CANBERRA — After a 12-month delay in the government’s delivery of Australia’s second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, work is expected to launch in July — if politics don’t get in the way.
Civil society groups were heavily involved in the push for the first NAP and consulted with the government during its development. But despite this, many felt it overlooked their concerns, with no clear role to provide ongoing support or monitoring in the plan’s delivery.
On Jan. 23, a consultation document was released by the Australian WPS Coalition to support the development and design of the second NAP. The sixth report of the Annual Civil Society Dialogue on Women, Peace and Security summarized insights from dialogues conducted in 2018, with the goal of strengthening engagement this time around.
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The WPS Coalition conducts dialogues annually with civil society and government around women’s peace and security and the effectiveness of NAP. In 2018, the focus on strengthening civil society engagement delivered a total of 17 recommendations, covering four areas of concern to civil society: resourcing civil society engagement; enabling diversity; representation, partnerships, and collaboration; and strengthening accountability.
WPS Coalition’s Ludmilla Kwitko explained at the report launch that these recommendations were not new — and were suggestions made many times in reports over the past 15 years.
Rachel Livingston, assistant secretary with the Office for Women, the lead government agency for NAP, said the message about civil society engagement is being received loud and clear.
The government’s own independent review of the first NAP, published in December last year, also advocated for a greater role for civil society, the authors argued that civil society needed a clearly defined role in monitoring, evaluation, and accountability of the next NAP, including an allocated budget.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Livingston acknowledged that the first NAP was “vague” on the issue of civil society, and said the WPS report was being used by the Office for Women and other implementing agencies to make recommendations to government on how the relationship should be worded under the new plan. Looking at the best practice internationally will be part of the office’s decision-making, she said.
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Livingston added that civil society must be able to influence policy from the ground up and not just at the end, which she believes is the “default mechanism that governments tend to have when engaging with anyone outside of government.”
The process of designing the second NAP is already underway with a draft for public consultation expected to be ready in the coming months for further feedback and engagement. There are no current plans to change the final delivery date of the NAP in July — despite a looming federal election and leadership change after the minister for women, Kelly O’Dwyer, announced she would not be seeking re-election.
“We are progressing as if nothing is happening in the middle of the year,” Livingston said. “We don’t want to pause and see what happens through an election and then find ourselves with a lot of work to do.”
“The current National Action Plan has enjoyed really strong bipartisan support and we feel that what we have been working on to date — which is very well developed — would similarly enjoy support regardless of what happens at the election,” she said.