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SPECIAL ONLINE BRIEFING Ambassador Kelley E. Currie Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues

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U.S. Department of State
For Immediate Release
October 15, 2020
The Africa Regional Media Hub

 

Moderator:  Good morning to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub.  I would like to welcome our participants from across the continent and thank all of you for taking part in this discussion. 

Today we are very pleased to be joined by Ambassador Kelley Currie, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.  Ambassador Currie will discuss how the United States is implementing the Women, Peace, and Security agenda to advocate for women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution on the African continent.  Ambassador Currie is joining us from Washington, D.C.

We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Ambassador Currie; then we will turn to your questions.  We will try to get to as many of them as we can in the time that we have allotted.  At any time during the briefing if you would like to ask a question live, please indicate that by clicking on the “raise hand” button and then typing your name, media outlet, and location into the “questions and answers” tab.

Alternatively, you can type your full question directly into the Q&A for me to read to our speaker.  Again, please include your name, media outlet, and location when you do so.  If you would like to join the question – join the conversation on Twitter, please use the hashtag #AFHubPress and follow us on twitter @StateGWI and @AfricaMediaHub.

As a reminder, today’s briefing is on the record.  And with that, I will turn it over to Ambassador Currie for her opening remarks.

Ambassador Currie:  Thank you so much, Marissa, and I thank everybody for hanging in there when we – with our late start.  We actually had an actual fire drill this morning at the State Department at 8 o’clock that we were not expecting, so I appreciate everybody bearing with us and letting us get a little bit of a later start today.

As Marissa said, I’m Kelley Currie, our Ambassador-at-Large here at the State Department for Global Women’s Issues.  And this October is a very big month for us here in my office as we mark the 20th anniversary of the Women, Peace, and Security Resolution in the Security Council, UNSCR 1325 as we call it here in our office and as it’s known throughout the women, peace, and security world, which is a rapidly – a community of practice and a community of interest that has grown dramatically in the past 20 years, including and in some ways especially across the African continent. 

We’re really pleased to be celebrating this important anniversary this month, this big landmark of two decades of women, peace, and security being enshrined on the Security Council’s agenda.  And we have a lot to speak to about how the United States has led on this issue since the past – since before the passage of 1325 and continues to work hard to implement this critical agenda item. 

We recently – in 2017, when President Trump signed the Women, Peace, and Security Act which passed by a very large bipartisan majority here in the United States Congress, we became the first country in the world to enshrine this agenda in our national legislation.  And while the resolution, UNSCR 1325, calls on countries to develop national action plans, which we’ve had since 2000, we are really pleased to actually have this as part of our national law and have legal requirements for our foreign policy and national security agencies to implement this agenda across our foreign policy and national security infrastructure.  And so we’ve been doing that throughout this administration in some really important ways.

One way is making sure that our diplomats, our personnel, whether it’s at the Department of Defense or here at the State Department or our U.S. Agency for International Development, are prepared to engage this agenda and incorporate it into all of their work.  And this is especially true in fragile and conflict-affected states, but it actually works across all of our diplomatic agenda.  Because women – making sure that women’s voices are heard in important decisions about their societies, including about security decisions, that women are able to fully participate in the armed forces of their country and make – and participate at the important tables where decisions are made is critical in every single country around the world, including here in the United States.

So we have a strong inward focus on our own institutions to make sure that they are fit to purpose to fully pursue this agenda, but we also are working with partners around the world to implement this agenda.  And we have active women, peace, and security programs going on in 30 countries that the State Department alone is doing, and when I look across – we just did a data call that we are providing to the White House which tracks this agenda very closely.  We have so much going on around the world that it’s almost impossible for me to keep up with it on a given day.  The demand signal from our partners around the world is so strong to work with us on this that we actually can’t keep up with it some days.  [Laughter.]

So I’m really proud to be able to talk about the work that we’re doing here, how important it is for the department, but I’d much rather answer your questions and get into some of the specifics with you, if that’s okay.  So, Marissa, if I can turn it back over to you for that purpose, I would love to do so.

