WFPG Voices
VOICES, is a forum that highlights the expertise of those who make up and support the organization. WFPG members and partners are invited to submit blog posts on international affairs and foreign policy topics, women's leadership, and career advancement. Posts represent the reflections and personal views of members and guest bloggers and not those of their employers or of the WFPG. Interested in submitting a post? Guidelines | Membership
You Are Not the Boss of Me: Leadership, Strongmen and COVID-19
April 3, 2020 | Elmira Bayrasli, CEO of Foreign Policy Interrupted
Pandemics in Crisis-Affected Settings: Ensuring Women & Girls Are Not Forgotten
April 1, 2020 | Alina Potts, Global Women’s Institute at the George Washington University
Coronavirus: A Global Threat to Health, Wealth and Security
March 24, 2020 | In lieu of an in-person program, WFPG invited our panelists to share their insights on our blog:
COVID-19 Could Doom or Deliver US-China Commercial Relations Anna Ashton, USCBC 
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Public Health Actions to #FlattenTheCurve Rear Admiral Susan Blumenthal 
Coronavirus Could Bring the US's East Asian Allies Closer to BeijingMiyeon Oh, Atlantic Council 
The Global Economic Impacts of COVID-19 | Stephanie Segal, CSIS
Coronavirus Inspires Divergent Messages and Misinformation Eileen Drage O'Reilly, Axios
Networks for Inclusion: Organizing Women in the Security Sector
December 11, 2019 | Elandre Dedrick, The German Marshall Fund
The UN’s Gender Agenda: Be Part of the Change
October 15, 2019 | Ann-Marie Wilcock, UNICEF
What is a Feminist Foreign Policy?
September 26, 2019 | Stephenie Foster and Susan Markham, Smash Strategies
You Are Not the Boss of Me: Leadership, Strongmen and COVID-19

Leadership has never been more important than now. As the coronavirus pandemic rages through our communities, our communities are desperate for remedies and relief. We have turned to the body that can deliver both on a large scale — government. Whether at the local level or on the national stage, public leaders have been anointed our guardians, our protectors. Not all have emerged as such.

Long before COVID-19, democracy has been under siege. I've lamented in Interruptrr Weekly about the dwindling power of the people in Turkey, Hungary, Russia, Poland, the Philippines and Brazil. The current global health crisis, with its lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, border restrictions, and increased surveillance, has turned otherwise strongman tactics into much needed survival mechanisms.

And, still, strongman tactics haven't proven to help survival, now or later. In China, surveillance has become more handy for pinpointing critics rather than the coronavirus. Information control over constructive contribution. In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has also embraced surveillance — and used the global pandemic to delay a court inquiry into corruption charges against him. How convenient. In Turkey, Erdoğan's strongman tactics are no longer sufficient to fool the people.

There are bright spots, however. Looking to Germany, New Zealand, and Denmark, the leaders of these countries — who happen to be women — have responded to the coronavirus with soberness. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken as a leader should. New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has focused on those "Kiwis," as New Zealanders call themselves, abroad, particularly in Australia who are in need of job assistance. And Denmark, Mette Frederiksen has expressed caution, while getting busy on fighting the virus and also focusing on the welfare of Danish citizens.

Good or bad, the post-COVID-19 world will certainly be one in which leadership will be tested. We'll no doubt see the strongmen proclaim that they are "in charge" — and that, we the people, are not the boss of them. We'll also see leaders get on with business in the name of the people. You can bet I'll be watching that.

This article originally appeared in Foreign Policy Interrupted's Interruptrr Weekly, a newsletter which highlights op-eds, research, expertise by women (subscribe here).

Elmira Bayrasliis Foreign Policy Interrupted's CEO, writes about global entrepreneurs for Forbes, and is the Director of Bard College's Globalization and International Affairs Program. @endeavoringE

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Pandemics in Crisis-Affected Settings: Ensuring Women & Girls Are Not Forgotten

Increasing movement restrictions. Healthcare workers exercising ‘wartime triage’. Bare store shelves and the shuttering of businesses. For those of us living in the United States and other wealthy countries, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to bear a series of social and economic shocks our governments—and many of us—are struggling to manage. Yet for many of the 71 million people living as refugees, asylum seekers, or ‘internally displaced’ within their own countries, these conditions are not new. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in already-fragile settings such as Syria, Afghanistan or South Sudan is potentially devastating. Responding requires informed, as well as inclusive, action. How can we learn from past infectious disease outbreaks in conflict and disaster-affected settings? And how can we ensure, unlike past outbreaks, women and girls are not lost in the response?

While not rising to the level of a pandemic, Cholera outbreaks in Yemen, Syria, and Haiti, and Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and DR Congo, brought numerous direct and knock-on effects. Health systems already weakened by crisis—or even under deliberate attack—were further strained; increased need for clean water and sanitation outstripped supply in environmentally-precarious areas; loss of livelihoods placed further pressure on weakened markets and food-insecure households; and aid was sometimes re-directed to ‘more urgent’ needs. The scale of the current pandemic has already led to border closures and changed migration policies that have significantly affected resettlement processes as well as safe passage for people seeking asylum or migrating for economic or climate reasons.

Recognizing the possible impact of Covid-19 on the world’s most vulnerable—people forced to flee war or still living in it, who lack access to soap and water, or to a hospital bed should they fall critically ill—the United Nations just launched a $2 billion global humanitarian response plan. “If we leave coronavirus to spread freely in these places, we would be placing millions at high risk, whole regions will be tipped into chaos and the virus will have the opportunity to circle back around the globe,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock.

