How localization supports practical solutions for women, peace, and security

10/2020 | Nanako Tamaru and Mirsad “Miki” Jacevic

This week marks the 20th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) which is the first of eleven resolutions that comprise the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda. The WPS agenda provides the basis for galvanizing worldwide efforts to address the many challenges that women and girls face in conflict-affected contexts. WPS priorities and goals are organized around four pillars: (1) women’s equal participation in peace and security decision-making processes; (2) protection of women’s and girls’ from sexual and gender-based violence; (3) the role women in conflict prevention including the prevention of violence against women and girls, and (4) more gender-aware humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts that reinforce women’s capacities to provide leadership in relief and recovery.

Over the past twenty years, civil society organizations, governments, the UN and others have sought to implement UNSCR 1325 and its sister resolutions through national- and local-level strategies (also known as National Action Plans (NAPs)). NAPs play a critical role in making the WPS agenda a lived reality for women and girls. These national-level government policies translate global WPS principles and goals into context-specific priorities across the four pillars and inform program, funding, partnership, and other decision-making processes. Globally, 86 NAPs have been developed at the national level but only a handful have been localized further to the county or municipal level.

On October 5th I interviewed Miki Jacevic a long-time WPS practitioner and NAP expert who has been supporting women peacebuilders for nearly 30 years, to discuss what we’ve learned about localizing the WPS agenda and what lessons we can share with the broader peacebuilding community. Our conversation has been summarized below in a question and answer format.


Nanako Tamaru: You’ve been working to advance women’s leadership in peace and security for decades and your work has spanned all corners of the globe, from Afghanistan to Colombia, Indonesia, Liberia, as well as in your home country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. How have you seen localization take shape in these conflict-affected contexts?

Miki Jacevic: It’s important to understand that “localization” is not a checklist, not a precise formula – it’s more like an alchemy of interventions. The process that unfolds and develops is unique to each locale, point in time, the people involved at that exact time period, etc. What localization looks like right now, will be different in years to come in the same location with the same people.

Still, the localization of peace is critical because that’s what actually impacts people’s day-to-day lives. Conflict and violence (as well as peace) ultimately occur at the local level. While national-level politics and peace negotiations can provide a critical framework for achieving peace, people often feel very removed from these processes and don’t feel represented at those levels.

The same can be said about the WPS agenda. NAPs are important for the global implementation of UNSCR 1325, but the localization process is what makes the WPS agenda (and peacebuilding broadly) more concrete. To date, 86 NAPs have been developed at the national level, but only ten of those have been devolved into Local Action Plans (LAPs). Over the last decade, I have supported over 50 countries as well as multilateral organizations to develop strategies at the regional, national, and local levels.

The development of LAPs translates broad national-level policies into more tangible issues like improving local security needs, rebuilding war-torn homes, or making specific institutions more accountable. It’s not just about hard security at the border; it’s also about human security in our villages and towns. As communities rebuild systems and infrastructure that have been destroyed or eroded by conflict, there is an opportunity to integrate more intersectional perspectives that not only promote peace, but also the inclusion of women and other marginalized groups – how everyone experiences peace has to be woven together.

The process, or the “how,” is critically important. Our approach emphasizes (re)building trust between groups and individuals as well as (re)establishing trust in institutions. This brings together not only women leaders in civil society, but also local authorities such as mayors, local councils, police officers, educators, health care workers, and others that play an important part in maintaining and sustaining functional systems of governance. This is where we walk the talk about the realities of conflict, getting away from the conceptual and focusing on the needs of the practical.


Nanako: Can you share an example of how you’ve seen this unfold?

Miki: In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we worked with six municipalities to create Local Action Plans (LAPs). These municipalities were heavily impacted by the war and faced persisting insecurities caused by natural disasters, gender-based violence, and human trafficking, among other factors.

In this process, we brought together women civil society leaders and municipal authorities (e.g., the mayor, police officers, social service representatives). For many of the women, this was their first time engaging in a formal process where they sat with local authorities to identify existing problems, analyzing why things aren’t working, and providing recommendations on how to improve the status quo. Some of the top concerns included violence in the family, economic insecurity, poor infrastructure, and a special focus on de-mining.

In one location, municipal authorities were aware of the overwhelming economic and social challenges facing rural women but struggled to respond adequately because they had no framework to help individuals. The LAP development process encouraged exchange and active listening among participants and provided women leaders and local authorities with the conceptual tools to translate their ideas into actionable solutions. One of the concrete outcomes from this process included greater economic security for rural women who were able to exhibit and sell their handmade products, grow their businesses, and continue to work with municipal authorities to gain access to agricultural development incentives. While this may sound straightforward, this type of engagement is not easy. It involves a lot of tense, challenging conversations, often made more difficult by the pain, hurt, and trauma resulting from years or even decades of violence and war. But these discussions at the village, town, municipal level are necessary to support reconciliation and good governance that contribute to peace.


Nanako: This connection between LAPs and peacebuilding is an important one – research has shown us again and again how the inclusion of women supports more durable peace. Are there other lessons from the localization of the WPS agenda that might apply to the peacebuilding field more broadly?

Miki: A  few things immediately come to mind – I’ve found that peacebuilders are often wary of working with government authorities, particularly in contexts where institutions are dysfunctional, corrupt, and/or are viewed with suspicion. I understand and respect this, but after doing this work for almost 30 years and working on NAPs in over 50 countries, I have come to realize that in order to move the needle, you have to engage with the institutions/actors whose job it is to provide basic governance and services, particularly at the local level. I call this approach “building the pieces of peace” and it does rely on seeking to apply systemic and durable solutions to seemingly intractable issues at the local level.

