Women’s Contributions to Conflict Prevention and Resolution

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Melanie Einzig/CFR
Kurt W. Tidd

Combatant Commander, U.S. Southern Command 

Sarah Sewall

Speyer Family Foundation Distinguished Scholar, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Nancy Elizabeth Lindborg

President, United States Institute of Peace

Liliana Ayalde

Civilian Deputy to the Commander and Foreign Policy Advisor, U.S. Southern Command (Via Videoconference)

Karen J. Greenberg

Director, Fordham Law School

This is the third and final session of the Women in Foreign Policy symposium. 

Despite the growing evidence that women’s participation in peace and security processes improves stability, the inclusion of women in these processes has lagged since the passage of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000. The speakers on this panel review lessons from conflict situations and provide recommendations on addressing state fragility by advancing women’s roles in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Speakers Kurt W. Tidd and Liliana Ayalde join the event via videoconference. 

To commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, this symposium convenes leading experts on global women's issues to analyze the status of women worldwide and evaluate their contributions to governance, economic growth, and conflict prevention and resolution.


GREENBERG: Good morning. I’m so glad you stayed for this session. My name is Karen Greenberg, I’m the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School.

And here with me today are two people who are here and two people who are virtual. So I’m—and I’m trusting this is all going to be perfect as these two individuals are in Guyana, so keep your fingers crossed.

Let me introduce our wonderful panelists. We’re going to start with Nancy Lindborg who is here with us today. She is the president of the United States Institute of Peace, USIP, a post which she’s held since early 2015, I think. Prior to that, she worked at USIA working on building resilience and democracy and managing conflict and providing humanitarian aid—not a small portfolio. She has worked in a number of areas around the globe and her expertise spans from Syria and the Middle East to Africa, North Korea, South Asia, and elsewhere.

So thank you, Nancy, for joining us.

The next speaker after Nancy is going to be Admiral Tidd. Kurt Tidd is an admiral in the Navy, commander of U.S. Southern Command. Prior to that, he was assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He’s held numerous posts on the National Security Council, at NATO as an aide to the U.S. representative there, and was integral to the creation of the War and Operations Planning Group established after the attacks of September 11th. He’s served as an Olmsted Foundation scholar and as a fellow at the Atlantic Council.

We are pleased to have him.

After he speaks, we will turn to Sarah Sewall who is currently the Speyer Family Foundation distinguished scholar at the Johns Hopkins Kissinger Center for Global Affairs. Previously, she was at Harvard’s Kennedy School where she directed the Carr Center, and at the U.S. Naval College. She’s served in government in a variety of posts, both at State and at the Pentagon. She’s focused, among other things, on the relationship, the important relationship, between security and human rights. Her most recent book is on creating and implementing civil-military policies. She has contributed to, edited, and written numerous books on topics including the International Criminal Court, and she’s also written about counterinsurgency, so she spans the entire spectrum of what we hope to talk about today.

And finally, we will be hearing from our videoconference, from Ambassador Liliana Ayalde, career Foreign Service officer who has served as a civilian deputy commander and foreign policy adviser to Admiral Tidd since January of 2017, this year. Previously, she served as U.S. ambassador to Brazil and to Paraguay. She has also served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs and at USAID.

So as you can see, this is the perfect panel to discuss the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution. And let me just say—I guess it needs no saying—but this is actually a very important time to be discussing this topic as relationships around the world and relationships with the United States seem to be increasingly tense and, in some areas, increasingly fragile. And so, really, the question of what can women contribute is very important.

This past October, Congress passed the Women, Peace, and Security Act. This is an act which really follows on the U.N.’s program for Women, Peace, and Security. It’s a long time in coming. And under this act, the president has been charged within a year of coming up with recommendations for policies throughout the government in how to include women, how best to include them and how to integrate them into all of the thinking and implementation and policymaking. We’ll see how that goes. We’ll see you back here in a year.

But the real question is, you know, what can women bring to the table? What have women brought to the table? And what are the biggest challenges and accomplishments that we’d like to see in the future?

And so for the umbrella overview of all of this, I’m going to turn to Nancy Lindborg.

LINDBORG: Thank you.


LINDBORG: And it’s really a pleasure to be here with wonderful panelists.

Thank you, Karen.

And thank you, CFR.

The mission of the U.S. Institute of Peace is to prevent and resolve violent conflict, and so this is a topic very near and dear to my heart. We’ve worked on gender issues for almost two decades now in the realization that to accomplish our mission, one needs to build peace from both the top down and the bottom up. We live in a very multipolar and multi-stakeholder world. And if you’re not including 50 percent of your population, you’re not bringing that capacity to bear on preventing and resolving conflict.

And secondly, that it needs to be inclusive processes, that it’s no longer just diplomats brokering peace deals, but that you need to engage and be inclusive of women and their capabilities.

The whole Women, Peace, and Security effort over the last 15 years has been to shift the narrative from women as victims of conflict to women as contributors to peace process. And so as we look at how that’s worked, I want to just note three places in which I think we’ve got great stories of where women are contributing, and it also illustrates how much work we have left to do.

But first is in those formal peace processes that end conflicts. And there’s some wonderful research that shows that when you include women at the peace table, you have a 30 percent probability that that peace accord will endure 15 years or more.

