by NATO Deputy Secretary General, Mircea Geoană, at the NATO conference "Gender equality and leadership: are today’s leaders leading enough” followed by panel conversation

  • 18 Mar. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 19 Mar. 2021 11:30

(As delivered)

Thank you Baiba.


I would also like to welcome the public, who is watching, the audience who is watching.  Saturday, it will be the day of the Francophonie and I'm very happy to have with me my colleagues, ambassadors from France, Canada and Spain, on this very important topic. When I hear the word leadership something activates within myself. I've been encouraging leadership all my life, and I believe that my new role at NATO is also another way to spur these kind of conversations. Let me say, before telling you what we are doing and plan to continue to be doing in NATO, let me say just say in my personal but also my official capacity, that we are here, three nations represented by the excellent ambassadors, they have here in NATO, that are true leaders and the leaders of these nations are also true leaders when it comes to the gender equality.


I remember the G7 Presidency of Canada in 2018. I remember Prime Minister Trudeau for the first time proposing gender equality as a transversal topic across everything that the G7 was tackling in the year of your presidency. And I still remember, with great, great interest and fondness, one of the conclusions of the Canadian Presidency of the G7 which is ‘make gender inequality history’.


This was followed by President Macron and France’s Presidency of the G7, in the following year 2019. I remember reading avidly the Biarritz Final communiqué. The decision of the G7 nations to contribute to an International Fund for the protection of victims of sexual violence, proposed by two Nobel Prize Peace winners. Then Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad.  I also remember the Biarritz partnership for business for inclusive growth. I also remember this effort for Africa, for women entrepreneurs in Africa, because empowering women also in regions that need stronger society, more vibrant, economic and social, and security, dimensions. We need this.


And Spain. Prime Minister Sanchez himself. Out of the six lady foreign ministers and eight lady defense ministers in NATO, Spain is providing both, foreign and defense ministers. And the gender equality in the cabinet of Spain that Prime Minister Sanchez has been pushing forward, I think consistently over many many years. And it is also not this government, I think it's a feature of Spain's politics for many years to come. So we are here with three nations that are leading by example.


And also, we are counting on you leadership also inside NATO. Now when it comes to what we do at NATO. We've come quite a long way here in the International Staff, we are here in the auditorium of the headquarters that we have in Brussels. Today 30% of our management positions in the International Staff are women. Could do better. We will do better. But that's also an indication of what we do.


When it comes to NATO policy on gender equality and gender inclusiveness, we start from three key principles. One is integration. The second one is inclusiveness. And the third one is integrity. Because if you look to gender equality from these angles, you see the NATO has a lot to contribute to and also to make sure that we bring security, not only in traditional forms, but also we invest in resilient societies. Resilience is the buzzword, especially during, and probably also after, the pandemic, resilience will be a key issue. As we embrace in NATO resilience, as we do resilience also in the NATO European Union conversation, which I strongly encourage, as we are looking into our societies, I believe that gender equality and inclusiveness, and integration, and integrity are part of our resilience, and our security in a broadest sense of the term.


Secretary General Stoltenberg in his NATO 2030 proposals, and we hope that the foreign ministers meeting next week, our leaders meeting later this year, will also give us the green light on a process of further adaptation of this Alliance. But I know that a more diverse, inclusive participation in our armed forces, in our national security establishment, here at NATO itself, in our headquarters, in our strategic commands, in the many places across the NATO enterprise. This is something that diversity brings strength, diversity, inclusiveness mean being more resilient and be more able to cope with future risks and crises because, unfortunately, the world is not going to stop from surprising us sometimes negatively with crises and potential conflicts.


The third issue that I would like to mention is the corporation with like-minded institutions. I mentioned the EU on resilience, but I do believe that NATO-EU strategic partnership is a vital community of like-minded nations. And of course, the job description of each of the two organizations might differ, but in the end, in essence, we are here to defend the same values of democracy, rule of law, and personal and individual freedoms. And gender equality is part of the human rights, is part of our legacies, is part of our values, is part of our glue, is part of our foundation. So engaging with like-minded organizations like the EU, specialized bodies agencies from the UN, talking also to the OECD, engaging with nations that are leading either the G7 or like Italy this year, G20. I think this is something that we have to do more energetically.


Also, NATO has more than 40 partnerships across the globe with individual nations, and we are very proud of that, and we invest a lot in those. But as in NATO 2030 Secretary General Stoltenberg is, for the right reasons, making the case for even stronger engagement of NATO and support for partner nations including in countries that are more vulnerable, more fragile.