While devastating to all, there is a growing recognition of the gendered nature of infectious disease outbreaks in crisis-affected settings. These range from increased risk of domestic violence due to household stressors and quarantine measures, to growing care burdens often falling on women, and risks to female health workers on the front line. Covid-19 will be no different.

The 2013-16 Ebola outbreak made increasingly visible the toll of infectious disease on West African women and girls’ lives. Gender-based violence (GBV), which already disproportionately affects women and girls, was exacerbated by increased household stressors, family separation, quarantine measures and school closures. A qualitative assessment by the UN Development Programme found increases in both intimate partner violence and sexual violence in Ebola-affected Sierra Leone when comparing 2014 to previous years, with reports mirroring the curve of the outbreak: as the response to Ebola ramped up, the authors note that reported cases dropped, likely due to crowding out of safe places and pathways for accessing GBV services. As Ebola cases started to stabilize in parts of the country, reports in those locations rose once more. Informal and formal support structures, already strained by conflict or disaster, often face further deterioration in public health emergencies. In Syria and Yemen, the cholera response exacerbated negative ‘coping mechanisms’ such as forced/child marriage, which further links to IPV. The mental health of survivors as well as those who care for them can also impacted.

This type of service-based data speaks to the fundamental need for flexibility and continued funding during public health emergencies, so that vital sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and GBV services for women and girls can adapt and continue. An IRC assessment showed that, during the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, in areas where funding and flexibility allowed for GBV services to remain open, utilization rates increased by almost 20% at the height of the crisis in comparison to pre-crisis levels. Another study of Sierra Leone from 2014-15 estimates an additional 3,600 deaths occurred due to decreased use of SRH services such as family planning, ante/post-natal care and deliveries in health facilities. It is promising to see this research oft-cited in some of the early and excellent COVID-19 guidance—and it should lead to informed action such as ensuring the Minimum Initial Services Package (MISP), a set of agreed upon, life-saving practices to address SRH needs in emergencies, is prioritized from the outset.

Sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by aid workers remains a concern during public health crises. During the Ebola response, a range of actors took advantage of women and girls—including taxi drivers, burial teams, and even vaccinators, who chose to exploit existing power differentials that had been further deepened by the outbreak. My own participatory action, feminist research examines the same dynamics in relation to aid distributions, by working with women and girls living as refugees in Uganda and Lebanon to understand how SEA manifests in relation to accessing food, water, shelter, fuel and firewood, and cash assistance. They identify protective strategies for mitigating SEA risk already in use by women and girls, and recommend specific actions aid actors should take.

These protective strategies to mitigate SEA risk—such as moving in groups and ensuring adequate female aid staff—become increasingly difficult given COVID-19 distancing practices that impact the ways in which women’s groups and aid programs function. For example, women workers may face pressure to stay home and care for others if their own families are impacted, potentially leaving a staffing gap. The emphasis on handwashing and increased need to gather water, usually a gendered activity, may further put women and children at risk in displacement contexts where accessing hygiene facilities is often accompanied by fear of harassment and assault. Adolescent girls, unaccompanied/separated children, the elderly and those living with disabilities may face increased risks given potential shortages of aid and/or increased difficulties in accessing it due to containment measures. At the same time, existing barriers to seeking help may increase. Support to adapt a minimum standard of services that can continue to be safely offered is crucial. Given recommendations around remote services delivered via mobile phone or messaging apps, women and girls’ access to technology has never been more urgent.

Much of the work to make the gendered impacts of disease outbreaks more visible has been done by women and girls themselves—as members of community groups, local activists, human rights defenders, and feminist researchers applying an intersectional and gendered analysis in documenting the extent of the crises that affect them. Their voices, and participation in decision-making and planning, must be centered both in immediate response—where the ‘localization’ agenda can be harnessed to better support women on the frontlines—as well as within longer-term preparedness efforts. Duty of care for staff, and shared assessments of how remote management strategies may displace risk onto the most vulnerable actors, are important considerations for responding responsibly.

Lasting peace and security in fragile settings is achievable when women and girls are included at the table. This is no less true when layered against a global pandemic that threatens the very connectedness by which their societies and families are held together. Communities who have been living in crisis for some time now have much to teach us about adaptation, resilience, and mobilization—if we know how to ask, and how to listen.

This article originally appeared on The Global Women's Institute at the George Washington University blog in partnership with  the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. Photo Credit: Christopher Penler / Shutterstock

Alina Potts Alina Potts, MPH is a research scientist focused on gender, violence and humanitarian assistance at George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute.

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COVID-19 Could Doom or Deliver US-China Commercial Relations

When the United States and China reached a Phase One trade agreement in January, US companies with business in China breathed a measured sigh of relief. The agreement was hardly comprehensive, but it broke new ground in resolving old disputes. It also offered a chance at improved commercial and diplomatic engagement after many months of escalating tariffs and tension. But on the heels of the Phase One deal’s announcement, China’s coronavirus outbreak became an epidemic, bringing with it dramatic economic disruptions. COVID-19 has supplanted the trade truce as the relationship’s new destabilizing factor, one that is being leveraged more baldly and aggressively to pry our economies apart.

A popular cause for alarm over US-China trade right now is the specter of overdependence on China for any number of goods that we need and don’t have enough of—from N95 masks and medical gloves to ventilators and hand sanitizer. In fact, as numerous experts have noted, China’s own COVID- 19 response included a ramp-up in production of critical supplies it now has in surplus. Exporting some of this surplus to the United States would aid its own economic recovery and offers a near-immediate solution to some of the shortages we face. Yet many of these items remain subject to trade war tariffs that the US government continues to apply to roughly two-thirds of all imports from China. Scores of business associations signed onto a letter last week asking the president to suspend all China tariffs as an emergency economic measure, but so far, the administration has rejected this idea in favor of narrower tariff exemptions that require time-consuming reviews of formal submissions from companies.

