How Women’s Participation in Conflict Prevention and Resolution Advances Security Interests
State fragility poses a significant threat to international security, contributing to conflict onset and relapse, the global refugee crisis, the expansion of extremist groups, and public health emergencies like the Ebola epidemic. In fragile states, women are often marginalized, despite their potential contributions to the security and prosperity of their societies. The speakers on this panel review lessons from conflict situations and provide recommendations to the next U.S. administration on addressing state fragility by promoting women’s participation in conflict prevention and peace-building.
Rachel B. Vogelstein, Senior Fellow and Director, Women and Foreign Policy Program, Council on Foreign Relations
Daniel P. Leaf, Former Director, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies; Former Deputy Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Alaa Murabit, Founder, The Voice of Libyan Women; UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate
Jennifer Leonard, Deputy Director, International Crisis Group
This symposium will convene experts on international security and U.S. foreign policy for an analysis of women's contributions to conflict prevention and resolution, including a focus on the global security threats posed by fragile states, violent extremism, and the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and of terror.
VOGELSTEIN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations. My name is Rachel Vogelstein, and I’m the director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program here at CFR, which works with leading scholars to analyze how elevating the status of women and girls advances U.S. foreign-policy objectives.
On behalf of Richard Haass, the president of the Council, and Paul Stares, the co-convener of today’s event and the director of CFR’s Center for Preventive Action, it’s my great pleasure to commence this Symposium on Women’s Participation in Conflict Prevention and Resolution.
I want to begin by extending my gratitude to our esteemed panelists and our moderators for joining us this morning. I also want to thank all of you for joining us, and welcome everyone tuning in to our live-cast. We are very glad to have your participation.
Today’s discussion on Women’s Participation in Conflict Prevention and Resolution comes at an auspicious moment. Data show that standard peacemaking methods too often are ineffective at addressing the security challenges that have defined the 21st century, from recurrent and emerging armed conflicts to expanded terrorist and extremist networks to increased targeting of civilians and record levels of mass displacement.
Consider these statistics. Nearly half of conflict-resolution agreements forged during the 1990s failed within five years. Recidivism for civil war is alarmingly high, with 90 percent of civil wars in the 2000s occurring in countries that had already experienced civil war during the previous 30 years.
These numbers tell us that new thinking on peace and security is needed. In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests that standard peace and security processes routinely overlook a critical strategy that could reduce conflict and advance stability; namely, the participation of women.
One study found that including women in civil society groups and a peace negotiation makes the resulting agreement 64 percent less likely to fail. Another study found that including women at the peace table makes agreements 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years.
Since the year 2000, when the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325, calling for women’s participation in peace processes, over 60 countries have committed to promoting women’s leadership in this area, from developing nations like Afghanistan and Kenya to high-income countries such as Japan, the United Kingdom, and, of course, the United States.
Regional and multilateral bodies have made similar commitments, including NATO, the G-7, and the African Union. However, despite these pledges, and despite the growing body of evidence on the benefits of women’s participation in conflict resolution, traditional security approaches too often fail to engage women.
Today’s symposium is one of many ways in which CFR is exploring the effect of women’s participation on conflict prevention and resolution. The Women and Foreign Policy Program recently released a report on this topic in coordination with the Center for Preventive Action, copies of which are available here.
CFR fellows have also published research in recent years examining sexual violence as a tactic of war, the situation of women and girls in humanitarian emergencies, and the effect of commitments by NATO and the United Nations on women’s participation in the security sector. You can find this scholarship and more at CFR.org.
Our discussion this morning builds upon this body of work. And we have three fantastic panels lined up today. The first will examine how the next administration can better address state fragility around the world by promoting women’s participation in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.
The second panel will address the devastating use of sexual violence against civilians by armed factions and extremist groups and propose how to combat it.
And our third panel will consider strategies to counter violent extremism by capitalizing on the contributions of women.
Before we begin, a special word of thanks goes to the Compton Foundation, which has generously sponsored today’s symposium. In particular, I want to thank Ellen Friedman and Jennifer Sokolove for their leadership and continued support for the Council’s work.
I’d also like to thank my CFR colleagues who have worked so hard on today’s event; in particular my colleague Jamille Bigio, a senior fellow in the Women and Foreign Policy Program, who was a principal author of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security during her time in government and was instrumental in planning today’s symposium, to our great benefit.
I’d also like to thank the extraordinary team in CFR’s Meetings Department, particularly Stacey LaFollette and Marisa Shannon, and the Women and Foreign Policy Program staff for making this event possible.
Finally, I’d like to remind all of you that today’s conversation is on the record.
And with that, I will turn the conversation over to Jennifer Leonard and our speakers for the first session. Thank you again for joining us today. (Applause.)
LEONARD: Well, thank you. Good morning to everyone, and welcome to this really important symposium. And we’ll do our—we’ll open this first session on Women’s Participation in Conflict Prevention and Resolution and discussing the role that women can play in the challenges in fragile states.
We’re very pleased to have such distinguished experts here. And I know there’s a lot of expertise in the audience as well. And we come to this discussion the day after the Senate failed to move forward in its consideration of the Women’s Peace and Security Act, which is a compelling piece of legislation that had passed the House a few weeks ago and provides, I think, some useful context for this discussion. And I know that many of the folks in this room were, if not involved directly in the thinking and promotion of that bill, certainly compelled to engage in the issues it represents. And there’s also, beyond that, a diversity of interests and expertise that we’ll usefully draw upon to sort of tease out our conversation.
But that brings me to our expert and distinguished discussants whom we have here today, Daniel “Fig” Leaf and Alaa Murabit, whose bios illustrate their deep and distinctively different experiences in addressing these issues, but also you’ve arrived at this—you know, you’ve arrived at this discussion point and are compelled to engage.
And I think a useful launching point to just open the conversation would be what, in your personal or professional background and experience, compelled you to engage and continues to compel you to engage in that discussion of, you know, women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution? Maybe each of you could take a run at that. And we can start from there.
LEAF: Go ahead.
MURABIT: So, first, thank you for having me. I’m extremely honored to be on a panel with these two wonderful people, especially General Fig, because he always makes me look very good. (Laughter.)
LEAF: Hmm. (Laughter.)
MURABIT: So I actually got—I went to medical school and had no real interest or knowledge, really, about women’s inclusion in peace processes or conflict resolution. It wasn’t in my wheelhouse. I had finished high school in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, so my aspirations were very much limited to me becoming a doctor and being able to contribute to my community in that way.
And I moved to Libya in 2005 when I was 15—I had just finished high school—and enrolled in medical school there. And six years later the revolution broke out. And I come from a somewhat conservative city, but it’s quite near the capital, so about 30 minutes away from the capital, called Zawiya.
And I was in my final year of medical school, and the first desire to get involved was actually surrounding women’s health. It was sexual violence and conflict, which was really what kind of propelled this idea that I needed to be involved during that time. And I thought it would be a very time-limited involvement. Once the revolution would end, I would go back to medical school, and that would be that.