I think we have to keep in mind that gender equality and inclusiveness in what we do in terms of work and support for our partners, is an essential component of our mission of cooperative security, fully respecting the sovereignty and the interests and requirements of the nations, but I do believe that here we can do a lot, a lot of good work also in the future.


Few people know that we have a NATO center in Kuwait, which is a great piece of presence and participation. I'm very proud that NATO has responded positively to the request from United Nations for us to help training UN peacekeepers for Africa. There'll be lots of women, lots of women that will be involved in the process. I'm very happy that one of our potentially new partners, Ghana, which hosts one of the best peacekeeping training operations in Africa, the Kofi Annan Training Center, they told us that they've trained more than 30,000 peacekeepers over the last decade or so, out of which many, many are women peacekeepers, because they know how to deal with crisis. They know how to rebuild societies that are devastated by conflict and tension. We also would like to see more of that work.


And the last word about these issues that are horrific things that still happen as we speak. Sexual violence in conflict areas, child abuse, human trafficking, things that are the most horrific things that one can imagine. And this is where I think a strong NATO, and a strong partnerships of NATO and like-minded nations and countries that need us, is paramount just to make sure that we curb, and why not as Prime Minister Trudeau mentioned, make gender inequality history.


So this is where we're coming from, it’s big topic for us. It is work which is ongoing, which is transversal. In everything we do from planning to conceptualising new concepts from execution of programs, this is something that we do. And speaking of leadership, coming back to Canada, I remember that the first female Brigadier General leading the NATO mission in Iraq was Jenny Kerrigan. That's a great symbol of breaking the ceiling sometimes, when it comes also to women's participation in top leadership in our militaries. So it's a great pleasure to be with you. Thank you, Baiba, for including me. It's a privilege to share the stage with this wonderful professionals leading three key allies in our organization.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: Thank you very much, Deputy Secretary General.  You so ably highlighted the considerable progress that NATO has achieved, pointed out the importance of leadership in achieving gender equality, and I hope we can explore it further with our panellists during the discussion.  And certainly, NATO's three Is approach on Integration, Inclusiveness and Integrity makes it possible.  

You also stressed the importance of cooperation with partners, not only in the region but also globally, and you highlighted NATO's role, through our operations and activities, to stop violence, such as in Kosovo or Afghanistan and other places, and actually improve and enable women to achieve new heights and benefit from what we do. 

Let me now turn to our panellists, I'm very pleased to welcome the three Ambassadors of 30 Allies here and they have all been pioneers in taking the WPS agenda forwards. 

We are indeed the Alliance of 30 and each and every one have a role to play.  We could not put all 30 on the stage today, but we have the best and those who lead by example. 

Let me first turn, in alphabetical order, to the Ambassador of Canada, David Angell.  And Canada is indeed one of the main financial contributions also to our WPS team.  Dear David, with your impression international experience, having served at the UN, the G8 and also in other countries, be as it High Commissioner to Kenya or Nigeria, you can certainly share a holistic approach regarding the topics that we are discussing.  What can we achieve and how can we move forwards?  Would you be so kind, please?

DAVID ANGELL [Permanent Representative of Canada to NATO]: Baiba, Mircea, colleagues, thank you very much for the opportunity to address this.  Mircea, I agree with everything you’ve just said, including on the importance of NATO working closely with other international organisations, most of all the EU, on these crucial issues.  And of course agree entirely on the centrality of the WPS, Women Peace Security agenda, to NATO. 

Canada's starting point is that gender equality plays an absolutely critical role in addressing any issue, whether it's economic renewal or peace and security.  It's an absolutely pivotal priority for the Canadian government, through the Prime Minister's leadership, Justin Trudeau's leadership, but also the leadership of our entire Federal Cabinet and, through the entire the life of the present government, it's been a gender balanced Federal Cabinet. 

Strengthening diversity and inclusion, so that all Canadians can participate fully as members of society is the absolute starting point for everything that we do in Canada. 

In my previous role, I had the privilege of supporting the Prime Minister and heard him say, very often, that diversity is not a challenge to be overcome or a difficult to be tolerated, but rather it's a tremendous source of strength.  And this vision animates everything that Canada does, a vision where diversity and difference, including gender diversity, are promoted and celebrated, and we've developed tools to allow us to leverage that vision.