The Defense Production Act invoked last week by the White House allows the government to jump to the front of the line to procure needed supplies from US companies, but it does nothing to facilitate sourcing of supplies from outside the United States. In fact, some officials in the White House and on the Hill would rather focus on obviating any need for imports, pushing legislation that would forbid federal sourcing of some critical items from China, and advocating for Buy America provisions that would require federal agencies to procure essential pharmaceutical ingredients, raw materials, medical equipment, and supplies here at home.

Despite the economic pressures China has faced, and skepticism of its ability to follow through with its Phase One commitments, China has yet to invoke the disaster clause in the agreement or otherwise formally request that the US relax the deal’s terms. Administration officials generally acknowledge that China has kept to a pretty tight schedule in meeting its obligations so far. Ensuring that the terms of the deal are fully implemented will require continuous government and private sector attention and engagement, but China’s resolve to date is the kind of show of good faith that can be built upon. Even so, in the last week, the rumble of rhetorical support for deeper disengagement from China has started to sound like a roar.

Irrespective of political discord, US companies with China operations were quick to contribute millions in aid to Chinese relief efforts last month, and offers of assistance from China have likewise been quick to materialize in our own hour of need. Last week, Chinese billionaire and Alibaba founder Jack Ma sent a million masks and half a million test kits to the United States Centers for Disease Control.

Pushing pause on tariffs and proactively pursuing sourcing opportunities with China offers the United States a smoother path through this crisis and a chance at a faster recovery. Steady progress toward full implementation of the Phase One deal and success restoring US companies’ China operations to profitability offer medium-and-long-term support weathering and recovering from the damage we are sustaining domestically. The United States and China are and will remain strategic competitors, but with so many lives and livelihoods under threat from a common enemy, offers and opportunities to work together should be honored as morally imperative and embraced as additional buttresses for the more stable and reciprocal relationship that both nations need now more than ever before.

Anna Ashton, senior director of government affairs at the US-China Business Council, has previously served as a China analyst for the Department of Defense, US Chamber of Commerce, and US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. 

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The Coronavirus Pandemic: Public Health Actions to #FlattenTheCurve

More than 40 new infectious diseases have emerged since the 1960s, but until the recent coronavirus pandemic, many nations had amnesia about the devastating impact of these outbreaks. As of March 23rd, over 353,692 people globally have been infected with more than 15,430 deaths. In America, more than 35,241 cases of COVID-19 have been reported with over 400 deaths thus far. On Monday, the World Health Organization reported that the pandemic is accelerating globally; it took 67 days to confirm the first hundred thousand cases, 11 days to confirm the second hundred thousand cases and just four days to confirm the third hundred thousand cases. Cases are expected to increase rapidly in the coming weeks.

This life-threatening illness is overwhelming all sectors of society including health care systems with a lack of adequate testing, insufficient personal protection equipment (PPE) for medical providers, not enough hospital beds and a lack of plans in place for schools, businesses, and individuals to effectively respond. Without a vaccine or effective treatments for the disease currently available, we need to take immediate action to follow proven public health practices, like social distancing and personal hygiene, to reverse the curve of this pandemic.

Battling this invisible enemy is very much like fighting a war requiring the mobilization of all sectors of society; each of us must contribute. The choices and decisions we make as individuals and communities now will impact the severity of the outbreak in the weeks and months ahead. An effective response should include the following key components:

Re-establish the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense

The White House should permanently re-establish the National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, which was dismantled by the Administration two years ago. With a permanent office dedicated to pandemic and bioterrorism preparedness planning, the federal government would always have senior leadership in place to immediately mount a comprehensive whole-of-government response. Moreover, annual funding for this permanent office would help break the “boom and bust” appropriations cycle that surges when a public health emergency occurs and diminishes when the threat subsides. While it was an important step forward that the White House appointed a Coronavirus Response Coordinator on February 27th within the National Security Council, this appointment came late in the pandemic response trajectory, missing a crucial window for earlier intervention and containment. Although delayed, the government is now mobilizing all federal agencies working with the private sector to contribute their resources to fighting the disease.

How Early Testing Shaped the Pandemic: Lessons Learned from Other Nations

Diagnostic testing at scale is essential to pandemic control with decisions about early testing shaping the course of the pandemic across the world. South Korea significantly slowed its epidemic by utilizing the most expansive and well-organized diagnostic testing systems available combined with extensive efforts to isolate infected people and trace and quarantine their contacts. The country also enacted a key regulatory reform that allowed officials to give near-instantaneous approval to coronavirus testing systems during this public health emergency, so that the country could test more than 10000 people a day.

As the first coronavirus cases were reported in China, within hours Hong Kong moved rapidly to obtain travel and exposure histories from symptomatic patients, and then quickly isolated those individuals. With memories of the devastating national security, economic, and health impacts of the SARS and MERS epidemics, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore marshaled political and public will, implementing advanced tracking systems and interventions that have kept coronavirus cases and deaths relatively low.

In February, problems with reagents in the CDC’s coronavirus test kit impeded the rapid expansion of screening to state and local public health laboratories in America as did not adopting the WHO’s recipe for the test used in many other countries. Moreover, failing to swiftly navigate the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization regulations, the government was stalled for about a month before expanding testing capacity to academic centers as well as to public health and commercial labs. On March 16th, the Administration stated that millions of diagnostic tests would become available by the end of that week, but this has not yet occurred. Additionally, the promised website that would show where tests have been conducted and positive cases have been detected across the country has not yet been established.

