Diplomacy, defence, development: word to the women

At the occasion of the International Women’s Day, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence Didier Reynders organized a conference on the topic: Global approach in security: Diplomacy - Defence - Development: word to the women at the Egmont Palace in Brussels today.

As part of its global approach, our country strives to mobilize all the available tools of its foreign policy – such as the “3-D’s”: Diplomacy, Defence and Development – as coherently and efficiently as possible. The need to protect and to prevent violence against girls and women in conflict situations, as well as the need to recognize their significant role in decision-making linked to peace and security, are longstanding priorities of Belgium’s foreign action. These two themes are promoted at the national, bilateral, European as well as multilateral level - more particularly in the framework of Belgium’s mandate in the United Nations Security Council.

At the invitation of Minister Reynders, three “extraordinary” women with solid field experience in Diplomacy, Defence and Development stressed the crucial role of women in conflict prevention, reconstruction and return to peace.

Conflicts obviously affect all members of a community, whether men or women. The voice of women is however too often ignored in the efforts to end conflicts. While women count often among those most affected by conflicts, they are also first-line actors in prevention and peace-building. Their participation increases the efficiency of humanitarian aid, the credibility and quality of peacekeeping operations, the speed of economic recovery in post-conflict situations as well as the durability of peace agreements. This is a reality which isn’t sufficiently recognized today and therefore deserves increased attention at all levels. Finally, it is simply a matter of equality and equity.

Guest speakers were General Lutgardis Claes, Commandant and Rector of the Royal Military Academy, Mrs Sophie Borel, Director of the NOHA Network on Humanitarian Action and Mrs Nina Wilén, Director of the Africa Program at the Egmont Institute and Professor of the Université Libre de Bruxelles, who all shared their experiences. Their interventions were followed by a debate moderated by the Minister with a public of military personnel, diplomats – among which many women ambassadors posted to Belgium – as well as representatives from United Nations organisations in Brussels, NGOs and institutions active in gender promotion.

Besides the efforts to defend women’s rights in our foreign policy, the feminization of Belgian diplomacy itself continues to be a priority of Minister Reynders. With the last diplomatic recruitments, the gender balance improved significantly. Women are also much better represented within the board of directors, coming from only one a few years ago to one-third today.

On the occasion of the international women’s day, the whole diplomatic network also rallied to promote gender equality on social media by joining the campaign #BalanceForBetter (« Better the balance, better the world »).