Keynote speech

by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at International Women's Day

  • 08 Mar. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 08 Mar. 2023 14:32

(As delivered)

Good morning, everyone.

It's snowing outside here in Brussels, which is pretty rare.
But I think this International Women's Day is all about sunshine.
It's all about the full understanding of what you represent for us, but also what you represent for our societies and also for this Alliance of ours.

And when Irene invited me to come and speak again, to this event, I come with great pleasure and a great sense of respect.
And the fact that so many of my colleagues in the leadership of this Alliance are here present today is a testimony to the huge importance we attach to you, to your work.
And I think the topic identified today is just at the heart of the matter.

In my home country, on March 8, we still, I hope, will continue to give flowers.
But my message today, I hope will be an encouragement for us in NATO to do an even better job.
And for our democracies and our societies to do an even better job in prepare, not only the present, but also the future.

We have this issue in the DNA of our Alliance.
Next year in Washington, we'll be celebrating 75 years since this Alliance has been formed. And this is an Alliance based on values of human dignity, the rule of law, of democracy.
And I think this topic today is at the heart of our values, at the heart of our democracies, at the heart of who we are.
We're doing quite a lot.
And I would like to thank you Irene and her team, especially our Secretary General, for the immense important work, in a few minutes time, I'll be cheering [inaudible] and Irene will be next to me.
So we'll leave you with Admiral Bauer and the other colleagues to continue this presentation.

So this is an exceptional opportunity today to reflect on what we can do collectively and individually.
And to help promote gender equality, protect women's rights, and move the women, peace and security agenda forward.
We are determined to lead by example.
And I mentioned that democracy and gender equality is in the DNA of our Alliance.
Protecting these values is at the heart of our mission.
And that's why NATO has always been vocal in promoting gender equality as a reflection of our values.

We have long recognized the important role women play in security and defence.
In 1976, we created a committee to advise our military colleagues on women in NATO forces. And our first policy on women, peace and security was adopted in 2007.

Since then, our work has continued to reflect on ever deeper understanding of how gender perspectives strengthen our mission.
NATO's original focus was on taking gender considerations into account in our military operations.
But today, women, peace and security is integrated across all of NATO’s core tasks.
And our leaders at the Summit in Madrid last year, basically reconfirm this transversal and deep connection of everything we do, to gender equality.

So I think we've come a long way.
I think we can be proud of what we achieved.
But let's be also true to ourselves, that we can do much more, we can do much better, we should do much more, we should do much better.
Because also, there is a moral issue.
It's a values issue, but it's also a practical issue.

The world is changing.
We are living in a world of great power competition, and harnessing the whole talent of innovation in our ecosystem.
In our democratic world together, all partners around the world is essential for us to be able to thrive in this era of competition between democracies and authoritarian regimes.
Techno-autocracies are coming to the forefront.
We have to do a better job to make sure that through this kind of exercise, we also keep and maintain our edge as we say, in technology. And there's no other way than to have the full force of our society and fully involving women and girls when they start young, in this effort.

So this is something that is very much to my heart.
And this is what we do all across the board across the divisions in NATO, but also across our military commands.
And also, it's a revolution of the way we live, the way we work.
And technologies are not only essential to address security challenges, they're also changing the way we are doing security.

So this is probably the most transformative time in human history.
Never ever we had a combination of geopolitics, fierce competition, coming back to the forefront, and it is fears we never had, at the same time, also a huge technological revolution changed everything we do, but everything we do.
And on top of that, you know, a combination of societal change, and a deep change in the way in which us, especially in democracies are seeing the social contract, the model of capitalism, and also how we perceive security.

We only see the societal resilience is the first line of defence.
It is, but for that we do, we need to do a much better job, in understanding our environment, and analysing new technologies and their impact on our security through a gender lens.
So we can better understand the threat environment, but also the opportunity environment, because they go hand in hand.

This needs to understand the impact of technology on women.
The challenges of retention recruitment of women, we need to include women's contribution to technology, and also have to be aware of gender biases in technology because they do exist.
We're taking steps to mitigate gender biases in AI and data, for example, through the principal use of responsible use of AI.
And David van Weel knows so very well how much we are paying attention to responsible use of every new technology, every new technology here and still to come, in biotech and quantum not only in AI, for everything we do.
This is something that makes us different from the others.
And this is something we have to make sure we continue to do, to integrate gender perspective across our work from efforts to enhance cyber defence to data exploitation.
Also, there is something that we know that diversity breeds creativity.
And to find lasting solutions to the complex threats we face.
We have to nurture all the creativity that we have, all the resources that we have in involving fully women in everything we do across the board.

I've also very impressed by the composition of the panels, follow many remarkable speakers. Many leaders are role models.
I'm also very happy to see the diversity of participants from our Allies, partners and international staff.
We have a lot to learn from all of you, our partners, industry, academia.
And this is a reunion of leaders from all generations, from all walks of life, and creativity and leadership, they also go hand in hand.

One thing is certain.
We need to combine our efforts to bridge the gender gap in technology.
Throughout history, women's contributions, including in science and tech, have time and time again proved revolutionary.

Marie Curie, two times Nobel Prize winner changed the face of modern medicine.
Ada Byron, also known as Lady Lovelace, created the first computer algorithm.
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, created COBOL.

I remember I was I was much younger, I was typing something, I was making some holes into something that I think was COBOL. I see also Rudy here from the NCI, I think he knows something more about this.

So she created the first computing language.
There are some, just some of the innovators and game changes that have shaped our past, are shaping our present, and will be shaping our future.

Those who have showed us creativity and that creativity flourishes when humanities and science interact.
And as Walter Isaacson, my dear friend remarked in his book on the Innovators, that innovation resides where art and science connect.
There are many more.
And this is what our group today is putting at the forefront of everything we do.

More women in R&D, in science, in tech, in math and also in education from very young ages is not only for gender equality, but it's also for the resilience of our very democratic societies.

I'm proud that in my home country of Romania, my first alma mater is the Polytechnical University of Bucharest.
And now, for the young students trying to get, being accepted to the exam, it's almost gender parity.
In the Polytechnical University of Bucharest, this is a good sign.

And I hope that we have similar signs from all over the world.
So you, today's innovators are game changes, and you are shaping the future.

You are the true agents of cultural change.
And I trust your generation will be able to transform our entire society for the better.

So because I have with you, Irene to start sharing the NAC in a few minutes. On this very topic, we started North Atlantic Council today, on purpose on March 8, with the topic of women, peace and security.

And this is why, I hope I will be excused for not staying more with you.

But just to say from the Secretary General, myself and on the leadership of NATO, how much we count on you, how much we need you, and how much our present, our future, rely on all of us.

Thank you so much.
Happy International Women's Day.
Let's keep the good work in our great Alliance.

Thank you so much.