How Women Contribute to Peace and Security?

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today said women help achieve just and lasting peace.

In her keynote Address at the International Crisis Group’s “In Pursuit of Peace” Award Dinner, Ms. Clinton said women can be a powerful force for peace across all dimensions.

“Today, there are dozens of active conflicts across the globe, many of them brutal civil wars, which threaten the lives of millions of men, women, and children, as well as our own interests and values.” -Ms. Clinton

Deputy SecretaryGeneral Asha-Rose Migiro (right) meets with Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and newly-appointed Under-Secretary-General for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

She said these conflicts create space for pirates and terrorists to operate with impunity and send waves of refugees across borders, threatening regional security. They involve non-state actors, from militias to cartels to child soldiers, making them much more complicated to resolve.

She highlighted that American leadership helped to build an architecture of institutions and alliances designed to prevent full-scale conflict between the world’s great powers.

“We can start by asking what’s missing from most peace talks and the agreements they produce. One answer to that question is women. In the past 20 years, hundreds of peace treaties have been signed. But a sampling of those treaties shows that less than 8 percent of negotiators were women.” -Ms. Clinton

She stressed there is a clear moral argument after all, women do represent half of humanity and they have a fundamental right to participate in the decisions that shape lives.

She pointed out that there’s a need to move the discussion off the margins and into the center of the global debate. She said because including more women in peacemaking is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do.

“Now, this is not a “men are from Mars, and women are from Venus” argument. Most men are not war-mongers. And all over the world there are talented, courageous men a'” many in this room a'” pursuing peace with integrity and skill. I happen to be married to one of them.” -Ms. Clinton

She noted that powerful women leaders like Golda Meir or Margaret Thatcher have led their nations in war. She said it is still rare to see women carrying arms in conflict, it is not uncommon to find them supporting the men who do.

She stressed women who win acclaim as peacemakers, however, like the Liberians in that fish market, are motivated not just by altruism, but by a very practical understanding of the costs of conflict and the benefits of stability. She said they are looking out for their own interests, as much as any man.

“Remember the statistics that I mentioned earlier, how often peace agreements fail, how frequently civil wars recur. Now, there is no silver bullet, to use a mixed metaphor. But there is a silver lining when men and women work together as equal partners.” -Ms. Clinton

She noted that the question of how women contribute to peace and security deserves far more quantitative research and rigorous study than it has received to date.

She reported that according to research conducted by the International Crisis Group in Sudan, Congo, Uganda, and by observers in other conflicts, is that women who participate in peace talks often raise issues like human rights, citizen security, justice, employment, health care, which may otherwise be ignored.

“Some of these concerns especially stopping mass rapes a'” are too often thought of as “women’s issues.” But that is wrong. Addressing these issues helps entire societies reconcile, rebuild, and achieve a just and lasting peace.” -Ms. Clinton

She asserted that it’s true that forcing negotiators to grapple with hard questions might delay an agreement in some cases. She said it can ultimately create a stronger peace that has broader popular support.

She cited that in many conflict areas, while women are denied access to traditional power structures like ministries or militaries, they do create extensive community networks.

“Women speak on behalf of other marginalized groups and across cultural and sectarian divides.” -Ms. Clinton

She stressed that the United States will continue pushing the Afghan Government to include women, civil society, and ethnic minorities at all levels of the reconciliation process.

“Women can often be facilitators or honest brokers and produce results.” -Ms. Clinton

She stressed that field research has found that when women participate in negotiations, especially in large numbers, men behave less aggressively and are more willing to compromise.

Ms. Clinton also announced that the Obama Administration will launch a comprehensive new roadmap that will be accelerating and institutionalizing efforts across the U.S. Government to advance women’s participation in making and keeping peace.

“It is time for all of us to take charge of the future. And as we do so, it is past time for women to take their rightful place, side-by-side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided, in the negotiations to make peace and in the institutions to keep it.” -Ms. Clinton

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.