Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Inclusive Security, Lasting Peace: An Interview with Ambassador Swanee Hunt

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Inclusive Security, Lasting Peace: An Interview with Ambassador Swanee Hunt

Article excerpt

As U.S. Ambassador to Austria from 1993 to 1997, Swanee Hunt played an important role in U.S. foreign policy toward the Balkans during the Bosnian War. During and after her tenure as ambassador, Hunt made multiple trips throughout Eastern Europe and became a specialist in the role of women in post-communist Europe. It was in the Balkans where she realized that women were absent from the negotiating table. As a result, Hunt founded the Washington, DC-based Institute for Inclusive Security in 1999, which conducts research, training, and advocacy to integrate women into peace processes. In total, the organization has trained more than 2,000 women peacebuilders from countries in conflict, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Colombia, and Sri Lanka, among others. Ambassador Hunt spoke with the Journal about the unique contributions of women to peace. (1)

Journal of International Affairs: You founded the Institute for Inclusive Security. Can you discuss your philosophy and what is meant by "inclusive security"?

Swanee Hunt: When people think of security, they assume bombs and bullets. When building peace, we need more than warlords coming together, putting their guns under the table, and deciding, "You take the diamonds; I will take the oil." We need an inclusive approach, including all stakeholders in society at the table. That always includes women as a large group. At the Institute for Inclusive Security, we are focusing specifically on women, but there are also tribal and other minority groups who should have a say.

Journal: In conflict situations, many humanitarian organizations and governments recognize that women play critical roles both during and after conflict. You spent a large part of your career working to advance the role of women in peace processes, and as U.S. Ambassador to Austria, you were involved in negotiations and issues related to the Balkan states and the war in Bosnia. Could you share some of your insights on working with women in Bosnia, and how they contributed to the peace process?

Hunt: While and after serving as a policymaker during the war and making twenty-five trips to Bosnia, I wrote two books: This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace and Worlds Apart: Bosnian Lessons for Global Security. Women in Bosnia were not at the negotiating table because no one thought to include them. In 1994, one year before the Dayton Accords, we brought together Bosniaks and Croats, two of the three warring parties. We had fourteen days of peace talks. The negotiating teams met in my residence for dinners, they were in my office or down the hall, and it was not until we signed the peace agreement that I noticed there was not a single woman present.

Later, the great internationalist Joseph Nye asked me to come from Vienna to teach at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. When he heard this story, he said: "Follow this idea. I cannot remember any women in the negotiations in which I have taken part."

When I asked a UN official why there are no women on the negotiating teams, he said, "The warlords will not have them because they are afraid the women will compromise." I wondered if that was true. Do women compromise sooner and reach across the divide to work together? Since then, we have been looking at forty to fifty different conflicts around the world and at women's roles in ending them, and we are finding many positive attributes.

I have devoted much of my life to pulling together this research. My fourth book, about Rwanda and how women led the country's reconciliation, is near completion. I have considered the views of the women in the Balkans who said they had a very different perspective than many of the men. They said if they were at the Dayton talks, they would have been much more determined, particularly about apprehending warlords; you cannot expect people to return home when their own mayor, still in power, led the genocide that forced them out. …

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