What next for Australia’s second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security?

What does peace and security mean? More importantly, is the experience of it different for men and women? Unpacking the subtleties of FREEDOM for men and women, but also for Australia and the rest of the world is Dr. Anu Mundkur. Anu is the Head of Gender Equality for CARE Australia and a former Steering Group Member of the Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security. Anu has extensive practical experience in the fields of international relations, gender and development. Her areas of expertise include women peace and security; feminist approaches to international relations; gender and international aid. This blog post is based on national roundtables organised by the Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women Peace Security in 2017.


After a gap of over a decade, Australia released its Foreign Policy White Paper in 2017. The Foreign Policy White Paper identifies fragile states, terrorism and violent extremism, as well as increasing poverty and inequality as threats to Australia’s security and prosperity. This narrow framing almost exclusively concerned with border protection, guarding against ‘foreign interference’ and economic security is at odds with a human security approach that underpins the discourse on sustainable peace and inclusive security. It is also at odds with how diverse Australian women articulate what a lived experience of peace and security means.

Silences speak volumes. The Foreign Policy White Paper is eerily silent on a key international commitment made, when Australia sought a seat on the UN Security Council – Women, Peace and Security (WPS). Interestingly the 2016 Defence White Paper and DFAT’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy (2016) outline commitments to WPS and National Action Plans on Women Peace and Security. Not all is lost as the second National Action Plan on Women, Peace (WPS-NAP) and Security presents an opportunity to build on the cursory mention of the importance of gender in achieving sustainable peace in the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper on security.

The second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security must reflect what diverse Australian women say peace and security means to them. At the 2017 roundtable organised by the Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security, diverse Australian women defined peace and security in terms of freedoms - freedom from want and from fear (homelessness, statelessness, personal and intimate partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, all forms of discrimination, oppression, threats, intimidation, coercion, and stigma) and freedom to access justice, make informed choices and power to act on those choices, autonomy and control over one’s body, ability to protest and mobilise for action, speak and be heard, and freedom of movement.


The above definition of peace and security presents an opportunity for the second WPS-NAP to rethink what peace and security means in the domestic context. To fulfil obligations under Sustainable Development Goals 5 and 16, Australia needs to make the link between the second WPS–NAP and other national plans (e.g. reducing violence against women and girls and combatting human trafficking and slavery). In doing so we recognise that the violence experienced by diverse women and girls exists along a continuum – during times of peace and in times of conflict; both within and outside the home.  The 2017 roundtable also drew attention to the need for a domestic focus on social inclusion aimed at fostering multiculturalism by investing in a genuine commitment to reconciliation and through proactive ongoing engagement with diaspora communities (especially diaspora women and girls).


Finally, the second WPS-NAP must provide better policy coherence. The Australian Government’s commitment to increasing investment in and the availability of arms is in direct contradiction to commitment in the Foreign Policy White Paper to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda which recognises that militarisation and weaponisation are simultaneously a root cause and an outcome of conflict. Instead of aspiring to be a top 10 arms manufacturer and exporter, Australia should instead strive to reduce global military spending and reinvest the money in supporting women-led initiatives in peacebuilding and conflict prevention, and particularly women’s leadership for disarmament. As recommended in Issue Paper 2: Strengthening Conflict Prevention the  second WPS-NAP must prioritise conflict prevention by  “focussing on the (a) primacy of politics (i.e., the need for political solutions and diplomacy rather than attempting to achieve peace through military and technical engagements); (b) need for immediate short-term preventive measures; and (c) need to invest in measures that address the root causes and structural drivers of conflict.”[1]

A genuine second generation WPS-NAP must move beyond the “add women and stir” approach to recognising the diversity of women’s contributions to all aspects of peace and security and providing more durable and responsive solutions to fragility and conflict. Thus, the vision and goal of the second WPS-NAP must foreground sustainable peace and conflict prevention alongside gender equality.


Running towards the goals.

Running towards the goals.



 [1] See Report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations on uniting our strengths for peace: politics, partnership and people (A/70/95–S/2015/446); UN General Assembly A/70/357 and UN Security Council S/2015/682, and UN General Assembly Resolution A/70/709.




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