Remarks at Women's Breakfast


By:  Hillary Clinton
Date: Feb. 5, 2012
Location: Munich, Germany

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Applause.) Well, thank you so much. Thanks to the Bavarian State Chancellery, which is hosting us, especially to Minister Merk, for organizing this breakfast, and to all of you for getting up so early on a Sunday morning in the cold to come out to show solidarity and support for women in international security. I wanted to make just a few brief comments and then if anyone has something they want to say or ask before I have to go to Bulgaria, I would be very pleased to respond.

I wanted to just focus our attention on an area that is of critical importance in which we are making some, but not enough, progress. And that was the passage of the historic UN Security Council Resolution 1325. We recognize that when we think about peacemaking, which is, after all, one of the critical tasks of any of us in international security, that something is missing. And that is women. There are not enough women at the table, not enough women's voices being heard. And when the Security Council passed Resolution 1325, we tried to make a very clear statement, that women are still largely shut out of the negotiations that seek to end conflicts, even though women and children are the primary victims of 21st century conflict.

And this is not just a faraway problem. Where I was sitting up on the stage at the Munich conference, I was trying to count what looked to be the heads of women. And there were not enough, I have to tell you. (Applause.)

PARTICIPANT: Thirty-seven.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don't know. Thirty-seven? Thirty-seven. Well, I didn't get that high a number, but I take your word for it.

And in the last two decades, dozens of conflicts have persisted because peace efforts were unsuccessful. Talks broke down, agreements were broken, parties found it easier to fight than to negotiate. And far too often in these failed efforts women were marginalized, making up, by one estimate, just eight percent of all peace negotiators. And when you look around the world, as a number of us are privileged to do in the positions that we hold now, or that we have held in the past, you see how hard it is to make peace under any circumstance. But the exclusion of women, I argue, makes it even harder.

Because there is a great story about an effort to try to resolve aspects of the conflict in Darfur a few years ago. And the men had been arguing and arguing for days about authority over a particular riverbed. And finally, a woman heard about this and just made herself walk in and say, "But that river dried up. There is no water in that river." Or think about the wonderful documentary, "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," about the women in Liberia. But for them, who knows whether that conflict would have ended?

And so that is why, in December, finally, the United States, under President Obama, launched the first-ever U.S. national action plan on women, peace, and security. We worked very hard on this, and we did it jointly, between the State Department and the Defense Department. Because, from our perspective, it was essential that we have a comprehensive road map for accelerating and institutionalizing efforts across the United States Government to advance women's participation in making and keeping peace.

And the national action plan represents a fundamentally different way for the United States to do business. It is really trying to lay out a new approach in our diplomatic, military, and development support to women in areas of conflict, and to ensure that their perspectives and that considerations of gender are always part of how the United States approaches peace processes, conflict prevention, the protection of civilians, humanitarian assistance.

Now, more than 30 countries, many of them represented here, have had similar national action plans developed. And we think the United Nations really deserves our support in making sure that we continue this progress. NATO itself has a robust effort, increasingly factoring women and their needs into key planning processes and training courses, and stationing experts throughout operational headquarters.

Now, I am well aware that whenever I talk about these issues, as opposed to who we are going to strike next and what kind of tough position we are going to take, it is often dismissed as soft or relegated to the margins of the real conversation. Well, we just completely reject that. And the evidence is so clear that rejecting it is the right decision. So if you look at what we did with the Department of State, Department of Defense, USAID, others across our government, it incorporates the lessons that our military has learned over, frankly, 10 years of war about the links between the security of women and the stability and peace of nations.

For example, the Department of State works closely with the Department of Defense on the Global Peace Operations Initiative, which has facilitated the training of more than 2,000 female peacekeepers worldwide, many from African countries, where persistent conflict is so devastating to women and children.

In Afghanistan we have tried to increase the role of women, no easy task. We sent our own teams of female soldiers, as did other NATO-ISAF countries, to curb violence against women, honor killings, female immolation, as well as pursue certain security functions such as inspections and personal examinations. And in 2010, 10 percent of the Afghan military academy's class will be women. And by 2014, we expect to field 5,000 women Afghan national police officers. That is a tough job. And I want all of us to support that, because part of what we have to do as we try to test whether peace is possible in Afghanistan, is to make it very clear that peace will not come at the expense of women's rights and roles. They have suffered too much for too long. (Applause.)

So, I would be eager to hear thoughts and perspectives. I look around this room and I see great colleagues, colleagues from the United States Senate -- Susan Collins, who is here, I don't know if we have anyone else from the -- anybody else from the -- oh, Loretta Sanchez, who is from the House, and then other colleagues of mine in government, colleagues from the EU, from NATO, from other parts of our work together. So I would be delighted. And, of course, I am always pleased to be with the President of Kosovo, who has been such a great representative for her country. (Applause.)

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