Moderator:  No problem.  Thank you, Ambassador Currie.  We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call.  For those asking questions, please indicate if you would like to ask a question and then type in your name, location, and affiliation.  We ask that you limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing: international programs in Africa under the 2019 U.S. National Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security; updates about UN peacekeepers on the continent; and efforts to protect conflict-affected women from gender-based violence.

We’re going to go live for our first question.  Our first question goes to Mr. Bereket Sisay of the Ethiopian News Agency, based in Ethiopia.  The question is, “How are you helping women to be part and parcel of conflict prevention and peacebuilding processes?”

Ambassador Currie:  Well, that is really a huge part of what we’re doing.  We are working across different vectors, including – and I’ll give you some great examples from Africa where we’re doing this.  For instance, in Kenya and in East Africa, we’re working with the women preventing violent extremism program in partnership with the U.S. Institute of Peace.  And this program supports a great network called Sisters Without Borders, and they are working on preventing and countering violent extremism and supporting women who are working in this area across the Horn of Africa.  So this is a really great initiative where they’ve been doing – they do everything from street art with murals in cities to training and videos that help raise awareness and provide women with tools to engage in different peace processes.  In Sudan, for instance, another country of great concern to us and where we’re working on a lot of different fronts, our office is supporting work for women’s – for Sudanese women to prevent and mitigate violence and conflict by partnering with existing civil society networks. 

So this is something that we do quite a bit.  We work with local women’s organizations to see what they need and help provide them with the tools that will give them the power and the agency to drive forward their own agendas.  Because this is not really about us; it’s about making sure that the women on the ground in these fragile and conflict-affected states have the tools that they need and the support that they need. 

So we are – we’ve been working with them with capacity building and training so that they are able to speak for themselves and engage these processes that are going on in Sudan, whether it’s the peace process or the transition to democratic self-governance that we’ve been watching South Africa go – or Sudan, I’m sorry, go through for the past couple of years.  And so we’ve been working with them also to overcome – one of the roles that we can play is as a facilitator when you have groups that are – that have a history of conflict and where we can help bring women together from different ethnic and religious traditions and help them to find their common cause and work together in coalition.  And we’re doing that in Sudan in particular.

We’re also – one of the other great programs that we have in Africa is the Women and Girls Empowered WAGE program that is – that works with cross-cutting issues and everything from sexual and gender-based violence to countering violent extremism.  And this is a really great – we – it’s like, I hate this word, but to call it a toolkit is a great – is actually very accurate in this context because it does – it has lots of different possibilities and can be tailored to the different contexts where it’s working.  So in Sudan it’s really focused on the issues that are relevant in Sudan, whether it – and it – and especially dealing with this transition from an Islamist dictatorship into a more plural and – a plural, democratic setting.  So we’re really excited about the work that we’re able to do in Sudan now.

Moderator:  Fantastic.  Glad you mentioned the WAGE program because October 12th was the International Day of the Girl, and a lot of people questioned, well, what are we doing for – we’re doing a lot of stuff related to women’s empowerment, but what are we doing for young girls?  So it’s an amazing program and I do hope that as – it’s a tool in that toolkit, that it’s something that we’ll be able to really spread out to several countries and it’ll be open all over the continent.

Our next question goes to a question that was sent in from Rwanda, from Mr. Dusabemungu Ange de la Victoire of Top Africa News.  His question is, “Rwanda is one of the countries that promotes women in peacekeeping.  What do you have to say about Rwanda’s role in this?  And what help do you plan to give Rwanda to continue this program?”

Ambassador Currie:  Well, we know that Rwanda has been a major TCC [Troop Contributing Country] contributing country and has done a tremendous job, including in supporting women in peacekeeping, which is a very important area that we in the United States have also very strongly supported.  We do a lot of training with our partners, including Rwanda, to make sure that not only the women who are participating directly in peacekeeping but the men who are participating with them are ready to empower and support this effort.

