An open letter by Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto, former Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations in Geneva, and Michael Møller, former Director-General of UN Geneva, both IGC co-founders.
When we launched International Gender Champions in July 2015, we envisioned building a network of global leaders committed to taking actionable steps to advance gender equality, both within their organizations and through their programmatic work. At the launch event, Director-General Møller stated, “Together, our actions have a truly global impact, making a difference for peace, rights and well-being for all people across the plant. We have a special responsibility to capitalize on this potential for greater gender equality.” Ambassador Hamamoto added, “Because what is important is that we are all working together, supporting each other’s efforts, and by doing so, sending a powerful message to the International Geneva community, that collectively, we feel these issues should be prioritized in our work.”
During the second half of 2015, what the world saw was a formidable, albeit diverse, group of organizations and countries coming together, in record time, in the name of gender equality. What we Champions saw was possibility and hope for a future where gender equality is the norm. In less than one year, we had grown to 100 Gender Champions, and now, in our fifth year, we currently have more than 250 Champions located throughout Geneva and our five IGC hubs. Our Impact Groups are driving systems change, our Global Board provides vision and oversight, and our new partnership with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) as Secretariat is bringing organizational support as well as enhanced collaboration, creativity and innovation. To date, our Champions have made more than 1,000 S.M.A.R.T. commitments that have spurred meaningful and measurable progress for women around the world.
We are very grateful to our inaugural group of Champions. Thank you for joining us in leading the way - changing workplace culture, writing historic declarations, rewriting international standards, tackling unconscious bias, shaping gender-neutral policies, demanding gender disaggregated data and increasing opportunities for women to showcase their expertise through the Panel Parity Pledge, practically driving single-sex panels out of existence. Thank you for helping solidify the foundational structure of the initiative and for demonstrating both to your teams and to the outside world that breakthroughs are possible. Over time, IGC has been able to provide an increasingly powerful platform so that we can build on our successes, accelerate progress and share proven best practices to a broad audience.
Naturally, many of our early Champions have moved on to new posts around the world. Today, there are more than 160 “Alumni Champions” who continue to provide leadership on a wide range of issues in government, international organizations, civil society and the private sector. This new initiative will enable us to reengage with our Alumni and build stronger connections throughout our IGC family.
The current COVID-19 outbreak has made it abundantly clear that the entire world must come together in order to successfully contain this global pandemic and limit the number of lives it claims. COVID-19 has also made it abundantly clear that, once again, women are being disproportionately impacted and face a higher risk in terms of health outcomes and social and economic consequences (see COVID-19: What Does This Mean For Gender?). If world leaders are able to unite against this unprecedented global health threat, we would be wise to leverage this spirit of cooperation to address other pressing global issues such as the climate crisis, nuclear disarmament, and of course, gender equality.
With this in mind, we are hoping to reconnect with our Alumni Champions, many of whom have continued to push for a more equitable landscape and more gender-sensitive policies and practices. We would like to encourage their ongoing engagement with IGC so that we can provide a valuable digital platform for highlighting their gender-related work to an engaged international audience, strengthen their ties to our global network of leaders and broaden and deepen our collective impact. We understand how difficult but also how essential it is to bridge differences in cultures, interests and priorities so that we can stand united for one common cause: we are Champions for change, and we won’t stop until gender equality is the norm.