Women in Peace and Security through United Nations Security Resolution 1325: Literature Review, Content Analysis of National Action Plans, and Implementation

Barbara Miller, Milad Pournik,, Aisling Swaine


This Working Paper looks at the Women, Peace and Security agenda as laid out in UNSCR 1325 and in six following Security Council Resolutions to assess progress in the past decade and a half since its adoption in 2000. An extensive desk study of the existing literature was conducted, as well as a detailed content analysis of 40 of the 42 existing 1325 National Action Plans (NAPs). The paper also offers an update on implementation of Women, Peace, and Security goals more broadly. The study addresses three main questions:

  • What does the social science and related literature say about UNSCR 1325 since its adoption in 2000?
  • What does content analysis of National Action Plans (NAPs) in support of UNSCR 1325 reveal about the effectiveness of such plans?
  • What are examples of implementation of 1325 principles with and beyond 1325 NAPs?

Key findings:

  • The key challenge going forward is ensuring that the forward-looking, equality and empowerment (not just gender) based transformative provisions of UNSCR 1325 are not lost in their translation into narrow time-bound accountability tools. NAPs and other strategic planning and accountability frameworks are essentially bureaucratic tools. The co-option of these resolutions and their aspirational content into such accountability frameworks represents the effective bureaucratization of the resolutions and their aims. If states are to fulfil their commitments, procedural approaches to implementation will be required to map onto states own existing procedural ways of doing business. Of importance going forward is that accountability mechanisms are designed and used in ways that contribute to fully realizing the equality aspirations of UNSCR 1325. In this way, 1325 NAPs will advance the overall agenda, rather than simply reflect it.
  • Governmental institutions require specific, measurable and practical bureaucratic methodologies that articulate enactment of their targets in ways that enable institutional action to take place. 1325 NAPs in particular serve this purpose well. There are risks associated with the bureaucratization process, including the potential loss of the substantive equality and empowerment aspects of the agenda which are altogether more difficult to package, monitor and measure. While many NAPs for example are framed by concepts of empowerment, it is not clear for many how such concepts become translated into practice, particularly in the short time-frames offered by NAPs or in the quantitative nature of many of the indicators being used globally. Such a status quo does not enable a more feminist or radical approach to implementation of the WPS resolutions to take place, that is, structural change rather than simply adding WPS to existing systems.

Key considerations for the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in moving forward:

  • NAPs on women, peace and security should be treated no differently than other significant national policies. Similar to other national planning and development processes, NAPs require specific and attributed resourcing, as well as dedicated means to track progress towards implementation. Ideally, national planning processes such as these facilitate the setting of specific goals and the strategies that can be used to reach them, as well as delineating the implementation arrangements for the plan – including oversight structures, monetary allocations and the means of measuring progress towards the goals of the plan.
  • While NAPs were conceived of as a way to strengthen accountability on implementation of the WPS resolutions, it is questionable whether the accountability gap has been closed even by those that have developed NAPs. Monitoring and evaluation reports of implementation are not generally accessible publicly and thereby from a ‘peer’ perspective, it is not possible to evaluate whether these plans are in fact being implemented per design. Greater transparency regarding actual implementation of the specific actions encapsulated in NAPs, and their overall efficacy in advancing the WPS agenda, would lend itself to greater knowledge on whether states are being accountable to their commitments.
  • It is critical in going forward that actions to implement the WPS resolutions do not simply measure or document what is being done i.e the activities. Rather measurement on efficacy needs to focus on results. There may be a case for moving current discourse and approaches to implementation tools from a focus on action or activity plans, to results frameworks and results tools that can capture whether real change has taken place as a result of these initiatives.
  • Pending review processes need to ensure a balance between reviewing process vs substance, with a stronger focus on evaluating whether substantive change and substantive equality have come about in various areas of peace and security as a result of implementation strategies. The global study and other review forums that will inevitably arise as the 2015 deadline approaches, will serve the agenda well by examining implementation from the perspective of substantive equality and rights provisions, and making these concerns central to the next phase of WPS agenda implementation.


Miller, B., Pournik, M., and Swaine, A. (2014). Women in Peace and Security through United Nations Security Resolution 1325: Literature Review, Content Analysis of National Action Plans, and Implementation. Working Paper No. 13, Institute for Global and International Studies. Washington DC: The George Washington University.