The Women's Foreign Policy Group Blog is a forum which highlights the voices of those who make up and support the organization. WFPG Members are invited to submit blog posts on international affairs and foreign policy topics, women's leadership, career advancement, and WFPG programs. Posts represent the reflections and personal views of members and guest bloggers and not those of the WFPG. Interested in submitting a post? Guidelines | Membership


Networks for Inclusion: Organizing Women in the Security Sector
Posted: 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 interview 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

The UN’s Gender Agenda: Be Part of the Change
Posted: 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.

What is a Feminist Foreign Policy?
Posted: 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 operationizing 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


A Conversation on National Security with Mike Rogers and Lisa Monaco
Posted: November 8, 2017 | Ellee Watson, Former WFPG Intern

On November 7th, Mike Rogers and Lisa Monaco headlined the Women's Foreign Policy Group's Autumn Gala Dinner and offered insightful analysis on the threats to American citizens during a conversation on national security. Ambassador Cathy Russell, former US Ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Issues, moderated the discussion, which was held at the beautiful home of Ambassador Ray and Shaista Mahmood.

Rogers is the host of CNN's Declassified and was the US House Intelligence Committee Chair from 2011 to 2015. Monaco is a distinguished Senior Fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security and was President Obama's Assistant for Homeland Security and Terrorism from 2013-2017.

The two national security experts discussed threats different actors from around the world pose for the United States.

They repeatedly made fun of themselves for providing analysis that is mostly depressing. Monaco said that President Obama used to call her Dr. Doom when she walked into his office to brief him.

Rogers offered similarly bleak points when it came to the topic of Russian meddling in democratic countries. He expressed frustration with the fact that the topic of Russia has inspired political arguments instead of national security efforts.

"The narrative we have in this country on Russia is wrong, and we are making a serious mistake,” Rogers said, adding, "We are not prepared to handle what comes next because we have made the narrative about Russia political."

On ISIS, Rogers and Monaco say the United States has made progress but it will get worse before it gets better. What the United States is seeing now is the effect of ISIS' virtual caliphate that inspires those with grievances to incite terror around the world. Monaco lauded the Trump Administration's campaign to counter ISIS saying that the recent efforts against the group have practically ended its physical caliphate.

Trump also could have had the right direction on North Korea even with the fire and fury comments if he followed a coherent strategy of deterrence, according to Monaco. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a coherent and communicated strategy with our allies, so the United States is at risk of a miscommunication inspiring a crisis.

To counter all of these threats, Monaco and Rogers agree that the United States needs to have strong national leadership in order to gain the support of our allies in our efforts to combat national security threats.

Monaco said that safeguarding our national security going forward is "going to require US leadership and trust in leadership."


Transatlantic Ties and NATO in the Age of Brexit and Trump
Posted: April 20, 2017 | Ellee Watson, George Washington University, Former WFPG Intern

Ten diplomats joined the WFPG on Monday, April 3, to engage in a discussion with Dr. Karen Donfried, leader of the German Marshall Fund, on "Transatlantic Ties and NATO in the Age of Brexit and Trump."

The large number of diplomats at the event shows the interest countries around the world have about the policies the Trump administration will pursue and what results upcoming European elections will bring.

Donfried opened up the discussion by clarifying what "the age of Brexit and Trump" means. According to Donfried, Brexit and Trump have become the symbols of not being able to take things for granted.

"One thing we took for granted is that the European project of integration was going to continue," Donfried said, "and I don't think that's a safe assumption anymore."

The underlying question is whether Brexit will set off a process of disintegration or if we see the rest of the member states of the European Union double down and strengthen the integration.

Both Brexit and Trump's election surprised the elites of each country and showed how people in both Britain and the United States have legitimate grievances that the establishment does not address.

Donfried noted that the grievances that led to Britain's withdrawal from the European Union and the ones that led to Donald Trump's presidency are different but have led to populist sentiment that has spread throughout Europe and the United States.

The populist sentiment has led to a potential freeze in the transatlantic partnership between the United States and Europe because of Trump's desire to put America first.

During the campaign, Trump's stump speeches called for less U.S. involvement in multilateral institutions like NATO. In an interview with Bloomberg's Mark Helperin, Trump said, "I think NATO may be obsolete."

Donfried pointed out that the campaign rhetoric insulting NATO and praising Russia has not yet turned into policy. The Trump administration has kept sanctions on Russia and condemned its aggression in Ukraine, and American forces have been involved in NATO's recent deployment of troops to the Baltics.

The Trump administration's foreign policy agenda is obviously still forming. To ensure their safety, other countries are following the Trump administration's moves closely, as evidenced by the number of diplomats at the event.

Four ambassadors and Charges, five deputy chief of missions and the deputy head of the Delegation of the EU attended the event.

The Charges of Estonia and Spain spoke about the importance of the EU to their countries, and how members had to make a better case for the EU including withe the Trump Administration.

Caroline Vicini, the deputy head of the Delegation of the EU, was not pessimistic about the future of the European Union. She admitted that there is no clear leadership coming out of Brussels, and the European institutions should not have waited so long to come up with a reform agenda that would counter Brexit.

But Vicini also reminded the room that this is a moment where the EU is realizing how powerful it can be. If the United States is going to withdraw from the world stage, the EU can fill its shoes if people who care about the issue step up and lead.

