KRISTEN SKILLMAN/THE HOYA Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Gaston Hall on Wednesday morning about the importance of female inclusion in security.
KRISTEN SKILLMAN/THE HOYA
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Gaston Hall on Wednesday morning about the importance of female inclusion in security.

The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security held a conference Wednesday morning in Gaston Hall on the inclusion of women in peacekeeping efforts, featuring former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Norwegian Minister of Defense Ine Eriksen Søreide.

Clinton opened the event, “Smart Power: Security Through Inclusive Leadership,” with an introduction of the conference goal, the creation of a National Action Plan Academy, which will discuss the action plans of individual countries regarding the role of women in peace and security. The academy is a joint effort by GIWPS, Inclusive Security and the Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings Initiative.

Clinton emphasized the importance of including female perspectives in decision-making on security and peacekeeping.

“We know that when women participate in the peace processes, often overlooked issues such as human rights, individual justice, national reconciliation, economic renewal are often brought to the forefront,” Clinton said.

Clinton also discussed the importance of women playing an active role in decision-making. According to Clinton, the use of “smart power,” which she defined as the collaboration between all partners in advancing peace and security, is essential in creating peace.

“[Smart power means] leaving no one on the sidelines, showing respect even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and, insofar as is psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view, helping to define the problems, determine the solutions,” Clinton said.

But historically, few women have been included in peace and security issues. According to Clinton, out of hundreds of peace treaties that have been signed since the early 1990s, fewer than 10 percent had any female negotiators, and fewer than 3 percent had any female signatories. Clinton attributed the failure of these peace agreements to their lack of female participants.

“Is it any wonder that many of these agreements failed within a few years? Legal and structural barriers still prevent women from participating in conflict resolution and peace processes,” Clinton said. “Cultural norms, real or imagined, create physical threats that prevent them from attaining a formal role. But these barriers are not insurmountable.”

After Clinton’s speech, Søreide spoke about the various human rights violations against women occurring in the world. Søreide emphasized the necessity of considering female perspectives in confronting these challenges. She also emphasized how better gender balance in the military not only promotes equality, but also increases effectiveness.

“[It’s] not primarily about gender equality, it’s more specifically about capability and operational effectiveness,” Søreide said. “We will replace bias of inclusive security, being soft or women’s participation in armed forces as part of a gender quota. It is time that we get rid of that perception.”

After Clinton and Søreide’s speeches, a panel took the stage to answer questions, featuring U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations Deputy Military Adviser Adrian Foster, Special Representative of the NATO Secretary General for Women, Peace and Security Marriët Schuurman, Japan International Cooperation Agency President Akihiko Tanaka and retired Director of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Students Lieutenant General Daniel Leaf.

Foster said that including women could help to protect civilians in U.N. peacekeeping missions.

“We need to make the connection with females so that we understand what the threats are, where they’re coming from,” Foster said. “Imagine females in villages traumatized over a number of years by men wearing uniform. How can we make that connection if we have men wearing uniform but with a blue beret? It is very difficult. That is why we are pushing very hard to increase the number of female peacekeepers.”

Lizzy Peet, an exchange student from Edinburgh studying at Georgetown for the year, said she found the event inspiring.

“I thought all of the speakers were very engaging and they presented a lot of creative ideas for how to solve the problems facing the world today,” Peet said. “I just feel a lot of hope for the future.”

Renata Garcia (SFS ’17) said she also enjoyed the event, which fell during the last week of classes, but noted its unexpectedly low turnout. Gaston Hall only filled about halfway, with around 400 occupied seats.

“I know a lot of people had classes during that time … Also, the thought of having to wake up at 5:30 in the morning to stand in line on a cold rainy day is discouraging,” Garcia said. “For some, it’s a ‘been there, done that’ kind of thing.”

The low attendance was picked up by a variety of media outlets after Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank tweeted a photo of Gaston Hall’s empty seats.

“Secretary Clinton’s visits to Georgetown are always met with great enthusiasm here. She was here four weeks ago and students lined up overnight for that visit and we had to turn people away due to the interest,” University Spokesperson Stacy Kerr said in a statement to Business Insider. “This is the last week of classes for the semester and many students are preparing for finals. Gaston Hall holds about 700 — the bottom holds about 400 and it was full for today’s visit.”

University Communications Officer for Arts and Sciences Maggie Moore said that the low turnout was expected because of to upcoming final exams.

“The first floor of Gaston was full for this event so I’m not sure why this is considered ‘particularly low,’” Moore wrote in an email to The Hoya. “But as you know it’s the last week of classes for the semester and many students are preparing for finals.”

Clinton has spoken on campus two times this semester and four times since fall 2013. Gaston Hall filled to capacity at her three previous speaking events.

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