What challenges do women face in diplomacy today and how can we work together when applying a gender perspective in national and international arenas? These are some of the questions that delegates, government officials, NGO professionals and negotiators from all over the worlddiscussed during the United Nations Institute for Training and Research’s (UNITAR) Online Discussion Forum focusing on Women in Diplomacy..

115 people from 47 different countries had signed up to take part in the discussions that were conducted on the Platform from 22 October to 6 November.

The 2012 Secretary-General’s Five-Year Action Agenda underlines the importance of promoting women’s political participation. Active participation of women in decision-making positions is crucial to achieving equality, development and peace. However, despite women’s growing participation, the number of women in senior level positions in capital and international civil service positions falls short in terms of equal gender balance. By establishing an Online Platform for discussion, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), in collaboration with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the Directorate of Energy & Climate Change of the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Women's Environment & Development Organization (WEDO) and Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA), aimed to enhance awareness of the roles of women and the importance of gender equality in diplomacy today.

UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNITAR Director ad Interim Sally Fegan-Wyles, said: “It is very encouraging to see the growing recognition of the value women bring to peace negotiations and to diplomacy in general. This reflects what I have observed over many years. Men and women approach the same issue in different ways, and both perspectives are useful and complimentary. We need to ensure that women have the knowledge, skills and confidence to bring their most valuable contribution to the table.”  

Commenting on the online discussion, Anne Marie Goetz, Chief of the Women Peace and Security Section at UN Women and one of the moderators of the discussion, said “UN Women sees its engagement in this discussion as an opportunity to identify good practices that have opened meaningful positions in foreign services to women as well as means toenhance the role of women diplomats in conflict prevention and conflict resolution. We also aim tohighlight the value-added that women bring to decision making processes.”

Two moderated discussions were conducted. The first focused on women in diplomacy in national and international arenas. The second on women in climate change negotiations as an example of how women’s engagement in diplomacy has worked in the past, and how it can be enhanced and accelerated in the future. 

The Online Discussion Platform is the first step in a series of initiatives led by UNITAR to empower women in diplomacy through capacity building.

UN Photo/Jan Golinski