The United States has now accelerated the FDA approval process, so that high throughput platform testing will become possible. Such testing can process tens of thousands of tests each day, as compared to the hundreds of manual tests that had been conducted until recently. However, most clinicians and commercial testing labs will not administer tests to patients with COVID-19 symptoms in their offices, given the potential for viral spread to health care workers and other patients. For this reason, the US has begun establishing special testing units outside of hospitals and the drive-through testing stations, like those used in South Korea, to expand early detection safely and prevent viral transmission to others. Moving forward, America needs a rapid diagnostic test (one was just approved by the FDA this week), as well as home testing kits that provide results in a matter of minutes rather than days.

In the United States, hospitals are becoming overwhelmed with patients and do not have enough ventilators and personal protection equipment (PPE) for their health providers. Such scarcities put both providers and their patients at risk. In Italy, COVID-19 has seriously overloaded the healthcare system forcing rationing of treatment. These circumstances underscore the crucial importance of supporting the healthcare workforce with the resources and the PPE they need. The United States must take decisive action to prepare its healthcare system before cases reach similar crisis levels. After a call from Congress, the President invoked the Defense Production Act, to scale up production of these lifesaving medical resources. However, although masks and other equipment are now coming from a variety of sources, the President has not used his authorities to require companies to repurpose their factories to manufacture medical supplies at the massive scale needed now by our health care facilities.

Investments in Research Can Bring Lifesaving Dividends

As a result of revolutionary scientific advances, the COVID-19 genome was sequenced in two weeks after the coronavirus was identified as compared to the six months it took for SARS. This facilitated efforts to fast track the development of a vaccine. Pursuing an accelerated timeline, several vaccine candidates at the NIH and in the private sector are under development. In fact, last week a clinical trial began in Seattle of one of these vaccine candidates. However, the results of this study and subsequent production and distribution of this immunization, if proven safe and effective, could still take 12-18 months. Additionally, medications used for treating malaria including chloroquine and other anti-viral drugs such as Remdesivir are currently being evaluated in clinical trials for treatment of COVID-19.

With three serious global coronavirus outbreaks occurring over the past two decades, exploring the feasibility of a universal coronavirus vaccine and establishing a national vaccine production center would be extremely worthwhile investments. Incentives should be provided to support public-private partnerships that help to mitigate the financial risks of developing life-saving vaccines.

Investigating Sex Differences

Emerging data indicates that while there are similar numbers of COVID-19 cases among women and men, more men than women are dying of the disease. This trend has been consistent across many countries severely impacted by the virus, including confirmed cases in China, hospitalized cases in Italy, and confirmed cases in South Korea, where men were 65%, 75%, and 89% respectively more likely to die than women. At this time, it is unclear whether these sex differences are due to biological differences such as hormonal or immunological factors, or behavioral factors such as higher smoking rates among men, a risk factor for severe disease.

As more data is collected about this pandemic, sex-based analyses should be conducted. Gender norms, roles, and behaviors that influence women's and men's differential vulnerability to infection, exposure to pathogens, and treatment received should be considered and addressed. Understanding how pandemics affect females and males differently would be an important step forward in illuminating the effects of a health crisis on individuals and communities and for establishing equitable, effective policies and interventions.

Leverage Technology to Inform and Connect Us

Mobile devices present important platforms for instantaneously sharing information, tracking disease spread in real-time, facilitating professional training and research collaborations across communities and countries. Public health officials must work closely with the media to ensure accurate reporting of outbreaks and counter disinformation that can occur in social media.

Moreover, as individuals across the United States use social distancing and proven public health practices to #FlattenTheCurve, the media, the Internet with resources like, and social media can provide important information as well as connectivity that can serve as an antidote to feelings of loneliness and isolation. The MIT Media Lab, in collaboration with Tufts Public Health and other organizations, has launched a creative social media campaign, #BeatTheVirus that is engaging celebrities, athletes, and citizens in implementing the personal actions that can help decrease viral spread.

Health in all Policies

The coronavirus pandemic has significant implications beyond health. Its economic toll must be urgently addressed with increasing unemployment and a plummeting stock market. Congress has passed several bills, including $8.3 billion to ramp up vaccine research, provide funding to state health officials, and boost prevention programs. On March 18th, the Senate approved a $104 billion bill that would provide direct help to Americans with expanded sick and family leave. What is now being negotiated in Congress is $1.8 trillion plus economic stabilization legislation to address the needs of individuals and businesses that have resulted from this devastating pandemic.

Additionally, as schools close their doors indefinitely and move online, approximately 30 million children who rely on the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs for daily meals risk going hungry. Legislation must address ways to provide nutrition for these children. Moreover, for the five million households with school-age children who have no access to broadband Internet at home, school closures represent more than a temporary inconvenience. That is why the E-Rate should be expanded from public schools and libraries to homes so that children in low-income families can keep learning during this public health crisis.

At the state and local levels, officials are making critical decisions in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Absent clear direction from the federal government, ten states including Massachusetts, California, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Louisiana, and Ohio have asked residents to shelter in place. One in three Americans have been told to stay at home amid this pandemic. The federal government should expand its coronavirus response guidelines to adopt consistent recommendations nationwide so that there is clear messaging for everyone. Social distancing and personal hygiene can only be maximally effective if every state and every person puts these practices into action.