And the latest wonderful example of having women at the table was, of course, the Colombia peace accord. And maybe our other colleagues will talk about that as well. But women were literally at that table with a significant presence in Havana negotiating the peace accords. And what it helped to do was to keep key concerns in the peace accord, issued around victims’ rights, around restitution, the kinds of issues that are often left out if you don’t have a more inclusive approach.

We worked with about 30 women mediators around the country who were also negotiating peace accords locally so that it was a complement to what was going on in the formal peace process. And just one quick story is there was a woman—there was a wonderful woman named Fleur (ph) in a community called Cauca in which in 2015 the FARC kidnapped 39 children from that village, which was a common occurrence. And what this community did, instead of a march or calling in the military, is Fleur (ph), this woman, mobilized the parents of the children, they went into the jungle, and they negotiated with the FARC, the armed insurgents, and they came back after several days with all but one of the children who were kidnapped, using negotiation and mediation skills. And she then got elected mayor. So, I mean, it’s one of those stories of how you’re able to work at the ground level to complement from the top level.

Secondly, peacekeeping. There’s only 4 percent of women who are in the deployed peacekeeping troops. And yet, we have a wonderful example in Monrovia, Liberia where you have an all-women police unit, they’re all Indians, and they have done a remarkable job of keeping peace in the community through nine rotations now because of a different level of engagement. They really focus on connecting with the community, doing classes. They’ve taught map reading to the local police force. And it’s fundamentally building trust with the community as a means of providing greater security for everyone there.

And that goes to my third example, which is the role of women in countering violent extremism. Because what we’ve seen is that, in working with women in places like Nigeria or Kenya, that when women are engaged with local security actors and there’s a greater trust between the police and the women at the community level, that they can be more effective in a partnership in understanding and getting ahead of either recruitment or potential terrorist attacks.

And we saw that in Garissa where a women-led group worked very closely with the police actors, with whom they previously had no communication, and they were able to prevent at least two verifiable Al-Shabaab attacks in that community. This was following the big university attack. So in both structural and informal processes, women are making substantial contributions.

And I’ll just conclude by saying that what we’re seeing with a lot of very interesting data, that gender equity and gender inclusion can be one of the greatest indicators of peacefulness in a country, a greater indicator than GDP, for example. And so bringing women into these processes as a part of a larger overall approach is key to preventing and resolving violent conflict.

GREENBERG: Yeah. Just as a footnote, the U.N. has produced statistics saying that—it’s an interesting way they word it—that peace agreements are 64 percent less likely to fail when women and other diversity groups are included, so for what it’s worth. So thank you.

We’re going to turn now to Admiral Tidd. Admiral Tidd, being in a position of command, has given a lot of thought to the issue of the integration of women in policy and implementation, and also to the need to keep up standards of professionalization, which I think came up in the last panel.

So, Admiral Tidd, can you talk to us about how to balance these equities and these concerns? Can you hear me?

Oops. I can’t hear, can you hear?

If you can hear me, we can’t—

SEWALL: There we go.

GREENBERG: Yep, perfect.

TIDD: OK. Can you hear me now?


TIDD: OK. So we’re doing—testing out the interesting technology here from Guyana.

Thanks for this opportunity. Appreciate the chance to meet with you.

First, let me—I think a caveat is we look across all of the areas that we’re responsible for in Latina America and the Caribbean, 31 different nations. I’m very cautious not to overgeneralize because we’ve got lots of different places along the path of gender integration.

But I think one of the most important points to make is that, as we work with countries and the militaries, security forces within these countries, I think it’s important that we counteract some of the stereotypes that are out there, that when we think of Latin America, there’s a little bit of a tendency, I think, within our culture to look at these countries as with a machismo culture and one that discounts the value and the important role of women in those cultures.

But what we are seeing within the militaries and particularly within those countries that have, for some time now, played an important role in U.N. peacekeeping operations, many of them have recognized the value of incorporating women in their militaries and the role that their women peacekeepers are playing. And as has already been pointed out, in some of the instances in Africa, it opens opportunities to be able to deal with the much larger population, that when you have exclusively an all-male military or police force that’s in there, you just never get that opportunity to connect.

And the point that we make—and one of the reasons why at SOUTHCOM we have identified effective gender integration as a military imperative, it’s a hallmark of a modern, capable, 21st military or security force—because we feel that if these countries are going to be able to improve the security situations both within their countries, but more and more so as they work with each other to try and improve security across the region, they’ve got to be able to look at and recruit from their entire population. If they restrict themselves to only 50 percent of the population, oftentimes they’re missing out on some significant pockets of talented individuals. And those talented individuals will give them, I think, perspectives and problem-solving skills that if they don’t take advantage of they’re going to be missing out on opportunities.

Now, from a purely military, pragmatic perspective, we think it’s important that we create teams that are representative not only of our populations, but that are—that take advantage of all of the strengths and capabilities that our entire populations represent in order to be able to come up with solutions to security challenges that some of our adversaries that don’t recognize and value the role of women within their populations might not think about, might not consider. And so, frankly, it gives us a competitive advantage as we develop some of these solutions.

And so for—I think some of you are familiar with operations that we’ve had in Afghanistan and in Iraq where, before we incorporated women into some of the combat forces, they really were not able to communicate effectively with or take advantage of contacts within many of the villages that they would go into.