The consensus the participants reached is that if you care about an issue, you have to speak up. The age of Trump and Brexit means that progressive institutions and values are no longer a given.


Author Helene Cooper on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Posted: March 16, 2017 | Ellee Watson, George Washington University, Former WFPG Intern

A day after International Women’s Day, Helene Cooper of The New York Times joined WFPG at the beautiful home of WFPG board member Maureen White to talk about her newly released book Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. New York Times Washington Bureau Chief Elisabeth Bumiller moderated the discussion.

The subject of the book is Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but the book encapsulates more than just Sirleaf’s ascent to the presidency. It also examines how Liberian women by acting together were able to elect a female to the presidency in a country that has been under male rule for decades.

In a room full of women and some lucky men, Helene Cooper discussed the women who inspired her to write the book.

Cooper decided to write the book 12 years ago while she was on assignment in Africa. Cooper travelled to the continent to write a series on development in Africa for the New York Times. As a part of the assignment, she visited Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, and her home country, Liberia. In Liberia, she encountered women that “she had known all her life.”

She saw old women carrying bamboo on their backs, market women selling goods to support their families, and young girls bathing their siblings in creek water.

"These were the women I had grown up with all across Africa, the worst place to be a woman, who somehow managed to carry that continent on their backs,” Cooper said.

Cooper chose three excerpts from her book that emphasized the determination of Sirleaf and the Liberian women to persevere through two civil wars, where women in particular were brutalized, and upend years of male rule.

The first excerpt Cooper read to WFPG guests detailed how Sirleaf became the symbol of the movement to liberate the women of Liberia.

In 1985, Liberian President Jackson Doe sentenced Sirleaf to ten years in prison for sedition. While in prison, Sirleaf witnessed the aftermath of a brutal rape. One night, soldiers cornered a nineteen or twenty-year-old Glo girl in her cell and gang-raped her. Sirleaf comforted her afterwards as she was bleeding and crying. She held the girl in her arms and rocked her back and forth.

"President Doe didn’t realize it, but in locking Ellen Johnson Sirleaf up with that Gio girl, he created both an international cause celebre and ignited the women’s movement in Liberia,” Cooper read, "All across Liberia young women were riveted by this story of this jailed political dissident who’s standing up to the men running this country."

The question and answer section evolved into a conversation between Helene Cooper and the guests, many of whom were female diplomats, over how to groom and empower female leaders. The conclusion guests reached was that there is still a lot of work to be done, but for little girls everywhere, Sirleaf provides the example that a woman can be president.


Top Journalists Discuss Trump's Foreign Policy
Posted: March 2, 2017 | Ellee Watson, George Washington University, Former WFPG Intern

Four journalists joined the WFPG and NYU on Monday, February 27 for an event on Trump Foreign Policy: Changing and Disrupting Global Norms. Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times moderated a discussion with Anne Gearan of The Washington Post, Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times, and Jay Solomon of The Wall Street Journal.

The panelists emphasized throughout the discussion that President Trump has not and is unlikely to act on many of the claims he made during the campaign.

During the campaign, Trump filtered his foreign policy plans through the lens of a populist based, trade based, and oppositional campaign not only against Hillary Clinton but also other stated enemies like rapacious foreign trade, China, Mexico, NATO, and ISIS.

"We hear America first, but we're not sure how exactly that plays out in foreign policy," Julie Hirschfeld Davis said.

As the republican nominee, Trump did not specify his plans to act on these issues, so it was hard to tell what the administration's priorities would be once in the White House.

"Obviously, the fight against ISIS is very high on their minds and is likely to be the first organizing principle in terms of focus and money," Anne Gearan said.

Other than the fight against ISIS, President Trump has not yet followed through on the promises he made during the campaign.

For instance, as a candidate, Trump said that the Iran Nuclear Deal was a mistake and that China was tearing apart the American economy. However, in office, President Trump has not walked away from the Nuclear Deal and has affirmed the United States' One China Policy in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"President Trump seems to be a little sheepish when it comes to the rubber meeting the road in these issues," Hirschfeld Davis said, adding, "We're not seeing that big of a change."

The biggest change that could occur under President Trump is the pivot away from a two-state solution towards a one-state solution. He has talked about a one-state solution and ignoring a United States policy that has been in place since 1967. This would be the biggest change if it actually happens, but it is not likely to happen, according to Anne Gearan.

Jay Solomon said there are four issues the Trump administration will try to address in the first term - Middle East Peace, ISIS, the war in Syria, and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

On ISIS, President Trump has signaled that he is content to strengthen relationships with dictators or strong men in places like Egypt to stop the spread of ISIS.

"You're seeing a complete reversal of what the Bush administration thought at the end of its eight years," Solomon said.

On the two other issues, President Trump has had to walk back a little bit from his campaign rhetoric. He campaigned saying that the Iran Nuclear Deal was terrible and needed to be torn up, but since taking office, he has backtracked because of pressure from congressmen and other Arab States who are convinced that this deal neuters Iran a little bit.

President Trump talked during the campaign about setting up safe zones with some sort of cooperation with Russia in Syria. However, the potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign will call into question any sort of cooperation in Syria.

Hirschfield Davis said that it is hard to make predictions about American foreign policy going forward because it is not clear who is holding the reigns of foreign policy in this administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been noticeably absent during the first month of the administration, and other senior administration officials give different talking points when asked the same question.

