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Diplomacy in Action

Women as Global Leaders 2012: Creating a Sustainable Future for the World

Melanne Verveer
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues 
Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Washington, DC
March 15, 2012


As the first-ever United States Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, it is an honor for me to add my welcome to this extraordinary gathering. I salute all of you who were engaged in organizing this conference on Women as Global Leaders who are creating a sustainable future for the world. We know that no country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind. Today with all the challenges our world confronts from the environment to peace and security to economic growth and more, we need the talents, experiences, skills and perspectives of men AND WOMEN if we are to address these challenges and create a better world for all.

I know this conference is under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, an extraordinary leader and visionary in her own right and a champion of so many important causes. I had the privilege of meeting Sheikha Fatima a few years ago during a trip to the UAE and I know the respect and high esteem in which she is rightly held.

I also want to recognize the leadership of His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan for his commitment to excellence in higher education and service to Zayed University. I was pleased to accompany Secretary Clinton during her visit to Zayed University last year and I will never forget the wonderful time we had meeting with many of the officials, dedicated faculty and impressive students. I had heard so much about Zayed from my dear friend, Your Minister of Trade, Sheikha Lubna al Qassimi – another remarkable woman leader of the Emirates. She is a Global Trailblazer and example of a woman leader working to create a sustainable future for the world. She had told me many times about the fabulous students of Zayed.

I also want to add my welcome to the all the officials who are present today, the members of the Royal Family, the Zayed University family and distinguished guests from the region and beyond.

This university is a fitting place to gather because here you are producing women who will be global leaders of tomorrow, women who will go on to make a difference for their communities, country and world. The UAE has become a leader for women’s rights in the region. You have been committed to gender empowerment. You now have a record number of female ministers serving in government, including young Minister Reem Al Hashimy whom I first got to know when she was working in the UAE’s embassy in Washington. She is another example of an exceptional woman committed to public service in the UAE.

The proportion of women in higher education in the Emirates has risen dramatically. The UAE has the highest rate of women in business in the region and I know firsthand just how successful so many have become. Abu Dhabi is also the home to the Gulf’s first military college for women. So you are breaking records in advancing women’s progress and opportunities.

The World Economic Forum issues an annual gender gap report and measures the gap between men and women’s equality of four metrics: access to education, health, economic participation and political empowerment. Countries where men and women are closer to being equal, where the gender gap is closer to being closed, those countries are far more competitive and prosperous. That’s why the World Bank says that gender equality is smart economics.

And when women get to use their experiences and talents in leadership positions, everyone benefits, men and women, boys and girls. When women are shortchanged, our world is shortchanged. A world that does not tap the potential of women and ignores their contributions is simply not sustainable.

Secretary Clinton, with President Obama, recently launched the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security – a roadmap to institutionalize and solidify the role women must play in forging peace and security. Societies that incorporate women in leadership across all the sectors at all levels of society are more stable and more prosperous.

I’m so pleased that there are so many students attending this conference. I know that you will come away from this conference committed to becoming women who lead, women who will create a sustainable future for our world. I wish you Godspeed in all that you will do.I thank each and everyone of you for your commitment to global women’s leadership. I look forward to a future visit to the UAE and to hearing about the positive of this extraordinary gathering. I wish you a very successful conference.

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