NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR
MODERATOR: Well, welcome, everyone. Welcome to this afternoon’s New York Foreign Press Center briefing. My name is Daphne Stavropoulos and I’m today’s moderator. I’m honored to introduce Jennifer Klein, the Co-Chair and Executive Director of the White House Gender Policy Council and Julissa Reynoso, an Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Dr. Jill Biden, who is also the Co-Chair of the White House Gender Policy Council. Ms. Klein has spent most of her career championing gender equality issues. Previously she worked with TIME’S UP and Secretary Clinton on a range of initiatives related to the advancement of women including global health, girls’ education, gender integration, and U.S. foreign policy. Julissa Reynoso is a former U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay and served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central American, Caribbean, and Cuban Affairs in the U.S. Department of State. I’ve shared their longer bios of our briefers. They both have long careers of distinguished accomplishments, and in the interest of time I’m going to go over the ground rules.
Today’s briefing is on the record. Ms. Klein and Ambassador Reynoso will make brief remarks, and I’ll open the floor for questions. Our briefers only have time for a few questions so if you’re called on today, please limit yourself to one. To indicate you have a question, raise your virtual hand and wait for me to call on you. And when called on please feel free to enable both your audio and your video. So with that, let me turn it over to Ms. Klein. Thank you so much for joining us today.
MS KLEIN: Thank you so much, and thank you all for taking the time to be here with us today. We’re going to kick this off with a brief discussion of the Women, Peace, and Security Report which we released this past Wednesday, June 30th which I think really demonstrates the U.S. Government’s steadfast support for the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. The report highlights accomplishments but also gaps, opportunities, and next steps to inform future efforts. The report evaluates the United States progress in women, peace and security in four different areas: first, women’s participation in decision making processes; second, protection of woman and girls; third, internal capabilities of the U.S. Government; and fourth, bilateral and multilateral partnerships promoting women, peace and security.
I think what’s important here is that this report demonstrates not only that we are steadfast supporters of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda but that long before the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in the year 2000 and the enactment of – we have been working hard on women, peace, and security. An additional piece is that in 2017, Congress passed the first comprehensive law on women, peace, and security, and this report is a required report to Congress. But as I said, also I think reflects longstanding work through diplomacy, development, defense, and international cooperation to this Women, Peace and Security Agenda. So I will run through very briefly a couple of the key factors that each department that is required to report has included. Happy to come back to questions.
But as I said within each of the four lines of effort different – each agency has taken action, and this report reflects a summary of that action. So starting with the Department of State, the report notes that from Fiscal Year 2019 to 2020, State supported at least 14,000 women to build support for peace, and trained to build support for peace and reconciliation, and trained more than 43,000 women in security and criminal justice sectors, and supported access to gender based violence, prevention, and response services for as many as – almost 500,000 individuals. State invested approximately $138 million in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 in assistance programming to advance women, peace and security and more than quadrupled the number of strategies, policies, and programs informed by gender analysis.
Turning to the work of USAID – USAID increased its efforts to consult with local women leaders, civil society, including faith-based organizations as well as academia in countries affected by crisis and conflict. From 2018 to 2020, USAID supported the participation of over 184,000 women in leadership, conflict mediation, legal, political, and peace-building processes and provided critical healthcare, psychosocial support, legal aid, and economic services to more than 13.5 million survivors of GBV. From Fiscal Year 2018 to 2020, USAID invested over $400 million in programming designed to empower and protect women and girls in countries affected by crisis, conflict, violent extremism, and natural disasters.
For the Department of Homeland Security, this report was their first report on women, peace and security, and it marks their progress starting in 2020. Just to take a few examples through their mentoring program, emergency response training, law enforcement training, and leadership programs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transportation Security Administration, and Customs and Border Protection collectively trained 284 women in DHS programs and components integrated – identified, excuse me, as integrating WPS principles. And further, as the largest federal law enforcement agency, DHS trains over 12,000 women to enter the law enforcement ranks at federal law enforcement training centers in 2019 and 2020.
Finally, the Department of Defense established three defense objectives to support the Women, Peace and Security effort: number one, modeling and employing women’s meaningful participation; number two, promoting partner nations’ womens’ participation; and three, ensuring partner nations protect women and girls, especially during conflict and crisis.
