The Munich Security Conference (MSC) is the world’s largest conference on international security policy held annually since 1963. Peace and Security has long been a men-dominated arena where women leaders have persistently been underrepresented, despite some progress. For this reason, Women Political Leaders (WPL) has partnered since 2016 with MSC to ensure that more women peacemakers are in attendance and included in key conversations.
WPL’s high-level sessions at MSC has brought the perspectives and experiences of women leaders in peace, security and defence policies. For example, a roundtable discussion entitled “Disrupting perceptions for better leadership” in 2020, the WPL Women Peacemakers Conference in 2018 and the European Defence Roundtable in 2017 and 2016.
The 59th Munich Security Conference (MSC) ran for three days, from February 17 to 19 2023 and functioned as a unique platform for high-level debates on foreign and security policy challenges, featuring several high-level gatherings for women political leaders to exchange perspectives and insights on current global peace and security issues.
During the MSC2023 Women’s Breakfast, Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia, emphasised the importance of defending democracy using Russia’s war in Ukraine as a galvanising example and the need to hold Russia accountable for its actions as well as acknowledging the challenges of being a woman in political leadership.
MSC 2023 Women’s Breakfast
Source: @kajakallas via Twitter
The human rights crisis that women in Afghanistan and Iran are currently facing was also high on the agenda. The Foreign Ministers of Albania, Olta Xhaçka, Andorra, Maria Ubach Font, Belgium, Hadja Lahbib, Canada, Mélanie Joly, France, Catherine Colonna, Germany, Annalena Baerbock, Iceland, Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörd Gylfadóttir, Kosovo, Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz, Liechtenstein, Dominique Hasler, Mongolia, Batmunkh Battsetseg, Slovenia, Tanja Fajon, made the following joint statement (18 February 2023, Munich):
“Together, we, female Foreign Ministers at the Munich Security Conference 2023, strongly condemn the Talibans’ push to exclude women from all public life: women are kept from strolling in parks, are not seen on TV screens anymore, are deprived from their right to attend schools and universities, and are now also kept from working in humanitarian assistance. … We stand by the side of the brave women and men of Iran in their daily fight for their rights and their freedom. Their struggle shows that only where women are safe everybody is safe. Not only in Iran, not only in Afghanistan, but all over the world.”
The Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy organised a High Level Women Only Dinner, as well as a Breakfast discussion on the theme, “War, oppression, and strongmen; rethinking the role of anti-feminism in autocratic regimes”.
María Fernanda Espinosa and Annalena Baerbock
at the Feminist Foreign Policy Dinner
Source: @feministfp via Twitter
The guest of honour was Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Annalena Baerbock and among other dignitaries in attendance were; Vice President of Colombia, Francia Márquez, Former Deputy Minister of Women Affairs & Interior Affairs Afghanistan, Hosna Jalil, and Secretary General Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, Louise Mushikiwabo.
For 2023, The Munich Security Conference registered a record number of women leaders with a reported 50/50 breakdown of women-to-men speaker participation.