And when I first engaged in that space, I found that there were different ways in which things needed to be addressed and socially needed to be discussed. So it wasn’t just getting protection for women. It wasn’t just training doctors. You had to train lawyers. You had to get laws. You had to get resources. It was about women’s political participation and economic participation and about social change and making sure that these issues were no longer necessarily taboo.
And over time our organization, the Voice of Libya Women, began to encompass that larger, more holistic vision of talking about, OK, so we need women in parliament so that they can actually pass these laws, so that we actually have something that can be enforced for women locally.
And this, over the course of two years, was our priority, women’s political and economic participation. It resulted in having 17 percent of our parliament be women. We had women ministers, which was wonderful. And all of that, I believe, were significantly positive changes. But there was always one aspect which we felt uncomfortable with, and that was that oftentimes the rooms where we discussed women’s inclusion or women’s leadership had the same faces. So we would have the same women who already had familial support, who already had social support, who already had community support, come to the table.
And our organization started focusing on how we can get other names and faces into that room, people who did not necessarily agree with our vision. And at the time, because of increasing insecurity in Libya, it meant we had to address security, first and foremost, because those faces were no longer necessarily safe to have these conversations.
So we focused a lot on something we called the Noor Campaign, and that means enlightenment in Arabic. And it focused on using verses and sayings of the prophet that had been utilized by other groups to promote different ideologies, to instead promote the proper treatment of women but acts of nonviolence and such.
And that was how we really delved into women’s security and the participation of women in security, because, as much as we wanted to speak about the importance of women’s, you know, economic roles or political roles without actually having them at the table to discuss the complicated matters of peacebuilding in their own communities, first off, most of those conversations wouldn’t happen, but second, they then were excluded from everything else. So it was kind of the door that opened into political participation, into the training of doctors, and all of the other facets of our work. So that’s how I initially got involved in this space.
LEAF: It is a decidedly different, you know, path to where we are.
MURABIT: See, and then you were—I thought you were with me the whole time.
LEAF: Well, in spirit, I guess. (Laughter.)
And my path started as a young boy in northern Wisconsin, in a very small, very white town. And it started with Vince Lombardi, the coach of the Green Bay Packers, who is storied as a coach, but he was a huge proponent of equal opportunity, as the son of Italian immigrants. And he set an example when he insisted on proper treatment of his players of color. And they won championships. I’m fascinated with things that work and not very interested in things that don’t work or don’t work well. But that really did color me, if you will, to think that equal opportunity is very important.
And then I’m not expert in inclusion. I’m experienced in it, because I’ve seen the value of all forms of inclusion during my military career of a long time, over 30 years. Leading organizations from eight to about 330,000 folks, I learned that the more you include your entire organization, the better it will perform. And you can’t discriminate by gender, color, capability even, and that the organization that gets something out of everybody will be significantly more effective than any other.
Then I spent a period in business as a vice president of a defense company and knew that the reason they promoted a diverse workforce was because it paid more money. And that makes sense to me. It’s something that works. And it’s an oversimplification of both the concept and my experience, but that’s the maturation.
So when I became the director of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii five years—and I’m just completing my term there—I had an opportunity to promote inclusion, learned of UNSCR 1325, the Women Peace and Security Initiatives and National Action Plans, and simply made it my top priority as the director and said for as long as I’m the director, WPS will be my top priority, because it works—not a moral crusade. It works better.
And it seems—it’s a truth I hold self-evident that if you’re trying to provide security solutions for any population and you exclude half the population in the creation and formation and implementation of those solutions, it’s not going to work well.
So we—as—during my tenure at APCSS, we doubled—more than doubled the participation of women. We added inclusion to all of our academic courses; had workshops focused on inclusive security, and then tried to build a credible case, the data that we love to talk about. I will submit that the data is not compelling and it shouldn’t have to be compelling when you’re discussing common sense. We focus on the data.
But what was most important about the experience at APCSS was seeing what happens when you make inclusive approach to security a norm, because the tools of governance are norms, standards, rules, and laws. And the Senate’s failure to act addresses the law part of it, and the standards are captured in UNSCR 1325. And we have lots of rules. And rules were suggested in the report that we’re addressing today.
But if you don’t get the norms, you’re not changing anything. And so as we watched the courses change—because we went from 5 to 10 percent female fellows in our five-week courses to 20, 25, even over 30 percent—it was a norm that deeply affected principally the male participants—male military, police, and civilian participants. And that’s what convinced them. The data won’t convince them. Experiencing a norm of inclusive approaches to security convinced them. And I have stories and anecdotes.
And as I said, I’ll close by saying the data is important, I guess. But the norms and the anecdotal evidence that comes out of establishing those norms are far more compelling.
LEONARD: Well, maybe we can talk about what some of those anecdotes are that will help compel those in leadership chains, chains of authority, the sort of—the activists within the bureaucracies that need to translate or move beyond this sort of notion that it’s a normative duty and actually has a real strategic need and value.
I mean, what are we not doing effectively right now that’s held us back from being further along in the conversation? I mean, maybe you find yourselves distinguishing, you know, PACOM, the defense entity that you were running, simply your own steam. And you were in a position of authority that helped, you know, move the conversation along. But how do we sort of proliferate, cross-pollenate, get, you know, broader, deeper on this?
LEAF: Well, I think the key is to establish those norms. And the norms that were established for me, just to go to my own anecdotal evidence, is wing commander in combat, one star, F-16—well, big combat wing—the night that I told the folks who worked for me that we’re going to go to war. And I looked out on the audience, which was bigger than this and more diverse. There were more men in—there aren’t enough men in this room, just for the record. And I looked at how young they were, how diverse they were, in every way you could be diverse, and the fact that I was sending women to war. And I thought about that at that moment. I don’t know what I thought about it, but I thought about it.
But for the next 78 days and nights of combat, flying combat and leading combat, I never thought about it again. And that was—it worked. But as we establish the norms at APCSS simply by mandating a level of participation that hadn’t been seen, I’ll give three quick anecdotes of how it affects people and how it becomes a new norm.
We have a Southeast Asian participant, an army officer from a conservative army, who came to me early in the course, having heard my talk on women, peace, and security, and said, Director, I want to do my fellows project on women, peace, and security, but I can’t because I’m a man. I went, come on, man, of course you can. And by the end of the course, he was inspired to go back to his country and not just address the role of women in the armed forces, but in society. And it was because he was exposed to the norm and the value of having all voices in the room in a way that he could not have been—(inaudible).
The second was a fellow—and I can’t attribute; we’re careful about attribution by country or organization—a fellow from the Japanese air force, a Japanese F-15 pilot, so we like him—and he wound up as his fellows project leading the eventually successful effort to allow women to be fighter pilots, to be in combat aviation in Japan. And that’s a stretch, for those of you who have been in Japan, lived in Japan. It wasn’t easy.
And you could say, what do combat roles have to do with women, peace, and security? And the—if female participation in security matters at all levels isn’t a norm, then they’re going to be dismissed at some point. So even though we’re talking about combat roles, that is—there is value to that.
And the third one that I think was perhaps most compelling, because I talk about this all the time—we were in a group of—a diverse group at our courses. We have people from every country in Asia-Pacific except North Korea, and in a social setting. I was talking to a South Asian conservative army officer, very thoughtful guy but very conservative, in a social setting, with several people. And we were talking about WPS and things like that, and it was a social; not that—I think I had a beer and he had a fruit juice.