We’ve seen very critically that when women do participate in peacekeeping, levels of sexual and gender-related violence go down; levels of sexual exploitation and abuse go down.  One of the things that we’ve noticed – and you see this.  I mean, we still have huge challenges, obviously, with sexual abuse and exploitation as we’ve seen recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  But what we’ve seen is since we have made a concerted effort with peacekeeping and really increased the number of women who are directly involved in peacekeeping, not just as individual peacekeepers but all the way up the command chain, and as the UN has itself made a real commitment – again, through Security Council leadership – to provide for the tools for women to be peacekeepers, including making sure they have separate shower and dormitory facilities and simple things like that that when we first started having women peacekeepers, they had nowhere to go to the bathroom, they had to use the same – be in the same facilities with men and it wasn’t – it didn’t work great. 

So we’ve learned a lot of lessons over the past 20 years, for sure, and Rwanda has been key in helping us to do that.  So we’re thrilled to have that ongoing partnership.  But what we’ve seen is the levels of sexual abuse and exploitation involved in peacekeeping troops have dramatically declined since we’ve really made a concerted effort to incorporate more women directly into peacekeeping at all roles and levels. 

What we’re now seeing is that we need to do a better job across the whole humanitarian spectrum to make sure that this horrible problem is fully eliminated from the humanitarian space.  But peacekeeping has led the way and now we need to draw some of those important lessons from peacekeeping into the rest of the humanitarian space, including about accountability.  And one thing that we have seen with the UN is that they’re not afraid now to cut countries off, to cut off units, and to send people back if they are involved in behavior that is inappropriate and that undermines the mission.  And we are – really need to see that accountability become the norm across the whole humanitarian space as well.

Moderator:  If we could stay along those lines of what you mentioned about pluralism and having more women along that authority chain and hierarchy chain when it comes to peacekeeping.  What does inclusion look like?  You mentioned some things that I don’t think that the average world of peacekeeping thinks about: the bathroom issues and all of things that are related to that that make such a huge difference in making sure that the inclusion aspect of women is something that we’re paying attention to.  So could you describe a little bit more about what that inclusion looks like in complex environments, specifically related to conflict, that need urgent attention?

Ambassador Currie:  Well, we’ve seen, for instance, in places like South Sudan where we have a detachment of all-women peacekeepers, and they have been able to go into communities there and address issues that regular peacekeepers, regular units of peacekeeping, either mixed or male units of peacekeepers have not been able to, including dealing with certain crises around sexual violence and gender-based violence. 

We see that, for instance, when women are present in peacekeeping units, and whether this is militarized units or civilian police – and the civ pol units are especially important because especially as we move toward a more mixed environment where we are not providing the same kind of military security, but as we’ll see, like, with Sudan where we’re moving toward a special political mission and away from a traditional peacekeeping context, the need for integrated and all-women civ pol units has skyrocketed because in those – in those mixed environments, in those transitional environments, the needs are different.  And women police – Bangladesh comes to mind as a country that has a large number of female police and has contributed a lot of learning to this process about how you incorporate women into mixed units and what an all-female unit can do in the – on the ground.

So I think we continue to learn.  It’s about making sure that women are in decision-making positions too because then they can tell you what they need and you don’t have to try to figure it out based on experience; you’ve got women leading the charge.  I think it’s been important also to see how in the Security Council, that’s where, when these missions are planned, when we look at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and having strong women in positions in DPPA, the Department of Peacekeeping and Political Affairs at the UN – and frankly, the Secretary-General’s own emphasis on women’s – on women’s empowerment has been very important.

And I think that this is something that we all – the role that – what we’re seen across the arc from 20 years ago is just such a tremendous level of awareness now around the need for women to fully participate and be integrated into all of these decisions and all of these processes.  And we’re not there yet; I mean, I don’t want to overplay it.  But where we’ve come from to where we are, you just see such a difference around it, to the point where it’s just taken for granted in some cases that we don’t – that women are going to be at the table or women have to be part of the decision-making.  And that’s what true pluralism will look like, is when it is fully taken for granted that women have a – have an equal and critical role in making all the decisions around peace and security.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Thank you.  I just want to remind our participants, our journalists, that if you would like to ask a question, please hit the “raise hand” button.  We are really anxious to hear you and to hear your questions.  Ambassador Currie has really opened up a lot about what the U.S. is doing in terms of inclusion and making sure that women are at the table when it comes to peace – issues of peace and security.

