The United Kingdom (UK) adopted its most recent National Action Plan (NAP) in 2018 for the period 2018-2022. The NAP was developed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Ministry of Defence (MOD), and Department for International Development (DFID), and supported by the Stabilisation Unit. The NAP was developed in collaboration with civil society and academics, including the Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS) Network of UK-based NGOs and the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security, and following in-country civil society consultations in Afghanistan, Burma, Somalia and Syria. Additionally, WILPF International, Amnesty International UK, and Women Now for Development, have participated in consultations with other Syrian civil society organisations and peace activists to formulate strategies on the best ways to create positive outcomes for Syrian women and girls. The NAP outlines seven main objectives towards the implementation of UNSCR 1325. These include addressing decision-making; peacekeeping; gender-based violence; humanitarian response; security and justice; violent extremism; and UK capabilities. The NAP outlines a monitoring and evaluation framework that consists of strategic outcomes and indicators. The NAP does not include an allocated budget, but indicates that government departments fund work on WPS from their core budgets.
The UK’s fourth NAP is preceded by three other NAPs, adopted in 2006, 2010, and 2014 and implemented for the period 2010-2013 and 2014-2017, respectively. While the engagement with the WPS agenda has become more detailed and substantive with each subsequent NAP, the approach to WPS implementation still remains largely international. Nevertheless, the fourth NAP strengthens opportunities for local women civil society to initiate partnerships that address local needs in the UK’s efforts to build security and stability abroad. However, gaps remain in other key areas. Although domestic strategies such as on ending violence against women and immigration are recognised as complementary, the focus remains externally focused. This means the impact of gendered violence within the country, from immigration to the status of women in Northern Ireland, remain unaddressed. In addition, although the previous version of the NAP (2014-2017) expressed the UK commitment to control illicit small arms and light weapons, references to disarmament are missing in this NAP, particularly in reference to the consistent transfer of arms from the UK to various conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East.
The UK reported on the implementation of its NAP, as well as activities related to the implementation of the WPS agenda, in its national reporting for Beijing+25 and in preparation for CSW64 (2020). Specifically, the country provided updates on the activities of its fourth NAP while also addressing efforts towards conflict prevention, supporting women human rights defenders, and tackling sexual exploitation and abuse within the UN system, among others.
The most recent history of armed conflict in the UK’s history is the conflict in Northern Ireland, also known as “The Troubles,” which took place between the 1960s and the 1990s. The signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 ended a decades-long conflict between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Women played a key role throughout the peace process, especially with the participation of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition in Track I negotiations. The agreement included a provision of securing women’s right to full and equal political participation, with a focus on “promoting social inclusion, including in particular community development and the advancement of women in public life.”
Aside from its history of armed conflict domestically, the UK is also a contributor to overseas military operations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2019, the UK was among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest military expenditure as well as being among the top 10 arms exporters.
The UK is also a major contributor to humanitarian aid, including being a contributing donor to the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, a global partnership that works to empower women in conflict zones and humanitarian crises. The UK is also a partner of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies, a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to mitigate and provide accountability for gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies. In 2019, the UK was the UN Women’s largest regular resources contributor with USD 16.22 million and fourth-largest contributor to UN Women with USD 26.74 million.
At the multilateral level, the UK is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, holding veto power on all Council decisions.