And as we were talking about, he kind of went, wait, this isn’t just about inclusion of women, is it? It’s about inclusion of everybody. It’s about inclusion of gays. OK, this is not a conversation I think you would have had, but having an inclusive norm presented to them—and not forced on him, but de facto how it was, for five weeks.
And so this normalization of an inclusive approach is really what’s required if you’re going to craft and implement whole-of-society security solutions. So you mentioned the new administration and advice. If I were—and I won’t be—a senior official or the president, I’d walk into every room and I’d have somebody designated to walk into every room and look at the demographics and say who are we missing? Not just to have their voices, but to have their commitment to security matters; not just to hear an alternate view, but to be partners, because if you don’t do that, it’s not going to work well.
And, I’m sorry, I’m not an academic. You know that, right?
MURABIT: I think we all do. (Laughter.)
LEAF: But it’s so obvious to me. I don’t need that.
LEONARD: Alaa, you come at the issue from a very different place. So what do you see or have you experienced or would you advocate is—what kind of message is sent if you are a civil society activist pushing for inclusion when you see the sort of power brokers on the other side of the table not practicing what they preach; I mean, to essentially hear Fig say we should be—the U.S., in this case—representative? We should have a sort of whole-of-society cross-section at all levels of our engagement.
From where you sit, what does it—what message does it send to civil society and other sort of folks on the ground who are working these issues when that’s absent? And what, beyond the message, sort of—how does it inform the policy and the programs that flow from those engagements as well?
MURABIT: So really quickly I’m going to go back to the establishing norm and just kind of emphasize that, even in the conversations we have. A lot of these panels that talk about women, peace, and security, the first question is, is it necessary or do we need it? It’s been 15 years. I think we’ve moved past that question. And a lot of these panels are organized by organizations which fundamentally believe in women, peace, and security.
So I think, you know, much like we wouldn’t go to a conference today on climate change and be, like, is it actually real, I think we need to move past this and need to recognize that this is a fundamental truth; it’s common sense. And instead of saying do we need women—do women need to be included in peace processes, show examples of what they’ve done and what has happened in their absence, which I think is even more compelling.
When we get to representation from the international community when you’re talking about a local conflict, the best example I can give of this is actually an anecdote. We had the international community—it was the U.N. political mission—coming to a kind of mini-dialogue on transitional justice in Libya. And they said to the Libyan counterpart, where are your women? Because I was the only person in the room, and that was by sheer force—the only woman. And the Libyan counterpart looked right at him and said, well, where are yours? Because they did not have a single woman with them.
And I think that to me was the single most—because up until that point I had been using 1325 as a way to get into the room. I had been using all of this material. And to the local community, the fact that the international community was so absent of women, particularly in leadership roles—but if a woman was there, she was the gender adviser—validated their exclusion of women. And it validated a lot of their excuses. And the international community gave permission to themselves by saying it’s culturally difficult; it’s culturally inappropriate. We don’t want to push the envelope too much. This is a post-conflict country or a conflict country.
And I found it so interesting, because those same individuals for an economic deal would go to the most dangerous places in the country. They would sit on the floor. They would eat at 2:00 a.m. with their hands. So culture was not an obstacle when it came to certain issues, but when it came to women’s inclusion, seemed to be the huge barrier.
So to local civil society, I think that was a huge disservice, because it forced us to look at who our partners actually were. And it meant if it got in the way of them having, you know, cooperation in terms of infrastructure or security, et cetera, they would not have women’s inclusion if it meant it was something in their benefit financially or strategically.
The second thing I’ll mention very quickly is we talk a lot about women’s inclusion in conflict or in areas where there’s been a natural disaster, et cetera, et cetera. And we don’t talk about what can structurally make that happen. Civil society does not exist in its own little—you know, in and of itself. It cannot self-exist, aside from resources, which are fundamentally lacking in this space. There isn’t enough political and social support.
So you have—you know, for us, you have embassies and political missions in the capital, in compounds, where they are fully secured and protected in bulletproof cars. And then you ask local civil society, where their names are known, their families are known, where they live is known, to physically come to you to give information and to speak with you. And it’s getting worse because of the countering-violent-extremism agenda.
So now you have people saying, well, let’s make—let’s get women involved as informants or as resources for information, not actually give them their own agency in structuring a lot of these programs. Let’s get them involved. But when they come and they physically put their lives on the line and they put the lives of their family on the line, let’s offer them no protection, no support. When they get kidnapped, let’s offer them no way out of this country or no—let’s absolve ourselves of all responsibility.
And so it becomes exceptionally difficult to have sustained and trusted participation of women, particularly in conflict settings, because once something happens to one of the women, everybody flees. A large part of the women’s-rights organizations that were working so hard in Libya are now based in Tunisia and Egypt because they are terrified to be at home and because politically, by having the people at the table who have kidnapped or assassinated them, you are validating their non-existence in the participation. You are saying we’ve made a choice, and your safety is less relevant than the participation of the people who threaten your life. And that’s a very dangerous thing to do.
So as much as we talk about representation and participation, as much as we talk about norms and values, we also have to recognize the detriment that we’re causing by having particular people at the table. And that’s not to say you don’t need the people who are holding the guns. That’s not to say that. It’s to say that it has to be inclusive. If you have the people causing the conflicts only, and they have gained power and wealth and prestige from a conflict, when your peace process—when the conditions you’ve created are no longer sustaining that same level of power and prestige and financial resource that they were once used to, they’re going to pick the guns back up.
So you need the people in the room who have not gained anything from conflict and who are eager to actually talk about the sustainable issues of peace—education, health care, law, corruption, governance, not just security, not just the economic kind of outfall. So I think we have to be very honest. It’s not simply just about having women there. It’s about creating the necessary structure for local civil society to be able to work in those spaces. And it’s about doing that in a way in which they’re actually creating the programs and their agency is served rather than instrumentalized.
LEAF: Yeah, I was hoping you were going to use that word. May I jump in?
MURABIT: Go for it. Go for it.
LEAF: You knew you were going to lose control at some point.
MURABIT: I mean, you can only jump in if you agree with me.
LEAF: Of course I do. (Laughter.)
MURABIT: We have a standard here.
LEAF: So, on the phone call, she mentioned instrumentalization of women, and I had to ask what she meant by that to make sure I fully understood. And what I think you’ve described is using women in security matters, conflict resolution, countering violent, as mere instruments—
LEAF: —as opposed to participants and representatives, with protection where necessary, to enable and validate their participation. And, you know, getting women to our courses and including them in our workshops would have not been valuable if they were just there and not fully represented, if their participation wasn’t not just encouraged, but in some ways protected, because they were coming into an environment with people who are men, who are not used to being in an inclusive environment. And so you’ve got to provide them the bona fides and the opportunity to contribute as representatives and participants in the process.
LEONARD: Well, to that end, I mean, it seems to me, but I want to hear your views, that the defense establishment is in a unique and powerful position to be a validator of those strategies. Do they get it yet? And how do we help them get it?
