Farewell address

to the North Atlantic Council by the NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, Marriët Schuurman

  • 29 Mar. 2017 -
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  • Last updated: 30 Mar. 2017 09:38

Madame Chair, Ambassadors,

Thank you for the opportunity to bid farewell in person to this Council. As I said before: ‘partir, c’est mourir un peu’ and this, without any doubt, is the most painful death I ever died – as it has been such an inspiring, if not life changing experience to be part of the NATO story of fostering ‘inclusive security’, from the inside out.

Indeed, if there is one message I would like you to remember it is to assure you that NATO has a story to tell in this respect. A story that is at the same time hands-on, ambitious and daring.

Hands-on, as we strive to translate the principles of UNSCR1325 on Women, Peace and Security into practical tools – for training, planning, monitoring and reporting. Practical tools that are in high demand outside the Alliance – and we have no problem sharing them.

Ambitious, as we have set ourselves as end-state:

  • To enhance gender literacy as a matter of professionalism, as  a basic skill in the toolkit of every security provider and policy maker
  • To foster equal participation as a core security strategy Building on the lesson that the only sustainable way to protect, prevent and project stability is to empower and help create a safe and secure environment in which men and women can equally contribute to the resilience of their society
  • To promote equal participation in-house as the new normal:


    so that we move from the ‘first ever’ female leader, the first ever female Deputy Secretary General, Commander, 1-2-3-4 star General, to mixed, gender balanced leadership as the standard, as a sign of our excellence, as a demonstration that indeed the Alliance manages to attract the best and the brightest from our Nations.

But also, the NATO story is a story of guts, of daring to be principled. By recognising gender equality as a fundamental principle, in a time when those fundamental principles are under direct attack. We have a world to lose: our peace and prosperity, our way of life are founded on the principles of individual freedom, democracy and rule of law. We can only effectively defend those fundamental values, if we live them, and lead by example. But that is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do, as mixed teams are smarter and perform better. They are more innovative and creative, and we need all creativity our societies have to offer to better address the complex challenges of today. We simply cannot afford to leave any talent untapped. Promoting equal participation, inside-out, is a matter of credibility and resilience.

There are no stronger reminders of the importance of this community of values than the partners who strive to become part of it. During my visit earlier this month to Georgia, Julia Karashvili, a core member of the civil society advisory panel, gave us the biggest compliment: ‘Visa liberalisation will allow us to travel to Europe freely, but for us, NATO is our window to Europe: it is the community we strive to be part of, the country we want to be, where we respect fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.’ Our partners remind us, that the respect for equal rights and freedoms is what unites us and makes us strong.

It has been a privilege to have been part of this NATO story, so hands-on, ambitious and daring. That is what makes it so difficult for me to let go. I always said that my measure of success would be to make myself redundant. I never thought though, that I would make myself redundant so quickly. But I did - and that is good news for NATO: I am confident that you will keep up the momentum gained over the past 2 years, that you will continue the story. As Ambassador Lute in his farewell address to this Council freely quoted Lawrence of Arabia: ‘Nothing is written - we write.’

I am confident that you will continue to write the story, to lead by example, daring to be principled. As that is what will keep the Alliance together and strong.