Updated: 13-Jul-2005 NATO Speeches


11 July 2005

Welcome remarks

by Ms. Valerie Gilpin, Executive Director, WIIS
at the WIIS Conference, Brussels, 11 July 2005

NATO: New Tasks and Responsibilities

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of Women in International Security, I would like to welcome all of you to this conference. We are pleased to be co-sponsoring this event with NATO's Public Diplomacy Division.

It is particularly fitting that NATO and WIIS should be collaborating in this important endeavour. NATO and WIIS are linked by a shared interest in international security. There is also, what one might term, a historical link as Catherine Kelleher, who was the driving force behind the establishment of WIIS, served as the US Secretary of Defence's representative to NATO in the 1990s.

It would be a matter of special satisfaction to me if the ties between WIIS and NATO were strengthened in the future through the appointment of a WIIS member as the first woman Secretary General. I hope this does not strike you as fanciful first thing in the morning.

WIIS has a dual mission: to increase the influence of women in the fields of foreign and defence affairs by raising their numbers and visibility while enhancing dialogue on international security issues.

Having its home within the Centre for Peace and Security Studies in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.--the largest school of international affairs in the United States--WIIS is uniquely positioned to organize programs and activities that address important security issues.

In this regard we organize between 40 and 50 events each year ranging from seminars and workshops to major conferences such as these as well as a series of professional development events.

In 1987 when WIIS was founded women were of course already playing important roles in the international security field. However the founders of WIIS recognized that women still had a long way to go in assuming positions that their expertise and demographic numbers warranted.

WIIS has since grown from a small group of women based in the United States to an international network of 1,200 women and men in 35 countries with 13 international affiliates in Europe, Asia and Australia including an affiliate here in Brussels.

Over the last 18 years important strides have been made regarding the participation of women in the field of international security and there are of course well known examples of women who have played and are playing leading roles in foreign and defence policymaking not only in NATO countries but in other countries around the world. However while women are increasing their influence in the field, there is still much that needs to be done.

WIIS remains committed to making women's participation in the field of international security greater and more inclusive.

One of the projects we have recently launched is to develop a databank of qualified women from various countries with the expertise to head international peacekeeping operations. At the completion of the project, WIIS will collaborate with other institutional partners to publicize the results and bring them to the attention of all relevant organizations.

I would like to emphasize that our focus is not on bringing the so-called feminine or woman's perspective to the dialogue on international security but rather to demonstrate that women can enhance thinking and debate on key non-gender specific issues in the field whether as policymakers, academics or diplomats. Indeed, dealing successfully with security challenges requires the collaborative effort of both women and men, a fact underscored by the involvement of women and men in today's event as panelists and participants.

The organization of today's conference has been a joint effort with our European affiliates, in particular WIIS-Deutschland. I would like to express my appreciation to May-Britt Stumbaum and Tanja Thiede for their participation and support throughout the various planning stages of the event. I would also like to acknowledge the presence of Catriona Gourlay, the head of WIIS-Belgium; Merle Krigul(sp?), president of WIIS-Estonia; and Aliki Mitsakos, the head of WIIS-Greece.

We look forward to increased collaboration with our European counterparts on future programs.

I would also like to thank Gale Mattox, the former president of WIIS; Chantal Oudraat, the vice-president of WIIS; Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew, the WIIS Events coordinator and several members of the NATO staff for their efforts in various capacities. Stefanie Babst, of course, deserves special mention. Her perseverance in large part has made this conference a reality and we appreciate very much her dedication and unwavering commitment.

Again, I welcome you and look forward to a program of interesting debate as we examine NATO's new tasks and responsibilities.

Thank you.
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