LEAF: Well, I couldn’t do it. So I made this—and there’s a lesson there—I did make WPS my top priority. And every time I used to hang out with—as a former general officer with my fellow general officers and flag officers, I’d try to bring it up and encourage them to go after it. And guess what—it didn’t work. They had other things that were on their mind. It’s not that—I think they liked me and I think they listened to me, but it didn’t become a priority.
We had a female major from Pacific Air Forces participate in the course, and her fellows project was to have Pacific Air Forces include inclusion in its exercises, in its theater-cooperation strategy, how they engage with other militaries. And she put a great project together and went back and briefed her four-star boss, who’s an old friend and fellow fighter pilot, but I hadn’t resonated with him. And he got it immediately and took it to a meeting with the commander of Pacific Command and the other three-stars and four-stars. And now it’s everybody’s biggest idea. It’s wonderful. And they did implement it into theater cooperation, planning, and strategy, to exercise objectives. And it is now a norm.
But it takes the exposure to the value of it that the major got in our course, that she was able to convey to her boss, that was apparent to his colleagues, to then normalize it through the real thing, whatever makes the business of security work—exercises, strategies, operational plans.
LEONARD: Well, I’ll—one of you had mentioned the point that security opens—the security conversation opens the door to the broader, more holistic approach that’s required. But how do you see—you know, we’re 16 years in on 1325. You saw the sort of stumble in the Senate this week, with hopes, you know, that we’ll revisit it in the next session of Congress.
But how do we thread the needle between using that security conversation as the validator and the momentum behind the effort, while at the same time expanding the aperture to include all the different dimensions that you refer to as necessary to meaningfully get at the issue?
MURABIT: I think it comes to how we define security in the first place. A lot of us talk about women, peace, and security, and peace processes, like they’re simply the end of conflict. And when we do that, when we say, OK, so now that we’ve signed this, we’re done, I think we fail to recognize that there’s a whole lot of nation-building and peacebuilding that has to happen after it. And that tends to be absent of the conversation. People move on to the next conflict. That’s the next issue point. And they kind of leave that one behind. And I think we need more sustained work on actually doing peacebuilding and proving that having women’s inclusion in peacebuilding and in nation-building is key.
And one of the ways, I think, that we can actually get that across is a lot of times when I sit in meetings and we talk about women’s inclusion, somebody will respond and say, that’s wonderful, but we’re focusing on really kind of stopping the conflict, and then we’ll talk about women. And I think we need to break down that kind of assumption that we’re talking simply about women’s issues or that women’s inclusion in peace processes is a women’s-rights issue. It’s not. It is a nation-building issue. It’s a security issue.
And I’ll find myself sometimes even taking the women out of peace and security and then slyly, like, being, like, and, you know, if women were included, this would be fantastic. And the reaction is very different than opening up the conversation with saying, like, women, peace, and security, Resolution 1325.
So I think how we frame it is very important, and what we look at is our—(inaudible)—agent. If we’re looking at conflict as the—(inaudible)—agent, then we’re not going to get very far. It means stopping a conflict, oftentimes temporarily, based on the statistics, and then revisiting it years later—very much a band-aid solution.
If we’re talking about actually addressing nation-building and state-building, it means our structures, our infrastructure, has to look at security differently. Security cannot be about military. It cannot be solely about infrastructure. Security has to be about training lawyers, training doctors, talking about transitional justice, talking about the things that do not take one day and a signature to get done. These are things that take a much longer time, more resources. And they’re not copy-paste solutions, so they’re a lot more intensive. You need to actually physically be in that space and be working with people from that country.
And an example I’ll give here, a quick anecdote, is I had mentioned our Noor Campaign, and it focused heavily on our organization creating local city teams throughout Libya. And that’s because Libya is similar to the United States in the sense that if you’re from New York and you go to Texas and talk about something, people will be, like, please leave; you don’t really know the norms here. And so we have that kind of regionality as well.
And the local city teams meant that they were more effective. They were more credible. They could actually talk about issues. They were a trusted source to the local community. And as this project was getting replicated globally, as the U.N. wrote about it and different media sites wrote about it, we got called in to meet with, you know, defense—leaders in defense and in international security. And they said, can you tell us about the project? So I gave very specific details. I was super-excited. I was, like, of course, I’ll tell you everything. I went through a step-by-step approach—
MURABIT: Yeah—(laughs)—of exactly what we had done and how effective it was. Then about six months later I learned that they had decided to try that project, except they cut out the middleman, as they called it, which were the women’s rights organizations. And they were, like, we’ll go directly to the religious leaders ourselves.
And I spoke with those who had tried to replicate it, and I said the key here was not the religious leaders per se. It was the fact that you created local, credible teams, and that women’s-rights organizations, because of their local credibility and because people perceive them to be less politically maneuverable, had been key in creating those teams. So you missed the whole point.
But to them it was this was the quicker way to get things done. It was more cost-effective. They said we didn’t have the resources or time to go through the women. And where are the women, and which women? And so there were so many questions that they were able to create. So the idea resonated. But they genuinely felt, because of the presentation, it was a women’s way to do things, whereas they could do it quicker, faster, and better by just going to the end result. And they didn’t end up getting it.
LEAF: I’d like to go out on a limb and disagree with the good doctor.
MURABIT: I mean, I don’t—(inaudible)—very successful.
LEAF: But I’ll agree and then I’ll disagree and then I’ll agree again, OK? (Laughter.)
MURABIT: Fair. Fair. It’s a nice sandwich.
LEAF: And I couldn’t agree more on the notion that, you know, this is not—inclusion is not a band-aid for conflict and that that’s not very meaningful and that security needs to be thought of more broadly and in a sustainable sense. And so I agree.
Where I disagree is we don’t need to prove this, that inclusion works. We need to demonstrate it; my frustration with the reliance on data. It works. It’s logical, and there is evidence. And it’s the demonstration of the value of inclusion that compels men to appreciate it and to implement it.
MURABIT: I’ll agree with that.
LEAF: Thank you.
MURABIT: I’ll let you have it.
LEAF: OK, thank you.
And then, lastly, you can’t just walk in and say women, peace, and security. That is, frankly, a term I don’t like, because there is a negative implication about men. What is it, men, war, and insecurity? And—
MURABIT: I mean, statistically speaking. (Laughter.)
LEAF: But not necessarily. And it shouldn’t be the norm that we strive for, that men—that this is not about the inclusion of women at the expense of men. It’s about the inclusion of women to the benefit of men and women and society. And that’s the sense you have to have, that there’s value. And we’re all self—naturally self-interested as human beings. And that’s what we see happen in our courses, where five weeks of demonstration in the value of having men and women in the room with different perspectives and different approaches to security broadly, it’s compelling. So there.
LEONARD: Can I just—can I maybe shift gears a little bit and ask about the other side of the discussion? I work for an organization, International Crisis Group. Earlier this week we published a report on the role of women in the Boko Haram insurgency, not only as victims, but also as, you know, involved in violence, whether that’s supporting, enabling, perpetrating, et cetera. And there is a growing body of work that looks at that part of the formula.