There is no clear division of labor when it comes to foreign policy in the first month of the administration, so it is hard to plan out what the administration will do over the next few months.


Getting Started in International Affairs:
Learning to Network, Power Pose and Take Risks

Posted: September 2, 2016 | Stephanie Verganza, Recent Graduate of University of California, Irvine, WFPG Intern

As a recent graduate, who just moved to the city, I was very excited to attend the career panel, Where Do You Start? Careers in International Affairs on August 11th. The panel included a group of incredibly successful and accomplished women in the field of international affairs—Dawn Calabia, consultant on statelessness, displaced populations, resettlement, and asylum; Sandra Pepera, National Democratic Institute; Ambassador Linda Jewell, retired from the US Foreign Service; Andi Gitow, UN Information Center in DC; and Patricia Ellis, WFPG. They each spoke briefly about their careers and what led them to choose to work in their respective areas. I was surprised to learn that they each had very unique, non-linear, paths to their careers. While in college, I was led to believe that each field has a very specific checklist of requirements and qualifications needed to be successful. Yet, it was encouraging to hear that many of the panelists either stumbled into or discovered their passion for international affairs at a later age. Following the opening remarks, the panelists proceeded to discuss many important topics, but a few points that I found to be especially valuable included finding a sponsor, doing the wonder woman pose, taking risks, and creating a five-year plan.

As soon as I began sharing my plans of moving to DC, the first thing people would tell me was to network, network, network. Similarly, many of the panelists also stressed the importance of networking, especially when looking for a job. However, hearing this was nothing new to me. What really caught my attention was something Pepera added. She said that, “women are over-mentored and under-sponsored.” She explained that what she meant by this was that young professionals need more than just a network of contacts or mentors—they need someone who is willing to make a personal investment in them. I appreciated this distinction, especially after she added that mentoring tends to come at no cost to the mentor, as opposed to a sponsor who will make an invest and actively seek to help you succeed.

Gitow made another very important point which was that women, when speaking at meetings, tend to begin by saying “I just…” or “I’m not sure this is a good idea, but…” in an effort to somehow qualify what they say. Pepera commented that she believes women do things like this because, unlike boys, girls are raised to be humble and nice. Calabia also commented that women need to learn to speak loudly and show up to meetings with confidence. She suggested doing a “wonder woman pose” right before important events to gain some confidence. While this seemed silly to me, she stated that psychological studies have shown that doing this really does have an impact on a person’s ability to participate in discussions. Ellis added to this, suggesting that attendees take public speaking classes to help build confidence.

Another helpful recommendation came from Pepera, who suggested creating five-year plans. She emphasized the need to think beyond the present when looking for jobs, especially if you’re considering having a family. Additionally, the panelists stressed that the particular lifestyle associated with the field of international affairs may not be ideal for everyone, which is why it’s important to really understand which kinds of environments you thrive in. Pepera also commented that many people realize after 30+ years of working that they are no longer interested in their field. She made a clear point to avoid getting stuck in a profession and emphasized the importance of having transferrable skills, which will allow you to transition into new careers. Lastly, Ambassador Jewell made the case of taking risks when applying to jobs. She underlined that many women don’t apply for positions they’re well qualified for because they feel that they’re either not ready, or don’t meet all the requirements. She then said something that was very surprising to me, which was to apply to jobs even if you only meet 30% of the qualifications, adding that “the men are doing it.” I thought a lot about this last point, even after the event, and will definitely keep this in mind as I work on my job applications.

Overall, I found the discussion to be very informative, engaging, and most importantly, encouraging. I was inspired by each of the panelists and very grateful to them for sharing their stories. I look forward to future career panels at the WFPG and hearing from more inspirational women leaders.


Shelly Culbertson's "The Fires of Spring"
Posted: July 21, 2016 | Ellee Watson, George Washington University, Former WFPG Intern

On Tuesday, July 12, Shelly Culbertson joined the WFPG at the Embassy of Slovenia to discuss her new book "The Fires of Spring" that focuses on how six different countries experienced the Arab Spring. She traveled to Tunisia, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, and Egypt to learn about the history and the people that catalyzed the movements. Culbertson told the WFPG she started the book because she wanted to find out what was accomplished during the movements and what might happen in the future. Ultimately, she concluded that the Arab Spring is not over yet. Arab Spring Phase One, as she calls it, was about rejecting and overturning the institutions that infringed upon freedom. “Arab Spring Phase Two will unfold over the coming decades in the day to day processes by incorporating the values of the Arab Spring and putting them into institutions as time goes on," Culbertson said. This process will look different for each country. Culbertson emphasized that each country had its own Arab Spring for unique reasons because the Middle East is not monolithic. The countries have separate histories and specific problems their people wanted to address.

Although each movement was unique, Culbertson identified three themes that linked the movements together - the government becoming more accountable, women taking on new roles, and Islam questioning its role in the state. While writing the book, Culbertson interviewed politicians, bloggers, journalists, and activists in order to get a sense of how the Arab Spring unfolded. "In interviews over and over again," Culbertson said, "I heard that the Arab Spring was opening up new windows for women." She detailed her interviews with two women in particular, Meherzia Labidi of Tunisia and Mervat Talawy of Egypt, who had a hand in writing their country's new constitutions. Talawy fought alongside four other women to put the clause "Women have equal rights" within Egypt's Constitution. Culbertson was quick to remind WFPG guests and members that the United States doesn't even have this clause. Despite the progress the region has made in some areas, the region is facing two monumental problems in youth unemployment and Syrian refugees. Culbertson said that the Middle East is 70 percent under the age of 30, and across the region, at least a quarter of this demographic is facing unemployment. To create long-term stability, these countries must invest in education and grant opportunities for youth.

