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Half the Sky: Advancing Women's Roles In Security and Sustainable Peacebuilding
February 2, 2024

Half the Sky: Advancing Women’s Roles In Security and Sustainable Peacebuilding

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) collaborates with key stakeholders to enhance knowledge and discussion among ASEAN countries on the Women, Peace & Security (WPS) agenda. Over the past five years, this partnership has led to significant initiatives to strengthen regional cooperation in Southeast Asia for WPS.



The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has made notable strides in reproductive health, women’s workforce engagement, entrepreneurship, and education gender parity in recent decades. Despite these achievements, challenges like gender-based violence, discrimination, limited women’s political leadership, and unequal economic opportunities persist. These issues are both a cause and effect of conflict and insecurity, highlighting the foundational importance of women’s participation in key decision-making for sustainable development and peace. In 2017, to underscore the significance of women’s involvement in peace processes, conflict resolution, and security, ASEAN leaders adopted the Joint Statement on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) at the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila.

The statement acknowledges the essential roles of peace, security, and gender equality in sustainable development, and commitment to the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on the WPS agenda in Southeast Asia. Since then, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has actively supported ASEAN to promote the WPS agenda through various initiatives, including the first ASEAN Regional Symposium on WPS (2019), the ASEAN Regional Study on Women, Peace and Security (2021), the Regional Plan of Action on WPS (2022), and the High-Level Summit Dialogue on WPS (2023).

To provide a solid, evidence-based foundation for WPS across member states, USAID through the ASEAN-USAID Partnership for Regional Optimization in the Political-Security and Socio-cultural Communities (PROSPECT) project together UN Women partnered with ASEAN to research and publish the ASEAN Regional Study on Women, Peace and Security in 2021. This comprehensive study, led by members of the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW) and ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) WPS Advisory Group, offered insights and recommendations for implementing the Joint Statement, including developing a Regional Plan of Action.

Building on this momentum, the study catalyzed the development of ASEAN’s first-ever Regional Plan of Action on WPS, completed in record time of just nine months from start to finish and launched in December 2022 with support from USAID, through the ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT project, and UN Women. It now serves as a policy framework for regional commitments and national implementation, recognizing individual and shared challenges in executing the WPS agenda. This includes evolving and emerging security threats, limited funding, limited awareness of the WPS agenda and how to localize it at the national level.

At the Regional Plan of Action launch in Phnom Penh, H.E. Kheng Samvada, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Cambodia, remarked, “We appreciated UN Women and the ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT project funded by the United States Agency for International Development. They provided technical support but also facilitated discussions to come up with a regional plan that is understandable, realistic, fits the local context, and is doable by all stakeholders.” The Regional Plan of Action on WPS received ministerial endorsement and was officially adopted by the ASEAN Leaders during the 40th/41st ASEAN Summits in November 2022 as a key deliverable.

With a roadmap in place, the next step involved mobilizing key stakeholders across ASEAN member states to drive its implementation. In July 2023, ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT joined ASEAN dialogue and development partners to organize a High-Level Summit Dialogue on WPS. More than 150 government representatives, gender experts, diplomats and members of civil society and international organizations joined the Summit in person and online to discuss progress made and next steps to integrate a gender lens into the peace and security context of ASEAN. The Summit helped raise awareness of the new Regional Plan of Action on WPS, and enabled regional, cross-sectoral learning and exchange on current issues while mobilizing support from key stakeholders and partners. USAID looks forward to continuing to work with ASEAN to promote women’s leadership and participation in building more inclusive, peaceful, and stable societies.

CONTACT: USAID/RDMA ASEAN Office jakartausaidasean@usaid.gov