To download as a PDF, please click here.
On Wednesday, August 30, 2023, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (Sasakawa USA) hosted the virtual policy briefing, “Forging a New Path for U.S.-Japan Collaboration on Women, Peace and Security,” featuring remarks by Ms. Sahana Dharmapuri, Director at Our Secure Future, and Ms. Shanti Shoji, Director of Programs at Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA.
In July, Ms. Shoji led a delegation of eight American Women, Peace and Security (WPS) experts on a week-long research trip to Tokyo to gain insights on the status of WPS implementation in Japan and explore potential collaborations with Japanese counterparts. Ms. Dharmapuri, who spearheaded the establishment of the U.S. Congressional caucus on WPS, was one of the delegates who traveled to Japan. In this event, Ms. Shoji and Ms. Dharmapuri shared updates on the current state of WPS in the U.S. and Japan and discussed current challenges to be addressed and opportunities for U.S.-Japan collaboration on WPS. Their remarks were followed by a Q&A discussion with attendees.
Sasakawa USA’s Policy Briefing Series presented this discussion virtually via Zoom. Attendees included distinguished guests from the Washington, D.C. policy community along with members of academia, think tanks, and media, as well as current and retired members of the U.S. military and Japanese Self-Defense Forces, Japanese media, and WPS practitioners from the U.S. and Japan. Dr. Satohiro Akimoto, Chairman and President of Sasakawa USA, moderated the event.
Ms. Shoji’s Introduction to WPS
Ms. Shoji opened the event with a brief summary of the history of Women, Peace and Security (WPS), tracing back its origins in October 2000 with UN Security Council Resolution 1325. UNHCR 1325 formally recognizes that women are uniquely and adversely affected by conflict—which consequently impacts conflict resolution—and also recognizes the critical role women play in the post-conflict peacebuilding process. The four main pillars of the resolution are: Participation, Protection, Prevention, and Relief and Recovery.
In 2004, members of the UN Security Council were encouraged to create and adopt their own National Action Plan (NAP) on WPS to implement Resolution 1325. States were encouraged to collaborate with civil society experts to develop realistic implementation plans suited to their unique needs. Since then, 107 UN member states (approximately 55%) have adopted a National Action Plan. While the adoption of NAPs is an important first step, progress beyond this has been slower than expected. Currently, 30% of the NAPs put in place are outdated and expired. According to studies by the Georgetown Institute of Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS), women remain largely uninvolved in peace negotiations around the globe and gender parity in diplomacy has yet to be reached.
In the United States, the first WPS NAP was adopted in 2011, followed by an additional NAP in 2016. A landmark moment for the U.S. was reached in October 2017, when the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017 was passed under the Trump Administration. This law, the first comprehensive WPS law in the world, requires a whole of government approach to ensure women have active and meaningful roles in the country’s efforts to produce peace and long-term security. Since then, two National Strategies on WPS have been implemented, in 2019 and 2023.
Additionally, in 2020 a bipartisan WPS caucus was established in Congress to educate congressmembers and the public on Women, Peace and Security, as well as to provide oversight on National Strategy implementation. The caucus was brought about by the efforts of civil society actors, specifically Ms. Dharmapuri of Our Secure Future, who played a critical role in starting the conversation about forming a caucus and performing the necessary legwork to translate those discussions into concrete actions. Most recently, the U.S. co-chaired with Romania the WPS Focal Points Network Capitol Level Meeting in D.C. in June 2023. This conference brought together nearly 300 participants from over 50 nations—including Japan—for discussions on how to advance WPS implementation across the globe.
In Japan, the WPS agenda was first implemented with the creation of their inaugural NAP in 2015, which was followed by a revised NAP in 2019 and, most recently, a 2023 NAP which was released in Japanese in April 2023. Another key advancement took place in October 2022 with the establishment of the caucus-like group, the Diet Members Network for Women, Peace and Security. The creation of this network has put Japan on the map as the only other country in addition to the United States to have a body of legislators focused on WPS. WPS has also begun to appear in Japan’s strategic documents such as the revised Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy which Prime Minister Kishida introduced while visiting India in March 2023. This progress has been significantly aided by the dedicated efforts of civil society actors, including the Peacebuilding Program at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Tokyo and JICA, as well champions of WPS like the Honorable Yoko Kamikawa, former Minister of Justice who was recently appointed in September 2023 as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Sasakawa USA has also taken steps to advance WPS within the framework of the U.S.-Japan relationship with the 2023 Sasakawa USA Emerging Experts Delegation (SEED). The SEED program provides emerging U.S. policy experts and thought leaders the opportunity to travel to Japan for a week of engagements with Japanese counterparts who are working in the same field to exchange insights and generate new ideas for U.S.-Japan collaboration. This year’s SEED research trip was on the theme of Women, Peace and Security and included American experts representing the key stakeholders advancing WPS implementation in the U.S.:
A complete recap of the 2023 SEED trip on WPS is available to read on the Sasakawa USA website.