We’re going to take a question that was sent it from Germany, from Vivienne Machi, a freelance reporter.  Her question is: “How can the women, peace, and security agenda work in concert with the U.S. military on the ground in Africa to try and prevent increased domestic terrorist activity as African countries will continue to face COVID-19, climate change, food security, and honestly, a host of other things?”

Ambassador Currie:  That’s a great question, Vivienne.  Thank you.  We – our partners at the Department of Defense are so gung-ho about this – about this agenda, and we couldn’t ask for a better set of partners than our colleagues at the Department of Defense.  The combatant commands in particular have been really enthusiastic adopters of the women, peace, and security agenda. They see it as a critical way to engage with local communities that they need to work with, and they see it as a great – a great entry point for working with communities on critical issues, whether it is countering violent extremism or responding to some of the humanitarian needs that you’ve identified.

We are really excited about the level of cooperation that we have with DOD, and here at the State Department, our most – one of our biggest boosters on women, peace, and security is our Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which basically serves as the bridge between the State Department and DOD on training issues.  They’re responsible for our peacekeeper – peacekeeping training center, where we do a lot of training for peacekeeping units.  And they have been, again, among the most enthusiastic adopters of the women, peace, and security agenda.  They’re our biggest boosters here at the department.  So we’re really – we see them working across all of these – across all of these issues with partner countries in particular.

One of our biggest challenges and one of our biggest areas of focus is working with partner countries to improve the responsiveness of their security services to these issues to eliminate the need for direct U.S. involvement or direct U.S. support so that countries are able to stand on their own.  And so we continue to work with security services across the – across the continent to help build up their capabilities.

I was in – when I was in Addis in February, I happened to be there for – with the Secretary, but we also were there at a time when the Department of Defense was hosting an Africa-wide training program and engagement with armed forces from across the continent.  And it was great to see the number of women who were participating in that from African partners, and to see them – all of the different African armed forces in their uniforms walking around the conference center and engaging with our own forces. 

And so we see – we have a great range of partners with the armed forces across the African continent, and continue to work with them to build up their capabilities to be responsive to these challenges, especially in the area of countering violent extremism, where we see that community-based knowledge involving the communities in these areas are – is absolutely critical to stopping it.  These are problems that are not going to be solved through military force.  They have to be addressed at the community level.  And both we at the State Department and our colleagues at Defense understand this very well.

Moderator:  Excellent.  Speaking of Ethiopia, we’re going to take a question live from a journalist from Ethiopia, Bereket Sisay again.  Bereket, let me – the floor is yours to talk.  Bereket, go ahead.  Unmute yourself.  I think – let’s see.

Question:  Hi.  I’m think you unmuted me.  It’s Pearl.

Moderator:  Okay.  Well, Pearl, we’ll go to you, and then we’ll go back to Bereket.  So we’re in Zimbabwe now.

Question:  Okay. 

Moderator:  Go ahead, Pearl.

Question:  Okay.  Thank you.  Good morning, Ambassador.  Great to talk to you again.  I have a question regarding civic participation.  Many women will be faced with the civic hurdle of participating and being – or being restricted from participating in electoral processes during COVID.  Tanzania is having an election; Uganda will be having an election; in Zimbabwe, by-elections where candidates – they’re trying to fill vacant positions in between general elections have now been banned.  These are just some examples before the end of 2020.  Can you comment on participation in electoral processes, exclusion or hurdles, and the status of women in this regard?

Ambassador Currie:  Thank you for that great question, Pearl.  You always have such good questions for us.  Obviously, we are tracking all of these electoral contexts with great concern.  We’ve been – we work very closely in partnership with our Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, which is the lead on electoral issues.  And they take women’s participation and women’s political leadership very seriously, as do we.

And so again, this is a critical component of women, peace, and security because if women aren’t allowed to fully participate in electoral processes, if they’re not allowed to run as candidates, if they’re not allowed to be fully engaged in political parties and be part of the infrastructure of political power in these countries, then how can they possibly make their voices heard?  And so we really are – we invest a lot of support into electoral processes, and into working with regional organizations in particular, to make sure that these processes are inclusive and do give women the opportunity to participate. 