In my opinion, peacebuilding often tends to focus too much on analysis and too little on action. We have many tools for analyzing root causes of conflict and facilitating dialogue, but such efforts must also be linked with action. From Kabul to Bogota to Khartoum, I’ve seen women leaders combine such analysis with tools to identify and advocate for systemic solutions. For example, Inclusive Security had a partnership with Sudanese and South Sudanese women, where we deeply invested in building trust through dialogue and joint conflict analysis in addition to supporting the development of joint recommendations for policymakers on how to promote women’s inclusion and sustain peace.

It is important to remember that in places like Rwanda, Bosnia, and elsewhere, it was individuals, and particularly women, at the local level who cleaned up the destruction and rebuilt their villages and towns, brick-by-brick, in the aftermath of violence. It is here at the local level, where we find resilience and strength for driving and sustaining peace. And learning from women at the frontlines of these communities will hopefully offer lessons for the rest of us to keep building pieces of peace.


Miki’s reflections offer valuable insight into the opportunities (as well as the challenges) of translating the global WPS agenda into local strategies at the county and municipal levels. While local efforts are starting to gain traction, much of the emphasis (and funding) still remains at the national level. As we celebrate another major milestone in the WPS agenda and reflect on past experiences and feminist futures, there is opportunity to take stock of current approaches and identify ways forward that not only integrate, but prioritize this work at the municipal level. As Miki so aptly notes – the local level is where peace and conflict are most directly experienced – as such, LAPs provide a critical entry point for ensuring women are directly involved in decision-making that impacts their daily lives.

Photographs listed from top to bottom: Photograph 1: Inclusive Security’s first National Action Plan Academy in Washington, DC. Photo Credit: Inclusive Security. Photograph 2: Women in North Darfur discuss Sudan’s progress on UNSCR 1325. Photo Credit: UNAMID. Photograph 3: U.S Pacific Fleet hosts a workshop as part of the WPS National Action Plan in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea with law enforcement and military counterparts. Photo Credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet.

About this article

This blog was written as part of the “From where I stand: Unpacking ‘local’ in aid” series. Each weekCDA will create a space to help bring  these critical and fresh, though often neglected, voices – from local practitioners to those working alongside them (including those who work on the policy and programming agenda) – to the forefront. 

Our hope is to expand our collective thinking and understanding about what “localization” actually looks like in practice, no matter how messy it may be. In doing so perhaps we can begin to answer the question: What if the evidence-base for local leadership, aid policy, and INGO practice was instead based on the diverse experiences and ideas of those leading humanitarian, aid, and peacebuilding efforts in their contexts?

For more blogs in this series check-out:

And many more to come soon! If you are interested in contributing to the series please contact Sarah Cechvala at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you and include your perspective.  

About the author

Mirsad “Miki” Jacevic is a seasoned conflict resolution and peace building practitioner with more than 25 years of experience. Having seen first-hand the impact of war in his native Bosnia, Mr.  Jacevic has led efforts to prevent conflict, stop violence, and help nations rebuild. He currently serves as Vice Chair of Inclusive Security, Senior Fellow at Our Secure Future, and the Lead Associate at Gender Associations International.  An experienced social entrepreneur, Mr. Jacevic started and led several organizations and initiatives – Global Youth Connect; Academic Lifeline for Bosnia; and Child Soldiers’ Initiative at Search for Common Ground. In 1999, together with Ambassador Swanee Hunt, he co-founded and led Inclusive Security, an organization dedicated to creating inclusive peace and security processes.

As the leader in WPS agenda, Mr. Jacevic authored several Curricula, including the seminal, Women Waging Peace – Curriculum for Inclusive Security. He oversaw the creation of specialized Curricula on Conflict Analysis and Resolution; Security Sector Reform; National Action Plans development, and Advocacy for Sustainable Peace. An experienced trainer, he designed and facilitated over 700 trainings in Africa, greater Middle East, Eastern Europe, Americas and Asia, Mr. Jacevic also developed academic courses/seminars on various peace building topics and gender/advocacy at scores of international universities and schools. Mr. Jacevic was instrumental in supporting an inclusive Afghan Peace and Reconstruction Programme, Liberian post-conflict development strategy, Colombian transitional justice and disarmament structures, and Pakistan police reform initiatives.

Over the last decade, his primary focus has been on UN SCR 1325 National Action Plans, developing official government policies and strategies to translate the international commitments into specific actions at national and local levels. He has worked with close to 50 governments on projects ranging from the development of a first-time National Action Plan (i.e. Afghanistan, Brazil, Nigeria, and Indonesia) to evaluating the impact of an existing plan (i.e. Bosnia and Hercegovina, Finland, Tajikistan and Liberia). He facilitated NAP Academies with OSCE, UNDP and UNW to bring countries together to share their experiences (Kenya, Japan, and Lithuania).  He is the author of the chapter “WPS, States, and National Action Plans,” in the Oxford Handbook on Women, Peace, and Security (2019).

Nanako Tamaru, CDA’s Director of Strategy and Programs, is a licensed attorney and experienced peacebuilding practitioner in the areas of peace process design, constitution drafting, and inclusive approaches to statebuilding. She is also a seasoned facilitator and has developed training curriculum on a range of topics including Do No Harm, gender integration, and P/CVE. As a faculty member at Brandeis University, she incorporates CDA methodologies and publications into graduate-level courses on program design and women, peace, and security.

Previously, Nanako led research and training programs at Inclusive Security that examined why women’s inclusion matters for peace and how it can be achieved. Nanako has also worked on peacebuilding programs in Syria and Somalia and has written on issues related to governance and conflict resolution for UN Women, United Nations Development Programme, Inclusive Security, International IDEA, and Conflict Dynamics International.

Nanako holds a Juris Doctor from the Boston University School of Law and a Masters Degree in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Gender Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.