(Video feed freezes.)

LINDBORG: It was a powerful final point.

GREENBERG: It was. (Laughter.) It might have been—that might be it. I think we’re going to move on actually. And if he comes back, we’ll just hold his comments until later.

TIDD: And did we lose you?

GREENBERG: Temporarily.

TIDD: OK. We’re kind of up and down here, but I’ve got you back now.


TIDD: So let me stop there and just leave the floor open for further questions.

GREENBERG: Perfect. All right.

We’re going to turn to Sarah Sewall, and talk a little bit about—just turn a little bit—I want to pull back from this conversation and talk a little bit about what’s—he mentioned—Admiral Tidd mentioned machismo culture. And I want to push that a little bit further and just talk about the power dynamic throughout the national security community, you know, and in foreign relations and how you see it. Because I know you’ve given significant thinking to this. And just sort of how it—what that issue is about in trying to struggle for the integration of women as valuable resources.

SEWALL: Great. Well, thanks, Karen.

And it’s great to be here at the Council with all of you concerned persons.

And it’s great to be with both Nancy and Admiral Tidd. I traveled with Admiral Tidd, with the secretary of state when I was undersecretary, and I’ve worked closely with Nancy, and so it’s fun to be here, it feels like a reunion. And we’ve worked on many of the same issues.

And the question that you raise of power dynamics is a really important one, Karen, because when I was undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights, I worked a lot with women’s issues, with U.N. Women. I was—I was a—whenever I would travel, I was dealing with women. And so often, the roles in which I saw women in the field, they were advocates, they were appealing to power. Right? So they were part of the disappeared or they were part of the victims of sexual abuse or they were, you know, they were trying to alleviate domestic violence suffering. And so they are essentially, in so many contexts, whether it’s cultural, whether it’s structural power, they are supplicants, they are appealing to power.

And so, you know, one of the things that I would often talk with my interlocutors in the U.N. system about is how we had to be really careful. This came up in the context of the Syria peace negotiations that the U.N. was attempting to start, where the women would come and they would meet with me and they would want a role and they would want a role, and so the U.S. would advocate for the women to have a role. But there was a real difficulty that we always faced, which is—and this is a U.N. Women, Peace, and Security issue—how do we keep from being bought off with just procedural satisfaction, right? How do we—how do we change it from being just involved in the process to actually having some oomph in the process, right?

So external actors can help provide a seat at the table when they are helping to create a mediating environment, whether it’s the U.N. or whether it’s a coalition of concerned states. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to really put some meat on the bones if you want the voices of women to matter.

And two points on that. I mean, Nancy makes a very important point, which is that women are often seen as a proxy for issues. Well, why the heck is that? Why aren’t men the proxy? What are those issues that are neglected systematically? That, to me, speaks to a broader disconnect in power in existing state structures if it’s women who are expected to bring issues X or Y or Z to the table when you’re negotiating a peace.

You know, and the second piece of it is, even if they’re at the table, who’s going to guarantee that their views are going to ultimately be inculcated? You know, in some cases, and I think Colombia is a good example, where the government recognized the importance of sexual violence and compensation for sexual violence and the avoidance of future sexual violence, which had really been sort of structurally embedded within that conflict, from happening. And so the government was very open and the FARC was very open to making that happen. But that’s not usually the case in conflict. I mean, who ends up at the peace table? The people who have the guns and the people who are committing the abuses.

And so unless you’ve got an external power source that’s going to come in and not just say they need a seat at the table, but those seats need to actually mean something, that needs to translate into real change. And then that change needs to be reinforced over time. I mean, again, the Afghan constitution is a really good example of where it looked great on paper, but it was much harder to actually make even equal rights for women become more approximated as governance went on, so.

And then the final point about women in processes is that in the Syria women are a good example. You know, they were all united in wanting to end war. Well, that’s the easy part, right. Well, what about governance? What about confessional affiliation and representation? What about regional versus centralized control?

You know, at the end of the day, those women’s issues—the women’s voice is going to be divided because the human voice is divided because people have different opinions. And so—and so we have to recognize it even as we advocate for women to be part of the processes that what we expect them to be united on may not be the only thing they have legitimate views on and this, again, gets me back to the issue of structurally how do we think about power as being available to women.

My favorite examples of women’s empowerment are usually where women have been appointed to roles where they weren’t expected to do much—where they were expected just to sort of, you know—and I know because I’ve always worked at vanguard issues that weren’t occupied by men in the security space and so the women occupied them. And lo and behold, when they become important, the men become more interested.

But so often, the—women are appointed to positions where they’re expected to be quiet and docile and then when they’re not, that’s, I think, a real wake-up call. And my favorite example of that is the attorney general in Guatemala, who was appointed by the government, thinking that she wouldn’t rock the boat.

But lo and behold, the U.N. had come in with an independent commission and many external actors to include the United States were deeply interested in the corruption issues that had sent, you know, tens of thousands of Guatemalans to the street in outrage and got them to elect someone who had formerly been a clown but who pledged that he was clean.

Well, the attorney general ended up becoming a huge force representing a grassroots movement, to the astonishment of the establishment, and paired forces with the U.N. independent commission and had protection from outside powers that were very interested in what she was doing.