The refugee crisis has taken the spotlight in Europe, but Culbertson reminded the audience how many refugees remain in the Middle East. The average time for a refugee to return to his original country is 25 years. This means that short-term solutions like refugee camps and humanitarian aid are unlikely to breed long-term success. Instead, according to Culbertson, countries should follow Jordan's lead and implement longer-term solutions like providing job training and basic school for Syrian children.

The Middle East has a way to go before it accomplishes the goals the Arab Spring movements set out, but Culbertson is optimistic. "Profound change is on its way," Culbertson said.


UN Briefing Details New Effort to Combat Human Trafficking
Posted: July 7, 2016 | Adrienne Ross, Communications Consultant

The Women’s Foreign Policy Group headed north to New York City Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 to hear from Simone Monasebian who works fervently in her post as Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to monitor and combat some of the world’s most heinous offenses including human trafficking; an issue that has taken some time to gain the UN’s full attention.

“We’ve come a long way in the last 10 years at the UN on this issue, but unfortunately in the past two or three years this had gone down a bit lower on the priority of the UN for a variety of reasons,” Monasebian explained. But today she outlined a series of events that reshaped the UN’s fight against trafficking and revitalized her hope that the problem was effectively being addressed. Monasebian said it was key that UN Security Council was pressed to focus on human trafficking last winter, under the leadership of the United States Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and the President of the United States.

“[On] December 16th, a landmark UN Security Council meeting was held on human trafficking, where for the first time, a survivor of human trafficking addressed the council…”, said Monasebian. It was also the first time she said she saw members applaud a survivor and shed tears during testimony. The young woman whose story inspired the council that day belonged to a 19-year-old Iraqi Yazidi named Nadia Murad Basee Taha. In 2014, Nadia was captured by Daesh and held for several months after the fighters came to her village in Mosul. According to some reports, the terrorists killed more than three hundred Yazidi men in one hour including Nadia’s brothers and step-brothers.

Monasebian moved the guests with the story of Nadia’s testimony. “I tell you, having been a prosecutor of war crimes, and having thought I saw everything,” she said. “Nadia reopened my heart listening to her testimony. It was quite extraordinary.” She had come to the UN to ask for liberty for other survivors, accountability for the perpetrators, protection for those who are vulnerable to trafficking, as well as dedicated funding and support for the victims to rebuild their lives. But it was her personal story Monasebian found especially gut-wrenching.

“She described being taken from one town to another. Sold from one man to another, and pleading. This is the most power that she could have during her time in captivity; that she asked to be raped by a smaller man; she was a very small girl, [and] the first man who was going to take her as a wife was huge. And that was her wish. Could I just be raped by a man who is not as offensive as this man who will destroy me physically?”

Nadia will soon be appointed as the first UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Victims of Human Trafficking, in the presence of US Ambassador and human rights attorney Amal Clooney. Nadia will also be engaged in the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants. Nadia now lives in Germany where she has been given asylum as a refugee. Monasebian said she believes it was Nadia’s testimony, together with the UN Security Council’s redirected agenda, that has revived the issue and reinvigorated political will.

Finally, Monasebian said, at that momentous UN Security Council meeting last December a very important presidential statement was passed, which requires the UN Secretary General to submit a continuous review on trafficking to the council. “[T]he UN Office on Drugs and Crime is also drafting that report now and it should probably come before the council again in December, one year after the initial Security Council meeting.”

“Trafficking is an industry that involves billions of dollars and millions of people and we know that every country is involved,” Monasebian said. “So in one respect it is problematic that every country is involved, but in another respect, it’s hopeful because there’s a lack of politicization on this issue. . . Only one out of 100 are ever rescued from being a trafficking victim. We owe it to those few who are rescued to help them rebuild and restore their lives.”

“It starts with us,” said an attorney in the audience as she spoke up to share the national hotline number. Call 1-888- 373-7888 to report a suspected human trafficking incident or to get assistance. More information can also be found online at


Celebrating Women Leaders: Honoring Women Assistant Secretaries
Posted: June 27, 2016 | Adrienne Ross, Communications Consultant

On Monday, June 20th the Women's Foreign Policy Group held its annual benefit “Celebrating Women Leaders” at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. The event, carried live on C-Span, included more than 150 attendees who joined the WFPG to honor three United States Assistant Secretaries of State including Anne Patterson of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the Bureau of African Affairs; Anne Richard of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, and to hear them discuss the United States’ policies on combating terrorism and the challenges in the Middle East and Africa, especially with concern to the global refugee crisis.

WFPG President Patricia Ellis took to the stage to welcome moderator Karen DeYoung, the Washington Post’s Associate Editor and Senior National Security Correspondent. DeYoung, who has served as a moderator for previous WFPG events, commented on the outstanding turnout and the wide-breadth of the topic at hand, before saying how impressive she finds the number of women leading the Department of State, “I am always struck when I walk past the assistant secretaries’ offices; most of them are women.” After settling in with introductions, DeYoung turned her attention to the Islamic State and Assistant Secretary Patterson.

