The world is at a crossroads once again. Although we have made giant strides in medicine, transportation, communication, and energy, many problems still remain unresolved. Illiteracy, starvation, child abuse, misogynistic violence, and disease still afflict large sections of populations in Asia, Africa, and underprivileged regions. The greatest problem of them all, one that provides structure to many other afflictions, is the deep mistrust among the nations of our world. It was this very problem that caused World War I and II, the Vietnam and Korean wars, and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. While the US is currently involved in expensive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia has been mired in conflicts in Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine, threatening Europe with its misadventures in Crimea. Little trust exists between the United States and its South American neighbors. India still deeply suspects Pakistani and Chinese intentions, and armed conflict could erupt between these warring nations at any time. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been alive for well over 60 years, continuously increasing in severity. Mistrust amongst nations fueled by greed and the irrepressible urge to dominate has caused the prosperous part of humanity to incite and turn a blind eye to the other part consumed by violence, misfortune and adversity.
Mistrust has cut so deeply between major world powers including the US, China, Russia, UK, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India that they have spent trillions of dollars in amassing deadly mechanical, biological and nuclear weapons capable of destroying the earth and killing all sources of life without a trace – many times over – all under the pretext that some other nation will surprisingly attack them. The United Nations has also not achieved much progress in assuaging the deep animosity between nations. We often see the Security Council itself abuse its ‘veto’ power every time the world makes a bold step towards conflict resolution. Of course, as with all things, there is a clear common denominator. The majority of the people who lead our countries or run the United Nations, the people who wield authority during peace negotiations to resolve world disputes, are men. Rarely do we find women at negotiation tables taking stock of world’s problems. Women continue to be underrepresented in national parliaments, where on average only “17 percent of seats are occupied by women” and “only 7 of 150 elected heads of state in the world are women” (The World’s Women 2010: Trends and Statistics). The images of male diplomats hustling out of negotiations on world television are way too common. Is it that our women, who have achieved much success in almost every walk of life in the 20th and the 21st centuries, are unqualified to solve world problems? Women have been the quintessential factor to achieve peace at home, so could they not be entrusted to bring about peace between warring nations? It is plainly clear that if not for the leadership of women, our situation at home would have been no different than the global condition now mired in deep mistrust and conflict. Men who have been leaders since time immemorial have been responsible for scores of death and destruction in recorded history. Perhaps it is time to give women a chance to change the course.
Long excluded from mainstream power structures, women naturally lead in different ways than men. As noted by Biernat & Kobrynowicz from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “The double-standard requirement to display extra competence makes it especially difficult for women to gain recognition for high ability and outstanding achievements. Therefore, successful female leaders generally work hard and seek leadership styles that do not unnecessarily elicit resistance to their authority by challenging norms dictating that women be egalitarian and supportive of others…” Restricted access to resources has made ingenuity a survival for many; frustration with impenetrable oligarchies and inherited bureaucracies has instilled the value of transparency among women in the workplace. And despite their effectiveness at problem solving, they are used to having to work harder to prove themselves – and yet women still earn less. According to Alyse Nelson, president and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, women have been forced to operate from outside a closed network and have had to adapt by creating their own worlds; “uniting peripheral, disenfranchised communities into collectively organized and governed microcosms.” Female leaders of the world including President of the US Federal Reserve Janet Yellen, President of Brazil DilmaRousseff, Former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, Head of IMF Christina Legarde, CEO of Yahoo Marissa Meyer and Women’s education activist Malala Yousefzai are few amongst others who have proven this very concept – that in the modern world, women, too, are fully able to play the “man’s” game: thinking.
