Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 19, 2023
MODERATOR: Building up on this, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, in the UN Security Council, female permanent representatives make up only one-third – more detail – one-third of the representatives at the moment. But for the first time in history, we do have four women permanent representatives presiding –
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Five.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have five total.
MODERATOR: Five. Thank you very much. Five presiding over the Security Council, one after the other, including yourself. So, as a female diplomat on the Security Council, I wonder if you can share your view about the role of women leadership in the decision-making processes of the Council.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you so much for that question. And I’ll share a little history with you. Madeleine Albright, who was our representative at the Security Council, told me that she created this group called the G7. And it was all of the women that I thought were on the Security Council and I was amazed that there were seven women at that time. And so I went to see her after I started here and I said there are only five women on Council now. And she said that’s fantastic – because I was the only woman on the Council. Her G7 were all the women in the General Assembly who were here.
So, we have made progress. But there’s still more to be made. And I think as women, we are able to bring out those issues that really highlight and amplify women in the Security Council. We ensure that there are women speakers who come to brief the Council. We ensure that issues related to Women, Peace, and Security are amplified in our discussions. And it’s not that men don’t always do it, but they don’t do it enough. As women we’re constantly aware and constantly looking for opportunities to raise women up.
I’ll share with you when I first joined the Council. We had a situation that related to the conflict in northern Ethiopia. And we had a briefer that, a briefer who described a really horrific rape. And at the time we were on screen so we can all see each other’s faces looking forward. And as I looked at our 15 faces, I felt that the men on the screen didn’t feel a sense of – they didn’t exhibit a sense of horror; they didn’t exhibit a sense of anger. And as I was watching us five women at that time I could see every woman on the screen really show a visceral reaction to what was happening. And I thought that was an important statement to see that women found this and wanted to raise this as an issue that needed to be discussed, needed to be amplified, and needed to be addressed.
And I have a sense that, again I apologize to my male colleagues, but I had the sense that this was not the big issue of the day that we needed to discuss. So, as a member of the Security Council, women can amplify women on the Council.
MODERATOR: Thank you. [Applause.] Let’s amplify your voice.
Since you’ve traveled, I mentioned earlier you quite traveled around the world, and you’ve been advocating for women’s rights, and I can hear that you continue doing so. So, could you perhaps kindly share with us one example you’ve seen how women contribute to conflict prevention in peacebuilding in their communities?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Wow, I think the only example I can use, and the Ambassador from Liberia is here, are the women of Liberia. Liberia went through a horrific war. And as negotiations were trying – were taking place to end the war, it was women who actually won the peace and insisted that the men who were sitting around the table actually come to some kind of negotiated settlement. And then after that, they rallied to support a woman president, the first woman to be elected president on the continent of Africa.
And during my tenure as the ambassador there, I saw women rally to support other women. It was market women, it was schoolteachers, it was women in government, there were significant number in the government, a woman foreign minister, a woman mayor who actually turned the city around. So, I saw the impact of women’s leadership really up close and personal, and I think Liberia will always be an example of what happens women take on the responsibility for Women, Peace, and Security.
MODERATOR: Thank you. That’s an incredible story. And it’s true, there is a lot that we can accomplish when we support each other. And there is also research that showed that when women participate in peace negotiations, they are more durable. So, let’s involve more women. [Laughter.]