Promoting women’s meaningful participation, leadership and engagement in decision-making at all levels is both a moral and a strategic imperative for U.S. foreign policy and national security. Wherever the rights of women and girls are under threat, so, too, is democracy, peace, and stability.
Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is proud to release the 2023 Women, Peace, and Security Strategy (WPS) and National Action Plan. With this Strategy, we renew our commitment to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, consistent with the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, which codified our decades-long, sustained commitment to the principles of the WPS agenda. This updated Strategy reflects critical shifts in our global landscape—including geopolitical changes, a rise in climate-related crises, and advancements in technology—and maintains a strong focus on five core lines of effort:
I. Participation – Seek and support the preparation and meaningful participation of women and girls in civic and political leadership, in informal and formal decision-making processes, and in institutions related to peace and security.
II. Protection – Promote the protection of the human rights of women and girls, and prevent and respond to all forms of gender-based violence (GBV) across the continuum of peace, conflict, and crisis contexts, including conflict-related sexual violence.
III. Relief, Response, and Recovery – Prioritize gender-responsive policies and programs to support the safety, participation, and leadership of women and girls in U.S. government responses to conflict, crises, and disasters, and provide safe, equitable access to humanitarian assistance.
IV. Integration and Institutionalization – Integrate WPS principles across U.S. policies and programs to strengthen the institutionalization of comprehensive gender analyses and improve gender equality outcomes.
V. Partnerships – Encourage partners to mainstream WPS principles across policies and strategies, and strengthen capacity to improve gender equality in processes and institutions connected to peace and security decision-making.
The Biden-Harris Administration Commitment to Advancing Women, Peace and Security
The WPS agenda is a cornerstone of the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to prevent conflict and promote the safety and security of women and girls, bolstering the implementation of the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability, the U.S. Strategy to Anticipate, Prevent and Respond to Atrocities, and the U.S Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally. WPS is also a core priority in our National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, which enshrines the advancement of gender equity and equality as a strategic imperative across U.S. domestic and foreign policy. Since the start of the Biden-Harris Administration, the President and Vice President have made historic advances in strengthening women’s meaningful participation in national security, defense, and political leadership—and with the 2023 Strategy, will continue to do so as a national security priority. New and ongoing actions correspond with each of the lines of effort guiding the 2023 Strategy, including:
I. Advancing women’s meaningful participation in peace and security decision-making, leadership and institutions. To date, the Biden-Harris Administration has:
- Promoted women’s meaningful participation and protection in the U.S. military. As Commander-in-Chief, President Biden has made it a top priority to eliminate obstacles to women’s military service through unprecedented actions to promote their safety, inclusion, health and wellbeing, including by advancing historic military justice reform and expanding support for military survivors of gender-based violence as recommended by the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, women commanders have risen to unprecedented ranks, including Admiral Lisa Franchetti, nominated to be the first woman to serve as the Chief of Naval Operations and on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Admiral Linda Fagan, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Coast Guard’s first woman to hold the rank of four-star admiral and the first woman Service Chief of any U.S. military service.
- Supported women in law enforcement and homeland security. Through the Women in Law Enforcement Mentoring Program, the Department of Homeland Security has facilitated mentorship and learning opportunities for women serving in federal law enforcement agencies, pairing those currently serving with retired and current senior level law enforcement executives who provide career advice and recommendations in order to improve retention and advancement. The sixth cohort will deploy in January 2024.
- Strengthened women’s meaningful participation in conflict prevention and resolution. Through the WPS Incentive Fund, USAID invests in women’s leadership and empowerment to help break cycles of conflict and crisis, counter violent extremism, and build peace and stability. Since 2017, the WPS Incentive Fund has provided more than $70 million in economic support and development assistance in 17 countries. In Fiscal Year 2022, the program delivered $6.5 million in Haiti, Burundi, Mauritania, Libya, and Armenia.
- Advanced women’s and girls’ civic and political leadership through the Summits for Democracy. Announced at the first Summit for Democracy hosted by President Biden in December 2021, the USAID-led Advancing Women’s and Girls’ Civic and Political Leadership Initiative dismantles barriers and builds the leadership pipeline to support women’s meaningful participation in political, peacebuilding and transition processes. USAID is providing more than $15 million to this initiative and is beginning program implementation in eight focus countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Tanzania, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Kyrgyz Republic, and Yemen. At the second Summit for Democracy, USAID also launched the Transform Digital Spaces Initiative, with investments of up to $6 million over three years, to prevent and address technology-facilitated gender-based violence, especially violence perpetrated against women in politics and public life. The Department of State also announced investments in SHE WINS (Support Her Empowerment: Women’s Inclusion for New Security), a nearly $10 million initiative that advances the leadership of local women and women-led civil society organizations to address peace and security challenges in their communities, with projects in Lebanon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Papua New Guinea, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.
