February 2017

Women and Foreign Policy Update

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International Women’s Day



On Wednesday, March 8, the world marked International Women’s Day, an internationally-celebrated holiday dedicated to recognizing the social, political, economic, and cultural contributions of women across the globe. This year, the United Nations commemoration of International Women’s Day focused on how women’s economic empowerment can accelerate progress toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A special blog post on Women Around the World highlights ten publications from CFR’s Women and Foreign Policy program on the relationship between women’s economic participation, prosperity, and stability.  Read the blog post on Women Around the World  »



Understanding Women’s Contributions to Peace and Security Processes
Gen. John Allen speaks at a CFR symposium. PHOTO COURTESY OF CFR  

Gen. John Allen speaks at a CFR symposium. PHOTO COURTESY OF CFR


Why do armed factions and extremist groups use violence against civilians as a strategic tool, and how can women’s participation in security processes help boost stability in conflict-prone areas? Three panels of renowned experts addressed these questions at a December 2016 symposium entitled “Women’s Participation in Conflict Prevention and Resolution,” which included representatives from government, the military, the private sector, and civil society. A recently published symposium report summarizes the conclusions from each panel, including insights on how policies to counter violent extremism can better engage women, and why addressing conflict-related sexual violence can help to secure peace.  Read the symposium report »

Women and Counterterrorism

In an op-ed for U.S. News and World Report, Senior Fellow and Director of Women and Foreign Policy Rachel Vogelstein and Senior Fellow Jamille Bigio argue that women’s inclusion in counterterrorism strategy has the potential to improve our safety. They highlight a body of evidence demonstrating that “women are well-positioned to detect early signs of radicalization,” because their rights and physical integrity “are often the first targets of fundamentalists.” To strengthen counterterrorism efforts around the world, they argue, the United States should promote women’s participation in security efforts, rather than “banning refugees from our shores and alienating our allies around the world.”  Read the article »

How Peacekeepers Can Better Protect Civilians



As part of the Compton Foundation New Strategies for Security roundtable series, Jamille Bigio hosted Patrick Cammaert, former military advisor to UN Secretary-General, and Youssef Mahmoud, senior advisor at the International Peace Institute and former head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic and Chad, to reflect on policies to improve peacekeeping operations around the world. Cammaert and Mahmoud stress the growing importance of inclusive and accountable peacekeeping forces that could protect civilians from abuses, including sexual violence.  Listen to the meeting »

Women in U.S. Military Special Operations Forces

In an opinion piece for Defense One, Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon celebrates the achievements of the first female member of the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment and analyzes the significance and strategic importance of a woman earning a spot in an elite special operations force. Lemmon recounts the long history of women serving in various capacities in the U.S. military, including in critical intelligence-gathering roles on cultural support teams in Afghanistan, highlighted in her bestselling book Ashley’s WarRead the article in Defense One »



U.S. Foreign Policy and Women Refugees

In a two-part blog on Women Around the World, Senior Fellow Catherine Powell assesses the effect of the Trump administration’s executive order on immigration on women refugees around the world. U.S. State Department figures confirm that over 72 percent of refugees entering the country in 2016 were women and children. Under the January executive order, many women and children who had already completed extensive vetting processes would be compelled to remain in temporary resettlement camps, where they face high risk of sexual and physical violence, exploitation, trafficking, forced marriage, and harassment. Read the blog posts on Women Around the World »

Low Female Labor Force Participation in MENA Countries



In a blog on Women Around the WorldGayle Tzemach Lemmon analyzes the low rate of women in the workforce in Middle East and North African (MENA) countries and the impediment it poses to economic growth. Lemmon asserts that, “as it stands now, MENA countries won’t reach the current global average for at least 150 years when it comes to women’s labor force participation.” This lag in women’s economic activity persists despite promising trends in education in the region: in recent years, girls have outperformed boys in science, technology, and math fields, and women’s enrollment rate has surpassed men’s in universities by 108 percentRead the blog post on Women Around the World »

Ending FGM



To mark International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in February, Rachel Vogelstein highlights CFR scholarship about the harmful practice, including analysis of Gambia’s recent legislation banning FGM, new research on the efficacy of community education, and U.S. government strategies to combat FGM through diplomacy and development assistance. Vogelstein calls for full financing of time-bound targets in the new Sustainable Development Goal framework that call for ending FGM, a practice that affects 200 million girls and women around the world.   Read the blog post on Women Around the World »



Maternal Health in Afghanistan

The Trump administration’s recent executive order reinstating and expanding the Mexico City policy is estimated to cause a $600 million global shortfall for women’s health and family planning initiatives. In a 2011 CFR Working Paper, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon argues that investment in a range of women’s health services in Afghanistan provides a cost-effective way to promote strategic U.S. foreign policy objectives, including reducing maternal mortality rates and boosting stability.  Read the report »


The Women and Foreign Policy Program Blog

The Women and Foreign Policy program’s dedicated blog, Women Around the World, serves as a forum for CFR fellows as well as voices from government, academia, civil society, and the private sector, to explore new research and ideas about the relationship between the advancement of women and U.S. foreign policy interests. Sign up to receive automatic alerts of new blog posts and follow us on Twitter at @CFR_WFP for additional commentary on noteworthy news about women and girls. 


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CFR's Women and Foreign Policy program works with leading scholars to analyze how elevating the status of women and girls advances U.S. foreign policy objectives and to bring the status of women into the mainstream foreign policy debate. Among its areas of focus are global health and education, the role of women in peacekeeping, and women’s economic participation.

Rachel Vogelstein
Director and Senior Fellow, Women and Foreign Policy Program

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Senior Fellow, Women and Foreign Policy Program

Catherine Powell
Fellow, Women and Foreign Policy Program
Anne Connell
Assistant Director, Women and Foreign Policy Program

Dara Jackson-Garrett
Program Associate, Studies Administration

Becky Allen
Research Associate, Women and Foreign Policy Program

Jamille Bigio
Adjunct Senior Fellow, Women and Foreign Policy Program