Gender equality is emphasised of course in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms but, beyond that, we've built upon that edifice, we now have a Canadian Gender Budgeting Act that ensures that every federal budget considers gender diversity and reinforces gender diversity.  We have a Woman Entrepreneur Strategy with nearly $5billion in funding, in order to support businesses that are owned by women.  We have a new Centre for Gender Diversity and Inclusive Statistics, to address the gaps in gathering and using data, to ensure that gender diversity is taken forward.  And of course, gender based analysis plus is used to inform the design of all of our policies, all of our legislation and all of our programmes. 

In addition, the majority of the Federal Ministers have, in their mandate letters, the instructions they receive from the Prime Minister, very specific instructions relating to promotion of gender diversity, and these are public documents. 

So, for example, our Minister of National Defence has been tasked to ensure that women comprise at least a quarter of our armed forces by 2026.  Our minister responsible for international development has been charged with implementing a feminist development policy.  And our Minister of Foreign Affairs was coordinating the Women Peace and Security agenda. 

We also tackle new challenges through a gender lens.  For example, the COVID 19 pandemic has had an unequal impact on Canadians and in particular on women, and the government recognises the a robust and inclusive recovery necessarily must be a feminist recovery and so just last week the government announced the composition of a new task force on women in the economy, which will advise the government on a cross cutting action plan, to inform post-COVID economic renewal. 

Abroad, our efforts are guided by a feminist foreign policy which includes a feminist international assistance policy, and also by Canada's defence policy - strong, secure and engaged - which seeks to put in place the tools we need to allow for the inclusion of everybody in armed forces and to ensure that a feminist approach informs our broader peace and security agenda. 

One of the priorities is to ensure that women in the armed forces are welcomed, supported and respected.  Our second national action plan on Women, Peace and Security strengthens its focus on gender equality, again to ensure full participation of women as well as cooperation with civil society. 

We also work very closely with partners, Mircea, as you were saying, and one of the major initiatives the Prime Minister announced a few years ago, something called the Elsie Initiative, to increase the number of women participating in peace support operations.  So exactly, Deputy Secretary General, what you were just saying.  And in 2017, we launched the Women, Peace and Security Chief of Defence Staff Network, with the UK and Bangladesh, which we Chair at the moment.  Trying to make sure, at the most senior levels of our military, that these objectives are taken forward. 

Mircea, as you said, in 2018, during our G7 Presidency, we put in place a gender equality advisory council.  France continued that in 2019 and the UK are continuing again this year.  With the objective, as you said, of making sure that gender equality permeates every aspect of the G7's work.  The Prime Minister, in addition, appointed the first Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security in Canada, to help take forward this broad agenda. 

At NATO, we are seeking to walk the walk, encouraging the entire organisation to prioritise gender diversity.  Commodore Josée Kurtz was the first woman to be appointed Commander of the standing NATO maritime groups, commanding SNMG2.  Mircea, as you said, Major General Jennie Carignan commanded the NATO mission in Iraq, a particularly challenging and important role.  Since 2018, Brigadier General Darlene Quinn has been in command of Canada's Formation Europe.  Lieutenant General Christine Whitecross commanded the NATO Defence College.  And I'm very pleased that Canada has one of the two women military representatives, Lieutenant General Frances Allen, although we won't for much longer because she has just been named Vice Chief of Defence Staff, as of the summer.  And so a loss for us, but she will be the first woman in that role, as a second most senior Canadian soldier. 

So, are we doing enough, our leaders doing enough?  We're doing a lot, but we can do more.  It's crucially important that the barriers that are still in place be dismantled and so, the initiative that NATO is taking in highlighting this, is extremely important. 

They're not the only barriers.  We in Canada are dealing with barriers with regard to indigenous women's participation, for example, another high priority for the Prime Minister.  This is not something that will be completed this summer or next, but with the leadership at NATO, we're on exactly the right course going forward and all of us Allies are supporting that nationally in our countries.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: Thank you very much, dear David, Ambassador, very impressive.  Very impressive and I had the privilege to meet some of the military commanders that you speak of and indeed, they are leaders in action also, and it matters. 

Now I would like to turn to the Ambassador of France, Muriel Domenach.  Thank you very much for being here today and you are the one who initiated this discussion.  France has a very long tradition when it comes to gender equality and we certainly have a lot to learn from you.  You have also been Secretary General of the Committee against Radicalisation and Crime. 

Could you please tell us why gender equality is so important and why NATO needs to deal with it?

MURIEL DOMENACH [Permanent Representative of France to NATO]: Thank you very much, dear Baiba, thank you Deputy Secretary General. 