Alongside the release of the 2023 WPS Strategy, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing several actions to further strengthen women’s participation in peace and security processes, including by:
- Ensuring women’s meaningful participation in Ukraine. This fall, the Department of State’s Conflict and Stabilization Operations Bureau will launch a new program with $2 million in Ukraine supplemental funding to support priorities identified by the Government of Ukraine in their recently updated WPS National Action Plan. Recognizing women as vital actors in the war effort and at the center of future recovery, this initiative will amplify the contributions women have made in Ukraine’s national political leadership and local communities for years while addressing a gap in women’s meaningful participation in governance during wartime.
- Building the evidence-base on technology-facilitated gender-based violence. Advancing the research objectives of the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse, this fall, USAID is contributing an additional $300,000 to the What Works Phase 2 Program with the Government of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office to contribute to the Sexual Violence Research Initiative’s (SVRI) targeted call for proposals on technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV). This will support SVRI’s small grant funding pool for TFGBV research, including efforts to better understand the mental health impacts of online violence targeting women leaders, and women with disabilities, indigenous women, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender women, among others. This research will improve understanding of actions needed to tackle TFGBV, which is a demonstrated tactic by state and non-state actors to silence, intimidate and discredit women political and public figures, thereby undermining their civic and political engagement and eroding democratic norms.
II. Promoting the protection of the human rights of women and girls, and preventing and responding to all forms of GBV in conflict and crisis. To date, the Biden-Harris Administration has:
- Promoted accountability for conflict-related sexual violence. In November 2022, President Biden signed the Presidential Memorandum on Promoting Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, directing the U.S. government to use all existing tools to promote accountability for perpetrators of CRSV globally, including those pertaining to sanctions, visa eligibility, and security assistance. In June 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration imposed sanctions targeting actors who perpetrate this abuse—marking the first time that a dedicated focus on conflict-related sexual violence in furtherance of the Presidential Memorandum has led to the imposition of U.S. sanctions. President Biden has further integrated a focus on accountability for conflict-related sexual violence and all acts of GBV through the Executive Order on Imposing Sanctions on Certain Persons Destabilizing Sudan and Undermining the Goal of a Democratic Transition.
Alongside the release of the 2023 WPS Strategy, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing several actions to further promote the protection of women and girls in crisis and conflict, including by:
- Bolstering services for GBV and protection in Haiti. In Fiscal Year 2023, USAID provided more than $12.8 million for protection activities in Haiti. These activities will continue though Fiscal Year 2024 and will support GBV prevention and response services for psychosocial support, case management, referrals to specialized services, health care, and community-based interventions, such as safe spaces for women and girls.
- Promoting stability by advancing efforts to end child marriage globally. In addition to being a human rights abuse and practice that undermines sustainable development, child, early and forced marriage is associated with lower rates of economic productivity and national stability. On International Day of the Girl 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration announced that for the first time, the United States will contribute to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)–United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Global Program to End Child Marriage, which works in 12 countries in Africa and South Asia to promote the rights of adolescent girls by increasing access to education and reducing risk of early and forced marriage.
III. Prioritizing women and girls in relief, response and recovery. To date, the Biden-Harris Administration has:
- Enhanced services and support for survivors of GBV in emergency and conflict settings. In December 2022, the State Department and USAID revived and expanded Safe from the Start ReVisioned, a flagship program to provide lifesaving services and support to survivors of gender-based violence in emergency and conflict settings. The initiative demonstrates the United States’ commitment to promoting women’s leadership, prioritizing support and advocacy for GBV prevention and response programming, and shifting funding, influence, and decision-making power to women and girls within humanitarian response systems. In Fiscal Year 2022, USAID dedicated $113 million to GBV programming through this initiative, supporting over 3.2 million people in 40 countries. In May 2023, the State Department awarded approximately $2 million in Ukraine supplemental funding to support survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence in Ukraine. This 30-month project advances survivor-centered approaches to justice and accountability by offering survivors and local GBV service providers a range of support services to help individuals and communities recover and thrive.
Alongside the release of the 2023 WPS Strategy, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing additional efforts to prioritize women and girls throughout relief, response, and recovery efforts by:
- Investing in the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund. In Fiscal Year 2023, USAID dedicated $10 million to the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund in Ukraine, Haiti, and in support of addressing gender disparities in access to food assistance through the Global Food Security Response. Since 2014, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund has supported diverse local and grassroots leaders and their organizations (including women-led organizations, organizations of persons with disabilities and LGBTQI+-led organizations) in conflict and crisis settings worldwide.
