To a burst of applause, the General Assembly proclaimed 24 June of each year the International Day of Women in Diplomacy, adopting by consensus a resolution today reaffirming that the participation of women, on equal terms with men, at all levels of decision-making is essential to the achievement of sustainable development, peace and democracy.
By the text (document A/76/L.66), the Assembly invited all Member States, United Nations organizations, non-governmental groups, academic institutions and associations of women diplomats — where they exist — to observe the Day in a manner that each considers most appropriate, including through education and public awareness-raising.
Thilmeeza Hussain (Maldives), introducing the resolution, said momentum has been building on this important issue across the globe. “Women’s participation in decision making is absolutely vital,” she stressed. Yet, far too often, as women climb the diplomatic ranks, they are outnumbered by their male peers, including at United Nations Headquarters, where they represent only one fifth of the permanent representatives.
She said that by establishing an International Day, the resolution provides a springboard for the United Nations, Governments, foreign ministries, civil society, the private sector, schools, universities and other stakeholders to raise awareness. It also offers annual opportunity to reflect on actions that can be taken to achieve women’s full, equal, effective and meaningful participation in diplomacy.
Abdulla Shahid (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, described it as a “great privilege” to have witnessed today’s adoption, recalling that, in February, during a dialogue with women experts, there was a call to recognize women’s indispensable role in diplomacy through such an observance. Thanking those Member States that carried the conversation forward, he said women working in diplomacy have made critical contributions to shaping today’s multilateral system.
He pointed to women’s essential role in drafting the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, stressing that they are still underrepresented in senior diplomatic positions and suffer the deep legacies of sexism, which hinder their advancement. Today’s resolution opens the door to discuss the challenges women in diplomacy face — and to inspire the next generation. “All too often, women and their stories are edited out of history,” he said. “Her stories must be told to inform our broader efforts to advance gender equality.”
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed expressed her excitement about today’s adoption. While women represent slightly over a third of the Security Council’s permanent representatives — far higher than the average — it is still far from enough. “We must all do everything possible to ensure women are at the table, our voices heard and our contributions valued,” she stressed.
Indeed, women bring immense benefits to diplomacy, she said. Their leadership styles, expertise and priorities broaden the breadth of issues under consideration and the quality of outcomes. She pointed to research showing that when women serve in cabinets and parliaments, they pass laws and policies that are better for ordinary people, the environment and social cohesion. Advancing measures to increase women’s participation in peace and political processes is vital to achieving women’s de facto equality in the context of entrenched discrimination.
Stressing that the United Nations is leading by example, she said the Organization achieved gender parity early in 2021 among Heads and Deputy Heads of Missions. “We’re working to maintain that,” she assured. In Iraq, its political messaging to counter gender-based violence and hate speech targeting women candidates led to the election of almost 30 per cent of women to the Council of Representatives in October 2021 — a historic achievement. The Peacebuilding Fund, meanwhile, is investing in initiatives that address violence against women in politics in Guinea Bissau, Colombia and Sierra Leone.
She encouraged all stakeholders to do everything possible to promote the cause of women diplomats “until we achieve parity in every Organization, Council and General Assembly”.
Keisha Aniya McGuire (Grenada), speaking on behalf of the core group of sponsors, thanked the 85 Member States that agreed to be main sponsors and welcomed the historic support of 191 co-sponsoring Member States — near unanimity — as a testament to the collective commitment to achieving gender parity at all levels. “We are at a seminal moment for multilateralism,” she stressed.
While Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls for women’s equal participation in decision-making, she said that between 1992 and 2019, women represented 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators and 6 per cent of signatories in peace processes worldwide. In 2020, they represented 23 per cent of conflict party delegations in United Nations-supported peace processes, a share that would have been lower without persistent measures by the Organization. At United Nations Headquarters, only 21.7 per cent of permanent representatives are women. “Change is necessary,” she said. She called for the systemic mainstreaming of a gender perspective throughout the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Simona Popan, representative of the European Union delegation, speaking in its capacity as an observer, stressed that, in the 76 years since its founding, the Organization has never had a woman Secretary-General. “Outside of this room, the wall of pictures of the past 75 Presidents of the General Assembly includes only 4 women,” she pointed out. “We are not living up to our own expectations.” Gender-based discrimination and stereotypes continue to hamper women’s full, equal, effective and meaningful participation and leadership.
She called for creating safe and enabling environments for all women and girls, welcoming the adoption of a United Nations code of conduct on sexual harassment and paying tribute to all women in diplomacy, including civil society leaders, human rights defenders and women mediators. Pointing to the technical nature of today’s resolution, she said the European Union would have wished to have had more consultations on the text.