Looking to the Future

Not since the 1918 pandemic flu, has there been an infectious disease outbreak that has threatened the health and economy of our country and world with such devastating and rapid impact. Making significant investments now to increase the scientific knowledge base, developing new technologies that can be deployed in combination with proven public health practices, as well as strengthening health systems, businesses and schools with coordinated, permanent public health preparedness plans, will boost our ability to better contain spread of this life-threatening coronavirus outbreak as well as fight other emerging disease threats more swiftly and effectively in the years ahead.

The United States is at a critical inflection point in our pandemic response, reporting cases at the level of Italy two weeks ago. In the coming days and months ahead, the choices we make will shape the trajectory of this pandemic. From the White House in Washington, DC to every other house across America, everyone must play their part to #BeatTheVirus and #FlattenTheCurve. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said during World War II, together, “we must face the arduous days before us in the warm courage of national unity” if we are to ensure that COVID-19 is a disease found only in history books.

Rear Admiral Susan Blumenthal Markey, MD (ret) is former US Assistant Surgeon General, Senior Fellow in Health Policy at New America, Senior Medical Advisor at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, and a Clinical Professor at Tufts and Georgetown University Schools of Medicine. She is the Public Health Advisor and co-creator of the #BeatTheVirus campaign. Matina Kakalis is a Research Associate in Health Policy at New America.

Rear Admiral Susan J. Blumenthal, MD (ret) is former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, Senior Fellow in Health Policy at New America, Senior Medical Advisor at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, and a Clinical Professor at Tufts and Georgetown University Schools of Medicine. She is the Public Health Advisor and co-creator of the #BeatTheVirus campaign. Matina Kakalis is a Research Associate in Health Policy at New America.

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Coronavirus Could Bring the United States’ East Asian Allies Closer to Beijing

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread around the world, the unfolding economic and public health crises may see China’s neighbors shift their attention back towards Beijing, potentially threatening the United States’ leadership position in the region and its ability to maintain its advantage in strategic competition with Beijing. Kurt Campbell and Rush Doshi recently warned that China is moving quickly to position itself as the global leader of the pandemic response, while the United States is struggling with its efforts to battle the virus at home. As many of the United States’ most important allies and partners rely heavily on China economically, Washington needs to coordinate not only with its allies and partners, but also with China, to fight the global pandemic and minimize its economic impact.

Since the coronavirus was first detected in the city of Wuhan in November 2019, China and its neighboring countries have been hit severely by the outbreak. As the crisis worsened mostly in Asia in January and February of 2020, the international community speculated that the coronavirus would undermine the legitimacy of Chinese leadership, following charges of authoritarian misgovernance by Beijing and a lack of transparency about the virus. Due to the widespread lockdowns across the country, China suffered a supply shock with its factories unable to operate. Its industrial output tumbled 13.5 percent in the first two months of the year, representing the largest contraction on record, and its gross domestic product is estimated to have fallen 13 percent in the first two months of 2020.

When the virus started to spread to neighboring countries, it also disrupted supply chains across the region. Hyundai and Nissan had to temporarily suspend production lines in their factories in South Korea and Japan respectively in February, due to shortages of automobile parts from China. Samsung and SK Hynix, which make 75 percent of the world’s smartphone Dram memory chips, as well as Samsung and LG, which produce 94 percent of high-end global smartphone screens, are likely to be exposed to supply chain disruption through the rest of the year, due to a shortage of raw materials, tighter restrictions in the movement of people, goods, and services, and production line closures.

Although it is too early to know the consequences of coronavirus on the global and regional economy and supply chains fully, some of China’s neighboring countries and their firms were already moving or considering moving production lines to other countries, as well as reviewing their corporate strategies to reduce their dependence on China and their vulnerability to supply chain disruptions. These shifts have also been driven by pre-existing supply chains disruptions in China due to the US-China trade war and potential decoupling.

Since early March, however, the rhetoric has completely changed as China and its neighbors demonstrated their ability to control domestic outbreaks quickly and effectively, while the crisis intensified in the United States, Europe, and around the world. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in particular, has shifted its narrative from covering up the accuracy of its data to amplifying reports of the success of its response to pandemic. Although China has yet to return to business as usual, it is likely that China will be the first critical link in reviving the global and regional economy as it begins to restore its supply chains.

With these developments, companies that were trying to reduce their heavy reliance on China cannot help but reverse their moves to keep their supply chains open and operating. It is critical for countries like Japan and South Korea—whose electronics and automotive industries were seriously hit by COVID-19—to promote recovery in their key industries, as their financial markets continue to reel. As soon as China returns to business as usual, it is likely that Beijing will offer diplomatic and economic incentives to restore and boost its trade and investment with its neighboring countries to offset the risks of decoupling from the United States and give itself more leverage in its strategic competition with Washington.

In light of China’s likely campaign, the United States must step up its efforts to coordinate closely and effectively with its allies and partners in the region in order to protect its share of global supply chains. It might be time to re-evaluate its protectionist trade policy and export controls driven by its skepticism in globalization. This approach might have thus far helped the United States gain advantage in its economic competition with China, but these policies have damaged Washington’s relationship with its allies and partners, as well as its standing as a global leader.

Dr. Miyeon Oh, director and senior fellow of the Asia Security Initiative in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, has significant experience in both academia and working in the public sector with the United Nations and Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This article was originally published by the Atlantic Council

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Networks for Inclusion: Organizing Women in the Security Sector : December 11, 2019; Elandre Dedrick

Despite women now comprising over half of graduate students in international affairs in the United States, progress toward gender equality in national security and foreign policy remains sluggish, especially at the leadership level. Undeterred, women have created multiple organizations to assist other women as they navigate the security sector, mentoring and helping them gain greater visibility in the field. After witnessing how the well-established networks of the national security and foreign policy sectors have prevented the success of deserving individuals, these women have created their own networks in order to chart new pathways to excel.

