Ambassador Richard Honors Lebanese Women in Security and Justice

Ambassador Richard at Recrption Honoring Lebanese Women in Security and Justice

U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard held a reception on March 14, to honor and showcase the positive contributions of Lebanese women in security and the rule of law, and to celebrate the dynamic, diverse, and positive roles that women play in society.

The event brought together judges, prosecutors, members of the ISF, and representatives of international organizations and embassies in Lebanon.  Minister of Interior Mashnouq, Minister of State for Women’s Affairs Jean Ogassapian and other representatives of the Government of Lebanon also attended.

In her remarks, Ambassador Richard highlighted the value of diversity in our cultures, including gender, cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity, for building stronger, more stable and more prosperous societies.  The Ambassador added that working with people from different backgrounds and different perspectives enhances everyone’s balance and vision.  She closed her remarks by recognizing the ISF members, judges and prosecutors for their commitment to public service and for serving as role models for younger generations, and underscored that the United States will remain a strong partner in support of security, stability, and the rule of law in Lebanon.

Below are Ambassador Richard’s remarks:

Good evening everyone, and thank you so much for being with us tonight here at the U.S. Embassy in my home.  Welcome.  I’d really especially like to welcome Minister Mashnouq, the Minister of Interior, Minister Ogassapian, Judge Jean Fahed, Judge Samir Hammoud, and of course our dear friend retired General Basbous.  Thank you so much for being with us.  Fellow ambassadors, representatives of international organizations, ISF generals and officials, and judges:  It is such a pleasure to be with you here tonight; so many Lebanese public servants, in both law enforcement and the judiciary.

And although the reason we are gathering here tonight is to celebrate International Women’s Day, I think it is important to recognize the value of all diversity in our cultures — not just gender diversity but cultural, religious, geographic and ethnic diversity.  Inclusion and empowerment of people from different backgrounds, with different perspectives, makes our societies stronger.

All organizations – whether they are local or national, businesses or governments — benefit most when women are given an equal opportunity to excel in positions of leadership.  No organization thrives when it deprives itself of the talents of half the population.  We see that in the United States, we see that in Lebanon, and we see it in so many other parts of the world.   For example, studies conducted by the World Bank show a strong link between the percentage of women in a country who are integrated into business and the economy, and that nation’s prosperity and stability.

Valerie Hudson, a professor at Texas A&M University, is leading an effort to compile statistics- the world’s most comprehensive database on the status of women in the world today.  The project is called WomanStats, and the findings are quite interesting.  We need to pay attention.  One finding is that the best predictor of a nation’s peacefulness is not its level of democracy or wealth, but rather how well women are treated in that society.  Democracies with a high level of violence against women are just as unstable as countries that are not democratic.

As I look around this evening, I am so pleased to see so many women judges, lawyers and those representing the security institutions in Lebanon. So many female police officers from the ISF- thank you for being here with us tonight.

You know, I know that the recruitment process for women in the ISF was delayed for several years due to the civil war, and that a great step forward was taken in 2012 with the recruitment of 900 women.  You are leaders!  As part of our community policing effort in conjunction with the ISF, we have learned that a majority of Lebanese citizens polled actually find female police officers more approachable than their male counterparts.  Citizens believe that female ISF officers are able to perform their duties either “better” or “no differently” than male ISF officers.  These responses prove the earlier point:  that having diversity in an organization actually leads to better performance and makes the organization stronger.

And for the women judges in the room and there are so many of you. And Judge Fahd, thank you for your leadership in bringing women into the judiciary.  It is so impressive to see the contributions that you are making to the rule of law in Lebanon, every day.  I think we recognize that being a judge or prosecutor is not without its risks, including personal and professional exposure.  I congratulate you and your women ISF colleagues for your bravery and for your dedication to public service and for serving as role models for the women of Lebanon.

I’d like to end my public remarks this evening by thanking all of you for your service. We all want our societies to be peaceful and to prosper, and each and every one of you, today, are doing a key part of making that happen.  The United States remains committed to our partnership, to secure Lebanon, to secure this region.  Your security is our security.  We are partners together; we can shape a positive future together.  So thank you so very much for being with us tonight to honor these women in the rule of law, judiciary and the police.  We are delighted to have you here.