Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in the country has been a political project for both civil society and government. Taking off from the global agenda of advancing women’s human rights in the context of armed conflict and conflict transformation, commitment to WPS has been institutionalized through several National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security (NAP WPS): the first generation covering 2010-2016, the second generation that introduced amendments in 2014, and the third generation that includes the period from 2017 to 2022.
LOCALIZATION: TOP-DOWN APPROACH
The first and second generations of the NAP WPS were understandably focused on institution-building, programs and activities-creation, and capacity development; and the cascading effort was that of localization.
Foremost, there was a need to establish and activate an institutional entity that would lead the implementation of the NAP WPS, and this came in the form of the National Steering Committee on Women, Peace and Security (NSC WPS). Member national government agencies (NGAs) were the following: Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA); Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG), inclusive of the Philippine National Police (PNP); Department of Justice (DoJ); Department of National Defense (DND), including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its major services, namely, the Philippine Army (PA), the Philippine Air Force (PAF), and the Philippine Navy (PN); Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF); National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP); Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP); and the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW).
There was also the necessity to come up with programs and activities — mostly, through the Gender and Development Plans and Budget (GPBs) — that aimed to operationalize each of the Action Points contained in the NAP WPS. Accordingly, since the whole conceptual frame of WPS combined gender with conflict and peace (and not just gender and development alone), the imperative was to capacitate duty-bearers in a new but GAD-related institutional commitment — one that was largely based on our obligation to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325.
As all of these were going on, localization was seen as a strategy to bring down the WPS agenda to the local level. The effort was largely a top-down approach, the localization of the NAP or LNAP which was exemplified in the experience of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). In this regard, localization efforts took place as linked to project interventions — such as the establishment of women and peace centers (WPCs) in the five provinces of the ARMM. Needless to say, as the LNAP was a national government project, it reflected the national institutional discourse on WPS. The missing piece of the LNAP was the unique context of the Bangsamoro.
INDIGENIZATION: BOTTOM-UP APPROACH
According to an observation stated in the Women, Peace and Security in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao: A Civil Society Report by the Women Engaged in Action on UNSCR 1325 (WE Act 1325), initiatives in advancing WPS in the region could have taken a different route: that “instead of localizing the NAP, it could have had its own regional action plan (RAP) on WPS; that instead of localization or ‘top down’ approach, it could have opted for its own ‘horizontal’ strategy; and that instead of being a pilot area for localization, it could have pioneered WPS for women in the ARMM.”
This idea was eventually picked up and included in the 2017-2022 NAP WPS, specifically, under Action Point 16 that pointed to the multi-level implementation of WPS where “regional, provincial, and local Action Plans on WPS…shall reflect the unique peace and security context, concerns and contributions of women.” In August 2017, the ARMM Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (RAP WPS) was launched — the first-ever regional instrument on WPS. Currently, similar initiatives are undertaken in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Davao Region, and the Caraga Region.
But rather than seeing them as localization efforts, the challenge is to understand them as indigenization processes where contexts are foundational backdrops, actors as agents of their own actions and decisions, and the resulting commitments owned by those who created them. In other words, it is no longer about cascading down but rather it is now about propagating upwards.
To a large extent, if we are still talking about localization through a top-down approach eight years after the first NAP WPS in the country, then we have not really achieved much — we merely re-echoed, replicated, and reproduced…the act of meaningless compliance, a manifestation of stagnant thinking. On the other hand, if we now use the perspective of indigenization, then we open ourselves and others to context-based innovations and self-driven empowerment. We are now recognizing the very concept and eventual praxis of WPS as a social artefact, borne out of the ideas, processes, and meanings from the people themselves. For example, what will a Bangsamoro Women, Peace and Security (BM-WPS) look like in light of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM)? Or what will be the substance of an Indigenous Women, Peace and Security (I-WPS)? And how will these feed into and enhance the multi-level implementation of the NAP WPS?
October 2018 marks the 18th year of the UNSCR 1325; it is the 8th year of its implementation in the Philippines, covering three generations of NAP WPS. At this point, a more mature and evolved mindset on WPS is simply what we need.
Ma. Lourdes Veneracion-Rallonza, PhD. is an assistant professor at the Department of Political Science of the Ateneo de Manila University.