Irene Santiago: Women are Vital Peacemakers

   •    February 12, 2014

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This article was originally published by The Christian Science Monitor.

As a young woman Irene Santiago came to New York City from The Philippines to study journalism at Columbia University. Today as a world-renowned expert on conflict negotiation and the crucial role women can play in that field she still draws on her reporter’s training.

When she’s searching for an approach to a negotiation, a way to “make sense of all these seemingly unrelated events,” she says, “I write a lead paragraph in my head… It really points you toward a strategy.”

Ms. Santiago is probably best known for her role in negotiating a lasting ceasefire between Muslim separatists and the Philippines government – and for organizing a seminal 1995 conference on women’s issues in Beijing that drew 30,000 participants. Today she continues to champion both causes in her native Philippines and around the world.

“Irene is iconic. She’s one of the few women in history who’ve worked their way into peace talks, and she’s demonstrated the difference women make as they take a humane approach to cross barriers,” says an e-mail from Swanee Hunt, a former US ambassador to Austria and chair of The Institute for Inclusive Security, a think tank on the role of women in diplomacy in Washington, D.C. “Policymakers need to recognize that there are countless Irene’s around the world, expert women leaders who are untapped resources to ensure stability in place of chaos and violence.”

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