace and security.
Other key reference instruments are the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and ASEAN policy statements and plans of action on the promotion of the women, peace and security agenda as well as the protection of women’s rights.
According to a press statement, recognising the transformative roles that women fulfil in building, maintaining, and fostering peace and security in the region, ASEAN is currently developing the Regional Plan of Action on Women, Peace and Security in ASEAN (ASEAN RPA on WPS).
This was put forward at the first meeting of the Expanded Advisory Group on Women, Peace and Security in ASEAN held virtually on January 28, where members of the group shared updates on WPS-related initiatives in their respective sectors and deliberated on linkages, gaps and opportunities.
The statement explains that this initiative moves forward the implementation of the Joint Statement on Promoting Women, Peace and Security in ASEAN that was adopted by ASEAN leaders in 2017.
Moreover, the development of the regional plan of action is one of the key recommendations of the ASEAN Regional Study on Women, Peace and Security launched in 2021 with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and UN Women.
Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Ekkaphab Phanthavong in his remarks said, “The core tenets of the women, peace and security agenda are even more relevant now than before.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed a lesson known from other crisis situations – to seek and achieve sustainable solutions to intractable social issues, it is critical to apply a gender lens to understand the impact and create inclusive responses for recovery and resilience of communities and nations.”
The ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW) and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) lead the coordination on implementing the women, peace and security agenda across the three ASEAN community pillars, and the development of a regional plan of action, which engages multiple ASEAN sectoral bodies to oversee regional cooperation on gender equality and women empowerment, defence, transnational crime, human rights, disaster management and humanitarian assistance.
Samvada Kheng, Secretary of State, Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Cambodia, the ACW Focal Point of Cambodia, and Chair of the Expanded Advisory Group on WPS said, “A cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach is necessary in order to strengthen women’s meaningful participation in peacebuilding and conflict prevention, resolution, and post-conflict processes, in line with regional and international commitments, notably the UNSCR 1325 and the Joint Statement on Promoting Women, Peace and Security in ASEAN.”
The meeting also included the progress of developing the ASEAN RPA on WPS, particularly the scope of work and logical framework aligned focussing on five key strategies and priority actions.
The development of the ASEAN RPA on WPS is supported by the US government through the ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT project, UN Women, Canada and the ASEAN Secretariat. It will be submitted for adoption by ASEAN leaders at the upcoming 40th ASEAN Summit this November.
Since the adoption of the Joint Statement on Promoting Women, Peace, and Security in ASEAN by ASEAN Leaders at the 31st ASEAN Summit in 2017, ASEAN has set important milestones in implementing the WPS agenda through concerted multi-sectoral efforts and partnerships.
The ASEAN Women for Peace Registry was established in 2018 as a creative initiative to mobilise resource and consolidate knowledge for capacity building and advocacy on a gendered approach to peace and conflict in the region. In addition, aligning efforts of the ASEAN Committee on Women, the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children and the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation have been pivotal to ASEAN’s collective action in mainstreaming women’s rights and gender equality in peace and security and furthermore, ASEAN women military and law enforcement officers have also made a positive impact globally through active participation in UN peacekeeping operations.