Is that—how—and is that factoring into discussions, strategies, plans, et cetera, in a meaningful way, especially as you reference countering violent extremism? There’s not even a sort of consensus definition necessarily of what CVE is. So where, in your estimation, is that understanding?
MURABIT: You know, I’ve mentioned this several times, and I mentioned it yesterday, that I think the women, peace, and security conversation has actually been reignited because of the inclusion of women by extremist organizations. So I sat on the global study for the 15th anniversary of 1325. And the resolution that ended up resulting was very much heavy on women’s inclusion in countering violent extremism; most of the conversations we’re having. There was a lull.
And then about two years ago people were, like, wait a second; apparently women are useful in conflict, because ISIS is using them. We should have a conversation about it and see what we can do. And suddenly, you know, every think tank was having a conversation on women’s ability to recruit, and their compassionate, patient nature with recruiters.
And so it’s quite interesting to see where this conversation has gone, primarily because organizations, which are so often, you know, oppressing women, et cetera, are the ones who really kind of ignited it. I think that’s been a starting point for a lot of think tanks now in terms of women and countering violent extremism, looking at how the opposing side is using it and how we can leverage it ourselves.
So I do—and I think it’s important that we have that conversation. And I think it’s very late in the game. I mean, everybody seems surprised that women can be perpetrators. And they’re humans. I mean, it’s been—either women are victims for the past—women are victims, period, and that was it, and how do we protect women and how do we, you know, keep them in safe spaces from all the big, bad men. But, I mean, women have agency.
And the attraction, I think, to many of these organizations is that they don’t talk to them like they’re victims. They say, you’re the lionesses of our cause. You are going to change the world with your one action. And giving people agency is very attractive, especially when, for the vast majority of young women who are being recruited by these groups or who are recruiting for these groups, and even young men, they get completely sidelined when it comes to peacebuilding and when it comes to post-conflict resolution. And that’s in particular in conflict countries. But even in Western states, where we have a lot of recruitment happening, they feel very marginalized within their communities and they feel as though they may not necessarily have agency.
So in Libya we had—the bulk of civil society was younger people, younger women in particular, and young men. And when it came to actually having political conversations and conflict resolution, it was older men everywhere you went. And if somebody said something about women, it was always older, established women. So you had a whole group of the population that had significant influence and authority in the revolution be completely dismissed from the political process. And, of course, they’re going to search for that agency somewhere else.
So it is a—it’s an opportunity. It’s completely, in my opinion, very strategically smart to say to young women, who want a way to support their country or to support this mission, you can do it with us. You don’t need to wait for the other side. They don’t respect you. They don’t know your agency. They’re still debating if you can be active in combat. Why don’t you come work with us? We see what you can do.
LEAF: And so I think this validates your argument on instrumentalization—
LEAF: —because there isn’t any evidence that the involvement of women in violent extremism is moderating these groups.
LEAF: They’re mere instruments.
MURABIT: They are. They’re instruments.
MURABIT: But it’s very strategic. And that’s what, I think, my point here is. We should not have to wait until we see evidence from another side to recognize that the inclusion of women is important. It should not have taken ISIS using women as recruitment tools for us to say, wait, women have agency in conflict. That should not have been the point of self-reflection.
We should have been saying women have agency 15 years ago, because that was what 1325 was built on. And somehow, over time, 1325 became more a tool for governments to check a box or to instrumentalize rather than actually a parchment of saying women have agency and they need to be equal partners in every single conversation.
LEONARD: I’m going to use that—the argument implicit in that point to—as a useful departure point for a Q&A session. We’d love to open it to our members at this point. Remember to—that the meeting is on the record. And please identify yourself and keep your question pointed.
Maybe we’ll start with Jackie.
LEAF: Oh, pointed questions.
Q: Hi. Thanks.
MURABIT: I mean, Jackie, your questions are never easy. (Laughter.)
Q: Thanks. I’m Jackie O’Neill with Inclusive Security.
I wanted to talk a little bit about the big question that you asked, Jennifer, about why isn’t this sticking yet. And I think we’ve put forward a lot of arguments about why it matters in the positive affirmation and the value of it. And I personally struggle a lot about with people who have at least, at some level, some element of fear associated with this agenda.
So in countries—you know, in Libya and elsewhere, people talk about fear that they will sacrifice some element of power, control, by opening up an inclusive process. Or even in so-called Western institutions, there’s, I think, a quiet conversation when we talk about demographics or a composition in the room that there is a sense of a zero-sum game, that a woman at the table means I, as a white man, would not be, for example.
And maybe, General Leaf, if—I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about some of the more kind of quiet, honest conversations you had with groups of men at APCSS talking about how this is something that isn’t to be feared. Does that surface? Are people able to name it? And how do you get past this perception of a zero-sum concept of women’s inclusion in particular? Thanks.
LEAF: Well, Jackie, I don’t think it’s so much a matter of fear as a matter of resistance to imposition of outside values. You know, don’t tell us what to do. Respect our country, our culture, our religion, whatever it is. And if you go to a representative of any country that I deal with, all of Asia-Pacific, and say you need to do this because we say so or because UNSCR 1325 says so, oddly enough, they don’t take that well.
But if you demonstrate the value to them, appeal to their self-interest, to their country, and acknowledge that in each circumstance inclusion is going to take on its own characteristics, consistent and compatible with the environment, and you make a rational case and not an emotional case for it, it’s pretty compelling.
And I haven’t really gotten—experienced significant, overt resistance to it, not just with our participants, who look at me as the director, back when I was still the director until recently, but even in groups like the chiefs of defense meeting, where they’re all superior to me, at least in position and rank. And I’ve talked a couple of times in that venue, in that conference that’s held annually, about women, peace, and security, and value, and met no resistance; and, in fact, went around the table two years ago, I guess, with the chief of defense or a deputy from—I think there were 19 in the room at the time, and as diverse as you can imagine in the countries of Indo-Asia-Pacific, from polar bears to penguins and Hollywood to Bollywood, so very diverse audience.
And each of them had a different anecdote or discussion item where they expressed their support for the notion and the value they saw for their services. If it’s properly posed as something of benefit to the individual, because we’re self-interested, and to the country, because they’re committed to serve, you don’t get resistance.
So it’s not fear. It’s resistance to imposition from outside, to bring them in too.
Q: But if I can just push you a little bit on that.
Q: They’re not resistant to the concept, but pushing to the point where you’re allocating resources, investing political capital. I mean, forgive the term. They need to lean in.
Q: They’re not leaning in. So how do we get them to lean in?
LEAF: So we have leverage, right? And when I said we’re going to get 20 percent women in our courses, some of the folks on the great APCSS team thought—well, they rolled their eyes and thought that’s going to be nearly impossible. And now we’re up at 25 to 30 percent.
But part of it is we’d asked for female fellows, as we call our participants, and they wouldn’t be able to find any or whatever. And my point was it’s our money, OK. So—(chuckles)—it’s U.S. government money that’s funding it, so we’re not asking anymore. We’re not telling you which women to pick, but make them women. And so you have leverage. You can say I’m not going to a meeting outside the embassy compound, not inside the embassy compound, unless you have women from civil society or I’m not going. So I’ll engage, but here’s the norm I expect.