In Fiscal Year ’20 alone, the Department of Defense programmed $7 million to train and place Women, Peace, and Security experts in key positions and to undertake activities to build partner capacity to advance Women, Peace and Security principles. In addition to staffing, training plays a large part in DOD’s capability to implement WPS, and in 2020 DOD overhauled existing training and developed additional training to meet the growing need and demand for Women, Peace and Security instruction.
I’ll also end by noting that another important report that was released today is the report of the Independent Review Commission on Military Sexual Assault, which of course is integrally connected to Women, Peace and Security, because preventing and responding to gender-based violence in our own military service is an essential part of being able to advance Women, Peace and Security both here within our agencies and, of course abroad with our partner nations.
So with that, I will turn it over to Julissa. I – we have so much to cover here; happy to come back to Women, Peace and Security, but we want to be sure to give you some more information about Generation Equality, which, as many of you know, is a forum that was convened this week by UN Women and the governments of France and Mexico to mark 25 – actually 26, but last year COVID got in the way – years since the Beijing conference on women and the Platform for Action. And it’s really laser-focused on advancing gender equity and gender equality around the world.
The Biden-Harris administration formally joined Generation Equality earlier this year and participated in the forum this week. It started with Vice President Harris, who addressed the opening session and over the subsequent days we had participation by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, HHS Secretary Becerra, and USAID Administrator Samantha Power, as well as Julissa and myself.
So I will turn it to Julissa, who will now delve into the commitments that the U.S. Government made at Generation Equality. Thanks.
AMBASSADOR REYNOSO: Thank you, Jen, and thanks to all of you who are on, and thanks to Daphne, for convening.
As mentioned by Jen, we all were – the United States fully engaged around the Generation Equality forums this week. The forum asked the participants to make concrete commitments to drive progress towards gender equality globally, ensuring that we’re channeling all our energies and resources as required and needed to meet our objectives and our goals around equity and equality.
To that end, the Biden-Harris administration made a range of major policy and resource commitments at the forum. The commitments were both foreign and domestic. We focused on three areas: one, women’s economic security; the second, gender-based violence; and the third, sexual reproductive health and rights.
These commitments capture only a fraction of the work we are doing to advance gender equity and equality across the entire U.S. Government, which span a range of areas, including education, leadership, climate, and science and technology. But these commitments do reflect our administration’s strong commitment to gender equity and equality, which as – Jen and I, as co-chairs of the White House Gender Equality Council, are so very proud to help drive.
We are happy to dig into the specifics in the Q&A, but for now I’ll just highlight certain things.
In the area of women’s economic security, we proposed a $1 trillion investment in America’s working families – in American working families through the American Families Plan, which is the President’s robust legislation to advance the economic security of working families. The plan helps cover basic expenses that families need and care most about. It calls for universal pre-kindergarten and two years of free community college and invests in the care workforce, including home health care workers and child care workers.
Crucially, the American Families Plan proposes establishing a comprehensive national paid family and medical leave program, which is critical to ensuring economic security for all workers, including low-wage workers who are disproportionately in this country people of color.
We also announced that we would mobilize at least $12 billion, $12 billion, through the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, or DFC as it’s known, as part of a commitment, a new commitment to invest in businesses that advance gender equity in developing countries and emerging markets. These funds, we expect, will support approximately 15 million women and girls, including from marginalized communities and fragile and post-conflict areas.
To prevent and respond to gender-based violence, the additional – the other topic of interest that we are highlighting – and by the way, this has been a longstanding priority for President Biden – we have proposed a historic investment of $1 billion to fund programs to combat violence against women in – within the President’s budget request for the upcoming fiscal year. And we have committed to launch the President’s – the United States’ first ever, first ever, national action plan to end gender-based violence.
The last point in – within our three areas of focus, we committed to protect and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, which are fundamental, as we all know, to women’s equality at home and abroad. Among other actions we’ve taken, we have proposed resuming the funding of the UN Population Fund, which directly supports the provision of sexual and reproductive health services in fragile contexts. We’ve also proposed an historic $3 billion investment to address the material health crisis in the United States, which has disproportionately impacted black and indigenous women.
These are only a few of the commitments we’ve made at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, and all of those commitments are only a small – a fraction of the work we are committed to doing with this – in this new administration here in the United States to advance gender equity and equality.
