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Diplomacy

When Canada hosted first-ever meeting of women foreign ministers, Japan sent a man

Foreign Minister Taro Kono found himself the only man at a photo session dominated by women

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 September, 2018, 11:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 September, 2018, 11:15am

Female foreign ministers meeting for the first summit of its kind have vowed to bring a “women’s perspective” to foreign policy.

The two-day meeting bringing together more than half of the world’s top women diplomats in Montreal, which began Friday, focused on topics such as conflict prevention, democratic growth and eliminating gender-based violence.

“This meeting represented a historic occasion,” Canada’s top diplomat Chrystia Freeland said.

“This is not about creating a pink ghetto. This is quite to the contrary. This is about highlighting the importance and the role and the rights of women and girls in the world.

“It’s about talking about the ways women in leadership positions can be particularly engaged in championing those rights.”

The ministers will share their takeaways from the talks during meetings taking place as part of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.

The diplomatic chiefs from 17 countries promised to meet regularly – albeit informally – within the next year.

“We planted a seed that will grow into I believe a plant with beautiful flowers,” said European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, who co-led the meeting with Freeland.

In addition to Freeland and Mogherini, the conference brought together ministers from Andorra, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Namibia, Norway, Panama, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, South Africa and Sweden.

On Friday, Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono was the only man in group photo on the first day of the Montreal meeting.

Kono took part in some of the events. He attended the meeting to highlight the “positive stance” of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration in promoting measures to empower women, Jiji Press reported.

However Abe’s cabinet is largely dominated by men: it has only two female ministers.

At the end of the summit Saturday, a dozen of the participants symbolically placed flowers on headstones erected in a Montreal park to commemorate 14 women killed in 1989 at the Ecole Polytechnique engineering school.

The killer, who targeted women in what was classified as a hate crime, wounded 14 others.