And so she fundamentally transformed power in a way—she had this role, and she used it in a way that was totally unexpected. But she was helped because she had external support. And so I would just press us all to be thinking both about the formalism of involvement in roles, involvement in peace processes, appointment to government positions. But I would also have us think about what are the broader power dynamics within which that happens and how can we work as outsiders who want to empower change to empower those internally—not just put them there but actually empower them.


Let’s bring in Ambassador Ayalde, who’s had a lot of experience in what you’re talking about at all different levels in terms of engagement with—with men but also in engagement with women and what women at the local level on up bring to the table. Ambassador Ayalde.

AYALDE: Yes. First of all, thank you for including me. We were having a bit of a connection problem, so I didn’t quite hear the question. Are you hearing us?

GREENBERG: Yes. Can you hear me now? No.

AYALDE: Can you repeat what—what you just said—


AYALDE: —in terms of the introduction?

GREENBERG: —can you talk a little bit about the value of women-to-women interaction at all different levels in—in negotiations and peace—peacemaking?

AYALDE: Well, it goes without saying that if you want to have a real impact you have to involve everyone and you can’t ignore half of the population when you’re—when you’re trying to make sure you have a very broad impact and including everyone.

So women need to be involved, and we have clear examples. I mean, I think the Colombia example—over the years, we’ve seen that involving them in the process but as well in the other aspects of the implementation are key to really having the success—the successful negotiation in the peace negotiations but also in ensuring that the implementation is actually carried out in a way that will impact all the victims.

So and I think that has progressed with experience. Having been in the region for a long time, have seen maybe an example also about Guatemala, those were things that were not seen—you could not find before, and so now those faces are being made available and I think those role models are very critical in moving the agenda where you have that gender integration for a much more successful outcome.

So we’re seeing some—some progress and, certainly, in peace negotiations it’s essential and we have some examples to point to.

GREENBERG: Are there any—just as a follow-up question, are there any particular areas as you’ve looked at this integration where women have been uniquely valuable, or not? Can’t hear? Good to know. Well, we’ll assume the answer was yes. (Laughter.)

But I wanted to have you follow up on something that Sarah had talked on following Admiral Tidd, which is this question of women in power but also a response to the machismo sensibilities and just how that sort of has played out, because you and I have talked about that earlier and I just wanted to—

LINDBORG: Sure, and then I want to say something about the peace process.

GREENBERG: Definitely.

LINDBORG: You—Sarah, as always, was brilliant in her—what she talked about. But on the machismo thing, at USIP we’ve worked a lot with partners on this whole issue of masculinity and understanding that if you’re looking at—you know, so there’s structural shifts—how do you put a peace process together—but there’s also cultural normative issues that usually need to be addressed.

And what we—what we found is that particularly in a lot of cultures that have been grinding through decades of conflict, you have a notion of masculinity that is taught through generations that valorizes violence, often because they’re denied other opportunities, there’s a certain hopelessness, and it prioritizes or valorizes, you know, submission of women, violence against women, you know, sometimes rape as a common form of oppression of the other in that society.

And so without tackling that issue, without going to the heart of some of these masculinity norms, it will be very difficult to really move in—out of these cycles of violence, partly because of the way that Sarah talked about in terms of where the power is.

But if I could also add on to that, on this issue of women in the peace processes and power, I hope everybody here has seen “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” and has heard about the wonderful story of the Liberian women who didn’t have a place at the table and they took matters into their own hands and kept the guys with the guns at the table until they came up with a peace accord, which is, I think, one of the most exhilarating examples of how, in the absence of a structural approach, women are able to move forward.

However, I would also note that you’re right, Sarah, in that I think we can get in a bad place if we focus on quotas—you know, you’ve got to have two women at the peace table. And often they’re just a part of the dynamic that’s problematic.

But I do think that there’s—there’s advantages to insisting from the U.N. level, A, that we have more envoys and negotiators and mediators who are women—there are very, very few—and secondly, that we structure some of these negotiations that do include women. The first envoy on Syria when we were both in office did not let women be at the table. I remember, as you probably did, meeting with them in rainy—days of Geneva in cafés. The second one did, and women were given their own envoys so that they weren’t a party to the two sides where you had kind of women as pawns.

That’s important progress and that does help break through some of the guys-with-guns dynamics. Now, Syria is a tough example because we haven’t reached any useful accord. But I do think that we need to chisel away at the structural aspects of peace—of the peace process.

GREENBERG: It’s time to open up the floor for questions. So I would like to ask more but I’m going to open it up to members now. Please remember that this is an on-the-record event so that—with that in mind, Cora. Please identify yourself.

Q: I’m Cora Weiss from The Hague Appeal for Peace.

In answer to your question about have women made a difference, people should remember the Irish Good Friday peace accord, where two women who had to form the women’s political party to get to the table, made a difference because they wouldn’t let the guys keep talking until they institutionalized human rights, and the whole human rights structure came out of those two women and that peace agreement, and it’s a model, I think, for future agreements.

But I wanted to refer to your speaking about the U.S. Congress’ Women, Peace, and Security Resolution, and people should remember—I’m sure we all do—that in 2000, the United Nations unanimously—Security Council unanimously adopted 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, which has three Ps.

