Women Leaders Making a Difference in International AffairsPaula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
Remarks to Women's Foreign Policy Group (WFPG)
April 24, 2002
Thank you for inviting me to address this special gathering of "Women Leaders Making a Difference in International Affairs." The Women’s Foreign Policy Group is an organization that in its 20-year history has made great strides in bringing women’s voices into the discussion of international relations.
I want to commend the Executive Director, Pat Ellis, for bringing together this tremendous group of leaders and starting this important dialogue. I also want to thank Congresswoman Judy Biggert and Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald for participating today as well as the Carnegie Corporation of New York. We are fortunate to have here today women from Congress, the executive branch, the diplomatic corps, and the private sector. This gathering of exceptional women presents opportunities for us to share our experiences, to network with one another, and to strengthen our own resolve to make a difference in our individual areas of expertise.
Since I am not delivering a speech but only making some remarks, I will get right down to the heart of the matter and take on the big question here -- what difference can women leaders make in international affairs? Women can make a tremendous difference in international affairs. Diplomacy requires skills of negotiating and conflict resolution, an ability to look at all sides of an issue, and an innate empathy for and understanding of our fellow humankind. Women possess these skills. This administration recognizes the insights and talents of women in foreign policy. Women serve in key leadership positions in the State Department, the NSC, and other agencies.
We here in this room have been privileged to cultivate these skills so that we now occupy positions where we can make a difference in global issues. But as we all know, many of our fellow women across the world do not have that opportunity. Let me turn briefly to the issues that face women around the world today and what our government is doing to address these issues.
As Secretary Powell stated last month on the occasion of International Women’s Day, it is the firm policy of the Bush administration that "the worldwide advancement of women’s issues is not only in keeping with the deeply held values of the American people, it is strongly in our national interest as well." Therefore, the State Department takes very seriously issues affecting the rights and well being of women.
Women’s issues affect not just half of the world’s population that are women. They profoundly affect all humankind. Women’s issues are human rights issues, health and education issues, and development issues. They cut to the heart of what is needed to build and maintain stable and successful families and societies.
The Bush administration recognizes that women’s contributions are valuable and indeed indispensable -- whether it is in fighting HIV/AIDS, rising out of poverty, or helping war-torn regions toward peace and recovery. Therefore, women’s issues are integral components of this administration’s foreign policy.
We have demonstrated our commitment to women’s issues through the State Department’s Office of the Senior Coordinator for Women’s Issues. In my capacity as overseer of the International Women’s Office, I have seen firsthand the dedication toward improving women’s lives such as in reconstructing Afghanistan to include women in social, economic, and political life or in the support of African women whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS.
The Bush administration is committed to working with groups and individuals, the public, and the private sector in order to improve the standing of women worldwide and to preserve their rights. Through channels of public diplomacy, we seek to educate the rest of the world of the importance of respecting women’s rights and to ensuring that women can reach their full potential.
I believe that shortly you will be breaking into small groups to discuss some of the challenges that face not just women but the entire world today -- issues like terrorism, regional conflicts, economic development, and democratization and human rights.
Before you do, let me just say that these are challenges which have no easy answers and no quick solutions. But these are challenges that will only be met by the efforts of women leaders like yourselves. Pat, again, thank you for inviting me and congratulations on today’s important session.