With COVID being an additional challenge, I think every country that’s running an election is having challenges with this.  We are, I know, working across all of these contexts to try to make sure that we are supporting those who do believe in democracy and who believe in the right to vote and the – and protecting the franchise.  But we’re talking about countries where the leadership is not open to full plural participation in the first place.  The problem of women’s participation is a part of a broader pattern of abusive governance, and we are also trying to address that. 

As you know, in Zimbabwe in particular, we have imposed a number of sanctions and a number of – taken a number of actions to address what we consider as problematic practices on the part of the government there.  We have also engaged with Uganda and Tanzania about our concerns with regard to electoral and other political practices that we think are problematic.  We have a new ambassador to Tanzania, who we – who has been very active in engaging with not only women’s organizations there but also in engaging the government despite the COVID lockdown and the constrictions that have been placed on him, to push back on some of the concerning behavior that we’re seeing there.

We – but we’re watching these contexts very closely.  We are – we are very concerned about the restrictions and some of the tactics that we’re seeing deployed, including I noticed just this week in Uganda we’ve seen additional detentions and some other concerning actions.  And we’re watching these things very closely with great concern.  Thank you.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Now let’s go back to Ethiopia, to Bereket.  Bereket, you should be able to talk now.  Bereket Sisay of Ethiopian News Agency.  Go ahead, Bereket.

Question:  Hello?

Moderator:  We can hear you.  Go ahead.

Question:  Okay.  Thank you very much.  My name is Bereket from Ethiopian News Agency.  My question is:  Ethiopia as one of the leading troop contributors in Africa under the UN mandates, and then there are a lot of  women – we can see that significant number of women actually participate in that spectrum.  So how do you see that and what kind of help are you going to support for Ethiopia, which is my first question?  And the second one is:  When it comes to Ethiopia, specifically, there are still a very small portion of women actually participating in the negotiation process, and at the same time in the peacebuilding, decision-making process.  What are your recommendation for this aspect?  Thank you very much, indeed.

Ambassador Currie:  Well, thank you, Bereket.  And I’ve seen in Ethiopia myself how strong the women are there and how they’re really working to create space for more inclusive political structures.  We’ve seen some great leaders emerge in recent years in particular in Ethiopia who are driving forward that public participation.

But I think that there is more – obviously, more to be done.  We’ve – we are – we’ve seen – over the past four years, we are still only up to about 5 percent female participation in peacekeeping globally.  So it’s – while it’s a huge increase from – that’s a 50 percent increase over the past five years, but that’s still really small.  And so it’s something that we can all do more of and we can all do better.  And I think that that’s something that – it’s about recruitment.  It’s about making sure that the conditions and the inducements for peacekeeping troops are known and available to women. 

And it’s also about recruitment in your armed forces and making sure that you have a larger pool to draw from within your own armed forces, and making sure that – and those are things that we can help our partners with.  Our Department of Defense has learned a lot over the past few decades about bringing women into all aspects of our armed forces.  And we continue to face challenges, obviously, and it’s not – it’s not easy.  I’m not going to sugar-coat it and make it sound like it’s something you can just snap your fingers and it’s done.  It’s certainly not. 

It requires a consistent and concerted effort on the part of the leadership and from the leadership on down to the enlisted level.  We really continue to make sure that we are very actively here in the United States recruiting and promoting and making an environment, an enabling environment, for women to succeed in our armed forces.  But it’s not easy, and we continue to have challenges ourselves.  But we are very open and frank with our partners, and we do want to share the lessons that we’ve learned. 

That’s why we’ve set up a really – what I think is one our greatest security assistance programs, which is our Global Peace Operations Initiative, that is – that our – the goal with that is to aim – we aim to train.  We’ve already trained more than 8,000 female peacekeepers in that program, which is incredible.  And because of that, I think that that’s one of the things that we’ve done that’s helped increased deployments among the partners that participate in that.