It calls for the participation of women at every level of governance, for the prevention of violent conflict, and for the protection of women and girls during violent conflict. And that was unanimously adopted, including the United States, resolution, which is international law. And it seems to me that we’re not referencing it. We’re not implementing it. We’re not referring to it and using it whenever the situation arises, which is 24/7, and that even today on these three sessions, which have been fascinating, no one has referred to it, and it’s the law—the international law—until you did this morning.

So that’s one question I have is how are we going to use it so that it sticks. When is the peacekeeping operation going to insist that peacekeepers be trained in 1325 and even take a test in how they understand it? There are lots of questions that relate to that.

And the National Action Plan that the U.S. wrote I think when Hillary was secretary was given to the Department of Defense to draft first when the women who wrote 1325 and the women who proposed it had no care, no interest, in making war safe for women. This was a peace resolution, not a military or war resolution.

GREENBERG: Good. So do you want to first address 1325 and the fate of it and why—either one of you?

SEWALL: Sure. I mean, we worked on 1325 as a—as a matter of faith the entire time that I was in the Clinton administration, and the point that I hoped I had articulated was that 1325 is a great starting point but it’s not far enough—that we have to think not just about procedural involvement of women but we have to think about the structural empowerment of women to include the diversity of thought that exists among women about policy issues and to try to make concerns like human rights which, as you rightly pointed out, were—happened to be introduced into the Northern Ireland peace process by women. But I would like to see a world in which the men might introduce human rights as well.

And so if what we’re striving for is something where—where the values that women are assumed to represent are more broadly held, then 1325 is a great launching pad, and probably not enough people think about it as the launching pad. But I do think that we risk reifying process if we stay solely within that realm. And so I would like to see us—and this is perhaps a hard thing to say at the current moment in the domestic American political life—but I would like to see us, you know, move beyond women at the table into women’s empowerment more fully.

GREENBERG: Did you want to say something here?

LINDBORG: I would just note that it’s notable that it took 15 years for us to put it into national law. I mean, you know that it was international law. I give Senator Shaheen an enormous shout-out for her leadership on that.

But also it’s interesting what—and the Canadian defense minister has just adopted, you know, a whole suite of provisions drawn from 1325 to inform structural change in the Canadian military. And, you know, so I think it’s an interesting question about the impact of a legislative approach versus or in comparison to the impact of those kinds of structural top-down leadership demands and it will be important to see where and how we get the greatest level of change. And it has been a slow—too slow of a process. You hear about it. It’s talked all over the world. It’s talked about. But it has yet to gain the kind of real traction that leads to the change I think everyone envisioned. But the most important thing that it’s done has changed the conversation, I believe, importantly from women as victim to women as contributors to security. And that alone – that narrative shift has been really important.

GREENBERG: So the question becomes, what does it take to actually change the culture, right? You can change all these structural things, all these, you know, narratives. But the question is, when does the culture itself actually change? Not this year. No, it’s coming. (Laughter.)

All right. Next question. Over here.

Oh, sorry. Admiral Tidd, what would you like to say?

TIDD: Yes. I would like just to observe on that point that 20 years ago U.S. Southern Command established a human rights initiative. And next week, we’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of that initiative. And again, that is to take the point that for militaries to be effective they’ve got to be viewed by their populations as protectors, and not as predators. And so what we’ve seen is over time an effort to change the role of the militaries within Central and South America. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s an area that we continue to hammer on with all of our interactions as we work with, as we train, as we develop—

(Video feed freezes.)

GREENBERG: OK. Next question. Over here.

Q: OK. Lieutenant Colonel Rachel Grimes, the U.N.’s military’s gender advisor.

(Background noise.) Oh, painful.

Well, I’d just like to reassure everybody in the audience that within the U.N. and the military, 1325 is daily in our thinking. My job is to try to get more women officers out to peacekeeping, and also to make sure that our patrols are no longer single sex. In 21st century peacekeeping, how can we have all-male patrols? It’s a scandal. And so my question to, and to everybody in this audience, I daily have lessons in misogyny and casual sexism when I’m working with the military advisors to try and encourage them to send more women. How do people in this room think that you can start to advocate on individual countries? And I say that because SEA, everybody says the U.N. needs to do more on SEA. But actually, what we should do is break it down and look at the individual countries who are committing SEA, and start to be tougher on those countries. And I wonder if we could start to take that next step of being tougher on individual countries who fail to deploy any women officers of women soldiers to peacekeeping.

GREENBERG: If she can hear me I’d like – Ambassador Ayalde, can you hear me? Can you hear me? OK, I think she might—OK. We’re going to forego that asking—

AYALDE: We’re back.

GREENBERG: Oh, you’re back. OK. Can you—if you can hear me, I was hoping you could address this question about taking it country by country to work against the kind of misogyny and exclusion of women from security forces, security policy, et cetera. I guess not. OK.

TIDD: OK. (Off mic)—you know, the—and I don’t want to—

GREENBERG: Remind me to do this again. (Laughs.)

TIDD: OK. I mean, part of the issue is taking the steps to encourage countries to recruit women into their militaries in the first place. And those are the steps that are beginning. But it takes time. I mean, I absolutely take the point of countries that deploy peacekeeping forces, without any women as part of their peacekeeping teams. I think that’s one of the areas where we see countries like Chile and Uruguay taking a leadership, where as they end their peacekeeping operation schools they emphasize the important role of women. And they are increasing the numbers of women in the teams that they deploy. And the women over time are occupying increasingly senior and more senior positions within those teams. So it is—it is happening. It’s happening slowly. But I think those countries that have become real leaders in the field recognize the importance of it.