Ms. Dharmapuri’s Assessment of WPS Implementation in Japan
Following Ms. Shoji’s remarks, Ms. Dharmapuri began by sharing her insights from participating in the 2023 SEED research trip. She identified two main similarities in the challenges that Japan and the United States face with implementing the WPS agenda:
The United States and Japan enjoy one of the strongest bilateral relationships in the world, and our core values, economies and defense systems are deeply intertwined. Hence, WPS is an excellent venue for U.S.-Japan cooperation in the sense that it reinforces our shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Japan can additionally contribute the valuable expertise it has developed in areas such as disaster preparedness and response, which intersect with the WPS agenda. If Japan were to pursue legislation in the same vein as the United States, this would be an excellent opportunity for Japan to ascend into a new role as an international leader in advancing the status of women and promoting a peaceful and inclusive vision for global society.
Areas for Possible U.S.-Japan Cooperation on WPS
From their engagements in Japan during the SEED trip, Ms. Shoji and Ms. Dharmapuri gleaned new insights into how the United States and Japan could mutually benefit from pursuing collaboration on WPS.
Japan has extensive experience addressing and preparing for natural disasters, including earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and even volcanic eruptions. They are a global leader in DRR and have incorporated a gender perspective into their planning to ensure that the unique needs of women are met in any kind of disaster scenario. For example, developing checklists for disaster relief centers to ensure they have the necessary supplies to provide for the needs of women and girls and are arranged in a way that minimizes the possibility of sexual and domestic violence against women, which is frequently observed in these post-disaster environments.
In Japan, entities like the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) are natural partners to collaborate with the U.S. Agency for International Development. Since both organizations already operate in many of the same countries, this is an opportune venue for parallel integration of gender perspectives and the core pillars laid out in UNHCR 1325 which will yield beneficial outcomes for not just the U.S. and Japan, but more importantly, for those receiving aid.
The SEED Delegation learned from its meetings in Tokyo that there is interest in pursuing WPS legislation in Japan similar to the WPS Act of 2017. The United States is ideally suited to share their experience of drafting and passing legislation to support Japan with this process.
In the U.S., there is the Georgetown Institute of Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) which was established by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to supply policymakers with tangible statistics and information to support their decision making with regard to WPS. There are individual academics and experts in Japan working on these issues, but Japan could benefit from formalizing WPS as an area of study in academia to incentivize more research and attention on this issue. Resource sharing between academics in the U.S. and Japan would be of benefit.
Creating a working group of civil society experts and government stakeholders from both countries is one easy way to begin the process of collaboration between the U.S. and Japan. Bringing together actors who are working on WPS from different angles and keeping them informed of each other’s progress will ensure that the momentum is maintained in both countries’ efforts to integrate WPS through a whole-of-society approach.
Comments from Ms. Tomoko Matsuzawa (Japanese Ministry of Defense)
Prior to the audience Q&A session, Ms. Tomoko Matsuzawa of the Indo-Pacific Regional Policy Division, Bureau of Defense Policy, at the Japanese Ministry of Defense (JMOD) joined the panelists on screen to share brief updates on what the Ministry of Defense is doing to advance WPS integration in its operations.
JMOD has been conducting WPS activities fairly regularly, especially in an international context. Given the increased importance of the issue, they recently strengthened their efforts to advance WPS by establishing a new position of Director for International Cooperation on Women, Peace, and Security, which Ms. Matsuzawa has taken on since June 2023. JMOD also recently set up its headquarters for WPS promotion in the Ministry of Defense and held its first meeting under Parliamentary Vice Minister of Defense, The Honorable Kimi Onoda. All generals as well as other key leaders within JMOD attended this first meeting, which established that JMOD would take a whole-ministry approach to its WPS activities.
JMOD’s activities include incorporating gender protection training in its joint exercises in the region, such as a recent peace keeping exercise Ms. Matsuzawa joined which was hosted by the U.S. government and Malaysian government. Instructors from Japan, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand provided comprehensive gender protection training to over 30 participants coming from over 10 nationalities. JMOD is also striving to expand its involvement in the WPS international network. In addition to peacekeeping operations (PKO), JMOD is including WPS perspectives in its humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capacity building activities.
A Q&A with the audience followed the presentation covering a wide range of topics. Below are some of the topics discussed:
Sasakawa USA is grateful to Ms. Dharmapuri for proving her insights and reflections from the 2023 SEED trip. Sasakawa USA also thanks the Q&A participants and attendees for joining us in this engaging discussion.
The summarized views of the speakers expressed herein are entirely the work of Sasakawa USA and do not represent the official positions of any of the speakers.
For more information about Sasakawa USA’s Policy Briefing Series, click here.