So we want to make sure that our partners are participating in the Global Peace Operations Initiative, which does focus on how you can help train your own female peacekeepers and help them to participate and engage.  So we are – that’s one of our most important efforts, I think.  And I would encourage you and your government to continue to take advantage.  I believe Ethiopia has already participated in the Global Peace Operations Initiative, but we see this as a great vector for getting more women trained to participate as peacekeepers.  And we encourage all of our partners to take advantage of this opportunity.

Moderator:  Excellent.  I just want to remind our participants again to press the “raise hand” button if you have any questions or simply put them in the question and answer room so that I can ask those questions to Ambassador Currie. 

Just piggy-backing off of what Bereket said, clearly a lot of action going on behind him as he was asking him question.  But I really like the aspect of that focus on mediating negotiations, and really teaching women about these processes because it’s more than just putting a woman forward at the table.  It’s putting the right women.  And it’s making sure, as you said, that they are being trained.

We understand that peace processes in which women participate as mediators, negotiators, and interest groups have significantly better prospects than those in which women are absent.  So I do hope that we are encouraging governments and that we are encouraging civil society to really take advantage of the – of the Global Peace Operations Initiative to be able to do that better.

I’m going to go back to Top Africa News.  Another question we have about how women are being treated in peacekeeping.  “How do you see women being treated in peacekeeping?  And do you have any cases of women being abused in peacekeeping?”  I know you’ve addressed some of this at the top.  If so, can you speak to us broadly about these cases and what’s being done to stop this kind of threats and treatment towards women?

Ambassador Currie:  So the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation in peacekeeping missions is something that we have been very, very vocal and very concerned about over time.  And we have found that having more women in peacekeeping missions has dramatically decreased the level of sexual exploitation and abuse within the whole peacekeeping context.

So the United States, we drafted a resolution in the Security Council, Resolution 1820, that focused – this was a critical thing for us because it used to be – I think that there’s a – and there still is in many places this acceptance of sexual violence as just kind of the collateral damage that comes along with conflict, and that it’s just something that happens.  But we made very clear when we drafted and then pushed for the passage of this resolution that there is a – there’s a real link between security and sexual violence, and we insist that it should not be the natural consequence of conflict or instability that there should then be sexual violence. 

It’s unacceptable, and we are pushing to point out that these are issues that can be changed, that we can address them, that there are remedies, and that it doesn’t have to be accepted as the inevitable outcome.  And so we are really working through – from everything from diplomacy to programming to, again, changing the nature of deployments and making sure that by having women as participants in peacekeeping, that it helps dramatically to decrease the incidence of sexual violence.

Again, women are always – we – I don’t love always talking about how women are victims and survivors of sexual violence because I do think that we have to – I want – I like to focus on women’s agency and women’s ability to be resilient and to lead peace processes and to be powerful and fully empowered actors in these processes.  But the fact is that women are often targeted, and that these are intentional tools used by parties to conflict to demoralize, to – as part of a conflict.  And it’s often a concerted effort on the part of parties to – as a tactic of war. 

And we continue to do all that we can, not only through preventative and remediating steps and providing support and assistance to survivors, but also through accountability.  And that’s where, really, if you can increase the level of accountability, you create different incentive structures that help to eliminate these things.

So like I said before, when we’re talking about peacekeeping, one of the most important things that the UN has done is create a greater culture of accountability around peacekeeping for when these incidents do happen – and they do, unfortunately, continue to happen where there are peacekeeping troops that are involved in incidents – that there is accountability.  They are immediately removed from the context.  The countries are penalized.  And as countries that are troop contributors, you know that these are often important sources of revenue for countries, and so they feel it when their units misbehave and do things that they’re not supposed to do.  And so we have been very – and that’s relatively new, that level of accountability.

At the same time, the other thing that we’re doing is making sure that there’s accountability for when these things happen, when these crimes are committed – and they are crimes; let’s be very clear about that – when these crimes are committed in the context of an armed conflict.  We are working through a number of investigative missions.  We are working with – and the United States takes very seriously our own commitments to justice and to making sure that we have – we have programs, including one that – in Rwanda we just helped to capture a fugitive who had been on the lam from the Rwandan genocide, a genocidaire who had been hiding for more than 25 years and we, through our War Crimes Rewards Program, helped to ensure his capture. 

