January 4, 2019 (C-Fam) – The Trump administration has delayed the release of its Congressionally-mandated strategy on Women, Peace, and Security, just as international feminist groups ramp up efforts to radically reform the UN Security Council-based agenda toward feminist, LGBT, and pacifist aims.
The purpose of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda is to protect women and girls during war and to get more women involved in conflict prevention, reconciliation, and mitigation. It began with a UN Security Council resolution in 2000. Some seventy countries have action plans to implement it. The United States is the first country to enact domestic legislation. The Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 gave the administration until October 2018 to issue an implementation strategy. Congress granted an extension until the end of the year.
Sources say staff in the four agencies responsible for drafting and implementing the new strategy have not reached agreement on what it should look like. The competent departments are Defense, State, Homeland Security and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The National Security Council is coordinating the drafting effort.
At issue is whether the plan might resemble the previous administration's agenda or stick to the new law's narrower mandate. The bill passed Congress only after Democrats agreed to drop references to the Obama-era plan. The law's Republican champion, outgoing House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo earlier this year explaining that Congress expects a new strategy and not a repeat of the Obama document.
Even so, some career staff members are apparently seeking to make Trump's strategy resemble the broader international feminist agenda. The agenda, also called “The Hillary Doctrine” for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was reflected in the Obama plan which included such things as abortion and transgender training at the nation's war colleges.
During its tenure on the UNSC, the Obama administration sponsored new WPS resolutions focused on sexual violence rather than women's participation and empowerment. While some feminists are leery of casting women primarily as victims, the focus buttresses a broader feminist claim to an international right to abortion for women raped in conflict and humanitarian settings. The emphasis on sexual violence also underpins an effort to transform the agenda toward an LGBT focus.
According to the LGBT group Outright International, “the name 'Women, Peace, and Security' itself continues to perpetuate harmful gender essentialist thinking unless a nuanced gender analysis is applied.” In its year-end newsletter, the group said it has successfully influenced the WPS agenda at the UN by its membership in the NGO working group on WPS, viewed by UN member states as the expert body on the issue.
According to Outright, the UN working group seeks to overturn the WPS agenda's “heteronormative framework” and to link “toxic masculinity” against women and gay and transgender men. Providing academic support and a roadmap to the movement is an article in the prestigious journal International Security. It takes issue with prioritizing “motherhood as a vulnerable category” and says that it's “equally if not more important to recognize other aspects of gender identity as targets of violence.” Further, the article says, “relief programs targeting women only, for example, have been problematic for transgender people and … gay men,” and that the term “gender perspective” in the UN's WPS resolution “provides the potential for radical reform” of the agenda.
Published with permission from C-Fam.