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Santiago, 27 February 2015

Address by Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Vesna Pusić during the second panel of the conference "Women in Power and Decision-Making: Making a World of Difference"

Mr Muñoz, minister Heralda, Helen, it was a great idea, actually, to call this meeting together and I feel good and privileged to be able to say a few words here about this. I remember that last year, when I was here during the inauguration of President Bachelet, we discussed this as a possibility and as something very remote. And now you have made it happen, so congratulations – it was a very good idea.

Now I would like to focus on what I see as the second step. All of us around the table, or most of us around the table, have been at this for a very long time. I've done other things in my life, but one thing that has been a constant presence was the issue of women's role in society, in government in particular, and in power, and I've been at it since the 70s.

I think we are now at a point where we need to move from the stage where we wanted to change the gender make-up of government, the gender make-up of business communities and the gender make-up of academics and academic communities, because we have done that. Not to the level to which it needs doing (because obviously it needs to be 50-50), but I think we have done it sufficiently to now open the serious debate about the change of the agenda. Because as Helen said in her introduction, it's not enough to get there. It's great, we all have our histories and it's important that we actually get to and help other women get to positions of influence.

But once you get to the positions of influence, it is important to be able to change the agenda, because this is the real purpose. This is what should be the real effect of women coming into positions of power.

I have here a long list to boast about what Croatia has done and hasn't done. I will omit that and not bother you with it, but we’ve made progress, absolutely. This is far from enough, but it is on the right track. I will instead use my last two minutes to try to illustrate what I mean by changing the agenda when getting into the position of power.

One thing that I think is important is defining what the objective is. Is the objective getting to be the same as men who previously occupied these positions? I think it is not. I think it is rather redefining the problems and instruments through which we achieve goals that are now a little different because they have been completed by the other half of the human population.

So the goals are a little different than they used to be. It’s not just that women have come into positions of power. It’s that they redefine where societies want to go.

One such example is dealing with development issues. In international relations I see two universal instruments: one is development and the other is energy. Depending on whether you’re discussing development or energy, in development discussions you will have a majority of women around the table and in energy discussions you will have a majority of men around the table. I think that both issues are equally important and [that they are] equally important instruments of international relations.

But I will use the example of energy, where very often women have the approach to energy policy and energy safety policy as in the end having affordable heating, cooking gas or electricity, as opposed to approaching energy as an instrument to dominate your neighbors, to politically control them through the power that this gives you.

Ultimately, it was having heating gas that was in the nucleus of the Ukraine issue. All the power stories and power struggles were then added on later. Initially it was Ukrainians not having enough heating gas in winter.

I think approaching energy from this perspective might give us a better insight than approaching it from the direct power game perspective and saying: “This will give us more power over our neighbors.”

I’ve already mentioned development once. I’ve had a discussion with a European colleague of mine, another foreign minister, where we talked about what the importance of development co-operation is. And he said: “Development, yes, great, very important. It’s co-operation in security and military issues and international trade.” I said: “No, this is not how we see this. We see development as primarily focusing on women’s health, education and entrepreneurship.” And the way I looked at him as if I didn’t know what he was talking about was the same way he looked at me as if he didn’t know what I was talking about. This is, I think, an illustration of the difference in approach.

One other thing is the judiciary, and I will stop here then. When we evaluate the functioning of judiciaries in our countries, we do it based on how well they prosecute corruption, which is good and right, or how well they prosecute white-collar crime, which is good and well. But never ever has any judiciary been evaluated based on how well they prosecute sexual crimes or violence against women and how effective they are in prosecuting sexual crimes.

So these are just a few things that I wanted to bring in and raise as an illustration of what changing the agenda might mean. Thank you.

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