Tag Archives: Peacekeeping

International Security: “…something is missing. And that is women”

7 Feb

Photo Credit: US State Department

This past weekend, senior leaders in international security policy from around the world, including US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, gathered in Munich, Germany for the 48th annual Munich Security Conference.  The independent conference focuses on discussion and analysis of current and foreseen future security challenges, such as decreasing global military budgets, ongoing violence and repression related to the Arab Spring and increasing concerns over Iran’s defiant attitude. And like many of these international conferences, it attracted a variety of side events as well, including a breakfast event focused on women in international security.

In her remarks at the breakfast, Sec. Clinton focused on what appears to be missing piece in international security and peacemaking….There just aren’t enough women. To prove her point Clinton pointed out that even there, at a global conference on security, she could count very few women in the audience (another participant in the breakfast put the exact number at 37).  She also cited the fact that many of the failed peace negotiations in recent decades lacked the voice of women at table, as only 8% of participants in these discussions were women.  Clinton also pushed back on the often used criticism that focusing on women’s rights and inclusion in peace processes  is “soft” and can be brushed off to the “margins of the real conversation”. She stated that “We just completely reject that. And the evidence is so clear that rejecting it is the right decision.”

The important role that women play in peacemaking was recognized in UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which was passed more than a decade ago.  It’s an issue that the Obama administration raised to national prominence again when it announced the  U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security and an accompanying executive order last December.  The plan lays out the US’ course of action to “…accelerate, institutionalize, and better  coordinate our efforts to advance women’s inclusion in peace negotiations, peacebuilding activities, and conflict prevention…” among other things, like humanitarian assistance and civilian protection.

At the event, Clinton specifically highlighted the role the US has played in supporting the training of 2000 female peacekeepers in regions, predominately in Africa, where women and children are among the most severely effected by conflict. She also touched on the role that the US and our NATO allies have played in increasing the role women play in Afghanistan and the work being done there to train female police and military personnel. She made it clear that the  international community must continue to work for women in the region, stating that “…part of what we have to do as we try to test whether peace is possible in Afghanistan, is to make it very clear that peace will not come at the expense of women’s rights and roles”.

Afghanistan is the perfect example of the challenges that women face in having their needs recognized and their voices heard in the peace process. While comments like Clinton’s at the women’s breakfast are great to hear, they do little to quell the concerns of women on the ground in Afghanistan and other war torn areas of the world. These women have heard this rhetoric for sometime now, but what they have failed to see is action.  Women in Afghanistan for years have been calling to be brought in to peace negotiations with the Taliban, negotiations that they fear will result in the stripping away the rights they’ve gained in recent years. Despite requests from women leaders and civil society members and the emphasis that western states put on women’s rights, when it comes down to it,  NATO has done little to involve women in the process.

The United States has made a concerted effort to elevate the issues of women’s rights and participation in the global discourse on peace and security, humanitarian aid, development, politics and economics, particularly under the Obama administration.The National Action Plan is in place, and the opportunities to try it out are there, in Afghanistan, in Darfur, and numerous other conflict ridden states around the world. But the time to start turning words into actions is now. After all,  Secretary Clinton is right when she says that ” When you look around the world,… You see  how hard it is to make peace under any circumstance. But the exclusion of women, I argue, makes it even harder.”

Click hear to read the entirety of Clinton’s remarks at the women’s breakfast.