Thank you for the warm welcome and introduction.
Hello, everyone. I am Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Thank you for inviting me to speak at your annual event.
As many of you may know, I have the honor of being the first African American Under Secretary in the State Department, and the first woman of color to lead the Office of Arms Control and International Security. I am proud of the administration for their vision of nominating and confirming a woman of color to lead the State Department’s work on issues of “hard security.”
As an African American, a woman of color, a U.S. Air Force Reserve and U.S. Navy Reserve veteran, and a former Presidential Management Fellow, I recognize that I am a barrier breaker and a trailblazer and that it is my responsibility to widen the path for others to follow. I take seriously the role I play in bringing more diverse individuals into the work of foreign policy and international security, and I am excited to talk more about what my Office and the three bureaus I lead are doing to strengthen diversity and inclusion in critical policy issues on arms control, nonproliferation, and security assistance.
By way of background, I lead three State Department bureaus: the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, and the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance. Together, we are called the “T” Family. It would be remiss of me to not mention that two of these bureaus are led by women Assistant Secretaries confirmed by the Senate, which I believe is historic in the international security context. The T Family contributes to the management of U.S. global security foreign policy and drive the interagency policy process in arms control, nonproliferation, emerging technologies, regional security, arms transfers, and security cooperation.
Fostering and sustaining a diverse and inclusive workforce is an important element of the State Department and the T Family. It directly impacts our ability to work with allies and partners to ensure the strength of the United States’ diplomatic prowess. Our return to global leadership under the most diverse Administration is not a coincidence.
Here, at the T Family, the adoption of certain policies and legal frameworks have further helped us strengthen our efforts in recent years.
This includes the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which is the first landmark Security Council resolution on women, peace and security. Adopted in 2000, the Resolution addresses the impact of war on women and the importance of their full and equal participation in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction.
There is the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, which enshrines into law the United States’ commitment to equal opportunity in all aspects of conflict prevention, management, and resolution, as well as post-conflict relief and recovery efforts.
In addition, we are working to systematically integrate racial equity and support for underserved communities in our policy priorities and foreign affairs work, based on a series of Presidential Executive Orders announced in 2021, an order for which our Bureaus provided input.
Every day the T Family strive to increase women’s participation and integration in peace operations, training, and education; better our foreign assistance requirements and compliance; make visible our commitments by delivering keynotes and speeches at multilateral conferences; and include gender and diversity as an important metric and marker for our internal strategic planning.
Going hand in hand with these is Secretary Blinken’s 2021 announcement of my good friend, Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, as the State Department’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. She has been coordinating DEI efforts across the Department and in embassies and consulates around the world, including working with DEIA Councils. The three Bureaus I oversee have established such councils to advance DEI initiatives within the T Family and the broader State Department. They ensure diversity is a part of everything we do at all levels, and furthers the conversation and commitment to diversity and inclusion in foreign policy and international peace and security.
I am proud of our work – the T Family is “walking the talk.” We are “DEIA in Action”.
The progress I have outlined today did not just “spring into action.” It reflects decades of work and the recognition that global challenges are best tackled with ideas and input from diverse perspectives.
Let me share a personal reflection here. I have worked in the field of weapons of mass destruction, arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation since the 1990s (so it has been for some years now!) More than often, I have been the only woman or person of color at the table where decisions were made. But slowly, that has changed. Throughout the years, women have emerged at the forefront of the policy decision-making process, taking the center seat at the table.
In 1997, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright became the first woman ever to serve as Secretary of State. Among her many accomplishments, a few stand out in terms of my Office’s work. First and foremost, she was a stalwart supporter of arms control – she established the Arms Control Bureau, the predecessor to today’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. She had also personally worked to resolve issues related to the implementation of the START 1 Treaty, which reduces and limits the number of strategic offensive arms the U.S. and the Russian Federation is allowed to have.
Years later, two of the very few women predecessors of mine helped create the latest and only remaining nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russia. Former Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller did fantastic work as the lead negotiator of the U.S delegation for New START and the late Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher was an instrumental part of both the negotiation and ratification process for the treaty.
Based on the accomplishments of these women I just spoke about, I can guarantee this: U.S. delegations to future arms control and disarmament treaties will be incredibly diverse.
The precedent had already been set.
From 2009 to 2017, I headed all four delegations to the Nuclear Security Summits and was the U.S. Representative to the G7 Global Partnership Against the Spread of WMD. Leading delegations and maneuvering in male-dominated international spaces was not easy, but it was not new for me or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I mention her because she brought into the Department a number of women experts working in fields to counter weapons of mass destruction. That is how I got started with State Department in 2009 as Coordinator of Threat Reduction Programs with the rank of Ambassador. Secretary Clinton knew more women had to be at the table, and she made sure that happened.
The trend continues.
Last year, I joined Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman and several other women who led the negotiating team for our recent Strategic Stability Dialogue with Russia. Just have a look at the photos of that negotiation team if you are able – you will see the increasing diversity of the American diplomatic corps.
So let me say it again: U.S. delegations to future arms control and disarmament treaties will be incredibly diverse.
Of course, the emergence of women at the forefront of national security and foreign policy did not just happen overnight. We will never know the stories of untold, unsung heroines and hidden figures whose countless hours of working in these areas paved the way for many of us. We can only imagine the struggles, obstacles and challenges they faced at home and at abroad. And we know that many of us continue to face similar challenges to this day – from work life balance and caregiving responsibilities to discrimination, often in the forms of microaggressions and unconscious bias, if not outright prejudice. I will be honest and say that even I face these challenges to this day.
I know you do, too, and I hope you join me in knowing that we cannot and will not, be deterred. We shall continue to identify and recognize diversity and inclusion as a critical component of international peace and security and unlock untapped potentials. Our diversity is our strength, and it will lead to better, more innovative policy outcomes.
I hope you will join me in continually and tirelessly advocating for the inclusion of women in all aspects of peace, international security, disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation. We cannot ignore the importance of lifting each other up as we climb if our foreign policy is to be successful now and in the future.