Including women in negotiations will lead to lasting peace agreements, say GWFD panelists


DUBAI, 17th February, 2020 (WAM) -- Peace agreements could last 35 years or more with the simple solution of adding women to the table when conducting a peace deal, said a panelist at a Plenary Panel session titled ‘Women Leaders in Government’ on the second day of the Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020.

Speaking at the session, Ambassador Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, UAE's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, said, "Women bring the full spectrum of considerations when they negotiate a peace settlement. It’s not just about power sharing, it’s also about access to justice, social services, medical health and facilities, and education. That is why it is such a core part of the UAE’s foreign policy objective so that they are at the table."

The session, also featuring Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, Rania Al Mashat, Egypt's Minister of International Cooperation, Mimoza Kusari Lila, Kosovo's former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Industry. CNN's Business Emerging Markets Editor, John Defterios moderated the session.

"Today, less than 10 percent of women are negotiators and mediators in peace and conflict situations and it is for the UN and the Security Council to step in and make sure it is a higher figure," Nusseibeh noted.

She went on to say that gender parity wasn’t enshrined in United Nations at the time of its foundation. "The UN Charter forged at the end of World War II actually describes the Secretary-General as a man. If you look at where we (the UN) have come today, you can see where we have had to move the dial. Documentation does matter."

"That is why the UAE constitution enshrines gender equality because all legislation emanates from that," Nusseibeh affirmed. "Under the leadership of our current Secretary General Antonio Guterres, we have what he considers a feminist Secretary Generalship. He is committed to ensuring that at the high levels of UN agencies, there is 50-50 parity with men and women leading those agencies."

Paying tribute to the role of H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, in promoting gender balance, she said, "We have a living role model in Her Highness Sheikha Fatima, who continues to lead that charge in the UAE for women’s empowerment. She now has contributed to the United Nations to fund peacekeepers not just in the region but also around the world. I think it is a vision of hope for the region."

Recalling the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in promoting women’s empowerment, Mariam Al Mheiri said, "At a time when this was uncommon, Sheikh Zayed understood that women play a huge part in the country’s development. He said half of my society are women. I would say those were the seeds that have got us where we are today. Today a third of the cabinet are women, 50 percent of our Federal National Council are women. These are basically outcomes that came from the values instilled by our leadership."

For her part, Rania Al Mashat said that in multilateral institutions, "women’s participation has progressed in a way that is not merely lip service."

"I started in the International Monetary Fund in 2001, and at that time, we used to have brown bag lunches as women to see how we can encourage each other to do internal mobility and these were individual efforts. There was no mainstream in the institution to actually bring the topic to the fore. This has changed tremendously."

In 2015, IMF issued a paper that quantified how women’s participation in the economy adds to the GDP, she said. "It was a breakthrough for the IMF. The term that was used was that women’s participation was macro-critical," Al Mashat added.

Citing Egypt’s example, Al Mashat said, "We have around 48 million women of which 23 million are actually supporting families; 14 percent of families in Egypt are actually supported by women. What the government is trying to do is allow better access to financing, foster more inclusion when it comes to access to credit. We have a national strategy outlined by the National Council for Women that operates under the President. Eight cabinet members are women – about 25 percent. More than 19 percent of parliament is composed of women."

She pointed out that if women leaders do a good job, societal perceptions change. "They realise that whoever is competent can be there. Also, it gives political leadership more strength to push women’s participation."

Relating her experience of successfully running for Mayor for her hometown of Gjakova after having served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Industry for the Republic of Kosovo from 2011 to 2013, Mimoza Kusari Lila, the first woman elected as mayor of her country, said, "I come from a town that was the most devastated in the war in Kosovo with the highest number of people killed and the most devastation. But still the focus was towards the future as I was looking at it. When I was able to reach that new standard, I had this feeling that nothing was unreachable for women."

"I truly believe that women politicians have double the responsibility because they are not only there for everyone, they are also there to inspire young girls to go into politics and take on decision making. If any one of us fails, it’s not just a personal failure, it’s a failure that echoes. And we don’t want to be associated with failure," she continued.

Talking about the critical need to equip women with skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Al Mheiri said, "We have the Advanced Skills Strategy that was launched in 2018. Just a few months ago, we announced the Mohammed Bin Zayed University for Artificial Intelligence. We have a Minister in charge for Advanced Sciences. Our Mars Mission is composed of 34 percent women. These examples show you how the UAE has pushed women to the next level when it comes to what they can do in the STEM field. Since our leadership has empowered us so much, it motivates us and we believe we can. What we are doing is giving women the skills needed for future jobs."

Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020 is organised by Dubai Women Establishment, which is led by H.H. Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the UAE Gender Balance Council and wife of H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

Building on its theme, ‘The Power of Influence’, Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020 will highlight how effective policies and partnerships in four key areas – Government, Economy, Society, and the Future – can further women’s positive impact for a better future.

WAM/Nour Salman