News & Events
Professor Tschirgi Attends Democracy and Gender Meeting at United Nations
On May 4, 2011, School of Peace Studies Professor Necla Tschirgi, attended the Democracy and Gender Equality Roundtable, hosted by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) and the United Nations (UN). The Roundtable took place at the UN Headquarters in New York City, and was opened by the current Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.
The goal of the Roundtable was to focus on the linkages between democracy and the three pillars of UN work: development, peace and security, and human rights, according to Dr. Tschirgi. International IDEA has hosted a series of meetings over the past few years with key partners of the UN to focus on the UN's general approach to democracy building across the globe, and this Roundtable served as a follow-up meeting. According to Dr. Tschirgi, her role at the recent Roundtable was as an expert, with the goal of gaining greater insight into the UN's current democracy assistance policies and programs, especially in light of the current political developments across the Middle East and North Africa.
Connection Between Democracy and Gender Equality
The specific question that the Roundtable sought to answer was whether democracy promotion and gender equality are mutually reinforcing. As Dr. Tschirgi notes, "it has been recognized that women's political participation is essential to enhancing democratic governance; yet, on the other hand, the record of democratic transitions is rather mixed in terms of advancing gender equality." In her opinion, unless serious efforts are made to ensure women's participation in the political realm – through gender quotas in elections and the creation of gender-sensitive political institutions and processes – democratic openings may serve to create further obstacles to gender equality. Accordingly, the Roundtable worked to examine strategies and programs to ensure effective political participation and representation for women. More specifically, Dr. Tschirgi noted that the Roundtable explicitly "examined how the treatment of women in media impacts women's entry, acceptance, and performance in democratic governments, while also taking a closer look at gender-sensitive accountability systems that can work to better reflect women's concerns."
Several academic experts and practitioners from the United States participated actively in the Roundtable discussions, to provide practical and comparative insights about democracy promotion by United States agencies and institutions. Some of the attendees included Ms. Shari Bryan, Vice President of the National Democratic Institute; Ms. Pat Mitchell, President of the Paley Centre for Media; Ms. Emily Jacobi, Executive Director of Digital Democracy; and Mr. Vincent Warren, Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Dr. Tschirgi found two aspects of the meeting particularly notable: the experiences of women from diverse countries that are currently going through democratic transitions, and secondly, the discussion about the role of new social media in enhancing women's political participation.
The Roundtable was a full-day event that included panelists who shared lessons learned from the country level on gender-responsive democracy building. UN entities, international civil society partners, academics, and member states were all present at each panel discussion. International IDEA stated that the overall goal of the Roundtable was to reach agreement amongst all of the partners that key messages for UN policy makers include support for the two following principles: 1) women's participation in democratic institutions is both a means to achieving and an indicator of deepening democracy; 2) women's right are more consistently advanced and sustained in democracies as compared to other political systems.