SEWALL: Yeah. One of the things I did frequently in engaging both with foreign militaries and with foreign police forces, because I was responsible for much of our assistance in those regards when I was at State, is encourage people to—state institutions to involve more women. And the way in which you can make that happen is to have the countries that provide the equipment and the training insist on that. I mean, again, it gets to the power dynamic. You can say whatever you want, but if you don’t say: When we do this training program we expect X number of women in it, then the change won’t happen.

To the point about cultural norms, I remember one of the places that I was speaking to about the importance of women in the police force in terms of combatting sexual violence against women was in Indonesia. Well, they still administer a virginity test for their new recruits in Indonesia. So here’s a great example of a cultural phenomenon that coexists with nominal, progressive movement institutionally. And so there’s no—there’s no lack of opportunity for us to do more in that regard.

If you go up one level, and you think about the U.N. and peacekeeping forces, you know, as everybody on this panel knows, we’re in such dire straits when it comes to recruiting peacekeeping that I think that’s been – if we had had a surplus of excess capability on the peace operations front, then we would be able to be much pickier. And I think part of what deters the international community from pushing for higher standards is the fact that we have such a need for international peacekeepers and far too few countries willing to provide them. So, again, until we’re in a position where we’re able to change that dynamic, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the progress that you’re suggesting remains necessary on the U.N. peacekeeping front.

GREENBERG: Right. And part of that is actually privileging a culture of peacemaking and negotiation as opposed to other alternatives. So it’s a—it’s a larger, not necessarily gendered, dialogue, right, in which women can then play a role.

Other questions? Right here in the pink.

Q: Thank you. Thank you. I’m Yasmine Ergas from Columbia—sorry. Yasmine Ergas from Columbia University. I didn’t look at my mic.

I wanted to go back, though, to the question of power, because I agree completely with what Sarah was saying about the fact that presence at a table, no matter how symbolically significant it may be, is actually not the only issue. And that it’s far more important to be able to get to meaningful participation. And perhaps ultimately not just to talk about being at the table, but, as we’ve always said, talking about the shape of the table. So my question, though, is that if you really want to talk about power, you’ve got to talk about the social relationships that—and social and economic structures that underlie the inequalities of power that are then reflected by the time that you get to a peace process. In fact, by the time that you get to any form of conflict.

And what troubles me is a way of thinking about women, peace, and security, as if the security question and as if the conflict issue were separate from, could be effectively segmented away, cut away from underlying social and economic, as well as cultural, dynamics. So my question really is, how do make those connections? How do you really envisage a transformation of power relations such that when women sit at the table it’s not because they’ve—the peacekeeping team has been—or the negotiators have been pressed to do so by a foreign power, which will always be perceived as a foreign power, but rather because they already arrive, at least relatively, empowered? It seems to me that that requires a different way of thinking about the peace and security agenda. And I just wonder how we might undertake that.

GREENBERG: You know, Nancy, this kind of ties into your narrative, you know, analysis of this. And maybe you should talk a little bit about that.

LINDBORG: Well, I would—I would return to two points that I made initially. The first is some very compelling data that I’m sure you’ve seen—Valerie Hudson has done a lot of work on this at Texas A&M—but, you know, that shows the relationship between those social, economic, inclusion indicators and the relative peacefulness of a country. So I think the dots are there to be fully connected. There’s other research as well that at least provides us with the impetus for why we need to think of these peace and security issues far upstream, and start from the premise that countries that are more inclusive, that women have a greater role, that they are, you know, more fully participants in the social and economic fabric, will be able to prevent conflicts from becoming violent. And that is a whole large agenda of work.

A lot—from the peacebuilding perspective, I think a lot of the effort is in enabling women to be very active at every level of their society, and providing the kinds of tools that help them be, you know, like the Irish women, or stock the pipeline, so that they’re moving up through positions of power in the institutions of those countries. I mean, it’s a—it’s a large conversation that goes to the very heart of the state and the society relationship and the values that drive it. And I think—I completely agree with your fundamental analysis that we need to think in those terms.

GREENBERG: Sarah, do you want to add anything?

SEWELL: I’ll just say briefly, I don’t think—you know, I come at this still—I guess I’m still fresh from a government perspective, where you’re thinking about the role of states in helping to—in helping the parties within a conflict come to some kind of agreement. And there, I think you’re not going to change—you can’t change the dynamic that came to the table. You know, to grossly misquote Donald Rumsfeld, you know, you’re going to fight with the army you got, right? Like, they are what they are when they come to that table. What I think external actors can do is say: If you want us to underwrite this future that you’re building together, then we’re with that, right? Those issues are our issues. And as you think about structuring the way that you’re going to have external support going forward, those will be priorities.

So I think, to some extent, if we think of women as proxies for values that we, as a country, can’t impose within a peace process, that they’re a proxy for the values that we think are important for a sustainable peace, then what we need to do as external agents brokering that peace is to reinforce that with resources, with process, with continued engagement. I think to some degree, we’ll see—we’ll see glimmers of hope for that in Colombia, because we, the U.S., have been so invested in Colombia. But the question is, when we’re providing our resources, how much of that is going to demobilization versus other kinds of things? How much of it is still in the counter-drug fight, versus the kinds of things we expected the women to carry at the table, right?

