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Developing a national action plan

The development of a national action plan as required by law likely will include some or all of the following stages:

  • Capacity building and preparation
  • Evidence gathering
  • Consultation, consensus-building, and strategic planning
  • Building ownership
  • Transfer to the local level

(See: UNFPA, Programming to Address Violence Against Women: 8 Case Studies vol. 2)

Preparation
In some nations, an initial stage of capacity building and preparatory education may be needed before a national action plan on violence against women can be considered. In particular, in post-conflict nations where civil society has been weakened or in nations where there is little recognition of gender-based violence as a problem at all, significant preparation may be needed to lay the groundwork for a national action plan.

CASE STUDY – Algeria

When Algeria emerged from a decade of conflict in the 1990s, women had been targets of multiple forms of gender-based violence. UNFPA worked with women’s groups who had been leaders in the movement for democratic reform and for women’s rights to begin laying the groundwork for coordination between the government and civil society to work together to address the issue of violence against women. The process began with a stakeholder assessment as well as the identification of preliminary objectives for a gender initiative. A key aspect of this work was strengthening the capacity of civil society groups to work with and monitor the government. For a decade, UNFPA continued to work with government and civil society partners to produce a situational analysis of needs related to gender-based violence and to conduct prevalence and public opinion surveys. The media gave wide coverage to the survey results which helped provide a foundation for consultations with stakeholders on a national plan. Key ministries, such as Health and Population, Family and the Status of Women, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Education, Religious Affairs, and Interior, were actively engaged and three regional consultations were held with more than 80 civil society organizations participating. This process led to the creation of a National Commission to Combat Violence Against Women, which was charged with development of the final national plan of action. Through extensive consultation and review of evidence, the National Commission produced the National Strategy to Combat Violence against Women throughout the Life Cycle, which was adopted in 2007. See: UNFPA, Programming to Address Violence Against Women: 8 Case Studies vol. 2, 9-15.


Evidence Gathering
Basing the national action plan on valid, reliable evidence is a critical step. Data on prevalence, information about cost to society, as well as specific mapping of institutional structures that impact violence against women, provide important baseline information against which to measure the progress under a national plan.

CASE STUDY – Australia

In 2008, Australia established a national council to provide advice to the government on the creation of a national plan of action. The council began its work by conducting extensive research on violence against women in Australia, including drawing information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the International Violence Against Women Survey, the Department of Families, Housing and Community Services, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the Australian Institute of Criminology, and other entities. The council also consulted with more than 2000 Australians to gather data and input. Results of this data gathering indicated that 350,000 women in Australia experience physical violence and 125,000 experience sexual violence each year. The council documented the cost to the nation at $13.6 billion. The council ultimately proposed a National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women including six key outcome areas along with 20 high-priority actions requiring urgent response from the government. See: The National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women: Immediate Government Actions (2009).

Consultation and Consensus-building
Broad consultation regarding the development of a national action plan is perhaps the most important phase of development, as it provides an opportunity to educate key stakeholder groups, to build-consensus on a way forward, and to create networks of support both locally and internationally.

CASE STUDY – Ireland’s National Plan to Combat Trafficking

In 2007, Ireland passed national anti-trafficking legislation. In relation to the new law, a High Level Group was established to develop a national action plan on trafficking. The High Level Group, which reported to Minster of Justice, was co-chaired by the Director General of the Irish National Immigration Service and an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The national plan was focused on four areas: Prevention of Trafficking and Awareness Raising, Prosecution of the Trafficker, Protection of the Victim, and Response to Child Trafficking. The consultation process in Ireland involved media announcements seeking comment from any interested parties. Among approximately 30 groups that submitted comments and recommendations were the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland. These and other groups were instrumental in reminding the government that trafficking is part of a broad spectrum of violence against women and in referencing international instruments relative to trafficking for consideration in the plan. The consultative process in Ireland resulted in the development of the National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Trafficking of Human Beings in Ireland 2009-2012. See: Submission to the National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking, Immigrant Council of Ireland (2007); Submission to the Proposed National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking (Migrant Rights Centre Ireland 2007); Press Release, Department of Justice (Oct. 11, 2007).

Building Ownership
Closely related to consultation is building ownership of the plan amongst key stakeholders. Individuals are much more likely to implement and advocate for a plan that they feel belongs to them. Encouraging consultation on the design of the plan is key, as described above, but building ownership can be a different process that involves political savvy to bring key players on board.

CASE STUDY – Morocco

In Morocco, increasing gender equity has been a hotly contested issue. Earlier introduction of a National Plan of Action for Integrating Women in Development had been very polarizing. When time came for the development of a national strategy to combat violence against women, lessons had been learned from previous efforts. The process of building ownership took more than two years, because those leading the effort had determined not to engage in the polarization that had characterized previous efforts. The State Secretariat for Women, Solidarity, and Social Action led the effort to develop a national plan. Data was gathered and disseminated amongst stakeholders. Key ministries were engaged early, including the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Health. The State Secretariat also had the support of UNFPA. Further, those who had been opposed to the national plan on women in development were engaged early on in the process, in the hopes that polarization could be avoided. Direct confrontation was avoided and lines of communication were kept open, although parties did not always agree. The State Secretariat engaged a team of religious scholars to assist with development of a Koranic basis for many of the provisions of the national plan, which made it more difficult for critics. Ultimately, the new national strategy was adopted with important buy-in from numerous groups, including the Ministry of Religious Affairs which helped to raise awareness about the plan by encouraging imams to speak about violence against women in Friday sermons. See: UNFPA, Programming to Address Violence Against Women: 10 Case Studies, 31-37 (2007).

Transfer to the Local Level
National action plans can be very effective, but in many instances information about and commitment to the plan may not reach the local level. This lack of transfer to local communities reduces effectiveness of the plan and hinders progress. Devising a strategy for getting commitment from local communities to implement the national plan at the local level is a key part of implementation.

CASE STUDY – Guatemala’s Municipal Pacts for the Security of Women

In Guatemala, the National Pact for the Integral Security of Women established nine priority pillars. The national plan also included a process of local consultation with municipalities, in recognition of the fact that many problems of violence are very local. This was especially the case in Guatemala relative to femicides in certain areas. The local consultations on developing local strategies for gender equality and violence prevention were paired with discussions about local development. The Municipal Pact program brought together local government officials, civic groups, non-governmental organizations, and community leaders to develop grassroots plans for protecting women. The Municipal Pact program also focused specifically on mapping community assets and resources that could be used to support the nine pillars contained in the national plan. The outcome of these local processes was the development of local Pacts in 20 communities. The positive results, e.g., increased collaboration between the Presidential Secretariat for Women and local governments on gender issues, increased empowerment of women in local communities to advocate for their own rights, awareness-raising, and integration of gender issues into development planning, encouraged the development of local Pacts in additional municipalities throughout Guatemala. See: UNFPA, Programming to Address Violence Against Women: 8 Case Studies vol. 2, 53-57.