Sumario: 30 September 2008, Berkeley, CA - Speech by Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the European Commission, "Women and global security" at the University of California, Berkeley, USA
Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
When I was young, "California dreaming" was a very popular pastime. There was a song claiming that "it never rains in California" - and another song advising us, if we were going to San Francisco, to wear some flowers in our hair! Well, flower power may have long gone but the Californian weather still seems to be living up to its reputation, and it's a great pleasure to be here in the sunshine.
A great pleasure, too, to receive such a warm welcome to Berkeley.
It can be slightly intimidating for a visiting lecturer to address a prestigious university whose faculty includes four Pulitzer Prize winners, seven Nobel Prize winners and 28 MacArthur Fellows! Perhaps - like Berkeley students before their exams - I should go to the Campanile fountain and rub a certain stone ball. I am told it guarantees success, as long as you're wearing your lucky socks! Unfortunately I forgot to pack mine.
Let me start by congratulating Berkeley on having joined the network of "European Union Centres of Excellence". The aim of this network of American universities is to help their students deepen their knowledge of the European Union as an international actor. In my experience, not many people - either here or in Europe - know much about the EU's role on the world stage. For example, that the EU collectively accounts for around a fifth of the world's trade in goods, a quarter of the world's trade in services and a third of the world's GDP. Or that the EU provides more than half of worldwide development aid.
The European Union's international role often has a lower profile than that of the United States because it makes less use of force and more use of persuasion through aid and trade partnerships. We sometimes call it "speaking softly and carrying a big carrot". This "soft power" approach doesn't grab many headlines: but it is quietly and gradually changing the world for the better.
Although the US and the EU may play different roles on the world stage, and adopt different approaches to democratization, nevertheless our efforts complement each other. Moreover, we share the same objectives - a stable, peaceful and increasingly prosperous world where democracy prevails and human rights are respected. So I believe we can and should work together. We already have a very important bilateral relationship. Trade and investment between us amounts to trillions of dollars a year and sustain millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. In fact, Europe accounts for 75% of all foreign investment in the U.S. and, in 2006, provided more than half of U.S. global profits.
Given our interdependence, it makes sense for us to work together in partnership when tackling global challenges. One of those challenges is security - and today I want to focus on the role women can play in enhancing global security.
Women preventing or resolving conflicts has been a theme of literature since ancient times. I'm thinking of Aristophanes' play "Lysistrata" in which the women of Athens and other Greek states refuse the men all sexual favours until they agree to stop fighting. I'm also thinking of the biblical heroine Esther, who - as Queen of Persia - persuades the King not to instigate a genocide of the Jewish people. Or Shakespeare's "Coriolanus", in which the hero's eloquent mother and wife dissuade him from destroying Rome.
But in all these cases, women enhanced security by influencing powerful men. That's certainly not how I see women's role today! Nor do I see security as a matter of defence and military action, or about combating terrorism. It's much broader than that - and we neglect the broader issues at our peril. Certainly, we are concerned about weapons of mass destruction. But let's not overlook the daily mass destruction of people's lives through poverty, disease, hunger, injustice and oppression.
So, today, I want to ask three questions:
What is security?
Why does it particularly concern women?
What can women do to increase global security?
First then, what is security?
In my experience, women define it differently from men. Women see it as a matter of individual and social well-being. It means earning enough money to feed your children. It means having access to education and healthcare. It means freedom not only from violence but also from the poverty and social injustice that are often the root causes of violence.
Given this concept of security, I think it's clear that the key to enhanced global security is sustainable development. In other words, caring for our one and only planet while combining economic growth and social progress. There are many crucial factors in getting that combination right. Let me mention just three of them:
Giving everyone access to education.
Giving everyone access to clean water and sufficient food.
Taking action to mitigate climate change.
Education is the key to both economic and social progress. It is the antidote to fanaticism, the road out of poverty, the door to a better life. It empowers people. Without it you cannot have social stability. Yet there are currently around 100 million children world wide receiving no education at all. Sixty to seventy percent of them are girls. Changing that situation has to be a top priority for political leaders.