“You know there will not be easy answers in this part of the world,” Patterson warned as she began talking. She cited a lack of legitimacy, sectarian conflict, and a dearth of institutional structures as main contributors to the region’s instability. Patterson also touched on significant economic issues especially for females, “There are more women in school than men and they perform better, but their opportunities continue to be limited.”

But Patterson cautioned that the news was not all “bleak” and that she felt encouraged by some achievements, “There has been considerable progress against ISIL and Syria and Iraq and now Libya.”

Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield said she too was optimistic about Africa. She described the United States’ role on the world’s second largest continent as a “partner”, promoting “peace and prosperity.”

“If we are successful, issues of terrorism conflict and migration will be less of a concern,” Thomas-Greenfield explained. Despite significant challenges, in which she includes Boko Haram’s “devastating impact on Nigeria and its neighbors”, as well as economic and educational challenges, a lack of human rights and fair elections, limited freedom of speech, not to mention healthcare and climate issues, Thomas-Greenfield firmly believes that, “…we are making progress that will allow for the continent to prosper and take its rightful place as a leader.”

Assistant Secretary Richard pointed out that this discussion was taking place on the UN’s World Refugee Day. “It is a moment to stop and think of the refugees and their plight and salute those who are survivors …“ She also added her three important “take home” points for the day: “One is that this [refugee problem] is a global phenomenon. . . .The second is that refugees are not the same as terrorists. They are the victims of terrorism,” she said to a roomful of applause, and finally, she wanted others to know that the US is a leader on the global refugee crisis.

“Right now, we [the US] have over 40% of the Syrian refugees and we will see larger numbers in the coming days.” But Richard said leading on such a controversial effort can be tough.

“I get criticized from the right and the left on this one. Friends in one direction say that is not enough and friends on the other side say we are worried you would let terrorists sneak inside the program,” she explained. But according to Richard, the US refugee program is the most heavily vetted of any traveler program in the United States.

DeYoung, incorporating an audience member’s comments, said that “divisive political rhetoric” and “disturbing levels of xenophobia” are shutting down borders, and asked the assistant secretaries if they found these circumstances to be a “perfect storm” driving the number of refugees, as well as nations’ reluctance to shelter them.

Richard reacted, saying, “Part of the answer, Karen, is that we are not able to bring peace to parts of the world because the leaders do not seem intent on peace. They seem to be wedded to continuing a bloodthirsty continuation of fighting.”

DeYoung asked Thomas-Greenfield how she would prioritize the allocation of resources in Africa. “If I had control, I would put more in democracy and government . . . . The key to me is having a stable country that takes care of its people. If you have that, you do not have people fleeing for economic or will reasons,” she said.

“I think the whole conversation about refugees leads us directly to the Middle East,” DeYoung said, reminding the group that 400,000 people have already died in Syria, and that half the nation’s population is currently displaced. Can we expect a policy shift?

“Let me assure you that the issues are grappled with at the very highest level of the administration, every single night,” Assistant Secretary Patterson answered. She pointed to Secretary Kerry’s success assembling an international coalition that enabled 700,000 to leave the country.

“There are not really any good answers in Syria,” Patterson continued. “It is not just to go bomb. It is, within the complex legal issues; in the US military deployment. There are a range of complications that result from this. “

With just three minutes left in the program, Richard confirmed that the Obama Administration would, in fact, reach its commitment to shelter 10,000 refugees in the US by September.

The entire conversation and transcript is available online at


The World Humanitarian Summit: Protracted Crises Need New Humanitarian Approaches
Posted: June 12, 2016 | Anjelica Jarrett, Mount Holyoke College, WFPG Intern

On June 8, 2016, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Assistant Administrator, Crisis Response Unit, Izumi Nakamitsu briefed WFPG members and guests on the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, called by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and held in Istanbul May 23-24. Nakamitsu emphasized that the nature of global crises has become “protracted,” as the average duration of displacement for victims is 17 years. The slogan for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN in 2015 was “Leave No One Behind.” However, victims of humanitarian crises are the most likely to be overlooked, and with a reduction in global peace from previous years it is critical that the nature of humanitarian response becomes further oriented towards investment in risk prevention. Prolonged conflicts must be resolved and world governments must strive to address problems occurring outside its immediate borders to more effectively help victims and reduce future need for humanitarian aid.

Nakamitsu also addressed various commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit with special attention given to UNDP’s role in humanitarian assistance. UNDP is already engaged in providing livelihood opportunities for humanitarian victims, such as by creating emergency employment opportunities when crises arise. UNDP creates “hundreds of thousands” of these opportunities, which prevent a reliance on “handouts” from humanitarian agencies by allowing people directly affected by crises to earn an income and rebuild the community.

In Nakamitsu’s view, the World Humanitarian Summit was successful in bringing a variety of important world actors together, who pledged to coordinate efforts individually as well as collectively. However, a key challenge rests in the real-world realization of these pledges. The actual influence of the World Humanitarian Summit cannot be immediately evaluated. It will take time—at least a year—for its true impact on crisis response to be made evident.


