“The goal is as simple as it is profound: to empower half the world’s population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence and insecurity. Achieving this goal is critical to our national and global security.” -- The US National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security 
“It will never happen,” the diplomat told me in 2008 at a conference in Oslo, Norway. “The United States will never have its own Action Plan; it will just continue to push for others to have theirs.” It was a damning prediction: "Never?" However, I respected his opinion, his authority, and his stature, and I assumed at the time he was probably right.
But fifteen months ago, while speaking at the UN , US Secretary of State Secretary Hillary Clinton committed the US to join 32 other nations who have fulfilled the mandate of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and created National Action Plans. The plan was released on Monday morning, after 15 months of development. It was accompanied by an executive order by President Barack Obama , suggesting the highest level of support.
Many countries where the US and Secretary Clinton routinely press for the rights of women and girls already have Action Plans (from Liberia, to Colombia, to the DRC). Her voice on this issue will carry even more weight now that the US has joined the community of NAP countries.
One thing that has been particularly astounding about the development of the plan is the collective learning experience it has sparked. A little over a year ago, the role of women in peace and security was not commonly discussed in the halls of the West Wing or the Defense Department. The argument that women’s inclusion breeds long-term state stability had yet to echo through the cafeterias or meeting rooms of official Washington.
At that time, conversations remained focused on the economic and social empowerment of women. And while some strong advocates for women’s role in security existed (and were paramount in moving the NAP forward), their work was not getting broad or wide-ranging support. From now on, they will be the pillars of a far reaching, strongly-supported, implementation-ready plan.
So how does the plan  look? Overall, impressive. Much of what civil society advocated for  was achieved (including systematic recognition of the need for improved protection of refugees and IDPs, humanitarian response mechanisms that fully include women, and a greater effort to bring women into peacekeeping and policing at the national and international levels).
What we have learned from the development of the US NAP will be invaluable as we press for greater women’s engagement worldwide, and international organizations and bilateral partners will have an important role in collecting best practices and lessons learned on a global scale. But there is still a long way to go – both here in the US and abroad. The Obama administration’s implementation plans, to be developed within the next five months, will be the central to ensuring success.
During Secretary Clinton’s launch of the NAP  on Monday at Georgetown University, the room was filled with both women and men in equal numbers: members of the military in their dress blues, undergraduates taking a break from final exam prep, and members of civil society from all walks of life. They gave Clinton a remarkable four standing ovations. I suppose that three years ago, like that doubtful diplomat I met, I wouldn’t have believed it either. But I’m glad we were both proven wrong.
For more on the plan, listen to my interview  with Mark Goldberg of UN Dispatch.
Refugees International is one member of the Civil Society Working Group on the National Action Plan, which has informed the NAP’s development since its inception.