The launch of the Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS), a new 501c3 nongovernmental organization, took place on December 7 th , 2017 at the Truman Project on National Security in Washington, DC. The launch provided an opportunity for the organization’s President and Founder, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, to present the vision, mission, and goals of the entity as well as some of the plans for the organization’s future activities.
Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, who served in the Obama Administration coordinating US efforts to combat weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and on the prevention of infectious disease, is the person leading this new organization. Ambassador Jenkins was pleased with the turn-out and the expressed interest in the new organization. Said Ambassador Jenkins, “Clearly the voices of women of color are missing in the global security discussion. These discussions which range from global health, food security, environmental disasters, refugee crises, as well as biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons threats, are all tremendous challenges that women of color must be concerned with and have their voices heard.”
WCAPS believes global issues demand a variety of perspectives, mainly by those who will best comprehend how policies will impact the most vulnerable. When those voices are not in the discussions, it is likely policies adopted will not have the intended effect, will instead have unintended consequences, and programs will not be sustainable.
Many growing threats in the areas of peace, security and conflict impact women of color (WOC) most significantly. However, international and national security, foreign policy, and other decision-making mechanisms are strongly lacking the voices of women of color. There is no significant or sustained voice from women of color who have their own perspectives and experiences, and who are also the caregivers, as well as the family and community foundation in many parts of the world. There must be a way to strengthen those absent viewpoints and to be more inclusive.
WCAPS is creating a platform devoted to women of color that cultivates a prominent voice and network for its members while encouraging dialogue and strategies for engaging in substantive policy discussions on an international scale. Since there is no consistent venue for women of color to meet and network, WCAPS will ignite collective voices and develop strategies for WOC to engage in discussions. The organization also understands that there is a need to advance the leadership and professional development of women of color in the fields of international peace, security, and conflict transformation and to also focus on the next generation of women leaders through mentorships.
The launch event included a panel of amazing WOC who work in various areas of peace and security to include infectious disease, counter-terrorism, science and technology, and food security. Ambassador Jenkins highlighted several activities of the organization as WCAPS develops in the months and years ahead. Jenkins noted that WCAPS looks forward to hosting regular events to promote the goals of the organization. It will also work closely with other like-minded organizations to host discussions and activities as a way to strengthen the voices of those not often heard. In so doing, it will also reach out to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in its engagements. WCAPS will be calling for members to take leadership roles in developing substantive policy exchanges on issues of peace and security. WCAPS will post blogs, articles and other policy related pieces written by WOC members to help publicize the work of such experts. WCAPS will grow its membership and in so doing, become a place where other organizations can go to for locating WOC who can provide expertise in various forums. The initiative will conduct podcasts and webinars with prominent WOC in the fields of interest to the organization. The initiative will also register to attend official government multilateral meetings to help ensure the voices of WOC are in relevant substantive discussions. As a case in point, just recently, WCAPS registered as a nongovernmental organization (NGO) at the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) Meeting of States Parties that took place in Geneva, Switzerland from December 4-8, 2017. WCAPS made an official statement at the meeting and endorsed a Joint NGO Statement. WCAPS also hosted a side event on BWC’s connection to other global issues of concern, such as infectious disease, the Sustainable Development Goals, and UNSCR 1540.
Finally, WCAPS has established a Young Ambassadors Program (YAP) for outreach to young WOC to engage them in policy discussions and network with other next-generation initiatives. WCAPS will also work with the YAP to create a mentorship program.
WCAPS is already hitting the ground running. To learn more about the vision and goals of this new organization, please visit the website at www.wcaps.org .