The ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on Women, Peace and Security (ASEAN RPA on WPS) – which outlines ways to implement the four main pillars of the WPS agenda – has been launched by the bloc in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and UN Women.

In a December 5 press release, UN Women said the regional action plan was adopted by the ASEAN leaders at their recent summit and related meetings as a key deliverable during the Cambodia’s term as ASEAN chair.

The plan outlines ways to implement the four main WPS pillars – women’s protection, participation, prevention, and relief and recovery – along with implementation, coordination, reporting, and monitoring and evaluation. It was designed to advance commitments to women’s peace and security and turn them into action.

Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi said the development of the ASEAN RPA on WPS is a major step forward towards fulfilling ASEAN’s vision of 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 an inclusive and people-centred community,” she said.

“ASEAN is committed to forging ahead with advancing the WPS agenda and the ASEAN RPA on WPS will guide our progress,” she added.

US ambassador to ASEAN Yohannes Abraham said the US looks forward to continuing collaboration with the bloc as well as other dialogue and development partners to promote and strengthen the crucial role of women’s participation in fostering regional peace and security.

He added that the regional action plan would build on the USAID administrator’s leadership co-chairing the inaugural ASEAN-US Ministerial Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, and deepen its partnership with the regional bloc.

He continued that it represents an important milestone to ensuring that women are key agents of change to catalyse peacebuilding, conflict prevention, and recovery across the region. It also marks a necessary step in implementing national-level action plans to expand and strengthen women’s involvement at the policy-making table on peace and security issues.

Sarah Knibbs, regional director of UN Women in Asia and the Pacific, said the agenda was founded with a simple but transformative idea that peace is fundamentally linked to gender equality.

She added that the ASEAN RPA on WPS provides a critical framework for realising a more inclusive and sustainable peace in the region and a starting point to mainstream WPS into peace and security decision-making, including on peacekeeping operations and a response to increasing non-traditional security threats that risk undermining peace and security of this region.

ASEAN has established many measures and strategies, including the joint statement on the Advancement of Women for Peace and Security in 2017, the ASEAN Women for Peace in 2018, and the ASEAN Regional Study on Women for Peace and Security in Cambodia, 2021. All three of these major events were supported by USAID and UN Women.

The ASEAN Committee on 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. It was supported by ASEAN Women, the 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 South Korea.