From the Director: Women’s Rights and Human Rights: The Path to Full Participation, April 28th Breakfast

By Bruce Knotts

Over the past twelve months, I’ve found myself a regular invitee at the Council on Foreign Relations here in New York City. Richard Haass is the Director. I met him from time to time when I was an American Diplomat in Kenya and Sudan. On April 28th I was invited to a breakfast with Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF and Juju Gupta, Co-anchor, ABC News “Nightline." While in the West, we have become accustomed to seeing women attain ever greater roles of responsibility, the fact remains in the United States, women earn $0.77 for every $1 earned by a man and in much of the rest of the world women’s health and education are neglected.

Over breakfast, we discussed the formulation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and our desire to see greater emphasis placed on the education of girls. (Note: the UU-UNO partnership with the Manya Krobo Queen Mothers in Eastern Ghana, West Africa, admits two girls for every boy into the Every Child is Our Child Program.)

During the Question and Answer period, I asked the question about Security Resolution 1325, which was passed about 15 years ago calling for greater participation of women in all aspects of peace and security. I was very impressed that Chelsea Clinton was completely informed of this ground-breaking resolution. Women are disproportionately impacted by war and armed conflict but nearly never have a seat at the table when it comes to resolving these conflicts. I raised the example of Navi Pillay when she was the only women jurist on the war crimes tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania to look into allegations of war crimes in the Rwandan genocide. At the time, there were no allegations of gender based violence. Navi Pillay was incredulous and did some digging and uncovered an avalanche of allegations of violence against women. It was important to have a woman on that panel of jurists and there should have been more.

Women have far too few places at peace negotiations nor in signing agreements to end conflicts. Important considerations are missed because women are the best at representing the interests of women and families. Men, no matter how well intentioned, cannot be as effective in representing the interests of women as women are.

Chelsea Clinton and Geeta Rao Gupta both fully agreed that women need to be equally represented in all aspects of peace and security; as they need have opportunities to be educated and participate in all walks of human endeavor. As we left the breakfast, I spoke to Dr. Holly Atkinson, Human Rights Director at Mt. Sinai Hospital, and she had hoped there had been more discussion on violence against women which is increasing globally. One need only look to the women and girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria and how neither the Nigerian military nor the international community has made any effective moves to get them released from we know is torture, rape and abuse.

While the world was galvanized by the murder of the editors at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, there isn’t an equivalent moral outrage and action to save women and girls from violence in Nigeria and around the world.

The UU-UNO remains committed to being powerful advocates for women’s equality in all aspects of life to ensure that every girl is safe and able to achieve her hopes and dreams with access to education and opportunity so that she can contribute to making a better world for us all.

My favorite Ambassador at the UN is H.E. Mrs. Dina Kawar of Jordan. She is one of the six women on the 15 member UN Security Council. She told me that women like to solve problems and she is happy there are more women on the UN Security Council than ever before. "You do see women like me pushing for inclusion of women in peace processes around the world. That is because when women are involved in peace processes they are more likely to be durable, more likely to actually bring peace to societies over time," said US Ambassador Power.

The six women on the Council have also given visibility to the growing number of women ambassadors and high-level diplomats at the UN. There are currently 31 women ambassadors - out of 193 Member States - serving at UN Headquarters in New York. Not yet equality, but things are improving. There is a lot of talk at the UN that the next Secretary General will be a woman. Let’s hope so.

About the Author

Bruce Knotts

Bruce Knotts is the Director of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations. He was born and raised in Southern California. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Pepperdine University and his Master’s Degree in International Education from the Monterey Institute of...


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Chelsea Clinton

Chelsea Clinton
Ambassador and Sec. Gen. (2)

Ambassador and Sec. Gen. (2)