Dear colleagues, thank you for participating today in this event, which highlights equality between women and men, and which is an opportunity for me, as Ambassador of France at NATO, to highlight NATO's action as regards promoting equality between men and women.  And I'm delighted to be able to take the floor here today in French, as French is one of the two working languages at NATO, and as the Deputy Secretary General reminded us earlier, this is the week of Francophonie, which we are happy to celebrate here. 

Promoting what NATO does in terms of equality between women and men is a way of highlighting NATO's role with our French speaking audience.  So, thank you Deputy Secretary General and dear David, for your interventions, I'm looking forward to hearing also from our Spanish colleague. 

The Women, Peace and Security agenda here at NATO is having an impact in our operations, in terms of defence, in our relations with our partners.  The actions led by your nations, both Spain and Canada, are models for us in terms of equality between men and women.  So, when I say this is a model for us, I'm talking in particular of my own country, France, because we are inspired by what has been done by Canada, as the President of the G7, and also what has been done by Spain also serves as model for us, in particular as regards combating domestic violence. 

So, dear Baiba, you mentioned the fact that I had worked mainly in the field of security, both internally and externally.  What I have noted and here NATO has a major role to play is, the more we talk about security, the few women there are.  And the more we talk about hard security, the fewer women there are.  The more serious the topic, the less it seems that women are taken seriously when they speak, so I'm not trying here to combat all the gender stereotypes, which we are well aware of.  Women are not always taken seriously, that is something we know.  When women express themselves, quite often we see there's a lot of bias against what women are going to be saying. 

But what I would like to stress is that having more women involved in security affairs, so more equality between men and women, means more security in general.  As the Deputy Secretary General highlighted, the presence of women means more expertise.  There is no reason to be deprived of the skills of women because, when there is over representation of men, then we are deprived of certain skills because of this bias.  You mentioned the field of radicalisation where I was involved and we saw that there were more and more women who were going to get involved in the jihad.  In a number of countries, we saw that there was a lagging behind in actually apprehending this phenomenon, accepting the fact that women could be leaders in the jihad movement, that they could actually have an active role.  We thought that they were only there because men were there, but we know that there is a problem with radicalisation, including women, that they can be active in disinformation in particular.  For countries that have strong disinformation campaigns, they tend to rely on women and, when we want to protect ourselves from these actions, well we need to think about turning to women to find out more, so involving women, less bias, larger audience. 

And for all these reasons, I think that when an organisation such as NATO gets involved in a leading role to promote the Women, Peace and Security agenda and equality between men and women, this is extremely important.  There need to be more women in this organisation and, there again, Canada set an example having a woman General at a high responsibility position.

So, in the case of France, it's our Deputy Mil. Rep, Military Representative who is a woman and, within the French delegation, we really have parity, so we have a female ambassador, a male military representative, but then the Deputy Ambassador is a man and the Deputy Mil. Rep is a woman. 

So, we have women who are in counsellor positions, dealing with nuclear matters, dealing with Russia, so on hard security matters.  This is very important.  This is the spirit which we have called in France, 'Never Without Her', 'Jamais Sans Elle', which is a push to ensure that women are represented in all these fields and positions to avoid having, for example, a panel made up only of men, which still happens very often.  So, within NATO, there is a special responsibility. 

NATO is often seen as a symbol of force and force is often associated with virility, that’s where the term virility comes from, strength in Latin.  So, I think it is in our common interest to be able to go beyond this, not against men but with men, and that’s why I'm delighted that my male colleagues are here as well. 

As the French poet, Louis Aragon, said, "The future of man is woman".  Well, I think it's the other way round, the future of woman is man, to have shared security. 

And we do not want to have a purely female leadership, we want to have mixity, diversity, quality, to the service of our security.  Thank you.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: Thank you very much, Ambassador, dear Muriel.  Merci beaucoup.  That was fascinating and indeed thinking about Jamais Sans Elle, it's not only the right thing to do, it's also the smart thing to do, because every decision becomes better when we have diverse views in the process of working it out.  And of course, when talents need to be hired or when we think about how to best protect our societies, we see in our audience research that women perceive security differently from men. 

We have now, for the second year, NATO has a robust data of audience research in all 30 Allies and we really can, through this segregated data, see that we have to find through our approaches, not only in communications, but really in our standing and policies, how we address that.  And at the end of course, our aim is to make NATO stronger, to make our security and defence stronger, and to make sure that our Alliance of 30 that has so ably guaranteed the security and defence for 71 years, continues to do so. So, we have to adjust to the realities that are out there. 

