Marriët Schuurman is the Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security for the Secretary General at NATO.
Marriët coordinates the collective efforts of NATO’s 28 member countries to adopt the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325). It is a landmark resolution passed in 2000 which recognised the important role of women in peacebuilding and highlighted their needs and vulnerabilities in conflicts for the first time.
In 2017, it’s my hope that equal participation of women and men in decision-making on all matters of peace and security should finally become the new normal.
"It is abundantly clear that gender equality enhances stability, peace and prosperity. That we can only be free, at peace, and secure when we are inclusive. So let’s act upon it, and make equal rights and opportunities the core of our peace and security strategies. And ensure that we pass the point of no return when it comes to engaging the full potential our societies have to offer in order to find better, more creative and sustainable responses to today’s many complex security challenges."
A safer world starts at home
"At NATO we will continue our ambition to lead by example in this respect, to leverage change inside-out. Because a safer world starts at home. I have focussed on practical measures to improve the representation of women in senior decision-making positions in our own structures. I have also prioritised gender mainstreaming in our response to new security challenges, like countering violent extremism, which undermine the very foundations on which we have built our peace, prosperity and security: fundamental values of human dignity and human rights.
I am convinced the lessons from peace operations about the vital importance of building inclusive peace and security will allow us to find better, more comprehensive and sustainable answers to the security challenges of today. We don’t have to and shouldn’t re-invent the wheel."
Our strength is our diversity
"My work has led me to become more passionate than ever before about the critical importance of engaging with all local people and groups as the starting point for building a safer world.
For anyone who wants to make a difference and have a positive impact on the world around us, at home or elsewhere, our role really is to provide a platform, to give voice and then, to listen – with an open mind and open heart. Only when we build those bridges will we be able to overcome the divides in our society, discover that we have more in common than divides us and that really, our strength as society is our diversity."
Helping the vulnerable to take back control
I am in awe of the power and resilience of those exceptional women, men, girls and boys I have met through my work who are standing up to make this difference in extremely difficult circumstances of violence and oppression.
"Our role is to create an environment in which their voices can be expressed and heard, in which they have a say and can take back control over their own lives and those in their communities.
There is an enormous untapped potential out there. We can only have a lasting impact if we tap into this rich resource, and use the full potential in the societies and communities we are tasked to protect and defend."
The young generation being bold for change
"Great strides have been made in recent years. Just look at UN Women’s HeForShe campaign, which has undoubtedly led to a much greater involvement of men and boys in the centuries old strife for equal voice and opportunities.
Young women and men now speak out loud and clear, like Emma Watson and many others. On Women’s Day let’s recognise how their courage has inspired many leaders to be bold for change and speak out as well, as champions for equal rights and opportunities. As a leader in 2017, it has become awkward NOT to declare oneself a feminist."