The United Kingdom (UK) adopted its fifth National Action Plan for the period 2023-2027. Analysis is forthcoming.
The 2018-2022 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.
Global Gender Gap Index 2020
21 out of 153
Arms Trade Treaty Ratified
Military expenditure (2019)
$48.7 billion USD
Explore United Kingdom's National Action Plan
Analysis of the 2023 NAP is forthcoming.
The UK NAP is jointly owned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Department for International Development (DFID), supported by the Stabilisation Unit. It was produced 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.
The UK takes a whole-of-government approach to WPS. The majority of the UK WPS work is jointly led by FCO, MOD and DFID with support from the Stabilisation Unit. Diplomatic, development and defence efforts on WPS are led by policy and programme teams in the UK and abroad and monitored by the cross-government Working Group on WPS.
Civil society remain key partners for the UK, particularly GAPS and its partners in-country, including women’s rights organisations and WHRDs.
The UK recognises the importance of coordinated national and multilateral approaches to security in which every actor understands how and why to promote gender equality, and which are gender-sensitive. It will seek reforms that increase coordination between the security sector, GBV service providers and civil society.
The UK will help to support the implementation of existing NAPs in focus countries (Afghanistan, the DRC, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan), and it will support the development of NAPs where there is local demand to do so. The UK Government will work with a range of stakeholders in each context, including governments, multilateral organisations, civil society and the private sector to do so.
NAP Monitoring and Evaluation
UK Government activity will be monitored by the cross-government working group on WPS throughout the year in partnership with bilateral and multilateral policy and programme teams, including focus country teams.
Civil society is not mentioned in relation to monitoring and evaluation of the NAP.
WILPF's Contributions to the UK's NAP
As a member of the GAPS Network, WILPF UK was involved in the development of the NAP. The NAP also lists the GAPS Network, as one of the key implementing partners. In 2017, WILPF, Amnesty International UK (AI UK) and the Syrian CSO Women Now for Development (WND) held consultations with Syrian women human rights defenders, gender equality advocates and civil society organisations to reflect and strategise on how best to use the UK NAP to translate the UK government’s WPS commitments into tangibly positive impacts for all women and girls inside Syria, as well as those seeking refuge abroad. As a result of these consultations, WILPF, AI UK and WND frame recommendations on each of the four WPS pillars with the aim of safeguarding and advancing women’s human rights.
The NAP implementation period is five years (2018-2022).
The 2018-2022 NAP identifies seven strategic outcomes which set the vision for the UK WPS implementation strategy in conflict settings. These strategic outcomes have been selected for their contributions to the four pillars of WPS, their relevance across the nine focus countries and the ability of the UK to lead or make a significant contribution on them. These include:
- Decision-making: An increase in women’s meaningful and representative participation and leadership in decision making processes, including conflict prevention and peacebuilding at community and national levels;
- Peacekeeping: A gender perspective is consistently applied in the setting and implementation of international standards and mandates for peace operations;
- Gender-based Violence: An increase in the number and scale of interventions that integrate effective measures to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, particularly violence against women and girls which is the most prevalent form of gender-based violence;
- Humanitarian Response: Women’s and girls’ needs are more effectively met by humanitarian actors and interventions through needs-based responses that promote meaningful participation and leadership;
- Security and Justice: Security and justice actors are increasingly accountable to women and girls, and responsive to their rights and needs.
- Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism: Ensure the participation and leadership of women in developing strategies to prevent and counter violent extremism;
UK Capabilities: HMG continues to strengthen its capability, processes and leadership to deliver against WPS commitments.
Strategic outcomes have no specific actions assigned. The NAP articulates UK’s overall priorities for WPS and provides guiding principles for action, but does not set out a prescriptive list of activities which should be undertaken in order to achieve these strategic outcomes, nor does it capture all of the UK’s contributions to the WPS Agenda.
Internationally recognised indicators serve to maintain a situational awareness of WPS issues in the nine focus countries, to support better analysis, plans and activities, and to deliver the seven strategic outcomes. For example, the progress on the strategic outcome 1 (Decision-making) will be tracked on the basis of the following indicators:
- Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments and local governments (SDG 5.5.1);
- Percentage of population who believe decision-making is inclusive and responsive, disaggregated by sex, age, disability and population group (SDG 16.7.2);
- Representation of women among mediators, negotiators and technical experts in formal peace negotiations (WPS Indicator 11a).
****The NAP also notes that a report against every indicator in each focus country is not required.
Monitoring and Evaluation
For the 2018-2022 NAP, the UK adopts a more strategic approach to monitoring, evaluation and learning that maintains accountability to Parliament and streamlines reporting for implementing teams. The monitoring, evaluation and learning framework is intended to describe the UK’s contribution to progress toward the strategic outcomes.
UK Government activity will be monitored by the cross-government working group on WPS throughout the year in partnership with bilateral and multilateral policy and programme teams, including focus country teams. Annual reporting to Parliament will reflect UK activity across departments and funding mechanisms covering diplomacy, development and defence and will be used to hold us to account for delivery of the NAP.
UK Government departments fund work on WPS from their core budgets, such as the FCO’s Global Britain Fund, and the cross-government funds including CSSF.
In line with the 2014 International Development (Gender Equality) Act, all development assistance must meaningfully consider the impact on gender equality.
The Government has also committed to spend more than 50% of DFID’s budget every year in fragile states and regions.
All programme portfolios are assigned to include at least one project marked ‘GEM 2’ indicating its principal objective is the promotion of gender equality.
While the NAP refers many times to the entrenchment of harmful gender norms and its impact on women’s lives, disarmament and the impact of arms on women in conflict is not mentioned in the fourth UK NAP. The minimal references to SALW used in the third NAP are no longer present in the latest version.