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Women and Foreign Policy: June Update

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June 2016

Women and Foreign Policy Update

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The Future of U.S. National Security



Michèle Flournoy, co-founder and chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security and former undersecretary of defense for policy, joined CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Jamille Bigio for a roundtable discussion about the future of U.S. national security, supported by the Compton Foundation. Ambassador Swanee Hunt, founder and chair of the Institute for Inclusive Security, and Wafa Bugaighis, senior Libyan government representative to the United States and a member of Inclusive Security’s Women Waging Peace Network, welcomed participants with remarks on the barriers women face in gaining access to formal political institutions and peacemaking bodies. Flournoy highlighted daunting twenty-first-century security challenges—from unprecedented mass migration to the spread of violent extremism—and suggested that the nature of today’s security environment, coupled with the decentralization of power across the globe, demands inclusive solutions that draw on the knowledge, skills, and networks of diverse populations, including women. Flournoy argued that while there is “now a very fact-based, pragmatic case that says paying attention to the status of women and their inclusion in society will actually have a dramatic impact on the health and stability of that society, as well as the country’s relationships with other states,” this message is “powerful, but still too unappreciated” by leading security policymakers.  Listen to audio of the event »



Gender and Torture

In a recent roundtable discussion, Juan E. Mendez—the United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment—joined CFR Fellow Catherine Powell to discuss the UN’s groundbreaking report on the gendered aspects of torture. The report, released earlier this year, addresses the prevalence and effects of torture and detention on women, stressing the need for further study on abuses of women. Mendez noted that in some countries women and girls face particular risks of harsh punishment for actions that are considered to be “moral crimes,” including accusations of indecency or sexual transgression in conservative societies. In a related blog post on Women Around the World, Powell argues that such violations of women’s rights—including acts of torture—occur in many settings, including “on the battlefield, in health facilities, and at home.”  Read the blog post on Women Around the World »

Women’s Contributions to the U.S. Armed Forces

Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon marked Memorial Day with an op-ed highlighting the contributions of women to the U.S. Armed Forces. Last year, the Army Ranger School graduated its first two women in history, and young women across the country soon will be commissioned as infantry and armor officers as they graduate from officer candidate and R.O.T.C. programs. Although the ban on women in ground combat was only recently lifted, she writes, women have longed played critical roles on the front lines, having received Purple Hearts, Silver Stars, and Bronze Star medals with valor. Lemmon suggests that lifting the combat ban will not only open new doors for women in the U.S. Armed Forces but also bring well-deserved attention to the courageous service of thousands of women prior to this milestone: “The arrival, officially, of women into ground combat roles, will eventually shrink the visibility deficit facing America's women in uniform.”  Read the op-ed on »



Nigeria’s Investment in the Sustainable Development Agenda



Rachel Vogelstein hosted Amina J. Mohammed, Nigerian minister of environment and former UN special advisor on post-2015 development planning, for a roundtable discussion focused on implementation of the world’s new sustainable development agenda. Mohammed cited the critical need, as discussed last July in the Addis Agenda for Action, to catalyze not only official development assistance, but also domestic revenue, private-sector investment, and multilateral financing mechanisms to help emerging economies reach development targets. Mohammed also called attention to the link between climate change and gender equality, saying that “the burden of climate change…is on the shoulders of women and young girls,” citing as an example the drought in northeast Nigeria that has led to millions of internally displaced persons and increased food insecurity and physical vulnerability for women and children.  Listen to audio of the meeting »

Closing the Gender Data Gap

In a blog post on Women Around the World, Senior Fellow and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy program Rachel Vogelstein examines the lack of reliable data on the status of women and girls nationally and globally, suggesting that gender data gaps in areas such as informal employment, business ownership, unpaid work, and domestic violence must be filled in order to track progress across the sustainable development goals. Vogelstein writes, “In many places around the world, even the most basic aspects of the lives of women and girls—where and when they are born, the hours of paid or unpaid work they assume, their ownership of household assets, or how they die—are invisible.” Governments, the private sector, and philanthropic leaders all have critical roles to play and should increase efforts to close gender data gaps, suggests Vogelstein, hailing the Gates Foundation’s announcement of an unprecedented $80 million commitment to improve collection of data on women and girls as a promising step. Read the blog post on Women Around the World »

Empowering Women Will Drive Economic Growth

Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, evaluates the International Monetary Fund’s warning that emerging and developing economies will converge to advanced economy income levels at less than two-thirds the pace predicted a decade ago, and suggests that more women need to join the workforce in these markets to counter this trend and spur growth. Blair calls for public and private sector investment to tackle uneven regional progress and pervasive gender disparities across job sectors, decrying that “where women are engaged in employment, they tend to be concentrated in lower productivity sectors, often working in precarious, underpaid, and unprotected conditions.”  Read the blog post on Women Around the World »



New Findings on How to Delay Child Marriage



On Women Around the World, Sajeda Amin, who leads the Population Council’s work on livelihoods for adolescent girls, writes about child marriage in Bangladesh, where two out of three girls are married underage—the fourth-highest rate in the world. A new program run by the Population Council in Bangladesh offers promising new evidence about effective strategies to combat this harmful traditional practice: a randomized controlled trial study involving more than nine-thousand girls across three child marriage hotspot regions in rural Bangladesh resulted in a one-third reduction in child marriage. Amin writes that girls using the mentoring and training services of the centers supported by the Population Council “were also more likely to stay in school, support gender equality, and have improved health and well-being.  Read the blog post on Women Around the World »

Pakistan’s Protection of Women Against Violence Bill

In the third interview of the Women and Foreign Policy program’s new Five Questions series, Salman Sufi, senior member of the Special Monitoring Unit, Law and Order, of Punjab discusses the historic Protection of Women Against Violence Bill passed in February 2016. Sufi cites alarmingly high levels of violence against women across Pakistan: in Punjab alone, at least sixty women are subjected to violence every day, and only 1 percent of cases result in conviction. The groundbreaking bill—which aims to combat sexual violence, cyber violence, economic abuse, and psychological abuse—proposes three major implementation mechanisms, including Violence Against Women Centers that bring police, medical, and legal services under one roof and improve interagency communication. Sufi is optimistic about the bill’s potential to increase the reporting and prosecution of violence against women in Punjab: “This is why the bill has gotten a lot of pushback—because people know that it will actually bite.”  Read the interview on Women Around the World »



The Race for UN Secretary-General

The UN General Assembly held the second round of informal dialogues with candidates for the position of Secretary-General this month. In a January blog post on Women Around the World, Rachel Vogelstein examines the unprecedented level of transparency in this year’s process to appoint the world’s chief diplomat, and suggests that the "current contest could yield the first female secretary-general in UN history,” likely one of a number of seasoned women diplomats from the Eastern Europe or Latin American and Caribbean regional groups. Vogelstein writes that “At a time of significant diplomatic, humanitarian, and development challenges, this change could bring a welcome perspective to the world’s most pressing problems.”  Read the blog post on Women Around the World »


The Women and Foreign Policy Program Blog

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


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

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

Jamille Bigio
Adjunct Senior Fellow, Women and Foreign Policy Program

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Senior Fellow, Women and Foreign Policy Program

Catherine Powell
Fellow, Women and Foreign Policy Program

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