MURABIT: Money talks.
LEONARD: I’d like to revisit polar bears to penguins and Bollywood to Hollywood as your memoir title. (Laughter.) I feel like that’s a solid title.
Right here in the center with the red blouse.
LEAF: I’m colorblind. That doesn’t help.
LEONARD: Yeah, that’s you.
Q: Sorry. Hi. Jodi Vittori, formerly Air Force, but now with the NGO Global Witness, which works on the intersection of conflict, corruption, natural resources, and the environment.
And I wanted to ask a question, getting a little bit beyond just the inclusion and participation. One of the things that we find in the areas we work, which is primarily economic-based, is that some of the outcomes of conflict resolution can actually be very detrimental to women, particularly on things like the infrastructure and economic front.
So I was wondering if you could address some of those issues of not just inclusion, of getting everybody to the table, but make sure that outcomes actually are helpful in that situation. Thanks.
MUBARIT: I actually think that’s a wonderful question, because it’s something that’s been reflected a large—in many of the consultations we’ve done is that women actually say, you know what, this was actually to our detriment. We actually liked the old system better, because even though it was disorganized and dysfunctional, we felt protected. We could make it to the school. We could have our jobs. It was safer for us personally. Right?
And I think a huge part of that comes from, A, we don’t have enough women at the table, so they’re not actually creating any of the stipulations. They’re not there to create those contracts, so their voices aren’t reflected and their concerns aren’t reflected. And oftentimes when we do have women at the table, when we push slightly, they’re either in another room, secluded off, so the decisions have been made and they’re there more for a formality, for pictures, or they are women selected by those groups. So they might be women who don’t even live in the country. Diaspora in particular have higher socioeconomic levels and are not necessarily having the same general concerns as the population.
So I think the most important question we ask is, first off, are there women in the room when those contracts are signed? Second off, are they there for the implementation? Because we can have—you know, my country has had wonderful laws for 42 years, or had wonderful laws for 42 years, that were never implemented, right? And I think a large part of it comes down to we can have fantastic documents; 1325 is in theory a wonderful document, but it is very difficult to implement if you do not have people who are, A, aware of it, but B, aware of the framework that they can use to be able to actually leverage what they need in their own government and what they need from their own counterparts. And that’s not happening, right?
So we have some very wonderful documents—constitutions, peace processes—that are being signed that could be very much in the benefit of women but that are not implemented as such. And that’s because of a lack of women and men aware of these treaties, documents, and norms at the table. And I think that would be the very first step.
LEAF: I agree. How’s that?
MUBARIT: I mean, I think that’s good. I think that’s—we’ll keep you.
LEONARD: Right across from her. Yeah, there we go.
Q: Thank you. My name is Hilary Matfess. I’m with the Institute for Defense Analyses, and I’m writing a book on gender in Boko Haram.
So I kind of want to probe the uncomfortable other side of gender. It’s all well and good to empower women, and I think we’ve seen remarkable progress on that front on a number of contexts in the recognition that women need to be at the table. But there’s also the issue of toxic and fragile masculinity and the sense of manhood and rites of passage that are dominant, aggressive, and at times violent.
So how do we adjust social norms to not only empower women, but to also provide a more durable and compassionate sense of masculinity? Thanks.
LEAF: I’m not sure I agree with your premise. I think men are men and that there’s value to both. And there are times where those elements of the male psyche are necessary; far less times in modern society than back when I was a Neanderthal. But one of the challenges of real inclusion is to have men be comfortable being themselves in a room of women being themselves and sharing their perspectives openly and unfiltered, unadjusted. That doesn’t mean violent or aggressive, but you can only be who you are. And so I guess I don’t—your premise doesn’t resonate with me as an aggressive male.
MUBARIT: I’m going to disagree with your premise.
LEAF: But—that’s not a surprise—but let me give you an example. Today, December 7th, is the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. And living in Honolulu, that of course has special meaning. In a very senior course that we had right before I left APCSS, we were—we had a discussion about avoiding conflict, how to not go down the path to war, a lecture I’ve given several times, having been down the path on the other side.
And somebody said, well—and I talked about objective analysis of the cost-benefit with conflict, et cetera, et cetera. And somebody asked, well, you know, the Japanese did a very objective analysis of that and made the choice to attack Pearl Harbor. So what would have helped there? Well, a little diversity in the room would have helped, because the people who made that—looked at the analysis and made the choice was a very homogenous group of men, without outside voices.
So you may be right that there’s a need for men to—there is a need for men and women to adjust to modern society and norms and to recognize that in an interconnected, global world, the need for conflict should be extraordinarily rare—extraordinarily rare. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t or that there isn’t value to both the norms of men and the norms of women.
So go ahead. Hit me with your best shot.
MURABIT: So I don’t think it comes down to men and women. I think masculinity and femininity are socially constructed. And I think women can be very masculine in terms of their personality, attitude, et cetera, and that doesn’t negate their womanhood. It’s their—you know what I mean? So masculinity and femininity are socially constructed. And we’ve constructed masculinity to mean power, control. And we’ve defined those terms. We’ve conceptualized those terms with that framework.
So power could mean compassionate power. It could mean respect and trust and care and communication. And in my opinion, it should. And it doesn’t negate the power of power.
MURABIT: It changes it, right? That’s a good thing. So it’s not about men and women. It’s about how we define masculinity, how we define femininity. When we say women should be quiet, you have so many opinions for a woman. You know what? This is not necessarily the space for a woman. You don’t have—women don’t have the necessary experience regardless. That’s a reality, right?
MURABIT: So I’m not—and it’s not limited to men. Some women—we have internalized misogyny in many ways, but it’s because of the way we’ve socially constructed what being a man looks like and the way we’ve socially constructed what being a woman looks like.
And the only way we’re genuinely going to redefine what femininity is is if we start talking about masculinity; if we say, you know what, young men, you can—you know, you don’t necessarily have to go—if you’re in conflict, you don’t have to be the guy sitting at the military table. You can be the guy sitting at the development and aid and support table, and nobody is going to say anything. You don’t have to be sitting at the head of the table. You can have a female boss, and it does not undermine your masculinity or your power—
MURABIT: —or your authority. But we have to redefine those terms, and we have to accept that that imbalance exists today.
LEAF: So let me ask the audience. I can characterize the most compassionate and sensitive men I know on the basis of one criteria. What do you suppose that is?
MURABIT: They’ve met me. (Laughs.)
Q: They have sisters.
LEAF: That wasn’t it.
LEAF: Sisters, daughters. You could—no.
LEAF: I’m sorry, I wasn’t—no. (Laughter.) No. They are those with the most direct and extensive combat experience. It affects them profoundly. And so we don’t need to proliferate that to make men more sensitive. But confronted with the reality of conflict and the extraordinarily difficult experience and choice to take human life and the loss of comrades, they are the most sensitive and compassionate men I know. And I could name names, but I won’t, but without exception. So I’m not sure what the point of all that was. It was an observation. Does it have to have a point?
MURABIT: No, but it’s given me a new name for your memoir—Compassion through War. (Laughter.) I’m writing books for you here.