The EU and the US: A Crucial Partnership
Posted: June 10, 2016 | Ellee Watson, George Washington University, Former WFPG Intern

Ambassador David O'Sullivan of the European Union to the United States emphasized the importance of the relationship between Europe and the United States in maintaining peace and prosperity in his remarks at the WFPG event The Future of the EU and the Importance of Transatlantic Relations on June 7th at his residence.

Speaking a day after the 71st anniversary of D-Day, O'Sullivan said he was proud that the sacrifices those soldiers made have not been in vain.

"There are two conclusions of that momentous moment in military history," O'Sullivan said. "They are our commitment as Europeans to build a better Europe and the fact that that the transatlantic alliance would be an absolutely vital part of doing that."

The partnership between the United States and Europe has created the institutions - the United Nations, NATO, IMF, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization - that have been the "cornerstones of an unprecedented period of prosperity," according to O'Sullivan.

O'Sullivan said that in his time as Ambassador since 2014, he has seen Europe and the United States succeed at creating a better world at several moments including preventing Russia's further involvement in Ukraine, the Iran Nuclear Deal, cooperation in the Middle East, climate change, and, most crucially, trade.

O'Sullivan praised the successes, but he also said that Europe is facing challenges including the refugee crisis and growing Euroskepticism.

The Ambassador stated he was not going to talk about the British referendum that will take place June 23rd saying, "this is a moment of sovereignty for the British people; they have to decide how they want to go forward."


CELEBRATING WOMEN DIPLOMATS: The Importance of Mentoring
Posted: June 03, 2016 | Diana Kelley, Bryn Mawr College, WFPG Intern

On the evening of June 1, Ambassador Kristi Kauppi of Finland hosted the WFPG’s annual Celebration of Women Diplomats at her residence in Washington DC. The event honored women ambassadors and deputy chiefs of mission for their leadership in foreign policy. The guests mingled and celebrated their colleagues’ distinguished careers while sampling traditional Finnish fare.

The celebration focused on the importance of mentoring, the impact mentoring has had on the diplomats’ careers, and their commitment to guiding and supporting the next generation. Speakers included Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi of Finland, Ambassador Claudia Fritsche of Liechtenstein, Ambassador Hassana Alidou of Niger, Ambassador Thelma Philip-Browne of Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Ambassador Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo.

Ambassador Kauppi spoke about the importance of making the voices of women in foreign policy heard and cited an impressive statistics that in Finland, 50% of the ambassadors are women. She shared that early in her career, when the Finnish foreign service was largely male dominated, many of her best mentors were men who encouraged her and gave her the self-confidence to pursue a career in foreign policy. She articulated the need for women diplomats to ensure that their female colleagues are seen, listened to, heard, and understood.

Ambassador Fritsche’s remarks touched on the reciprocal nature of the mentor-mentee relationship and the notion that the relationship can be tailored to individual needs and unique experiences. She mentioned how mentoring has frequently moved from mentoring to sponsorship. She spoke of her experience as a mentor to young female interns through her embassy’s internship program and endearingly referred to them as the “daughters she never had.”

Ambassador Alidou followed by emphasizing the importance of choosing a mentor that displays positive values and serves as a role model to mentees. She spoke of her position as a professor and the ways in which women faculty promoted and supported her and other young women through mentorship. In addition, Ambassador Alidou stressed the obligation women have in sharing knowledge with other women and developing strong, constructive, and supportive mentor-mentee relationships.

Ambassador Philip-Browne provided personal anecdotes relating to her early experiences in St. Kitts and Nevis as she learned the importance of mentors who invested in young women and taught them how to be resilient, stay true to their faith, and remain strong in the face of adversity. She spoke of choices women had and of mentoring as a way to nurture and grow future women leaders.

Ambassador Çitaku shared her experience with inspirational mentors. She spoke of the gender inequality she experienced while growing up in Albania and the strong women she looked up to, especially her mother. While serving as a minister in the newly established Republic of Kosovo she had photos of inspiring role models posted in her office which served as a constant source of inspiration. Ambassador Çitaku called upon women diplomats to help eradicate obstacles for gender inequality in international relations.


CRISIS IN BRAZIL: Challenges for the Future
Posted: May 31, 2016 | Hannah Salem, Boston University, WFPG Intern

The WFPG event on May 19 highlighted the political and economic underpinnings of the current crisis in Brazil, as well as their possible implications for the future. In a conversation moderated by Diana Villiers Negroponte, the event featured Johanna Mendelson Forman of American University and the Stimson Center and Kellie Meiman Hock of McLarty Associates, both agreed that a leading challenge going forward would be to unite a country divided, with one of the key challenges being how to create such a “national unity movement” in the absence of a credible political leader to build the necessary bridges between the various alienated players. At the same time, if managed correctly, the upcoming Rio Olympics does have the potential to serve as a motivator to put the country’s best foot forward.

The discussion explored the decline of Brazil’s economic and political power, from its “boom days” to its current economic recession and political crisis. According to Meiman Hock, Brazil’s thriving economy in the years following the global economic crisis was sustained by aggressive public spending on infrastructure and low-cost financing through public banks, enhanced by traditional state-led industrial policy. Unfortunately, counter-cyclical economic policy always must come to an end given the spending levels involved, and Brazil’s political and business class failed to support terminating such policies at that appropriate time. She explained that the current crisis goes beyond poor management of the economy in the short term or the slowdown in China reducing demand for basic inputs such as agricultural products or iron ore. Instead, Brazil needs to focus on the key structural reforms that will make the country competitive in the medium to long term, such as labor, tax and pension reform.