It is surely quite ignorant to disregard the fact that women and men are different within their own spectrums. There are dangers of overgeneralization inherent in this topic as assigning roles to individuals entirely based on preconceived notions of their gender is inherently flawed. Yet it is also quite ignorant to disregard the differences that distinguish them in their own rights – as individuals who have different attributes to bring to the table. Women and men are treated differently and therefore the majority do have tendencies to act in particular ways. For instance the study conducted by Alice Eagly, professor of psychology and of management and organizations at Northwestern University, found that although such differences are small and the overlap is considerable, these disparities have significance in the way men and women are perceive in leadership roles and their effectiveness in such roles. In early studies, from the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was found that “women adopted participative styles of leadership and were more transformational leaders than men who adopted more directive and transactional styles of leadership.” Women in management positions tended to “place more emphasis on communication, cooperation, affiliation, and nurturing than men as well as having more communal qualities.” Even recent research has shown that there are well-founded disparities. The Management Research Group (MRG) in 2013 had completed an initial large scale study of 1800 leaders across a variety of industries and job functions, and found that “women tend to be rated higher on the leadership scales measuring strong orientation toward achieving results, getting work done, being transparent and clear, and building rapport with others.” In contrast, research revealed that “men tended to score higher on scales assessing an orientation towards strategic planning, persuading, delegating and being more reserved in expression.” This research does not in any way draw a thick line between the capabilities of men and women in our communities – such a situation is not so black and white. Rather it allows us to acknowledge that the contribution of women to peace keeping negotiations will be greatly beneficial by allowing for new perspectives to handle conflicts.
In order to give women the peace maker’s role on the international state, a women’s organization equivalent to the Security Council, with broad representation from countries must be set up to remove mistrust and resolve disputes among nations. Women must be leaders and decision makers in such an organization, with few men in a supporting and mentoring role. In addition, funding and membership for such an organization must be drawn from the most populous, large and influential countries of the world including well beyond the five permanent members of the existing Security Council. Binding decisions must be voted by 75% of the members with systematic efforts mandated to achieve unanimity. Moreover, the organization must be given discrete mandate over major flashpoints of the world including but not limited to the North Korean Impasse, the Iran Nuclear Issue, India-Pakistan border dispute, the US-Venezuela relationship and the Russian-Crimean problem. In addition to this main body, exclusive regional committees for each group of warring nations should be established consisting of female representatives, responsible for examining the root causes of each conflict, to come up with innovative solutions to solve them. Decisions made by the council could be enforced using persuasion and trade sanctions but with absolutely no military intervention. However the first step in creating this organization is to introduce a resolution in the General Assembly with broad support from leaders of women’s organizations, CEO’s of multinational corporations and leaders of nations who share similar goals and aspirations. In fact, the current UN Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in October 2000 on Women, Peace and Security supports the creation of such an organization through its acknowledgement of the critical role women can play in the processes of peace building, conflict mediation and prevention. Women’s involvement in peace negotiations is not just an issue for women, but also for men – for the betterment of future generations and the improvement of life for all people.
Although organizations such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Center for Women’s Global Leadership have been previously established to involve women in peacekeeping efforts, they have been half hearted in their attempts and therefore have been unable to bring women to the forefront of negotiations and cause direct monumental change. This organization will be different in that it will mirror the functions of the Security Council and work directly with world leaders in pacifying relationships between disputing countries. Unlike previous women’s institutions who dedicate themselves to fighting women’s causes, this organization will strive in solving problems between nations that affect both men and women. The solution aforementioned may strike many as proposing exclusivity rather than inclusivity in terms of leadership – yet this factor is the most essential in such an organization. Many previous organization
Women are our mothers, daughters, wives and sisters and may give insight into an issue that their male counterparts have been unable to do for the past centuries. The thought of having a Palestinian female representative sit down to negotiate, and make peace, with an Israeli female diplomat sounds refreshing and hopeful. Although this will not be an easy task and many voices will be raised against the idea, the qualities of female leadership take on a new significance and influence in today’s world as they hold the power to create a future for their families and countries. As female leaders work on finding stable solutions towards ending the mistrust amongst nations, world leaders can focus on solving ongoing issues such as illiteracy, starvation, global warming, child abuse, violence against women and disease in the many underprivileged sections all over the world. World leaders can spend their resources on bettering the condition of the human-race and solving such issues rather than constantly amassing weapons for defensive purposes.
As stated by Alyse Nelson, the president and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, “If we have the courage to accept that our current crises afford us the opportunity to do things differently, if we recognize the value of women’s leadership power and enlist women as partners in the redesign and reconstruction of broken systems, we can activate a global reset that accrues to the benefit of our shared global community.”
Image from The Independent