Speech for International Women’s Leadership Forum on Women, Peace and Security 20 Years after UN Resolution 1325
Maruša Gortnar, Head of Operations at EIGE, delivered this speech on behalf of EIGE's Director Carlien Scheele at the International Women’s Leadership Forum on Women, Peace and Security 20 Years after UN Resolution 1325, organised by Women’s Issues Information Center L, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, U.S. Embassy in Lithuania on 1 July 2021.
It’s good to be here today to mark the 20th anniversary of the UN resolution on women, peace and security.
At the European Institute for Gender Equality, we believe that data tells stories. And when it comes to women in peace and security, the story is one that’s evolving.
First, let’s be completely honest. When we look at the data on women’s representation in peace and security today, the figures are pitiful. Across the EU’s 27 countries, women make up a tiny proportion of defence and foreign affairs ministers.
Since Lithuania’s second independence in 1991, there has been one female defence minister, and not a single female foreign affairs minister.
I don’t mention these figures to make Lithuania look bad. Not at all. These figures are not at all different to the figures we see in most other countries of the EU.
In my home country, Slovenia, for example, we have had two defence ministers that were women, and precisely 0 women have held the post of foreign affairs minister. The situation in Germany is the same.
This lack of women heading foreign policy and defence issues in the EU Member States is then reflected in the EU’s top decision-making bodies, with the EU’s foreign affairs council mainly made up of men.
This means that decisions that have a global impact on women as well as men, are made almost exclusively by men. International trade agreements may miss how women’s role in the labour market differs from that of men. Support to people displaced by war may miss the best ways to help women and girls at risk of sexual violence and trafficking.
So why is this?
A lack of interest is clearly not the problem. If we look at EU countries’ diplomatic corps, there’s often a very different picture compared to what we see at the top table.
In Lithuania, for example, more than half of diplomats are women. We don’t have data for all EU countries, but we can also find high shares of women in Estonia, Denmark, Latvia, Finland, Slovenia, and of course Sweden.
Clearly there is still resistance to women making the ultimate decision when it comes to the peace and security of our countries.
Yet this is where the story is evolving.
Representation of women in the field of peace and security has been creeping up. In the EU’s diplomatic service, for example, some 35 % of people are now women, up from 30 % only five years previously.
This is the result of formalised commitments to raise the number of women in the service, which is an approach that has also been successful in the EU’s Member States.
Of course, you cannot just ‘add women and stir’, and hope that a field dominated by men for centuries will instantly be transformed.
There is a more profound shift going on when it comes to our understanding of what peace and security entail.
You can see this in Sweden’s pioneering feminist foreign policy, which is something that has been emulated by countries such as France and Luxembourg.
This approach makes sure that women’s particular needs are taken into consideration throughout foreign policy action – as well as of course setting ambitious targets for women’s representation.
While the EU has not yet adopted such a policy, the European Parliament has called for it. The EU’s diplomatic service also recently adopted its third action plan on gender, and is in the process of filling a high profile role for a gender advisor.
So, while women have always faced the consequences of foreign policy decisions, their story in shaping the peace and security agenda is still a young one. And while the situation requires a lot more work, we can already see the winds of change.
Thank you for hosting this conference to help us get us closer to our goal.