THE BLOG

Women and the New Diplomacy

20/11/2015 10:17 GMT | Updated 19/11/2016 10:12 GMT

There are two big catalysts for change underway. Not only is it becoming quite clear that the world is at an inflection point in terms of foreign policy, but it has also moved on from a traditional government to government model of diplomacy. Our state is, at least in a democracy, a reflection of our tastes and concerns, and as the demands we make of the state change, as current events suggest they will, so too should the way the state approaches traditional diplomacy.

Diplomacy is now conducted at multiple levels throughout the world - not just from government to government, but from private sector to private sector, from NGO to NGO and from citizen to citizen. The shift has been gradual but real, fuelling the need for decision makers to challenge outdated models of power at every level.

It is time for a new, disruptive sort of diplomacy; one focused on enabling women's leadership around the world, and one which puts the issues surrounding women and girls at the forefront of modern foreign policy. This new diplomacy goes much further than a grassroots approach. We need to enable women to become change agents in their governments across the world, to become advocates for social justice and supporters of democracy and the rule of law. Without a seat at the table, women don't have a say in crafting legislation, negotiating peace talks or shaping agendas for future reform. How can we hope to create real and lasting change around the world if women's voices are not an integral part of that process at the very highest level?

Looking back, among the most significant crimes of history is the systematic repression of women across different societies throughout time. Fighting against that, changing that, educating women, helping women leaders to gain positions of leadership could not be a more important issue for making progress in the world; justifying the claims that we are advanced modern civilisations. There are women on the frontlines of change, who are in some of the greatest political hotspots in the world, whose impact is not being felt. It will take a different kind of leadership to get their voices heard.

This is not just gender diversity for its own sake. Women leaders have a recognised multiplier effect in both the political and economic spheres. Furthermore, economies and societies will only thrive if the full participation of all citizens, men and women, is tapped. The economic case for gender parity, set out in a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, concludes that in the full-potential scenario (in which women participate in the economy identically to men) $28 trillion, or 26%, could be added to global annual GDP by 2025; equivalent to the combined US and Chinese economies today. If all countries just matched their best-in-region country in progress towards gender parity, we could still add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. This is equal to twice the likely contribution of women to global GDP growth in the current business-as-usual scenario. In a world still feeling the aftershocks of the global financial crisis, figures like these should not be taken lightly. There is huge economic power behind global gender parity.

Critically, behind this rhetoric has to be a genuine desire for change. This is not change that can be legislated for; this is not change that can simply be voted into being. Real change with real impact only occurs when those with power, be they governments, diplomats, business leaders or individuals, step up and take ownership of the issue.

A new generation, a new era and a new agenda needs to be set forth. Female-centric diplomacy that empowers women globally at all levels is the key to a seismic shift in modern foreign policy, and a step-change towards a more collaborative, empathetic and inclusive world.