IV. Integrating WPS principles across U.S. policies and programs. To date, the Biden-Harris Administration has:
- Institutionalized WPS expertise throughout the Department of Defense by investing in the Gender Advisory workforce. To guide the strategic integration of WPS across the Department of Defense (DoD), DoD is establishing a Gender Advisor workforce across the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, Military Departments and Services and Combatant Commands to promote women’s meaningful participation in our own force and with partner nations.
- Incorporated WPS across Global Fragility Act implementation. In selecting partner locations for implementation of the Global Fragility Act and Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability (GFA), the Biden-Harris Administration measured gender inequality as a key indicator of potential instability. Extensive stakeholder consultations were held with women leaders, women-led organizations, and women’s rights networks, to inform ten-year whole-of-government partner country and regional plans. From enhancing local gender-responsive early warning systems and community dialogue to strengthening human rights, GBV response, and economic empowerment for marginalized groups, GFA programming reflects an understanding that empowering women is critical to preventing conflict and building sustainable peace.
- Linked WPS and climate security. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to addressing the gendered impacts of the climate crisis and elevating women as leaders in climate risk mitigation, adaptation and response. In September, the State Department released the U.S. Strategy to Respond to the Effects of Climate Change on Women, and since 2021, State and USAID have implemented an expanse of programs and initiatives to support women environmental defenders, promote gender-sensitive approaches to environmental justice, and elevate women’s participation in environmental policy development and decision-making. In the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience, the U.S. government creates adaptation programs with a focus on gender, inclusive development and conflict sensitivity considerations.
Alongside the release of the 2023 WPS Strategy, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing several actions to further institutionalize WPS principles throughout our national security policies and processes, including by:
- Embedding WPS in defense engagements. DoD will take steps to further WPS in the Western Hemisphere through two Ministry of Defense-level efforts. Secretary Austin and Chilean Defense Minister Maya Fernandez committed to create a WPS Subcommittee to the Defense Consultative Committee. This Subcommittee, formally established in July 2023, will be the first dedicated working group on WPS for an OSD-led bilateral engagement and will enable a closer relationship with Chile through WPS. DoD will also host the fourth iteration of the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas WPS Ad-Hoc Working Group in Spring 2024.
- Training U.S. government personnel on advancing women’s participation in peace processes through negotiation simulations. The State Department’s Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) within the Conflict and Stabilization Operations Bureau, advises and trains U.S. government personnel on effective strategies for peace and conflict negotiations. This month, the NSU is launching a negotiation simulation with the U.S. Institute of Peace on addressing resistance to women’s inclusion in negotiations and peace processes. The simulation will be used in training and capacity-building, and will be customized to implement with partner country diplomatic corps.
V. Promoting partnerships to build capacity and elevate the WPS agenda throughout our foreign policy and security cooperation and assistance. To date, the Biden-Harris Administration has:
- Co-chaired the 2023 WPS-Focal Points Network. Throughout 2023, the United States co-chaired the UN Women WPS Focal Points Network (FPN) in partnership with Romania, coordinating a week-long Capital Level Conference in June 2023, which convened nearly 300 representatives from among the 100 member states and regional organizations in the Network, states and organizations outside the Network, as well as civil society, legislative leaders, private sector and academia, to discuss the status of WPS and avenues for bridging the gap between policy and practice. Romania will host a follow-on Capital Level Conference in November 2023. The U.S., Romania, and UN Women also convened a high-level Ministerial side event during the 78th UN General Assembly as part of the WPS-FPN, with over 20 countries.
- Convened countries to combat online harassment and abuse against women leaders. A commitment from the first Summit for Democracy and launched at the 66th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the Biden-Harris Administration co-founded the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse, which currently has 14 participating governments, and brings together international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to prioritize, understand, prevent, and address the growing scourge of technology-facilitated gender-based violence, which disproportionately impacts women and LGBTQI+ political and public figures, leaders, journalists and activists.
Alongside the release of the 2023 WPS Strategy, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing recent action to further strengthen partnerships that advance WPS by:
- Supporting regional WPS capacity building. In September 2023, the State Department awarded approximately $500,000 for a project to provide technical assistance to WPS Centers of Excellence, contributing to the development of standards for WPS Centers and expanding regional WPS expertise. The project will strengthen relationships and facilitate consultations between governments and civil society stakeholders to develop strategies, approaches and solutions to implementing WPS principles in practice. The project will also leverage networks of WPS experts and leaders to foster learning, deepen collaboration, and raise awareness of WPS issues through existing and future WPS Centers in Kosovo, Colombia, and Indonesia.