War college holds conference about women, peace and security

An annual conference is being held at the U.S. Naval War College to discuss empowering women in conflict prevention and peace.

The fifth-annual Women, Peace and Security Conference is taking place at the college's campus in Newport on Thursday and Friday. It's the only U.S. military academic program specifically related to the topic, according to the war college.

About 70 leaders from academia, the military and non-governmental organizations are attending.

The inaugural conference was held after President Barack Obama released the first national action plan in 2011 to advance women's participation in preventing conflict and keeping peace.

Mary Raum, a national security affairs professor at the war college, said she's trying to amplify their agenda so they don't lose traction, and she'd like to see reform in higher education so there's a solid curriculum for women, peace and security issues.

"It's imperative for global peace and security," said Raum, who planned the conference.

Rosa Brooks, a professor at Georgetown Law, said empowering women is not about "helping women."

"It's about helping all of us," she said. "It's about winning wars instead of losing, having peace instead of conflict. It's about succeeding instead of failing."

Research shows that the likelihood that peace agreements will last longer increases when women are involved in negotiating them, and gender inequality is one of the top predictors of conflict within and between states, said Brooks, an expert on national security and the changing nature of warfare.

The audience included Judy McLennan, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women under President George H.W. Bush. McLennan said it's vitally important to have more women at the UN, especially in the role of interviewing refugees. Some female refugees wouldn't tell their story to a male interviewer, she added.

The keynote speaker is Leymah Gbowee, a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. She led a women's peace movement that helped end Liberia's civil war in 2003.