And so this is the kind of thing where we’re working across a lot of different levels of engagement from this offering rewards to the capture of war criminals who participated in heinous acts, to making sure that when peacekeeping missions are being reviewed in the Security Council that they are held to the highest standards of behavior, and then to working with our partners through training to make sure that they’re fit for purpose when they go out into the field.

So I think that we’ve – we are trying at every possible level to address these things, but they do continue to happen.  The key is to make sure that we minimize them through creating the right incentives by making sure that there’s accountability and that the training is targeted to eliminate it.  But we can do it.  We believe we can eliminate it.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Again, I want to remind our participants to press the “raise hand” button if they have any questions for Ambassador Currie.  This is your opportunity to ask questions about women, peace, and security on the continent of Africa. 

Ambassador Currie, talk to us a little bit about the language of women, peace, and security.  And how do we make the agenda, the language of WPS, more familiar in national security frameworks?  When people mention national security, honestly, they think about men being behind a table making decisions for a country.  How do we change that and how do we make sure the language gets in there?

Ambassador Currie:  Well, I think that for us it’s a lot of talking about women’s agency and making sure that women’s voices are heard and that that is critical, and using the ideas of inclusion, as you mentioned, and pluralism – that these are critical, the decisions that are made.  I think part of it is there is this tendency – and I’ve always found it kind of – it seems very illogical to me that you would turn to the same people who created a problem, men with guns, to solve it.  That doesn’t actually work.  And I think we’ve learned that over time now, I hope.  That asking the same people who created a problem to find ways to solve it is probably going to lead us in circles, and that’s been the case over time.

So I think that focusing on the role that women have as agents and who – and as people who can help solve problems is really critical to this process; to make sure that we are looking at women not just as victims of conflict, but as people who have important roles to play as peacemakers and peacebuilders.  And the inclusion of that kind of language – and I think you see it with the Peacebuilding Commission at the UN.  You see it with different architecture that’s being developed.  You see the demands. 

Another context – it’s not Africa, obviously, but in Afghanistan where we do a lot of work and, obviously, it’s a big, important issue for the United States, we’ve insisted that women have to be at the table.  And now I think that what we have seen over time is that tables where there aren’t women present stick out, and it’s starting to – we’re starting to see this shift of that doesn’t look right when you have a tableau of all men working on a problem, and people are now saying – looking at that as off.  And I think that that’s where we have that paradigm shift that’s really critical, where it just becomes, like I said, totally second nature to make sure that women are included, and not as tokens but as people with real agency, as drivers of peace. 

And so we try to use those action words.  I know it sounds kind of silly sometimes, but we do try to make sure that we are using very active and powerful terms to describe what we’re talking about in terms of women’s participation.

Moderator:  Fantastic.  You can probably see my facial expression get excited even though – even though I’m muted.  I truly want to thank you, Ambassador Currie.  I think that’s all the time that we have today.  We really want to thank all of our participants.  And I want to ask if you have any final words, anything you want to leave with our journalists, maybe advocacy or an act that you would like them to participate in.

Ambassador Currie:  Just keep covering this issue, because it’s important.  Your voices are important to make sure that this issue is getting attention in your home countries and that you are able to help us spread the word about the critical nature of women, peace, and security and this agenda.  The African continent really leads on it.  I have to say, it’s a place where we have a great deal of cooperation with our partners in Africa and it’s a great area for us to continue working, and we look forward to continuing to cooperate in that space.  Thank you.

Moderator:  That concludes today’s briefing.  I would like to thank – truly thank Ambassador Kelley Currie, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, for speaking to us today, and I’d like to thank all of our journalists for participating.  If you have any questions, any questions at all about today’s briefing, you may contact the Africa Regional Hub at [email protected]  Thank you.

Ambassador Currie:  Thank you.


This translation is provided as a courtesy and only the original English source should be considered authoritative.
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