The United States (US) adopted its most recent Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) action plan in 2019, for the period 2019-2023, in the form of a WPS National Strategy. The Strategy was the result of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 (signed into law on October 6, 2017), which mandated a government wide strategy on WPS within one year, focused on the increased participation of women in conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts.
The strategy identifies three strategic objectives that focus on increasing women’s preparedness and ability to participate in efforts to promote lasting peace; ensuring the safety and protection of women and girls, including access to government and private assistance programs; and improving institutionalization and capacity to ensure sustainable WPS efforts. Each strategic objective identifies corresponding actions and goals. The strategy does not have an allocated budget, tasking individual departments to estimate their resource requirements.
In follow-up to the adoption of the National Strategy, the US Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, and Agency for International Development have released detailed implementation plans with further information about how each agency will approach and implement the mandated provisions of the WPS Act and Strategy.
The US national strategy on WPS was preceded by two National Action Plans (NAP) adopted in 2011 and 2016 for the period 2011-2015 and 2016-2018, respectively. The first two NAPs are similar in level of detail and areas of focus, identifying five overall thematic objectives: national integration and institutionalization; participation in peace processes and decision-making; protection from violence; conflict prevention; and access to relief and recovery. The US WPS Strategy is significantly shorter than the US NAPs, and does not acknowledge the previously implemented NAPs in its introduction or the remainder of the document. While all three documents approach the WPS agenda through the prism of achieving national and global security, the WPS strategy specifically highlights that the US engagement with “WPS principles at the global level will be selective” and “in ways that advance America’s national interests” (p. 6). Both the WPS NAPs and the WPS Strategy approach the implementation of the WPS agenda mostly internationally, with the domestic component focusing on gender integration and training across defense and security institutions.
The US has engaged in military interventions outside of its borders throughout the country’s history, and is presently engaged in military operations in several locations around the world, such as Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. The US also has numerous permanent military bases abroad and participates in joint training operations in places such as Poland, Ukraine, Kuwait, South Korea, Japan, Yemen, and Somalia, as well as being a major troop contributor to NATO.
The US is the world’s largest military spender, with over $700 billion spent on its military budget alone in 2019 (excluding intelligence, nuclear weapons expenditure, and the Department of Homeland Security). It is also a nuclear-armed state, the world’s largest supplier of arms, and home country for a significant portion of the growing private military contracting industry. While in 2013 the US signed the Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates the flow of weapons across international borders, the US government in 2019 informed the UN Secretary-General that the US does not intend to become a party to the treaty.
The US is a large aid contributor, including 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. The US also holds considerable influence in world banking institutions.
At the multilateral level, the US is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, holding veto power on all Council decisions.