Voices from the Field features contributions from scholars and practitioners highlighting new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges. This article is authored by Jacqueline O'Neill, President of the Institute for Inclusive Security.
At the 2018 Academy Awards, Oscar winner Frances McDormand explained in two words how movies can be more diverse: inclusion riders. These contractual provisions allow film industry leaders to demand a more representative cast and crew. This approach is one worth considering well outside of Hollywood—including in the context of ending war and building peace.
For decades, the women most directly affected by violent conflict have called for an inclusive approach to security. Facing deadly crises in Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar, and dangerous brinksmanship in the Korean peninsula, we need new tactics. We know from decades of research that involving women as decision-makers in peacebuilding work creates better results. Peace agreements are more likely to be reached, and to endure, when women are meaningfully included. Yet, as only 5% of those who sign peace treaties, women remain dramatically underrepresented.
One of the objectives behind an inclusion rider in film is to ensure that the individuals working on screen and behind the camera better reflect the demographics of the real world. It’s hard to envision an area where that accurate reflection of the world is more crucial than issues of peace and security.
The basic idea McDormand raised in her acceptance speech at the Oscars ceremony is simple: those with influence or privilege can leverage their power to correct an imbalance.
In film, that means “A-listers” demand a contract provision that a proportion of cast or crew members come from under-represented gender, racial and ethnic groups, LGBTI communities, and persons with disabilities. Dr. Stacy Smith, Kalpana Kotagal and Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, the women who first proposed the concept of an inclusion rider, explain that it relies on the persuasive strength of power players in the industry, such as actors, financiers and directors, to make hiring more diverse – more inclusive.
In the security world, the “A-Listers” are the senior policymakers, heads of state, cabinet members, military officers, and ambassadors leading diplomatic missions around the world. They include think tank directors, academics, defense industry executives, and journalists.
What’s the peace and security equivalent of an inclusion rider? The U.S. Congress recently exercised one when it passed the Women, Peace, and Security Act, outlining requirements of the President, USAID, and Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security – as well as plans for holding each to account.
There are other levers of influence available to rest of us. Some examples include:
- Conveners and financial backers of peace talks could set a precondition that negotiating bodies and mediating teams include at least 30% women in official roles. (Scholars at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations recently made this recommendation.)
- The U.S. government could condition the security assistance it provides to partner militaries (such as training courses) on the meaningful inclusion of women in those countries’ forces. (Retired Marine Corps four-star general John Allen, now President of the Brookings Institution, proposed this in 2016.)
- The United Nations could require countries who send police and military personnel to peacekeeping missions to include a minimum proportion of women. (The Canadian government recently launched an initiative to support and incentivize troop contributors.)
- Aid donors could evaluate only proposals that meaningfully include a significant proportion of women in a project’s design and governance.
In film, the penalties for violating the terms of an inclusion rider are financial. In matters of war and peace, the costs of exclusion are paid in lives lost. McDormand’s solution offers an innovative way forward for building genuinely inclusive security.