Feminist Foreign Policy Starts With Diversity and Inclusion on Campus

The #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter and #WeWontBeErased movements, among others, are emblematic of our collective need to better embrace diversity—and they’re working. Citizens are demanding that their governments foster inclusion, and national policies and plans are being created. Employees are asking businesses about diversity and inclusion policies, and firms are scrambling to answer those questions.

Similarly, students are asking universities for relevant coursework that is inclusive and intersectional—and schools are contemplating how to answer their call. The University Leadership Council on Diversity and Inclusion in International Affairs, launched in November, will help them figure out the best mechanisms to make that possible.

The Council brings together over a dozen deans of top foreign affairs and public policy schools nationwide—including Columbia University, Dartmouth College, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Morehouse College, National War College, New York University, Princeton University, Texas A&M University, Tufts University, University of Denver, University of Minnesota, University of Pittsburgh, University of Texas-Austin and University of Washington—to ensure that curricula address diversity and inclusion issues and examine how to increase diversity among faculty, students and staff. Leaders from these campuses will come together to explore best practices for promoting diversity and inclusion in curricula, composition and culture and empower colleges and universities to prepare future leaders in government, business and the public sector to embrace diversity.

Although there is a strong moral imperative for this work, there is also a powerfully practical motivation underlying these efforts. In the field of foreign policy, there is a growing body of evidence showing that diversity and inclusion can strengthen diplomacy, development and conflict resolution outcomes. But despite numerous legally binding international resolutions, national laws and plans and declarations of commitment in place around the world that call for attention to and equal treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, women, youth, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities and socio-economically marginalized groups, real progress advancing equity and inclusion is sorely lacking.

A case in point: No less than eight United Nations Security Council Resolutions call for women’s inclusion throughout peace processes, and complementing the international laws is accumulating evidence that the exclusion of women in peace processes has a dire cost. The International Peace Institute found that there was a 35 percent greater likelihood that peace accords lasted at least 15 years when women were included in peace processes—yet women were only two percent of mediators, eight percent of negotiator and five percent of the witnesses and signatories to major peace accords between 1990 and 2017.

Despite international law and mounting evidence, women remain severely marginalized in peace processes—in part, because students aren’t learning about the compelling research or the myriad international laws and declarations that are on the books. These courses of study are not providing students with a clear sense of the fundamental importance of inclusion to maximal success in international affairs, and they’re failing to give students the analytical and practical tools to advance diversity and inclusion in their jobs.

Graduate schools are still figuring out how to comprehensively address diversity and prepare students to leverage diversity and foster equity and inclusion in their careers. The core curricula of most programs routinely fail to cover diversity and inclusion issues—and, when included among courses, such classes are usually electives that are limited in scope. The frame for classroom discussion of diversity and inclusion also often focuses on the needs and rights of diverse populations without recognizing how essential inclusion is to peace and prosperity, and without discussing the agency and leadership potential of those communities.

Recent research by New America confirmed that gender issues are rarely addressed in international affairs curricula. Of the 36 graduate programs affiliated with the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs, half don’t offer a single course focused on gender. It is simply impossible to imagine that the newest generation of experts will foster women’s inclusion in peace talks if they don’t know that it is a problem and haven’t discussed how to fix it. Until and unless graduate education evolves to consider issues related to diversity, policy making and programming will not prioritize inclusion.

There is a long road to travel if diversity and inclusion are to become priorities in international affairs. New efforts by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security—among which is the University Leadership Council on Diversity and Inclusion in International Affairs—strive to ensure attention to many dimensions of diversity are addressed in international affairs education, including gender, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, ability status, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Hopefully, change is on the way, and the work being done by Georgetown and leaders across the country will advance the international affairs field by identifying the most promising strategies for improving teaching and learning.

About and

Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace & Security seeks to promote a more stable, peaceful and just world by focusing on the important role women play in preventing conflict and building peace, growing economies and addressing global threats like climate change and violent extremism. GIWPS engages in rigorous research, hosts global convenings, advances strategic partnerships and nurtures the next generation of leaders.
Carla Koppell is a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. She previously served as a vice president with the United States Institute for Peace and as chief strategy officer in the U.S. Agency for International Development.