With this, I would like to give the floor to also my dear friend, Miguel Palacios, avid communicator and a very rich contributor to the NAC debates.  Miguel Fernández-Palacios, Ambassador of Spain, and you have, I'm sure, very interesting points to share on Spain's knowledge and experience.

MIGUEL FERNÁNDEZ-PALACIOS [Permanent Representative of Spain to NATO]: Thank you Baiba, thank you very much for inviting me to participate in this informal exchange of views on gender equality and leadership as [inaudible] of my government Spain as a whole and also my delegation, feel very attached to.  It's difficult to speak after Mircea, my good friend the Deputy Secretary General, and in David and Muriel, and to bring things new to this conversation, but I will try to put a couple of comments. 

First of all, I would like to underline that I am very comfortable sitting around this table, with Mircea, with you, and with maybe two of the most active NAC members in WPS, and for example, a couple of days ago, President Macron and President Sánchez met for the summit, the Spanish-French summit, and they spoke also about gender equality.  So, it's part of the agenda and it is very important. 

I also remember the joint statement signed in 2018 by Prime Minister Trudeau and President Sánchez, Prime Minister Sánchez, where they spoke also again about WPS.  So, I think that the gender equality is in the conversation and I think it's very important.  But it's not only the conversation among Allies, it's also the conversation here among us, at the NAC table. 

And that's a huge change.  I arrive here at NATO two and a half years ago and I think that we began, there was already a Special Representative of the Secretary General for Women, Peace and Security appointed, and we began, little by little, to speak about the subject.  But I think that we have done a very impressive work in this last two and a half years.  Impressive work because now you see any discussion that we have, Women, Peace and Security is part of the discussion, and I think this is essential, not only for this house but also for the message, and here I'm speaking and thinking about StratCom, about public diplomacy - Baiba, you know about that than me - that it's important that we here, and that people know that when we tackle security and defence issues, we also tackle Women, Peace and Security.  I think it's essential. 

I will be brief, as I told you.  First from a Spanish point of view, we just approved, my my Prime Minister only a week ago, we joined a group of countries, we are not very much, that had what we called a feminist foreign policy.  And we are discussing now the new strategy for foreign affairs and also our feminist foreign policy and our new strategy, [reflect] gender equality as a priority to promote the international arena.

And here I would like to underline also that, since 2019, we have some instructions here in our ministry, to consider the respect to a gender balance, of gender balance, before taking part in public events.  Today I'm here because Sarah was supposed to be, because if not I can't, and I'm sitting at the NAC because it's not a public event.  Because if not, it's not gender balance among us, no? 

But it's also true that the three nuclear powers are represented by women ambassadors, I think it's also a very important message.  But in any case, so we are very committed to a WPS agenda.  Our armed forces, we are now more or less at 12.8 of presence of women but, on the other hand, 12.8 is not bad in NATO standards, but for example we also have one General and our women are allowed to join any unit in Spain.  And they’ve been submarines, we were speaking about submarines before beginning with our panel, but also Special Forces.  And we are one of the only countries at NATO that allow women to join Special Forces, I think that’s very important. 

But allow me to speak a little bit about something that is essential for this house and that Mircea highlighted in his preliminary remarks about NATO 2030.  We are in the middle of the evolution of this house, I think this is very important.  We have a very important, we all know, military toolbox of plenty of military tools that we know how to use, we know how to plan, but we have a political toolbox that we want to fill with new tools.  And I think it's essential and I think that Canada, France and Spain can play an important role here, but also with Jens Stoltenberg, because he's a very committed Secretary General when we speak about Women, Peace and Security, it's essential that one of the political tools that we put in our new political toolbox, is the gender equality policies. 

And it's important for us, but it's also important - and I here come back to Mircea - in our relations with our partners, multilateral and bilateral partners.  Multilateral partners, as you know, I have long experience in Africa, as I was Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the Africa Union, and I think it's very important that one of the tools that, one of the files, that we go to speak to our Africa friends, is also Women, Peace and Security.  I think also this is an important role for our public diplomacy. 

Second, European Union, Muriel, David, Mircea, everyone, essential that we speak about WPS with the European Union. 

And third, in our bilateral agenda, when we have all our partners, partners around the globe, of course we are speaking about likeminded partners, people that think the world's going in the same direction, but it's essential.  Some, they're more likeminded than others when we speak about WPS, and so it's essential that WPS is one of our critical items when we speak to our bilateral partners in the framework of this cooperative security, one of the three core tasks of our strategy command.