As part of a new series of articles examining diversity and inclusion issues in the U.S. national-security sector, I interviewed several leaders of such organizations. Their experiences reflect the ambivalent nature of networks to both exclude and include others. Their careers and diversity and inclusion work are reminders that inclusion is not simply about who is present or visible, but rather who participates in the meaningful interactions that give life to institutions.

Networks are brought to life by daily interactions and social relations leveraged to accomplish goals. In the context of diversity and inclusion, the concept of networks raises a deeper question about the relationships we establish and maintain and the larger effects of how we socialize with one another. Beyond being tools for advancement, networks also provide a useful lens to think about the common experiences that unite the women of these organizations, the nature and persistence of the challenges to diversity and inclusion, and the work still to be done.

The foundation of the organizations looked at here, like that of most strong networks, is a shared sense of experience, identity, and goals. Their leaders are motivated by a common experience of being outnumbered and wanting to see more people who looked like themselves. The experiences of Camille Stewart, co-founder of the Diversity in National Security Network, after beginning her career in national security during the Obama administration reflect a common reality for many women in the sector. She says: “It became very clear that there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me or had my perspective within the walls of those organizations. I was literally physically closed out of conversations by white males that I worked with on my team.” Stewart says she felt a personal sense of duty to help other women advance in the field, posing a question that is echoed by the other leaders interviewed: “If I didn’t take part in doing it, who would?”

Beyond the personal experience of being outnumbered, there was a unanimous desire to address what was seen as a pressing security issue; in short, the networks that dominate national security are not fit for the task. Stewart explains that there are levels of harm when national-security personnel is not reflective of a country’s diversity: “One, solutions aren’t reflective of the lived experiences of the people on the ground. Two, the voices and lived experiences that our broad range of citizenry bring allow for innovation and agility which we cannot have if everyone making the decisions have gone to the same schools, have similar upbringings, are of the same gender, etc. Also, we don’t show up on the world stage in the same way when we aren’t reflective of the diversity that America has. It sends a visual representation of the things we say we embody and encourage other nations to embody.”

Additionally, most of the leaders interviewed pointed to studies of corporate boards and the importance of having women at the table at peace negotiations to support their case for gender equality. Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, president of Women in International Security Global, recounts: “There have been quite a lot of studies both in the economic sector and political sector that show that if you have more diverse voices at the table, you get more innovation, you get more creativity. Diversity is good for the bottom line. In the peace and security arena, research has shown that if you have more women at the peace negotiating table, the likelihood of your peace agreement being more effective, more stable and lasting is much greater.”

The entrenched networks of national security and foreign policy often encourage a reliance on close ties and familiar social markers that exclude newcomers and outsiders. Bonnie Jenkins, founder and executive director of Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security, asserts that, despite the progress being made, “the culture still hasn’t changed enough, which can impede the sustainability of all of our efforts to be more inclusive.” For Corinna Hӧrst, co-founder of the Brussels Binder Initiative and former president of the Brussels chapter of Women in International Security (and deputy director of GMF’s Brussels office), the issue of networks is “entrenched habits, we need someone to speak on XYZ and we first think about the people we know.”

The shared experiences that lead to the foundation of networks can also work to exclude those without them. Asha Castleberry, co-founder of the Diversity in National Security Network, flags a bias toward those of particular backgrounds: “A lot of us forget that classism also plays a part in this too. When you come in with a certain type of credentials, whether you went to an Ivy League school or you’re rich enough to throw money at an institution to help you promote your work, that really helps in this field.”

Women face a unique challenge in this field according to Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, co-chair of the Leadership Council for Women in National Security: “I think a barrier in the national security sector for women —even more than minorities—arises because women are not the image in people’s minds when they think of ‘national security expert’. It doesn’t feel naturally our space. There are still so few of us in this area, that we are still a black swan walking into a room of white swans.” The burden to make space for oneself and establish credibility is heavier when one is greeted with skepticism. It is hard to avoid feeling as if “you’ve got the weight of your gender or color on your back for everything you say and how you comport yourself and how good your ideas are. We don’t have the space that white men have to fail, to make a mistake, to misstep and be retrieved.”

Networks have the power to grant space to individuals and organizations function to boost women’s sense of belonging in the sector. They can be a source of courage to speak up and advocate for oneself, which multiple women flagged as crucial to increasing gender equality. Hӧrst opines: “It’s also on the individual, women daring to speak up and feeling comfortable to step forward and say: ‘I have a view on this, and it deserves to be recognized.’ It’s also about self-confidence and developing the professional skills to feel more adept to speak up.” Kim Kahnhauser Freeman, executive director of the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, also illustrates the consequences of not putting oneself forth for opportunities: “Women can’t wait to be asked. If they remain silent when others volunteer, it will damage their chances of advancement.”

Networks also help us consider the role of leadership in provoking institutional change and explain the gap between talk and action on diversity and inclusion. The women interviewed highlighted the importance of leadership, but also noted the limitations of relying on leadership to create lasting change. One limit is the focus on operational priorities that can render diversity and inclusion talk mere lip service. Maureen Russell, director of business development of Emissary, points out the difficulty in “trying to get a bunch of operations team leads to pause in the middle of things they think are very important and say: ‘We really need to look at how your team’s hiring practices are going, if you’re making things accessible.’ It’s not that they don’t care, some of them don’t, some do but it’s just that they have to go and that stuff gets left behind. So that will always be a gap.”