Currently, the interim government and congress are under pressure to resolve the impeachment trial before the Olympics, although whether this goal is achieved is unclear. The speakers referred to Acting President Michel Temer as a “serious political operator,” but one who faces his own challenges of legitimacy. Temer’s main policy goals are expected to include pension reform, tax simplification, and reduced spending.

At the same time, many members of the interim government are being investigated by the “Lava Jato” prosecutorial team headed by Judge Sergio Moro, fixated on tackling corruption in Brazil in a significant break with past practice in the country. The fact that this investigation is ongoing, plus additional investigations regarding the financing of the Rousseff/Temer campaign are ongoing, makes the future of the Temer interim government unpredictable. Confidence in the Brazilian judiciary has skyrocketed, as ambitious and ethical young prosecutors have sought to create the “Brazil of the Future” they seek by utilizing the country’s laws and institutions. Mendelson Forman described Brazil’s current political standing as a crisis of legitimacy, because all branches of government, apart from the judiciary, have been tainted by scandal. Both speakers agreed that as they pursue reform the interim government should seek to preserve the middle class, or risk facing even more challenging social pressures.

In terms of foreign policy, Brazil has historically been non-interventionist. While this tendency is not likely to change, the country’s potential, expressed through its size and geographic location cannot be ignored. Although it has achieved its potential as a regional leader, there is little doubt that Brazil can emerge as a regional and global leader once the current political turmoil dies down.

As for the United States’ role, Mendelson Forman applauded the government’s decision to distance itself from the conflict, insisting that “we have no useful role to play.” The US should avoid direct political involvement but can offer objective, pragmatic suggestions for improvement.


Speaking out on Sexual Violence during the War in Kosovo

Posted: April 11, 2016 | Ellee Watson, George Washington University, WFPG Intern

President Atifete Jahjaga of the Republic of Kosovo spoke to the WFPG prior to a screening of the documentary The Making of #MendojPërTy/#Thinkingofyou to discuss her efforts to help the 20,000 victims of sexual violence during the Kosovo War of 1998-1999.

The documentary The Making of #MendojPërTy/#Thinkingofyou details the creation of the art installation Thinking of You that displayed thousands of dresses donated by survivors, activists, and other women in the soccer stadium of Pristina, Kosovo. Jahjaga sponsored the installation to honor the survivors, break the silence, and shed light on these brutal crimes, largely ignored since the war. Not one criminal has been punished in association with these acts of violence.

"The victims have been stigmatized," Jahjaga said, "They have been pushed from the society - from their own families and the society in general. It has been a taboo topic in our society."

Since Jahjaga took office in 2011, she has been working to provide an institutional solution for the victims who feel they don't belong in Kosovo.

Jahjaga met with a group of survivors during her first week as president who were ready to talk to her about their experiences, and they inspired her to seek a solution for this group as well as the majority of survivors who had not shared their stories because they felt trapped and embarrassed by the horrors they experienced.

Artist Alketa Xhafa Mripa came up with the idea for the installation and brought it to Jahjaga's attention. At the time, Jahjaga's government was in the middle of a campaign to raise awareness about these crimes and to advance reintegration and recivilization of the victims, and she believed the art installation aligned with these goals.

The art installation brought attention to the sexual crimes committed in Kosovo; its opening inspired 44 headlines internationally. The producer of the documentary Anni Di Lellio, during the discussion with WFPG President Patricia Ellis and Jahjaga, said that the installation inspired support for the victims among women and men, and this encouraged survivors to tell their stories.

Before the screening of the documentary, Ambassador Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo introduced Jahjaga, praising her for the gains she has made for women in Kosovo, "I am proud that you have given a voice and dignity to those who need it most - the survivors of the sexual violence in Kosovo."

Although Jahjaga has promoted the reintegration of the victims into society, she stresses that there is more work to be done. She wants to advance the economic empowerment of single mothers whose husbands were killed, fight stigma, and encourage the power to speak.


Posted: March 30, 2016 | Tara Sonenshine, WFPG Board of Directors

The International Women of Courage, selected by the U.S. State Department each year, for their trail blazing activities, give hope and inspiration to all of us. This year’s recipients hail from countries as diverse as Bangladesh and Belize, Malaysia and Mauritania. Over a dozen women are in the United States to receive the award and then travel to American cities with stories of their work to improve life in their countries. I had the opportunity this week to meet with the 2016 international women of courage and to work with them on preparing for interviews and public diplomacy.


Just a few of their stories: From Iraq, Yezidi activist and gynecologist Dr. Nagham Nawzat Hasan has dedicated her career to promoting equality for women, combating gender-based violence, and providing psychological support to survivors. Since the 2014 takeover of the city of Sinjar by ISIS, resulting in the massacre of thousands of Yezidi men and the enslavement of Yezidi women, Dr. Hasan has focused her efforts on rescuing and assisting Yezidi girls Responding to the humanitarian crisis, Dr. Hasan was one of the first physicians to provide psychological counseling and health screenings to freed and escaped girls. Sara Hossain is a human rights lawyer who has fought on behalf of Bangladesh’s most disadvantaged and marginalized citizens, particularly women and girls, in her country’s highest courts of law. A barrister in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh and the Honorary Executive Director of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Ms. Hossain played a key role in drafting her country’s first comprehensive legislation on violence against women, which became law in 2010. Ms. Hossain has brought landmark cases challenging practices such as forced veiling, the use of fatwas to impose degrading punishments on women and girls, and the use of non-medical procedures to judge a woman’s virginity in rape and sexual assault cases.