LEAF: You didn’t find me an agent yet.
LEONARD: The front table right here.
Q: Mia Bloom, Georgia State University.
I wanted to follow on something that Hilary just mentioned. I think you’re right about the construction of masculinity and femininity being something that we can adjust. I think the issue is that, at least in the groups that we study, sometimes together, like Boko Haram, or separately, like ISIS, it’s precisely the blurring of those lines that those groups are using to their benefit.
So, for example, a lot of the Westerners who’ve joined ISIS, the women who have taken their kids, left their husbands and gone, have said what they don’t like about Western society is the blurring of those identities. And so part of the problem is that, inasmuch as we can adjust how we think about whether it’s gender or sexual identity or every other permutation, especially now that we have all these other sub-categories, they are harkening back to an age in which men were men and women were women.
And, in fact, the way in which the women are using this is they use this notion of murduwha (sp), manliness. And if you’re hiding behind the women, if you’re letting the women do the fighting, if you’re letting women in Sirte be suicide bombers instead of the men—in other words, they use this gender to their benefit for recruitment.
So it’s all well and good for us in the West and in Western Europe to make the adjustments, but we have to be cognizant that it’s going to be very tough to change how gender has been understood for a very long time in other parts of the world. And trying to change that looks like culture imperialism.
LEONARD: Is there a question in there?
MUBARIT: No, but I’m going to make a comment.
LEAF: That won’t stop you, will it?
MUBARIT: No, it won’t. It won’t.
LEAF: It won’t stop me either.
LEONARD: We’ll respond.
MUBARIT: It won’t, because I think that what the gender constructs you’re talking about have existed as long in the Western world as they have anywhere else. It’s not about it’s going to be difficult to redefine them in Libya or in Syria. It’s going to be hard to redefine them in the United States of America. I mean, I don’t think I need to remind anybody of what’s been happening in the past few months.
So let’s be very—it’s—I think we always talk about women and women’s rights and women, peace, and security and these issues as though it’s us preaching to people who don’t understand. And I fail to see how there’s any high ground in this space at all. And your anecdote about having the hardest recruitments from the U.S. would be very good after this—
LEAF: Yes, ma’am.
MUBARIT: —just to further solidify my point.
LEAF: Anything you say.
MUBARIT: But I think the second aspect of it is those blurring of the lines, that statement is very true. And it happens even within communities here in the United States. And it’s happening, for example, even in parts of the South, where women are saying, well, we don’t want a female head of state. Women are women, right? Men are in charge, right? So that’s—it’s not a culturally limited thing. It’s not a religiously or regionally defined thing.
The problem then becomes why those socially constructed kind of conceptualizations of masculinity and femininity exist, A, in the first place, and who controls them, right? And how do we redefine them in a way in which everybody’s voice is heard? So that’s not to say that we have to say, OK, so men can only be—in order for us to not have more women go into extremism, men have to be powerful, in charge, et cetera. Women have to be compassionate, quiet, and at home. That’s not the solution. It’s not realistic.
We have to start being able to say men and women can be compassionate. It’s not a black-and-white thing. There is—we have to be able to redefine them where the people who feel most silenced are the ones who get to create the definition, because cultural imperialism is me saying, for example, that, you know, women in Pakistan need to think this way or that way. And coming from Libya or Canada, it wouldn’t make sense.
But if women from Pakistan said, listen, we feel as though these attributes are culturally unacceptable for us to have, and have honest and open conversations where they take the lead, then it’s a redefinition of their own cultural blueprint, right? And that’s what we need. We don’t need more people going and telling, well, you women are oppressed and you women aren’t. We’ve heard it enough. But we need those women to start saying in my community it’s difficult for me to do this because the perception is that I should be at home, or men to say in my community it’s difficult for me to do A, B, and C because people feel I should provide. And I’ve joined this organization because it gives me some sort of economic benefit and prestige.
So it’s about actually having the people most affected have the conversation. And that’s something very difficult for the international community, particularly the Western world, to do. But it’s time we took a back seat, because I think they need to focus on issues more domestically.
LEONARD: So it’s about creating space for the conversation to occur, and the stakeholders themselves to define their agenda and the strategy and tactics—
MUBARIT: It is.
LEONARD: —to move it forward.
MUBARIT: It’s about creating space. And I’ll go one step further and be a bit more blunt. And it’s also about leaving when you shouldn’t be there. I mean, there’s been a lot of time that the Western—like, let’s be 100 percent frank—has actually been to the detriment of local women’s civil society and local women’s conversations and has said, you know, we don’t want you.
When we started our Noor Campaign, we were told by numerous embassies and, you know, organizations, I don’t think you should be talking to religious leaders. You know, you’re emboldening them. And I’m, like, well, you can’t embolden people who already have the power. They are structurally more powerful than us. I mean, so it’s about leaving the conversation when you are no longer relevant. And that’s exceptionally difficult when people have their interests at stake.
LEONARD: Right. Well, I think these are valuable points. We come back to the question of how do you, you know, in the U.S. context, legislate, appropriate, you know, get pragmatic and practical about these very elements? And we’ve heard—
LEONARD: We’ve heard data points throughout the conversation that help, you know, create a road map for us to achieve that. But—
MUBARIT: I’m just going to say, I think data points—I have to agree with Fig—are not necessarily the best—and I regret—
LEONARD: Sorry. By data points, I don’t mean—
LEONARD: —a proof supporting. It’s points you’ve made throughout—
LEAF: Anecdotal evidence.
LEONARD: —your conversation.
MUBARIT: One thing I’ll say quickly is if we look at things from a very kind of rational point of view, most people would perceive that the U.S. would be a state that would have female heads of state prior than most of the countries in the Middle East or in Asia, right? And that’s not a reality.
So I think we have to be very wary that our statistics don’t necessarily reflect cultural realities. Our statistics often don’t reflect cultural realities, and that in order for the U.S. to actually be able to propel things forward—and Fig can talk about how he’s done this on a more national level—but I think leading by example is probably step number one.
I mean, if you don’t have women in legislative bodies, in political bodies, in governing bodies, then you have—I find it—you have no foot to stand on to go and actually—my mom always says you cannot build a house if the foundation is crooked. And if you—your foundation in the United States, if your television channels are asking the question, are women people, are women too emotional to be heads of state, et cetera, et cetera, I don’t think you’re actually going to be able to go to anywhere else in the world and say, well, we need women in conflict resolution. To me it’s unrealistic.
LEAF: And I know you said that just to set the table for what you told me to mention.
LEAF: So thank you. And I will in a minute. But I’ll go back to the role of masculinity on the positive side. And just one of the things that I’ll say to men who may be initially resistant to the concept of inclusion is are you telling me you’re not man enough to accept views divergent from your own, that you’re not man enough to thrive in an environment led by a woman, that you’re not able to do that? Come on, man.
And I think that’s a valid argument, because, you know, the old male-dominated environment is comfortably simple. It’s easy. You’re with people just like you, so you know very clearly what behaviors will lead to success and you do those. Well, it’s a lot more complex in a diverse environment. Well, man up and learn how to do that.
