(The authentic text is only the speech that was actually delivered)
Madam President Samba Panza,
Executive Director Mlambo-Nguka,
Director Thania Paffenholz,
Representatives of Women Mediators Networks,
Ladies and gentlemen,
“Mediterranean” means “in the middle of land”. Some civilizations have called it “the Middle Sea”. A “Middle Sea” between South Europe and North Africa.
This geographical fact has always shaped Italy’s attitude towards dialogue and mediation. Because our peninsula is right at the center of the Mediterranean, making us aware that our security and our prosperity depend on the prospects of our common Sea.
“Med-iterranean” and “Med-ation” are words with the same roots. You may say that dialogue and mediation are an historical necessity in the Mediterranean. We constantly have to build bridges across the “Middle Sea”.
Italian diplomacy has always emphasized the need to build bridges to overcome the political, social and economic distance between the Northern and Southern shores, the Western and Eastern coasts, of the Mediterranean.
Many women have contributed to bridge this distance. For example, Madam Ouided Bouchamaoui at the helm of one of the key organizations of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011”.
We have many other recent examples of women mediators:
-Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, one of three women to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, who led a movement of Christian and Muslim women which was decisive in ending the civil war.
-Many cases are lesser known: like that of the Sudanese women who helped overcome a stalemate on the use of a river in Darfur. They simply indicated to the men involved in the negotiations that the river had dried up! And for quite some time!
We recognize that more women have to be protagonists in the Mediterranean. That’s why we want to launch in October the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network. And I am glad, now, to unveil to you the Network’s Logo, which is about to appear on the screen in front of me.
On the one hand, it’s crucial to maintain our focus on women’s equality and empowerment. We are still far from the finish line. And every action counts. Like the recent actions by Tunisia’s President to finally abolish gender discrimination on interfaith marriages
On the other hand, we must stress – at all levels – that women are powerful agents of peace and security. Something Italy has done as a member of the Security Council and as Chairman of the G7.
However, today, too few women are involved in mediation. The vast majority of so-called “Track 1 level” United Nations mediations are still led by men. This is to the detriment of the international community. Because negotiations where women are absent or marginalized miss vital energies and lose political legitimacy. An agreement not negotiated by the “other half” of civil society is a weak agreement. That’s why we want to launch a new Network and share experiences with existing Networks.
In “Track 2” and “Track 3”, where women are very effective mediators, they open up new channels of communications and ease tensions, by involving civil society, local governments, businesses and religious groups.
Therefore, Women Mediators Networks are very important, for at least two reasons. First, because they can make us think more strategically about how to forge stronger links among stakeholders. Second, to help women reach senior positions of mediation. To be more influential at the “Track 1 level”.
I applaud UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who has committed to increasing the number of women mediators. But it’s also the responsibility of States: to recognize the work being done by women nationally and manage their skills in international peace-making; to publicize lists of qualified women for selection to senior positions; to support the career progression of younger women mediators from national to international practice.
In Italian diplomacy, I am proud to say that the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – our top diplomat – is a woman: Ambassador Elisabetta Belloni. And exactly half of my latest nominations to the rank of Ambassador are women.
It’s also indicative of the Italian attitude the fact that “Villa Madama”, the building where we convene our top diplomatic events, is dedicated to one of the great women mediators in history: Margaret of Austria.
To conclude, our success will be measured by our joint efforts to involve more women in mediation and in the complex negotiations to put an end to international crises. The establishment of networks of women across regions is a very important step in this direction. Because peace cannot be achieved without the decisive contribution of half of our society.