Each of the women has similar stories of courage, passion, and integrity. It is humbling to meet them and celebrate their work.


Closing Key Gaps For Women by 2030 and Translating Global Goals into National Goals

Posted: March 23, 2016 | Tara Sonenshine, WFPG Board of Directors

“When women are more than 30% of any body, there are real effects on everything from budgets to what services get provided” says Caren Grown on the role of leadership.

A timely and important WFPG program took place at The World Bank on March 22nd, on the gender dimensions of the United Nations 2030 Development Agenda and its goals for women and girls—ambitious targets for the inclusion of women. The discussion, led by WFPG President Pat Ellis, featured Caren Grown, World Bank senior director for gender, and Mahmoud Mohieldin, senior vice president for the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations relations, and partnerships. Both explained the importance of the World Bank gender strategy in reaching these new UN aspirational goals.

The highlights of the program included the startling reality that although things have improved for women and girls on the global level during the past 15 years since the Millennial Development Goals of 2005, things have not improved when you get to specific country results regarding the inclusion of women today. Great progress has been made in closing gaps in girls’ education and health—expanding reproductive health, lengthening life expectancy, lowering infant mortality but progress has been sticky, in the economic domain and there are data gaps that have to be closed so that information is available.

Caren Grown discussed “occupational segregation” which relate to the economic gaps in work and finance. There is a lack of female owners of small enterprises, control of land, housing, etc., underscoring that financial inclusion of women is a top priority.

There are major challenges for women’s access to finance, the availability of hard data and facts, the coordination of government agencies within countries when it comes to women, and the surprising lack of documentation—literal documentation of the identity of women. Conditions of work in countries also varies and there is also a lack of care services for young and old, especially in low income countries. Gender-based violence remains a problem. Digital gaps between men and women mean that women don’t have the mobile technology to succeed. Politically, more women hold more seats in Parliament in countries like Rwanda, but there are still gaps in participation.

In the end, the key question of sustainable development goals comes back to women’s leadership, creating partnerships, building up the civil society (for accountability and monitoring), working with the private sector on data, technology and changing policies within countries to achieve gender parity and empowerment.

Posted: March 18, 2016 | Gebe Martinez, WFPG Board of Directors

Elections of reformers, including more women, to Iran’s parliament, the nation’s diversifying economy, and its recent nuclear deal with the international community including the US, lend new hope for Iran’s “hedged democracy,” said Barbara Slavin, acting director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, during a talk hosted by the Women’s Foreign Policy Group (WFPG).

Slavin, who also reports on the Middle East for the news website, recently discussed Iran’s political, economic, and societal post-election outlook as part of WFPG’s “Beyond the Headlines” series.

“When I look at Iran now, I still see a glass half full,” Slavin said. “The Iranian society has already progressed so far, despite propaganda and repression, that no faction, no Supreme Leader, can force it back into an Islamic straight jacket.”

Iran’s head of state, clerical Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, selects the 12-man Guardian Council, which decides the candidates for the Parliament, President, and the important Assembly of Experts, which could decide Khamenei’s successor.

The recent Iranian elections for members of Parliament and the Assembly of Experts -- run-offs for some seats will be held in April -- were seen as a vote of confidence in the policies of President Hassan Rouhani, including the nuclear deal with the West and his proposed economic reforms.

A reform movement video, sent through a cell phone application not blocked by the government, spurred voter turnout, Slavin said. “They eliminated from parliament some of the real hard liners who had opposed the nuclear deal,” said the Middle East analyst. “It is going to be an easier for Rouhani to choose people for sensitive ministries, like the economy, and easier for him to make economic reforms which are really crucial if Iran is going to attract investment in the aftermath of the nuclear deal.”

Slavin said another positive development is the election of at least 22 young, well-educated women, who will be replacing a much smaller group of women who favored anti-feminist legislation. Measures that would restrict access to birth control, reduce women’s work hours in order to keep them home, and others are likely doomed now, Slavin added.

While ongoing turmoil in the Middle East could upset Iran’s delicate moves to become more integrated in the international community, the foreign policy analyst said she is more concerned about political developments in the US, including irrational threats by conservative presidential candidates to “tear up” the nuclear agreement that has been codified by a United Nations Security Council resolution.

“So far, Iran is complying with the nuclear deal, and it’s my view that the US should do so as well and not give the Islamic Republic an excuse to walk away,” Slavin said. Slavin also addressed the tense relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia, explaining there is blame on both sides, but also noting that the Saudi's view, with nervousness, Iran’s influence in the region.

“This doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to speak out against other activities by Iran that we oppose, the missile tests for example, the human rights record,” Slavin added. “But I think it would be would be crazy to tear up the nuclear deal because of these other aspects. We have dealt with many countries, negotiated with other countries, that have human rights records and foreign policies that are as bad or worse than Iran’s.”


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