Beyond the focus on daily priorities, leaders’ impact can be limited despite their personal dedication to diversity and inclusion. Abercrombie-Winstanley warns: “When you get a political appointee who might be intent on improving diversity numbers, as was Colin Powell at the Department of State, that political appointee can do, in fact, very little. If you don’t implement something permanent in the way the institution works, whatever changes you’ve made are only temporary. If the institution wants to regurgitate and banish them as soon as you go, that’s exactly what happens.” Diversity and inclusion efforts must be taken seriously throughout the institution and cannot be the purview of a few.

Reta Jo Lewis, GMF’s director of congressional affairs and founder of the Women of Color in Transatlantic Leadership Network argues that diversity and inclusion is the business of everyone: “Institutions do not change unless there are people inside of the institution that are willing to speak out and to participate in the change.” Numbers make the difference because, as Abercrombie-Winstanley explains: “One voice can’t change it. Even two are going to have difficulty. You need to have a sufficient presence to ensure your points of view are not seeming to come from the moon or from out of leftfield. Impact requires that there are people at the table who are at least in the same universe as you to amplify and reinforce your position as you put forward options, solutions, and recommendations.”

Insofar as change involves an institution-wide effort, the biggest obstacle to increased diversity and inclusion remains the exclusionary power of entrenched networks. For many, inclusion still equates to a loss of power, and for Oudraat that may have to be the case: “In the long run, having diversity, inclusion, equity is good for all of us, but in the short term, yes, some people will have to give up their seats because you can’t continuously add on people.” If diversity and inclusion mean short-term loss for some, how does one gain wide-scale buy-in? Some of the women interviewed have chosen to reframe the issue of gender equality to avoid having the topic dismissed as solely a women’s issue. Oudraat frames the issue by saying: “Everybody has a gender, and there are even more than two genders. We have to recognize that when we’re talking about gender we’re talking about the balance between these genders, the expectations attached to certain genders and examining what that means for international peace and security issues.” Hӧrst says that men must also participate in conversations about gender equality because “you can’t always have women asking for gender diversity, you also need to have the men come forward and say this.”

The organizations’ most widely adopted strategies and tactics revolve around data (such as gender audits and surveys to assess gender equality institutionally) and visibility (utilizing lists, social media savvy, and events to increase the presence of women experts on security and foreign policy.) Lewis argues that “the only thing that moves this from a talking point to reality is the data. If you have five seats and nobody is a woman or nobody is a person of color, there’s something wrong with that. If you say you have five seats and you can’t find anybody, go find them because they are out there.” The claim of not being able to find diverse participants has propelled several organizations to compile lists of experts to speak about the wide range of security and foreign policy issues.

Garnering media attention is key to gaining interest in the security sector among the next generation for Castleberry: “Another reason why there’s a lack of diversity in national security is the fact that you don’t really see diverse professionals talking about these issues and that prevents inspiring younger people to do the same thing.”

The greatest downside to networks, even those working in the name of diversity and inclusion, is the danger of perpetuating exclusion. While women continue to be locked out of opportunities in national security and foreign policy, women of color specifically have experienced even longer histories of exclusion. Speaking of the challenges of African Americans in particular, Abercrombie explains: “We come from further behind because we didn’t get a start at the same time...that access to education, to making connections, to links, to sponsors did not start at the same time for African Americans, so we are behind and need extra help to navigate this space.”

The unique challenges faced by women of color have unfortunately created cleavages among some organizations working on behalf of women. Castleberry admits: “There’s a gap, I would say, with women of color versus white women. There are white women that work with women of color, but there are some that need to work on this issue. They can’t just work among each other; they must open up. We have to work collectively. When we say women, we mean all women, not just a certain set of women.” Networks rely on a certain level of social comfort to facilitate strong ties. However, to further inclusion, there also must be space for the discomfort of the new and different. Thus, the lens of gender analysis opens the door to a larger discussion of intersecting identities across race and ethnicity, class, able-bodiedness, generation, religion, and other dimensions.

Ultimately, each of the organizations mentioned here provides a necessary space for women to connect in ways their jobs often do not offer. Lewis affirms that people “need to get together to be in a collaborative network around the work that they do, and there’s nothing like being in a supportive professional network around people that encourage and empower each other.” Beyond providing support, coaching, mentoring, and sponsorship to make national security and foreign policy reflective of society’s diversity, the greatest potential of these organizations lies in the networks they are creating between the leaders who will drive the progress of diversity and inclusion efforts.

Expanding these networks can therefore amplify the calls for institutional commitment to inclusion. As Bonnie Jenkins states: “It’s important that all of these organizations find a way to connect and work together. We must be good at collaborating and working together on these issues because we can also burn ourselves out with everyone working hard to make important changes. I think if we work together, we have a better chance at success because there’s strength in numbers.”

This article was written by Elandre Dedrick, Program Officer, Leadership Programs at The German Marshall Fund of the United States and originally appeared on The German Marshall Fund. Photo Credit: Anthony Correia / Shutterstock

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The UN's Gender Agenda: Be Part of the Change; October 15, 2019; Ann-Marie Wilcock

Just over a year ago, speaking at an event to celebrate women leaders at the UN,
Secretary-General António Guterres admitted he still meets delegations almost every week that don’t include a single woman. “We live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture, and that is still true in the United Nations,” he said.

There’s been some progress; in 2018, for the first time, the UN achieved gender parity among Resident Coordinators and the Senior Management Group. But there’s much more work needed from the bottom up, to reach a gender-equal UN.


