U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Paris on Monday for a ministerial meeting with his counterparts from France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, and Turkey to discuss possible solutions to the ongoing crisis in Syria. Take a good look at the photo above. Noticeably absent are … you guessed it … women. Sure, there are a few in the room, but not one woman is seated at the table in a position of power — because not one of the above countries has a woman foreign minister. Such an abject lack of gender parity at high-stakes talks like these is shameful.
In a 2012 report on women’s participation in peace negotiations, U.N. Women observed that a “limited but reasonably representative sample of 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011 reveals that only four percent of signatories, 2.4 percent of chief mediators, 3.7 percent of witnesses and 9 per cent of negotiators are women.”
The report adds that “the underrepresentation of women at the peace table is much more marked than in other public decision-making roles, where women are still underrepresented but where the gap has been steadily narrowing. This includes the roles that typically dominate peace talks: politician, lawyer, diplomat and member of a party to armed conflict. Women’s structural exclusion from peace talks has significant consequences for the extent to which issues of concern to them — such as violence against women or women’s citizenship rights — are addressed.”
Former Italian Foreign Minister and Chief EU Diplomat Federica Mogherini played a key role earlier this year in negotiating the historic nuclear deal with Iran. Afterwards, she talked about the value of having women playing a meaningful role in the talks. “Having many women at the table in key positions helped us be concrete and pragmatic the whole way,” Mogherini said at the time.