ASEAN Launches Plan to Promote Women’s Security in South-East Asia

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and UN Women, launched today the ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on Women, Peace and Security (ASEAN RPA on WPS).

According to a joint press release issued this afternoon, the regional plan of action was adopted by the ASEAN Leaders during the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits in November 2022 as a key deliverable during the term of Cambodia as ASEAN Chair. It will advance commitments to the women, peace and security agenda and turn them into action.

It is a major step forward in ASEAN’s efforts to ensure that its ten Member States recognise and leverage women’s participation and leadership in preventing conflict and building and maintaining peace in the region. These included the Joint Statement on Promoting Women, Peace and Security in 2017; the launch of ASEAN Women for Peace Registry in 2018; and the ASEAN Regional Study on Women, Peace and Security in 2021. All three milestones were supported by USAID and UN Women.

The ASEAN Committee of Women (ACW) and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) spearheaded the development of the ASEAN RPA on WPS with the support of the ASEAN Women, Peace and Security Advisory Group led by Cambodia; the ASEAN-USAID Partnership for Regional Optimisation within the Political-Security and Socio-Cultural Communities (PROSPECT) project; and UN Women’s Empowering Women for Sustainable Peace project, funded by the Governments of Canada and the Republic of Korea.

“The development of the ASEAN RPA on WPS is a major step forward to fulfill ASEAN’s vision in achieving gender equality. Promoting women’s roles and participation across all realms of peace and security ranging from conflict prevention, peace building, preventing violent extremism and tackling emerging security risks such as disaster and pandemics in the region is imperative to reach our goal as inclusive and people-centered Community. ASEAN is committed to continue to forge ahead with advancing WPS agenda and the ASEAN RPA on WPS will guide our ways,” said H.E. Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi, Minister for Women’s Affairs, Cambodia.

“The U.S. government looks forward to continuing our collaboration with ASEAN, other dialogue friends, and development partners to promote and strengthen the crucial role of women’s participation in fostering regional peace and security,” stated U.S. Mission to ASEAN Ambassador, Yohannes A. Abraham. “Building on the USAID Administrator’s leadership co-chairing the inaugural ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, our partnership with ASEAN deepens with the first-ever Regional Plan of Action on Women, Peace and Security. It represents an important milestone to ensure women are key agents of change to catalyse peacebuilding, conflict prevention, and recovery in the region. It also marks a necessary step for implementing national-level action plans to expand and strengthen women’s involvement at the policy-making table for peace and security issues.”

Sarah Knibbs, Regional Director a.i. of UN Women Asia and the Pacific, said: “While United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security stress the key roles played by women in promoting and building peace, the ASEAN region has vulnerabilities and security threats against women that need context-specific interventions and women’s increased role in peace and security processes. UN Women is committed to supporting ASEAN in implementing the Regional Plan of Action, as well as promoting and exchanging knowledge and good practices across ASEAN region and beyond.”

Vicky Singmin, Chargé d’affaires of Canada to ASEAN stated: “The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda is a shared priority for Canada and ASEAN, and it is a core element of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy to achieve sustainable global peace, respecting human rights and dignity, embracing evidence-based decision-making, and reducing inequality. Canada is pleased that our support to UN Women’s Empowering Women for Sustainable Peace initiative has contributed to the development of this historic ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on WPS, and with it, helped open the doors for women peacebuilders to participate in peace dialogues in the region. In support of the further implementation of the WPS agenda, Canada will host a series of WPS Dialogue events in 2023 to enable information sharing and capacity building among ASEAN stakeholders.”

The regional plan of action outlines ways to implement the four main pillars of the women, peace and security agenda – women’s protection, participation, prevention, and relief and recovery – along with implementation, coordination, reporting, and monitoring and evaluation. Echoing the ASEAN-U.S. Joint Statement of the Ministerial Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment on Sept. 30, 2022, the goal is to ensure that the agenda is integrated into all ASEAN actions.

The launch event called for ASEAN Member States to commit to effectively implement the ASEAN RPA on WPS. In addition, an ASEAN Women, Peace and Security website was launched to promote the agenda.