I will leave it there and maybe, if there are some questions, I can follow.  Thank you.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: Thank you very much.  Yes, questions are coming in, so I will turn to them.  And, just to put things in perspective, 20 years ago, only 6% of armed forces in NATO countries were women across the Alliance, and now the number is double.  So, we are making progress.  I would also like to really shout out for our volunteers across our nations, be it part of the Women and International Security organisations, be it women's organisations on the ground, or anybody of any gender who actually works in this field.  Your work is very, very important.  It's really a priority, I think, for all our societies and for the security and defence of our societies, that we know the work that you do and that you are successful.  So, full support from us here. 

I would also like to note that we have a great team here at NATO on Women, Peace and Security, and thank them, and thank Clare Hutchinson in particular as the Representative of Security General, for her work. 

And to those watching us online, but also to all our colleagues at NATO, our WPS team has just launched a public database on how Allies are doing in WPS.  So, you are most welcome to visit, it was launched on International Women's Day on 8th March, so it's fresh and it's a novelty.  And that is of course to enable both ourselves to track and to understand where we are going and how we are doing. 

Now, let me turn to questions and actually I will go in reverse order, and then I will ask DSG to conclude with some concluding remarks. 

So, the first question is for Ambassador of Spain.  How can NATO address the gender inequalities in the south, and where the NATO's role is and where the problem is linked to violent extremism?

MIGUEL FERNÁNDEZ-PALACIOS [Permanent Representative of Spain to NATO]: OK.  So, I think it's a very good question.  We are looking more and more in our strategic direction of south.  I think security is 360 degrees, we have to have a 360 degrees approach to security.  And when we speak about security, we also have to speak, as I was saying before, about WPS.  We have to engage more and better with our southern partners. 

We have to speak more, more political dialogue, and to understand more, what is happen in the south.  We have also to speak more with the international organisations, global organisations and also regional organisations in the south, and to understand more what is happening. 

And also, when we speak about gender equality, as I told you before, as I said before, I think it's essential that the tool, the political tool of gender equality, is always in our political agenda to the south.  It's not possible, I think, today NATO can't afford to speak about security without speaking about gender equality.  So, it should be part of our political agenda to the south, this is essential. 

Bilaterally speaking with our partners, with the partners that are to come, the Deputy Secretary General spoke about Ghana, I think it's a very interesting future partner, we have to speak with them about WPS, but also multilaterally speaking.  We are speaking more and more with the African Union, we are engaging more and more with the African Union, we have also to speak.  It should be an essential part of our political agenda with our partners.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: Thank you very much.  If anyone else wants to comment, you are most welcome to do that.  Please, David, Ambassador of Canada?

DAVID ANGELL [Permanent Representative of Canada to NATO]: Thank you, Baiba.  Just to amplify Miguel's comments, which I agree with entirely, there are at least three priorities in engaging with partners in the south relating to this, that we see as extremely important.

One is encouraging the deployment of more women amongst peacekeepers.  As Muriel said, there's strength in diversity and we have found that, having women in peace support operations, strengthens the ability of the operation to achieve its mandate and, in part because you bring different skillsets, but in part for example, in many operations where you have to work with local populations, women can work with women much more effectively than men can.  There's a training piece and NATO has a very strong capacity in provision of military training, and through the Kofi Annan Centre and through others, we can work with partners in the south to build their own capacity, to deploy effectively on a more diverse basis. 

But there's one other piece I wanted to add as well, which is norms.  One of the roles that NATO plays on the human security front in general is being part of a global conversation, amongst organisations, to develop new norms, on sexual exploitation and abuse, on conflict related sexual violence.  Our focus is the performance of our own militaries but, when you help to build the norms globally, it's a global public good.  And as a valued based Alliance, NATO has an extraordinarily important role to play in this regard.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: Thank you very much.  And I see that Ambassador of France also has... and DSG also wants to say a few... yes, please?

MURIEL DOMENACH [Permanent Representative of France to NATO]: Yes, regarding the prevention of radicalisation, how to prevent radicalisation, including in the south, women are part of the problem when it comes to radicalisation and religious violent extremism, therefore they have to be part of the solution as well.  Why are they part of the problem?  Well, there are two aspects here. 

First of all, religious extremism, Islamist extremism focuses, targets on women.  We know that because when women's rights are attacked, this is a clear sign of radicalisation.  There is no extremist religious movement based on the premise of gender equality.  And then, there are specific issues when it comes to radicalisation and women; they are both victims and dangerous because of this.  And that’s why it's not easy to consider this because we have a dangerous victim, and that makes it difficult to work on preventing extremist violence. 