With those highlights, we’re happy to answer questions. So Daphne, I turn it over to you.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Ambassador Reynoso, Ms. Klein, for making opening remarks. I’m going to turn the floor over to those journalists who have questions. Please state your name and your media affiliation when I call on you. Our time is short today. We will have a period of about 13 minutes for Q&A. And so I’m going to call on Pearl. Please, limit yourself to one question to start with. Thank you.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much. Hopefully, I can call you Jennifer and Julissa. I so much, very much, appreciate you guys being available today, so I just want to make that comment right at the top.
However, there seems to be some kind of a gap in the understanding. The way the Women, Peace, and Security seems to be structured in the Biden administration is somewhat different from the Trump administration, and already the Trump administration had been lagging behind in this global Women, Peace, and Security issue. So I’m hoping at some point – not today – that we may have more time. We have got – I mean, I certainly have quite a number of questions which can’t be addressed today, but I’m hoping that we – I can reach out to your office later about that.
But my question I have for you for today is, for example, on page six of your report, which talks about the women encountering violent extremism, it only mentions Kenya, Mauritania, Kazakhstan, and Kosovo but makes no mention of Mozambique yet talks about East Africa. Do you have any idea or can you make any comment about women in north – northern Mozambique who are in middle of this Islamic extremism? Thank you.
MS KLEIN: This is Jen. I can jump in. As you rightly pointed out at the outset, we are inheriting the past four years, and there are many issues that not only need to be addressed to sort of restore commitment, rights, et cetera, from the past four years, but also going forward there is so much to do.
So I guess the answer to your first point – not so much question – is happy to continue to talk about the progress. Today is the first day of the launch of the report. Now the work really begins, right?
And second of all, I think really the answer to your question is really your comment, which is that there’s a – this report reflects a lot of work that needs to be done. Mozambique is a perfect example where there’s a lot more to be done, and this administration is firmly committed to continuing to take on these issues wherever they occur. And this is a starting point, not an ending point.
MODERATOR: Thank you. I’m going to next call on the journalist whose hand is raised from Free Eurasia Media. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Ralph Gore from Free Eurasia Media.
Ms. Jennifer Klein, thank you for the briefing. My question is about the U.S. commitment to peace, gender equality, and resolution of conflicts in the former Soviet Union. I see White House highlighted Ukraine, but I would like specifically to focus on the conflict in the South Caucasus, specifically the Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan.
So the question is that what steps the Biden administration can take to facilitate a lasting end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict involving women to peace and advance a Woman, Peace, and Security agenda in the South Caucasus? Does the administration plan to instruct departments and agencies across the federal government to prioritize gender equality and equity in the South Caucasus? Thank you so much.
MS KLEIN: I’m happy to jump in again, but quite honestly only to tell you that we can look into that and get you an answer, because I am not familiar with that particular conflict. I mean, I’m familiar with the conflict, but with our plans to address these – this set of issues within that particular conflict. So happy to get back to you with an answer.
But in some sense, the answer is the same as the one I just gave, which is that this lays out a framework for activity. This lays out what has been done and implementation plans for the future. It’s not intended to cover the waterfront of all of the conflicts that exist in the world where women are either victims of violence or are – need to be meaningfully at the table in solving conflicts and building peace. So the broader answer to your question is that, again, this is a framework, not an exhaustive list of all conflicts that we will be engaged in in the future in addressing this set of issues.
QUESTION: If you don’t mind, I will contact you, contact your team with those questions just to follow up.
MS KLEIN: Happy to do that.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
MODERATOR: Thanks. The next question goes to Kemi. Kemi, can you introduce yourself, please?
QUESTION: Sorry about that. Can you hear me?
MODERATOR: Yes, we can.
QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. Thank you for taking my call. My question is as the other journalist asked you regarding what is going on in Africa. We – there’s a lot of conflicts right now in Ethiopia, and, as we know, Sudan, Somalia, and other Sahel area, and including Nigeria. I was wondering regarding education, what are you doing? If you can talk about your plan regarding providing opportunity for girls, and also regarding holding people, the government, especially Nigeria and other African leaders, holding them accountable.
MS KLEIN: I’m sorry, I think I missed the beginning of your question. Was it about education?
AMBASSADOR REYNOSO: I’m happy to start, Jen.
MS KLEIN: Go ahead.
AMBASSADOR REYNOSO: So one of the priorities for our administration through the work of USAID is education, women – for women and girls. And the budget, our proposed budget, which is historic in terms of the amount of funding that is allocated towards advancing gender equity and equality, but specifically the resources that have been committed towards education of women and girls in particular demonstrates that.