Water and food are indispensable to life. The cost of food is soaring, as we know. This is threatening the lives of millions of the world's poorest people and it is also starting to have negative effects in the developed world. Access to water - for agriculture, industry and the growing population - is still denied to millions of people world wide. It is at the core of tensions in many of the world's "hot spots". Moreover, water-borne diseases are a major cause of illness and death in the developing world. Halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation is one of the millennium development goals to be reached by 2015.
Climate change is a third factor threatening global security. I am proud that the EU is taking a lead on this issue. We have committed ourselves to cutting our greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 - whatever happens. We'll make that 30% if other major players, including the United States, make a similar commitment. We trust that this will be the case. We trust that a global agreement will be reached at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. Fighting climate change is not about short-term power politics or the next Presidential elections: it's about ensuring a viable future for our children and for our children's children.
But let me say again: in order to be sustainable, economic development must be not only environment-friendly but also socially just.
And social justice includes gender equality. This brings me to my second question: why does security particularly concern women?
First, because women make up the majority of the people leading insecure lives today. I hardly need remind you that 70% of the world's poorest people, living on less than one dollar a day, are women. Or that 340 million women world wide are not expected to live past 40, largely because of gender-based violence and poverty-related illness. Or that at least 60 million girls worldwide receive no education at all, as against around 40 million boys.
Second, women are concerned about security because it is they who act as the primary carers in most communities around the world. They look after the children, the sick and the elderly. It is girls and women in the poorest communities who spend a substantial part of their lives fetching water from sources miles away from their villages. And it is these communities that are already suffering food shortages due to unsustainable development and also climate change.
Third, when disasters strike, it is usually the women - at home with their children - who are in the front line. Who can forget TV pictures from Christmas 2004 when the tsunami struck the coasts of southern Asia? Women could be seen running - not away from the oncoming wave but towards it, to rescue their families. The same is true of armed conflicts or terrorist attacks. Whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, Sudan or Rwanda, Georgia or Gaza, the fighting takes place not primarily on battlefields, but in the streets and market-places where women and children are the main casualties.
In many war zones, rape and sexual torture are systematically used against women. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, thousands of women have been barbarically gang-raped in front of their children, their husbands and neighbours. Often their vaginas have been mutilated using guns and sticks - with awful physical results. Dr. Denis Mukwege, an obstetrician-gynaecologist working at a hospital in Panzi, reports horrific cases. One woman had her colon, bladder, vagina and rectum shot away by a soldier she refused to have sex with. Another tells how soldiers murdered her small children in her presence, how one of the men forced her to drink his urine and eat his feces, and how another soldier cut open a pregnant woman, killed her unborn child, cooked it and forced the women to eat it.
Clearly, these things are not done to satisfy sexual desire but to destroy the souls, the families and communities of the victims. Amazingly, in the care of Dr. Mukwege, the women show enormous resilience and strength of spirit. One, who is now studying to be a nurse, says: "I feel like a big person in my community; I can do something for my people. Women must lead our country. They know the way."
Those true stories show, far more clearly than any abstract argument, why security matters to women and why women must lead the way to a securer future. So I come to my third and final question: what can women do to increase global security?
Let's start with the sustainable development aspect - and with education in particular. Women already play a vital role here. Historically, women are the world's educators: within the small or extended family circle, at the village school, in the many other places where boys and girls are educated and trained for adult life. But educators need support. They need training, decent pay, social recognition, proper facilities and equipment. It costs taxpayers' money: but, as one teacher remarked, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!" There are also many women world wide providing health care and social services to their communities, doing vital jobs that are often under-valued and under-paid. They too need more support. Governments, please note!
Where we see a noticeable lack of women is in public life - in politics and policy-making. Why? I think the main reason is simply that men choose men. It's what I call the "male cartel." A cartel that needs to be broken! Not just for the sake of women, but for the sake of society. It's not that women make better leaders: but we tend to have a different perspective and different priorities. I would say we have a more holistic approach to issues - including security. Women understand that real peace and security depend on social justice, participatory democracy and non-violent dialogue. It's about food and water security, health care and education.
Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt, following her rescue, commented on the relationship between violence and social problems in Colombia. She said that most prominent Colombian politicians - and they happen to be men - consider violence to be the cause of the country's social problems. She herself believes the reverse is true - that social problems such as poverty, disease and injustice propel people into violence and conflict. Voices expressing concern for that link between poverty, disease, injustice and violence are often women's voices. And all too often they are not at the table when security policy is being discussed. That's why I believe governments around the world need to appoint women to the highest echelons of decision-making. I am very glad that women do occupy high office in countries around the world today. President Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia, Mary Robinson, formerly President of Ireland - to name but three examples from different continents.
Although security is not just about defence and military issues, defence policy is obviously an important aspect - and women should be playing their role in this field too. Throughout the world, only a handful of women have held the position of Minister of Defence. This job is often thought to require stereotypical 'male' characteristics such as strength and war expertise. Hence the shocked reactions earlier this year at pictures of Spain's new Minister of Defence, Carme Chacón, inspecting the troops while eight months pregnant. The prominence of these pictures in the press is significant in itself! People questioned whether a young mother with pacifist inclinations was a fit person to lead her nation's armed forces.
But why not?! Why should "gung-ho machismo" be part of the job description? Surely the maternal instinct to defend the family and keep the peace among them is an equally great or greater asset when it comes to shaping national - and international - security policy.
Not only in Spain but in other countries too, women have made important contributions to security in the broad sense, and in particular to conflict resolution. In war-torn countries around the world, from Kosovo to Congo, from Nepal to Rwanda, from Northern Ireland to Israel and Palestine, women are actively helping to make the peace. They heal spiritual wounds and rebuild relationships. They focus on the practicalities of life, and on meeting everyday family needs. They assist dialogue between husbands or brothers in warring factions, tribes or clans. In Somalia, women have formed what they call "the sixth clan" - demanding that they too be involved in talks alongside the men.
Recognizing the importance of women's role in security matters, the United Nations Security Council, in 2000, adopted Resolution 1325. This Resolution stresses - among other things - the need for women to take part in peace negotiations and conflict resolution, including preventive diplomacy. The European Union wants to see this Resolution implemented - but progress so far has been slow. I'm sorry to say that, so far, very few European Union countries have drawn up a National Action Plan. Nor has the United States.
In March this year, the European Commissioner for External Relations, Ms Benita Ferrero-Waldner, organized a conference for women political leaders to discuss how to press for full implementation of Resolution 1325. More than 40 of those women leaders - including myself - have signed a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, calling for a ministerial level meeting in 2010 to take stock of the situation. Meanwhile, the European Union intends to support multi-country projects promoting the implementation of Resolution 1325, and we are inviting the organizers of such projects to present them to us so we can select the best of them for EU financing. As Chair of the World Council of Women Leaders' Ministerial Initiative I will also use all my influence to ensure that more women are appointed to senior political and advisory positions in governments around the world. I call on all women in positions of influence - whether in the United States, Europe or elsewhere - to do likewise.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Enhanced global security is a goal that we all share - whether we are men or women, Americans or Europeans. Where we sometimes differ is over what we mean by "security" and how it is best enhanced.
I hope I have made it clear today that security is not all about military "toys for the boys". It is far broader, and requires a wide range of policies, from aid and trade to social and environmental action, and the use of both "hard" and "soft" power.
Action in all these fields should be mutually reinforcing. All have their place in the drive for greater global security. A drive that I believe should be pursued by Europe and the United States together and in partnership. I also believe that men and women need to work together, as equal partners, in devising and implementing our security policies.
Policies ailed at enhancing "security" in its broadest sense. Policies on health and education, on development and world trade, on water and food security, on combating climate change. Policies for a more just and inclusive society. Policies for a sustainable future.