And one of the more interesting conversations I had on women, peace, and security was with a combat-experienced Army major, U.S. Army major, in South Asia as an office advanced-cooperation official. And this young kid—they’re all young kids to me now—had made WPS his thing. I mean, he was pursuing it aggressively. And there was—I hadn’t—I didn’t know why. And so I met him in Katmandu, as a matter of fact. I said, so why is this your thing? And he said I love women. I don’t know what he meant by that. And frankly, I don’t care. But he had an admiration or respect and affection for women and felt that making their case for inclusion had value. And he pursued it with genuine feeling, not just because somebody legislated or did it. He—you know, he felt it. And there’s value to that.
We have to set the example as the United States. And I talked about the up side of what Pacific Command and its service components are doing—yay. Not so up is the one country we struggle with—we—they now—at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies is recruiting women fellows from the U.S. We do better with every other country. And I don’t know why. We don’t pay for them, so we don’t have the bully pulpit of the purse strings. But we’ve got to set the example. We must, must, must set the example.
And I go back to what I’d do if I were a senior leader in government in the coming years or in any years. I’d walk in every room and see who’s represented. What voices am I hearing? What standard are we setting? What norm are we establishing for an inclusive approach to crafting and implementing security solutions?
LEONARD: Yes, right here back at Hilary’s table. Thank you.
Q: Thank you very much. My name is Betsy Kawamura, and I’m founder of Women4 NonViolence. And my geopolitical specialty area is North Asia women, peace, and security, especially for North Korea. So I had the pleasure of doing a roundtable discussion at your APPS. And Ralph Cossa says hello to you from me.
LEAF: Yeah, Ralph’s a great guy.
Q: Yes. So I know some of your people—
LEAF: Hi, Ralph.
Q: —quite well.
My question is—perhaps is a bit more on international foreign policy and women, peace, and security. You know, in terms of working around North Korea, for instance, and the Asia-Pacific area, I find it to be quite interesting, because the U.N. Security Council 1325 was unanimously passed by the Security Council, which includes Russia and China.
You know, I mean, we all know the U.S. has, like, National Action Plan. And, you know, and maybe this is an audacious question, but is there any particular way that we can encourage, you know, countries like Russia and China to look forward to creating their own national action plan, when they were the ones who basically, quote-unquote, unanimously passed this?
And also it’s quite amazing that, you know, in the series of all the resolutions that came, like 1888, 1889, you know, 2021, et cetera, et cetera, that, you know, the members, certain members of the Security Council, still violate or are not living up to the spirit of these women, peace, and security resolutions.
So I wanted to ask you specifically for China, because, you know, we’re working on the North Asia region. Thank you.
LEAF: So that’s the value of an institution like APCSS that brings participants from China—used to from Russia, not currently, but may again—but every country that we can provide exposure, not just to the concepts but to an environment that’s inclusive. And we talk about national action plans in our courses and why they matter and that they really only matter if you put money to them, because money talks.
So there are ways to encourage it. We’ve held workshops. We held a workshop this summer in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia—key: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia summer. Just a safety tip for you all.
LEONARD: That would be one month. (Laughter.)
LEAF: Yeah. It was a beautiful day. But in this workshop we drew participants, I guess, from 14 Asian nations. And the notion was to identify institutional impediments to inclusion—or to exclusion—institutional impediments to inclusive security.
What gets in the way of facilities, of rules, of criteria, laws, whatever? What’s keeping each country or what used to keep each country from an inclusive approach to security, and what did you do about it or what could you do about it? That’s action-oriented, doing something about it.
Clearly the development of a national action plan can help, but only if it has practical application and money—only if it has practical application and money. So I think we have many venues, not just the one that I’m familiar with, where we can promote that as long as we’re walking the talk. It won’t resonate if we’re not being inclusive, if we’re not putting meat behind our national action plan.
So North Korea is in a special case where, if you want to have a different view of the North Korean challenge and get beyond the nuclear issue and the armistice, all the traditional issues, you have to look at the life of North Korean families as told through women to get a sense of just how bad it is and how we should be compelled to do something to shift the status quo. That’s the view that’s more compelling than the propagandized, rote diatribe from Pyongyang.
MUBARIT: I’m just going to piggyback on that very quick and mention that national action plans—and this might sound quite cynical—but, unless they do have resources and action implementation support, are useless. And many countries have passed national action plans that have made no impact on local civil society or the local—or the national situation.
But to jump on how we can get countries that may not necessarily have embraced a route to women’s inclusion in peace processes but have clearly signed on and are mandated to, I think that we often see ourselves as the ones who facilitate other people’s progression. And I found that to be very—for me, at least, very arrogant.
MUBARIT: I think the local civil society is the one that can best facilitate its own progression. And I think a tool that we often underestimate and underuse in our foreign policy is our own civil society and the capacity for our other civil society to be able to create inroads where politically we cannot; so if there are organizations here in America or in Canada or in Libya that are focusing on women, peace, and security, to be able to create those inroads with organizations in Russia or China, et cetera, and in other countries that may not necessarily be as supportive of the agenda.
The second thing I will mention is, aside from creating those inroads, is we often talk about women’s exclusion and women’s exclusion because they’re not seen as politically threatening. And I don’t see that honest—I see that as an opportunity. The fact that a lot of political figures do not see women as very politically threatening, I think, is a huge opportunity that we don’t use enough, because we can start having conversations with women, and the political entities don’t catch on for, like, a year or two, because they’re so in their, like, security-military world.
So I think we need to start focusing a lot more of our efforts not on having big boardroom meetings with, you know, military figures and heads of ministries, but instead have some meetings with local women’s-rights organizations and also organized—for example, in Libya, 70 to 80 percent of the teachers are women. That’s a huge population of women that you can access in one concentrated space. Seventy-five percent of our medical graduates are women.
So you can go and have these conversations in spaces where nobody thinks you’re actually trying anything politically suspicious, where nobody has the kind of misconceptions or the super—it’s not superstitions, right? I’m losing my English. But nobody has the worry that you’re there to have any type of influence in the political structure. You can get the voices of women. They can be, you know, key in the creation of these agendas without any risk.
LEAF: Very briefly—I’ve been told to be very brief—on the national action plans, they can do more harm than good—
LEAF: —because, OK, check, we’ve written our national action plan; we’re done.
LEAF: And so it’s not just resources, the nature of the national action plan. And I go back to an experience I had when I lived here in D.C. and worked at the Fairfax County homeless organization. And the reason I was compelled to join this board was they were creating a 10-year plan to prevent and end homelessness—not a band-aid, not a temporary, not we’ve established housing and what not. We’re going here.
So the national action plan shouldn’t be we’re doing this. It should be we’re going here and we’re putting the resources to getting here.
Was that brief enough?
LEONARD: That was brief. Thank you.
I’m sorry we don’t have time for any more questions in this session. I think we have some great takeaways. Money talks. Lead by example. Don’t get hung up on prove; demonstrate it. And if I didn’t say it already, I’ll say it again: Lead by example.
Thank you very much for your comments, your expertise, your ongoing commitment to engage on the issues. Thanks very much for all your questions. We look forward to reconvening shortly for the second session. Thanks again. (Applause.)