Samantha Power, as our USAID administrator, has a long history of ensuring that there is a clear path towards advancing the progress of women and girls in particular and has – is very familiar with – especially in areas of conflict. So rest assured that education and women’s – girls’ education, both young women but also women in secondary and advancement in terms of educational attainment and the economic security that comes with that – is a priority for the Biden-Harris administration and the folks who are running the different agencies that touch on assistance and policy towards that education, that objective of focus on education as a foreign policy priority.
In a place like Africa in particular, given all the inequities that we’re familiar with, you mentioned Ethiopia. The President has made several – and Secretary Blinken has put forth significant language being – expressing our deep concern with what’s going on in Ethiopia. So you – just be aware that we’re very much monitoring the situation, are very concerned about it, and have taken actions to make sure there is a – there is some process or some policy tools in hand to try to change the behavior of all the bad actors that are currently generating the conflict in the Tigray region in Ethiopia.
So those are just some thoughts. Do you want to add anything, Jen?
MS KLEIN: The only thing I would add is, back on the subject of education, Julissa mentioned the firm commitment to investing in education through USAID in particular. And just another detail on that, which is that, as you probably know, the U.S. just really committed to the Global Partnership on Education, which was where we have contributed in the past, but we have re-engaged in the partnership. And in particular, there is a Girls’ Education Accelerator fund as part of GPE, which the U.S. is also very supportive of and very involved in informing.
AMBASSADOR REYNOSO: I think we have one – time for one more question, Daphne.
MODERATOR: Right. So the next question was pre-submitted. And it – the question is: “Are there specific initiatives that the United States would like to see other countries take to improve gender equality?”
AMBASSADOR REYNOSO: That’s a big one. (Laughter.) I think I can start. I mean, the forum – the Paris forum, Generation Equality Forum was a great place to see the commitments from the host of countries that are participated. Obviously, we are fully back at the table as the administration both in our domestic policy, but our foreign policy in this space. We’re glad there’s so many other countries and governments that are doing the same. We’re going to be, I think, very – we’re very much looking forward to working with our traditional partners in Europe and throughout the world, ensuring that we’re advancing these issues, and especially around economic security and combating gender-based violence and the like.
Beyond the commitments that were made this week, which were important and significant, and a lot of them new, we want to make sure that there is actual implementation and that accountability so that these things, these policies and ideas and commitments are happening and are improving the lives of regular women and regular girls. So that’s something I think we’re keenly interested in ensuring actually happens. Jen?
MS KLEIN: I would just highlight – and these are not exclusive – but I would just highlight a couple of particular things also. One of the things that this world has experienced literally globally in the COVID-19 pandemic is first we had a health pandemic, then we had an economic crisis, and then we had a caregiving crisis, all layered on top of each other. So I participated, for example, this morning in a forum that was focused specifically on caregiving and bringing international not only attention, but to Julissa’s point, real resources to address what is really a caregiving crisis around the world, which has particular effects on women. If we want to actually restore the economic growth and development, if we want to restore women’s labor force participation, if we want to actually value the dignity of jobs that women do around the world in caregiving, we need to actually invest as a world. It can’t be one country doing that. And the U.S. in this instance is in many ways farther behind. We are one of two countries in the world, by the way, who don’t have any national paid family and medical leave. So we – I think as the U.S. we’re mindful of stepping in at this moment with humility, but also really with a lot of serious commitment of policy change and of resource mobilization with partners around the world on figuring out how to how to – sorry to steal the President’s words – to build back better for everyone after this COVID pandemic.
And I will just highlight one other thing, which is just in its initial formation, but as part of that, the U.S. launched with the – at the G7 with G7 partners something called Build Back Better World, which is really being designed right now, but will invest in infrastructure, including human infrastructure around the world. So again, just two examples, but examples where we are looking to join with multilateral partners in the months to come to actually address some of these really tough issues that the – literally the globe has faced together.
MODERATOR: Well, it’s the bottom of the hour, and I want to be respectful of both of your schedules. I really appreciate your willingness to engage with us today.
AMBASSADOR REYNOSO: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Today’s briefing was on the record. We’ll share the transcript as soon as it’s available. And I will follow up with the journalists who had a follow-up question. And I appreciate it. Thank you so much. Good afternoon.
AMBASSADOR REYNOSO: Thank you, everybody.
MS KLEIN: Thank you.