So if you’re considering a career at the UN, my advice is that you can make it happen, there are many pathways in, and you should give it everything you’ve got, because we need you.


Here are some ideas on how to go about it, and lessons that I’ve learned working for the UN.


1. Register as a United Nations Volunteer


Don’t be put off by the ‘volunteer’ tag. This can land you a really interesting role in peacekeeping, emergency response or longer-term development work, and it can be a solid stepping stone to a longer UN career. There’s no upper age limit and around 2,000 roles are offered each year, with a living allowance to cover basic needs. Go to UN Volunteers to read more and register in the UNV Global Talent Pool.


2. Work as a consultant


Consultancies aren’t sustainable long-term because there’s no job security and you don’t get benefits like paid leave, sick leave and healthcare. But in the short-term, many people take consultancies to get their feet in the door, build their experience and networks, and then try to find a properly paid role. And, since these can often be short-term roles, it’s not uncommon for fewer people to apply, so strong candidates can stand out.


3. Start with an NGO


There are many compelling reasons to work for an NGO, regardless of any future plans you may have to work for the UN. There’s a good chance you’ll be given more responsibility in a shorter space of time; you can be agile in responding to external issues; and you’ll be surrounded by colleagues who are deeply passionate about what they do.


4. Become a Junior Professional Officer (JPO)


By the time I was researching my own career change into humanitarian and development work in my early 30s, I no longer qualified under the definition of ‘junior’. But it’s an excellent option for young professionals wanting to work for the United Nations. JPOs usually come from countries UN donor countries (although not all of them) and you generally have to be aged under 32 when you apply. You’ll get an initial one-year contract, which can be extended.


See the list of participating countries here.


5. Remember that it matters


Over the last two weeks, 3,758 small blue children’s backpacks stood silently in lines on the lawn next to the United Nations. Each represents a child killed in conflict in 2018. It’s a powerful installation created by some of my UNICEF colleagues to remind world leaders of their responsibility to protect the rights of children in conflict zones, ahead of the UN General Assembly. Even the Secretary-General himself visited.


My colleagues had this opportunity to influence world leaders because they work for the UN.


6. Accept that change is slow


This is the United Nations, not a miracle machine. It takes patience, small steps and persistence to bring about change. Major achievements are usually measured over decades, so put your red shoes away, Dorothy. You can’t click your heels and create a new world tomorrow, just because you’re working for the UN.


7. Know that it’s worth it


Yes, it can be frustrating and disappointing at times. But you’ll also have moments that inspire you; you’ll see the power of collective action; and you’ll have reason to hope that the world can become a fairer place for everyone.


So, what are you waiting for? With your talent, your ideas and your energy, you can be part of bringing gender parity to the UN. As the Secretary-General said last year, the work of recognizing the contributions that women make to the UN is not complete. Add your name to that story.

Ann-Marie Wilcock has worked in Palestine, Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar and now works for UNICEF in New York. She also runs the blog Hit the Iron Bell, opening a window into the daily lives of aid and development workers. @AnnMarieWilcock on Twitter and @hit_the_iron_bell on Instagram.
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What is a Feminist Foreign Policy?: September 26, 2019, Stephenie Foster and Susan Markham

We are at an inflection point both within the United States and in the world. Rethinking US foreign and national security policies is critical to restructuring the role of the United States as a global leader and critical to creating a safer and more stable world.


In this context, there is a growing feminist and gender-focused discourse in US foreign policy and national security among activists, academics, and advocates. Current events and conversations challenge us to consider a new way of thinking. These conversations take place at a unique time when the US leadership role is being transformed in part due to the rise of China and other powers. The use of cyber weapons, the greater role of non-state actors, and the ability of technology to give citizens access to their governments and demand greater transparency are upending the way diplomacy works. Further, the Trump Administration has thrown away the rule book by antagonizing allies, pulling out of international accords, and shattering traditional foreign policy thinking. It has “hyper-masculinized” the US approach to national security. Sweden’s groundbreaking adoption of a feminist foreign policy has spurred a deeper consideration of how a feminist policy applies in other countries.


Smash Strategies and Our Secure Future just released a paper to envision a feminist foreign policy for the US, and to provide a road map for those within the US government to operationalize such a policy.


We acknowledge the unique role of the United States and its large footprint in global economic and political affairs, as well as the importance of connecting domestic and foreign policy and the need to integrate these policy strands. US values at home must match the values we promote across the globe, whether it is preventing gender-based violence or providing access to comprehensive reproductive health care or economic opportunity.


Gender equality is central to this framework and underscores that women, men, girls, and boys interact with each other and with society differently. In the context of US foreign policy and national security, we base our recommendations for operationalizing a feminist foreign policy on the importance of:

  • Addressing power imbalances;
  • Utilizing gender analysis to increase the range of issues and solutions considered;
  • Increasing the number of feminist voices promoting gender equality; and
  • Increasing the number of women leaders.

We make a series of recommendations to implement these principles and components. They range from changing institutional structures (the Department of State, USAID); holding institutions and individuals accountable; diversifying the group that makes policy decisions; increasing input from those affected; prioritizing information and intelligence; increasing resources targeted at this work; and utilizing technology. We encourage members of the Women’s Foreign Policy Group to engage in this critical discussion as well work to transform our institutions and the US approach to foreign policy.

Stephenie Foster is a partner at Smash Strategies, a former senior official at the Department of State, an expert on gender and women’s leadership, and a recovering attorney. @stepheniefoster

Susan Markham is a partner at Smash Strategies, a policy expert, advocate and political strategist that understands the power of women and girls. @msmarkham 

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