WJC Champions Gender Equality in Foreign Affairs at CSW Event

New York – The World Jewish Congress has been an active participant at this year’s United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) gathering in New York, partnering with several member-states to shine a light on the imperative of elevating women and their experiences within foreign affairs and national security forums.   

In the context of the post-October 7th era, the CSW is commanding heightened attention, with some countries pushing for the body to include commentary on the situation unfolding humanitarian situation in Gaza and a potential condemnation of Israel in its annual conclusions released at the end of this session.  

The WJC has been working tirelessly to prevent the further entrenchment of anti-Israel bias within the United Nations and urged the organization and its members to condemn violations of women’s rights, particularly those carried out by Hamas against Israeli women. 

Commenting on the organization’s activities, WJC’s Director of International Affairs Yfat Barak-Cheney highlighted the crucial role of empowering women, noting, “Integrating women into all tiers of foreign policy and national security decision-making not only advances gender equality but also amplifies policy effectiveness and refines their execution for the betterment of society as a whole. As a civil society organization representing Jewish communities, we find this integration paramount in ensuring environments that are safe, secure, and conducive to peace.”

WJC Hosts Parallel Event to Shine Light on International Security Efforts 

The World Jewish Congress hosted a side event as part of the CSW’s NGO Forum entitled “Elevating Women in Foreign Affairs and National Security.” The panel discussion, held in partnership with the Permanent Missions of Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and the United States, alongside the Israeli-NGO Forum Dvorah, centered on the need to empower the voices of female change-makers.  

Maya Heller, Chairwoman of Forum Dvora, opened the event by stressing the importance of ensuring that women have access to opportunities in the national security sector, arguing that “equitable representation in foreign policy is not merely a matter of equality; it is a cornerstone of security.” 

Amb. Laura Flores, Director of the Americas Division in the UN’s Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs & Peace Operations Director, spoke about the significance of advancing gender equality in national security and foreign policy on the international level. Drawing upon her years of experience, she highlighted areas of advancement in recent years and affirmed the UN’s commitment to “working towards gender representation in all spheres.”   

A panel discussion was then moderated by Ariel Rodal Spieler, a member of WJC’s Jewish Diplomatic Corps based in Israel, who urged attendees to recognize that beyond the statistics concerning women in national security, there exist real lives deeply affected by the gender imbalance within the field. She called upon those in the room to “embrace this collective responsibility and advocate tirelessly on their behalf.”

The parallel event featured panelists such as:

  • Céline Bardet, President, We Are NOT Weapons of War 
  • Claire Furbush, Senior Strategic Accounts Manager, Foreign Policy 
  • Col. (res) Nira Shpak, Board Member, World Jewish Congress Israel  
  • Dr. Cochav Elkayam Levy, Founder and Head of the Dvora Institute for Gender and Sustainability Studies 
  • Viviane Teitelbaum, Member & Vice President of Parliament; European President of the International Council of Women (ECICW) 

Elkayam Levy described Hamas’ actions on October 7th as a tragic escalation in crimes against women, highlighting the attack and the resulting violence as a particularly egregious development. She stressed that gaining and in depth understanding of the day’s events is a crucial step towards preventing future war crimes. 

Drawing from her extensive experience in documenting and preserving testimonies and digital evidence of these abhorrent acts, she commended the comprehensive nature of the recent report published by the UN’s Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten’s, describing it as “crucial and essential.” 

Shpak, who is a survivor of the October 7th terrorist attack on Kibbutz Kfar Aza, provided unique insight regarding the role of women within the military and security  communities. Reflecting on the past few months since, she noted that “all the signs were there,” and reiterated the responsibility of Israeli women to be involved in national security asserting, “It’s our duty to be the first one to scream out loud.” It is understood that numerous officers, many of whom were female, attempted and failed to alert their superiors about an impending operation by Hamas.  

Teitelbaum, a member of the Regional Parliament of Brussels since 2004, expressed grave concern over the October 7th atrocities, highlighting the grim reality of gender-based violence perpetrated by Hamas and other regimes and terrorist organizations. She lamented that, “Ministers engage in dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan, negotiate with the mullahs in Iran, and communicate with the terrorists of Hamas,” and added, “these regimes and organizations will kill women because they are women.” 

Furbush, Senior Strategic Accounts Manager of Foreign Policy, emphasized that ensuring that women have a seat at the table isn’t solely about reinforcing gender-equality through numbers, but, rather, it is a necessary component of competent national security policy. She stated, “When women don’t have a seat in peace negotiations, it leads to substantially worse outcomes and much more fragile outcomes.” Providing a personal perspective from her experience in foreign policy circles, she argued that women may possess a “fundamentally different view of armed conflict than men,” by prioritizing their communities over external factors.  

Bardet, stressed the critical role of civil society organizations in combatting conflict-related sexual violence globally, noting that they are “not only passionate and leading the cause about their field, but often are the leading experts.” She addressed the core issue of the reluctance of female survivors to come forward, pointing out, “While there is an abundance of men in authority positions, having more women at the forefront would promote meaningful communication between female survivors and other women.” 

Capping off the event, Sofia Calltorp, Sweden’s Ambassador for Gender Equality in Foreign Policy, articulated the profound significance of gender equality in national security and foreign policy, emphasizing that “gender equality and the involvement in security is about democracy and basic human rights…and ultimately about freedom.” 

WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps Active at CSW Forums in New York  

WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps Members Ariel Rodal Spieler and Deborah Lichentin attended events held by the Permanent Missions of Israel and France that addressed the role of women in the conflict between Israel and Hamas and combating sexual violence, respectively. The JDCorps members have also participated in discussions as part of the CSW NGO forum on subjects including the empowerment of young women from Israel and Palestine and the development of innovative projects such as the Accelerator for Gender Equality.   

Rodal Spieler’s moderation of the WJC parallel event was the highlight of the week and served as a launchpad for the JDCorps’ outreach drive to CSW member nations to include them in ongoing initiatives calling for the release of hostages.   

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