Melanne Verveer, most recently the United States ambassador at large for global women’s issues, is the new executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, which officially opened Feb. 21. Verveer had been appointed to the government post, the first of its kind for the country, by President Obama when it was established in 2009.
The creation of the Georgetown institute was first announced in 2011, when the secretary of state then, Hillary Clinton, introduced the US national action plan on women, peace and security during a speech at Georgetown. The plan is in accordance with a United Nations resolution mandating a broad range of gender equality rights.
Verveer, 68, is a graduate of Georgetown and a close friend of Clinton, who is 65; both have roots in small-town Pennsylvania, with Verveer from Pottsville and Clinton’s father originally from Scranton. Verveer was chief of staff for Clinton when she was first lady during the presidency of her husband, Bill. Verveer’s undergraduate degree from Georgetown was in languages and linguistics; she has a graduate degree in Russian as well from the university. After working in the White House, Verveer was chairwoman and one of two chief executives of Vital Voices Global Partnership, a women’s rights nonprofit group.
In an interview with Politico summing up her work in the ambassadorial post, Verveer said her main accomplishments were new institutional “guidance” tools for the US State Department to enhance women’s rights there. Most important in this regard, she added, was President Barack Obama’s issuing a memorandum recently to make the ambassador at large post that she has left a permanent entity in the State Department.
Verveer expressed regret, however, that during her government stint the US had still not ratified the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, shortened to Cedaw. The US, Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan and Tonga are the only countries of 187 UN members who have yet to sign on to Cedaw, which aims to “ensure the full development and advancement of women” and extends its anti-discriminatory provision to all areas of economic and social life. The agreement was sent to the Senate for confirmation 32 years ago, where it has sat there since.
Verveer explained briefly the focus of the new Georgetown institute in an interview with the university, saying it would be a center for research and scholarship that could, for example, record the roles of women in diplomatic corps, who have often been “written out of history,” she said. Some research, she added, will study women’s contributions to preventing conflicts, peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction –”what happened in a given country where women were at the peace table, what difference did they make, what could have happened that didn’t happen?
“There are reams and reams of questions that need to be asked.”