And so to me, it’s about how do the external power dynamics been able to compensate for what internally is already broken, by virtue of there having been a conflict, in most cases? You can’t change that before it comes to the table, but you can try to reinforce the change that comes out of the table.

GREENBERG: More questions. Over here. Wait for the microphone. It’s just—and identify yourself.

Q: Sure. Rina Amiri. I’m an advisor with DPA, at the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, and I’m also at NYU.

I agree with a lot of the comments that have been said here, including one of the things that I think we need to bear in mind is there’s such a heavy focus on the table. And peace processes, while that’s critical, they’ve evolved. It’s not just one table. It’s multiple tables. And as Sarah and Nancy alluded, the table—the hierarchy, the dynamics of the table, are going to be as they are. It is led by a delegation, who will determine who speaks. So it’s really important—it’s incredibly important to demand—to push for quotas. But we need to also be thinking about other tables.

For example, in Syria, where the U.N. has pushed for the inclusion of women, there are women at the table. But there are some more interesting processes that have been added, including a women’s advisory board by de Mistura, a civil society support room. And the—I think one of the things that we need to think about is how do we empower those other tables and provide more leverage to them, provide more political support to them? Because we are still so state-centric—that is, the foreign ministers to foreign ministers. And with these other processes, we do sort of a nominal visit to these representatives, but we don’t treat it as a meaningful part of the peace process. I think that’s one question to think about.

The other is peace negotiations are a lot about power. That’s why you get the people that you get at the table, power in terms of the way that they can have an impact on the conflict and conflict mitigation. But there’s another element of it, which is responsibility sharing. And I think that’s where women come in, the responsibility—and this is something that my colleagues speak about a lot—that our own framework has to change. And how can we contribute to that dialogue? Thank you.

GREENBERG: I want to try to just bring in Ambassador Ayalde. Can you hear me? It’s too bad, because this is something she’s actually—she said yes?

AYALDE: We’re on. Yes.

GREENBERG: Good. I thought you might be—you might want to respond to that. Did you hear the question?

AYALDE: Did I have a question?

GREENBERG: No, did you hear the question that was just asked?

TIDD: I think the problem is when you turn away and face the screen, you’re not talking into the microphone, and it gives up on us.

GREENBERG: OK. All right. All right. So the question that was asked, which was actually very eloquent and very detailed, was basically it’s one thing to talk about the table that the power players come to, but another thing to talk about the ancillary things that are just as important that go on, and that as power relationships shift, is there a way to empower some of these conversations that are alongside, maybe not as valued, as the more-powerful-at-the-table conversations between the top officials.

And I know that you’ve worked in the (intercesis ?) of some of these conversations. And I just wondered if you wanted to respond to that need for respecting and developing further these alternative venues for discussion and negotiation.

AYALDE: Well, yes, I think there’s definitely a need to expand on that. I mean, you can’t just focus on having the including women at the negotiating table and expect everything to work out if you’re not—if it’s not concentric circles of what you’re working on. So it’s an overriding optic that needs to be taken into account as you—not only as you negotiate, but as you implement. Because if you can negotiate an agreement as all pulled together into a document, but then you don’t get the results that you need, then you’re not having the impact.

So very definitely it’s an ongoing process. And again, not to just talk about process, but it’s a slow process and it has to be constantly something that we need to be viewing and keeping an eye on to make sure that that perspective is included in—not only is it at the table, the formal table, but all the different aspects of the work; so very definitely.

GREENBERG: Nancy, just—I’d like you to follow up on that, because, you know, in terms of your power analysis, there is a theory of power inclusion that starts with alternative venues and then finding your voice at the table by influencing the surrounding environment and creating the context for the conversation at the table. How do you see this?

LINDBORG: Yes. And I would note that, you know, any peace accord is a beginning. And the implementation of it is more likely to be successful if it is connected to a variety of processes that are happening to support it. I cited earlier the example of the Colombian women who were negotiating local peace accords throughout the negotiated process at the formal table. And we see over and over again that you can’t get to a state-to-state conclusion often if you don’t have constituent support.


LINDBORG: This is not—you know, I don’t think this is necessarily a gendered issue, but there—because women are so outside of the official power structures, they often have a greater voice and agency working outside those structures, and those become essential complements to the formal peace process, without which—and so the statistic that you cited, the—

GREENBERG: Sixty-four percent.

LINDBORG: —(convert ?); I cited the 34 percent are more likely to endure 15 more years. I think it’s because, fundamentally, they’re more inclusive. And they’re more inclusive of those activities that are complementary to what goes on at the state-to-state level.

GREENBERG: Right. And to your point about who’s at the table and who’s not at the table, in a way, if you think about it, you know, the statistics are what, that less than 8 percent of the people who are involved in these negotiations are women? Less than 5 percent are involved in the actual document itself. So in a way, this is—this has to be the case.

So more questions. In the back over there.

Q: (Off mic)—Population Council.