So, we need to make sure that women are well represented and active in societies where there is this extremism and we need, of course, to make sure that radicalised women, for instance coming back from Syria, need to be very well looked after when they come back, because they have very specific issues and they represent a very specific risk, so we need to take that into account. 

So yes, we need more women and we need more women because it is the interest of our own security, so we really need to take into account women's rights in this regard.  And it is in NATO's interest; our Alliance is one of values and values are not something that are just nice to have.  Values and making sure that they are respected is in our interest. 

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: On both the global norms and of course on values is, you know, when we think what it is about, we know where we want to be and where we want to see as a final result, the question is how we get there.  And here, remembering the values, remembering the norms, what we are about, both in the Alliance but also beyond, in our relations with partners, is very important.

MIRCEA GEOANĂ [NATO Deputy Secretary General]: Can I jump in...

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: And of course, DSG?

MIRCEA GEOANĂ [NATO Deputy Secretary General]: The Secretary General asked me to pay special attention on his behalf to our partnerships and I forgot to mention one thing that we already did, with one of the most active and relevant partners that we have in the south, which is the Military Women's Training Centre in Jordan. 

Because the Ambassador of Canada also mentioned the power of norm setting and standard, NATO is the gold standard on security worldwide.  But I think we also have to build on lessons learned and sometimes, to be honest, when you come from the west and talk to our partners to the south, there is always an underlying issue of basically being on the same footing.  So I think, many times, the positive examples that come from the very region that we support, could be even more attractive and more conducive for change for other nations. 

I'll make just another point and a suggestion because I know how much all of us care about NATO-EU.  In the NATO-EU partnership policy, together we have three nations that are joint partners both for NATO and EU, EU and NATO.  In the south it's Tunisia, in the Balkans it's Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to the east is the Republic of Moldova. 

On Tunisia, a country that is at a very important junction, I think that if NATO and EU, including on gender and Women, Peace and Security, we could do even more and do something that will make sense, this will be something I think very positive and also have a positive echo in the region. 

And the last point, the Ambassador of France has mentioned, rightfully, that women in part of the counterterrorist dimension could be part of the solution, and they should, and they also victims of this radicalisation. 

In terms of what you do, Baiba, our Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, let's remind people that when NATO, and also the Global Coalition, fought and won against ISIS in Iraq, we stopped one of the most horrific sexual abuse and violence in conflict that ISIS had been doing against the Yazidi women. 

So, there is also a role, when we go and we have missions and operations, we have just to also communicate to the ones that are victims that NATO is there to help, and this is part of our broader issue.  So, the attention to the south that our Alliance is paying is something that we should continue and I think, Women, Peace and Security, from all its angles and implications, should and will be a very strong component of our political toolbox, not only our military security toolbox, which is already very strong.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: Thank you very much.  I will actually...

MIRCEA GEOANĂ [NATO Deputy Secretary General]: [inaudible] the conversation now.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: I know, I know, and I know that you would like to come in, but I have one more important...

MURIEL DOMENACH [Permanent Representative of France to NATO]:  Yes, but I must say that NATO as such did not have a combat function in fighting Daesh, which we know, but of course the values are fully shared, as the DSG mentioned.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: There is an important question that has come in from Atlantic Treaty Organisation Association of...

MIGUEL FERNÁNDEZ-PALACIOS [Permanent Representative of Spain to NATO]: It's only 30 seconds and I would like to echo something that my French colleague, Muriel, just mentioned and I think it's essential.  She spoke about values and I always say when we speak about the Washington Treaty, normally people think about the Article 5, and I always say that we arrive to Article 5 only through the preamble. 

Democracy, individual liberties, and rule of law, only because of that we arrive to Article 5.  And WPS is about values.  Thank you, Muriel, for mentioning it.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: Thank you.  Thank you for reminding of indeed the very basics why we established the Alliance, this is why we established and the freedom, liberty and the values and rule of law applies to each one. 

We have, as I mentioned, a very important question from Monika Begović in Croatia, the Atlantic Treaty Association, our wonderful partners across the Alliance.  And it's a question about the future.  How can we address the problem of online sexism and abuse that arises as a result of digitalisation?  And that indeed is a new phenomenon that has also been exaggerated during the COVID and we have seen [inaudible].

I would like to start, Muriel, with you, followed with David, Miguel and then DSG.  Keeping in mind that we have about six minutes to finish.

MURIEL DOMENACH [Permanent Representative of France to NATO]: OK.  So, in one minute and a half, I think this is part of what is at stake and this is all very complex of course, when we look at the world of tomorrow.  This is when we're thinking about after COVID and more generally, when we look at radicalisation on social networks and what is at stake between freedoms on the one hand and these dangers on the other, well we have been confronted with this in France, in the context of terrorism of course, but even more so now with the health crisis. 

