Council on Foreign Relations spotlights women as peace builders

March 8, 2017 | Swanee Hunt

With allies Christina Bain of Babson College (left) and Jamille Bigio of CFR

The Council on Foreign Relations is the most influential forum in the country for debate on what matters in international affairs. As a longtime member, I found it especially gratifying to see the council put together a road-show event in Cambridge to shine a spotlight on the vital voice of women as leaders in peace and security.

At a small dinner meeting on Feb. 16, policymakers and academics agreed on the importance of inclusive approaches to resolving conflicts and building lasting stability. It was a clear sign that the hard-hitting foreign policy establishment is now taking seriously women’s inclusion in security.

CFR’s Jamille Bigio, adjunct senior fellow for women and foreign policy, presented compelling evidence that women’s involvement as decision-makers is not simply a question of fairness—it’s smart policy.

That’s what I hypothesized when I founded Inclusive Security in 1999, based on my experience as U.S. ambassador to Austria in the mid-1990s during the wars in the Balkans. The data and analyses that prove the point have mushroomed since then. And CFR is now a player in the inclusive security field, bringing research and strategic thinking to a wider audience of experts and newcomers through gatherings like this one.

The diverse audience, from experts in inter-faith dialogue to prominent counterterrorism scholars and a state representative, highlighted that inclusive security has become a multidisciplinary pursuit. And it’s inter-generational: young, eager students mingled with professors emeriti.

In addition to being wowed by Jamille (and see this important piece she just wrote), it was particularly meaningful for me to share the floor with moderator Christina Bain, director of the Initiative on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery at Babson College. (Along with my work on stopping war by elevating women leaders, I’ve led a national initiative — Demand Abolition — to end sex trafficking by ending prostitution. Christina and I share that concern, which I approach with ways to stop the buying of, mostly, impoverished women and girls.) At Harvard’s Kennedy School, Christina was my impressive protégé, from whom I learned as much as I imparted; today she is pushing forward the fraught field of trafficking, with a host of new allies and ideas.