Two points; one, just a further elaboration I’d be interested in on tipping points for change, because, you know, management theory says at least 30 percent, for instance, at the table and so forth—and certainly our experience is that concentrations of females—you know, female spaces and so forth so that they can support each other, but also because of the internal diversity, so in negotiations or in presence in any institution. The Panchayati Raj in India, which has been very successful, benchmarks at least a third of the—and they have control over resources, at least some, at the local level. So comment on that.

And also, in addition, perhaps, to the data points, I think, would make a big difference. People are still, I think, focused on women’s share of the economy as opposed to their current—what they currently have as responsibilities without authority over resources. And to the point, in Liberia, 92 percent of current adolescent girls will be single mothers for significant periods of time. So basically the contract for the children of that country—and those figures—and I have them for a lot of countries—those figures will increase in conflict, obviously, and they increase as you get to poorer segments in places in which you have an incubator of violence.

So points—I think it’s really important to add that, because, in effect—and even as fertility falls and other things change, a rising proportion of all dependency burdens for younger and older dependents falls on females. They just don’t have sufficient authority over resources. They certainly have responsibility. So those data, I think, are useful data points as well.

GREENBERG: Another question. That was more to—

LINDBORG: Good point.

GREENBERG: Yes. Thank you.

Yeah, final question.

Q: Thank you. I’m Gayle Tzemach Lemmon from the Council on Foreign Relations.

And one of the questions I would just love to throw to all of you at the end is the framing of this discussion. I did one book about—sort of seen as development, and one was seen as defense. To me, they were exactly the same issues about communities that were standing up and speaking up for themselves.

We hosted an event at CFR on child marriage in fragile states. And every woman who walked in the door went to that. And there was simultaneously an event on the Quadrennial Defense Review, and every man who walked in the door went to that. And if you look at the issues, right, these are so many of the same conversations that are happening, but in separate rooms.

And Sarah, I know you’ve worked on the cross-border intersection, as have you, Nancy. How do you think of these issues, which are security and stability, and framing them in a way that has everybody who’s having these siloed conversations come into the same discussion, for the same goal of security and stability?


SEWALL: Well, first of all, I don’t think it’s helpful when our government’s framing of issues is siloed. And that’s a necessary, I think, corollary of the way institutions are set up. We all think very narrowly about the things that we can control and that we can name and that look like us.

You know, I think there’s a lot of lip service within the Department of Defense about climate, about gender, about whatever. I will tell you that, you know, in my three years as undersecretary of state for all these issues, the one thing I kept coming away from—and I focused largely on conflict in governance, and I would go to, you know, countries on every continent, and I would come back, and my make takeaway that I would say to my husband is, my God, nobody’s talking about family planning. And yet behind all of these abnormalities and challenges and problems that we forecast for the future, that’s, like, the central nub.

But, you know, you talk to, you know, Governor Shettima, who’s trying to deal with it in northern Nigeria, and he can’t even say the word because of cultural sensitivities. The best he can do, the closest he can do, is say we can talk about education for girls, because then maybe they’ll stay in school longer and maybe they won’t have children at quite such a young age and assume this dependency burden that our colleague just spoke about.

So for me, my whole gestalt is that these divisions are artificial. And yet I don’t know how, other than sort of Soviet-style central control, to force institutions to think outside of their comfort zones. So I just—I believe that the question for everyone needs to be—that there needs to be a broader venue for each individual piece to think about the anomalies and the outliers within each individual piece.

And—but it was very difficult to even get the State Department counterterrorism people to understand that they were doing human-rights work when they were trying to prevent violent extremism, and to get the human-rights people to understand that if they weren’t talking to militaries about how to train them on whatever it was—1325, 1625, you name it—that the militaries weren’t going to change their attitudes.

And so this is really—this is—and it’s reinforced by the academy. I mean, I’m back in the academy now, and it’s reinforced by specialization. Everybody in the room, be a generalist and ask questions that are the unconventional questions, because it’s the only way we’re going to get at where the problems can be solved.

GREENBERG: Go ahead.

LINDBORG: I completely agree. And I actually, in the summer of 2015, tri-chaired a study group with former Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and former Undersecretary of DOD Michele Flournoy. And I come from of a development background, so it was deliberately the three Ds.

And we had about 35 senior advisers who were part of this, all formers from those sectors, looking specifically at how—what are the concrete recommendations for our government for how to begin to break down these stovepipes and create a shared consciousness of what the problem set is so that we can be more effective in tackling this core problem that is at the root of so many of these conflicts, which is, you know, the inability of states to meet the needs of their societies or the legitimacy of these governments.

There is some work going on right now within the administration. We also have increasingly at USIP worked with State, AID, and DOD to put together gaming scenarios for places like Lake Chad Basin, which are so complicated, as Sarah knows very well, to create a shared understanding of what are the drivers of these conflict and what might each of the actors, plus NGOs and the IO, the international organizations, how do you bring your shared capabilities together to tackle this? Because what we otherwise end up doing is sometimes not only not having a conversation together, but, in fact, undercutting each other’s efforts. And that’s the worst possible outcome that we need to address.

GREENBERG: Yeah. So there’s a lot of takeaways. You have—the panel has very well answered some of these questions. How far have we come? We’ve come from, you know—we being women—from victim to contributor, from supplicant to equal participant at the table. But it seems that there are still vast structural, cultural, socioeconomic issues to address. And so maybe we’ll have to come back next year. (Laughter.)

Thank you so much for joining us. (Applause.)


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