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January 11, 2010

More Female Ambassadors in DC: More Women Leaders or Less Power for Diplomacy?

In today's Washington Post The article 'Hillary effect' cited for increase in female ambassadors to U.S., by Mary Jordan was published in today's Washington Post and highlighted in Slateist Morning Edition.

It's good to know that there are now 25 female ambassadors posted in DC (out of 182 accredited ambassadors, they represent 13.7% of all ambassadors to the US). The rise has been credited to the string of female US Secretaries of State (Albright, Rice, Clinton).

Some female ambassadors refuse to acknowledge that they might bring a different perspective to the art of diplomacy. Carolina Barco from Colombia simply wants to push free trade, though she admits being female gets her noticed. Former SecState Albright rejects the notion of women focusing on "soft issues," stating: ""They are often the hardest issues: poverty, discrimination, education and health."

I was happy to learn that Bahrain's ambassador since 2008 is Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, the first Jewish ambassador from an Arab state.

Nevertheless, I was deeply troubled by the question posed by Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association:

Johnson said the rise in female diplomats coincides with what she sees as a shift in investment away from diplomacy and toward defense. "Is the relative feminization of diplomacy indicative of its decline as a center of power and influence?" she wonders.
Indeed, one need look no further than Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to realize that world leaders erroneously believe human security can be developed through instruments of war.

I too welcome increases in the number of women engaged in diplomacy. But we should always remember that it's not enough for us to have more seats at the table. As global citizens, we must demand that conflict resolution begin and end with nonviolent negotiations. We must explain to our fellow citizens and elected leaders that the vast majority of money spent on the military is wasted, leading to less human security, not more. And we must promote democratic institutions: from the town hall meetings to the US Congress to the United Nations as the proper arenas for conflict resolution.

Posted by cj at January 11, 2010 6:23 AM


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