I think these social platforms have to be held accountable.  This is also part of the initiatives which we have taken within G7, G20 more and more, within the European Union, France has initiated what has now become work done with the UK, following a terrorist attack in 2017 in London, when there was a violent message went viral in one hour, it was called the Golden Hour, during which something can become viral to such an extent that it will actually incite violence. 

So, to combat this phenomenon, well platforms have to be able to withdraw messages within less than an hour and this needs to be done, of course, through negotiations and discussions with them.  It's not easy, we want to preserve freedom of course, but it is in the interest of defending our security because, if harassment against women is left unbridled, this is never innocent, this is always clearly a risk factor. 

So, here I would like to call on men who are listening to us and insist on how these rights of women are human rights in general.  So, when women are being attacked, dear men, please listen, because you are humans and we need you.  This is clearly something that has to be followed, very clearly, violence against women is an indication, very important.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: Ambassador of Canada?

DAVID ANGELL [Permanent Representative of Canada to NATO]: Well, I don’t have much to add to what Muriel has just stated.  I think that in all our countries there is an ongoing discussion between governments [inaudible] between freedom and responsibility, but I think in all of our societies, as members of a values based Alliance, we cannot allow any tolerance for abuse of any portions of our society, online or offline.  And recent events in the UK have prompted a discussion about that, that’s a very healthy discussion for all of our societies to be having.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: Thank you very much.  Through every difficulty, we become better.  Miguel?

MIGUEL FERNÁNDEZ-PALACIOS [Permanent Representative of Spain to NATO]: Only one word, it's very clear that we are in front of a global threat, that’s a global threat.  And to oppose global threats, multilateralism more and more, multilateralism.  That means European Union need to, UN, working on the same side, to oppose to these activities.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: Thank you very much.  DSG, for your future looking concluding words?

MIRCEA GEOANĂ [NATO Deputy Secretary General]: What brings this Alliance together and will make us not only the most successful Alliance in history, but also the most successful Alliance for many, many decades to come, as the Spanish Ambassador has mentioned, is our values. 

I'll say just a word about new technologies because social media and platforms are just a part of a broader revolution on technologies.  And as the Ambassador of Canada and the Ambassador of France have rightly said earlier on, we have to make sure that when we introduce, regulate, create global norms for new technologies, that to introduce the ethical and democratic principle in the very construction of these things. 

Because sometimes these instruments that are also a force for good, could really become a force for hate speech.  Algorithms can have, in a very insidious way, biases against women, racial issues, that are the most corrosive part to our democratic set of  norms.  That when I mentioned NATO-EU on new technologies, we have to use the combined power of the European Union that can regulate, and also the standard setting of NATO, making sure that new technologies, including on women and security, peace and security, are basically embedded from the very construction. 

We are also speaking here at NATO many times about arms control and disarmament, things that are important to all our citizens and the whole planet.  But many of the new technologies, also in security terms, are not regulated at all.  We don’t have global norms. 

So, the whole democratic world, the principles we hold dear, we have to come together and make sure that the global governance on these issues are embedded with principles, democracy and also, let's not use, you know, let's not waste our combined strength to shape the norms and the multilateral world that we all need, in doing that. 

That would be my, let's say, my innovation hat, bringing an angle to this conversation today.

BAIBA BRAŽE [Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy]: Thank you very much indeed.  From the three Is of Integration, Inclusive and Integrity, we have looked up to the future, to the stars, and we all have a role to play in all three realities; today's, how we work, but also thinking about the future.  And private sector has a very, very important role to play. 

We have seen social media companies being more active and taking down disinformation but there is even more a role to play and it's not only about our cooperation with our likeminded partners and organisations, but resilience and the future means that everyone have to do their share.  With this, I would like to thank our dear ambassadors and wonderful colleagues here at NATO. 

It has been fascinating, I think, for all the audience to listen.  A special thank for DSG, to you Mircea, for your leadership in everyday matters, but also for your drive for change, not only in cyber, but on EDTs and a very clear understanding how we have to collaborate with the world and with partners. 

I would also like to thank especially our team at the engagement section, Nicola and Despina and Mihaela, who set this up and organised everything, our studio teams, and most of all to our audiences worldwide.  Thank you very much and I hope this was interesting for you to not only look what NATO does as an organisation, but what Allies do as leaders.  To the better world for all of us.