By Ellen Wulfhorst
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sweden's top diplomat has a question: "Where are the women?"
Taking a seat on the United Nations' influential Security Council, Sweden will use its clout to press its feminist foreign policy, Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said on Monday.
That policy, coined when Wallstrom took office two years ago, seeks equal rights, decision-making roles and fair allocation of resources for women.
It is of major significance in peace negotiations, Wallstrom told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Sweden took its seat this month on the Security Council, which has 10 members elected to two-year terms along with five permanent members - the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia. Its key responsibility is maintaining international peace and security.
"Our instinct is to ask, 'Where are the women? Are they represented? Are they around the table?'" Wallstrom said during a visit to the United Nations. "This will be consistently something that we will bring up."
She cited a lack of women's involvement in efforts to find a peaceful transfer of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Colombia, meanwhile, found a way to end its 52-year civil war by making a concerted effort to include women, she said.
Women were seated on both sides of the negotiating table, and gender issues were addressed in Colombia's peace agreement - an initiative U.N. Women described as the first of its kind.
Having women at the negotiating table increases the chance of a peace agreement lasting 15 years by 35 percent, according to U.N. Women.
"You cannot have sustainable peace if you exclude half of the population," Wallstrom said.
"It's still the unfinished business of our time to make sure women have their rights and their representation and their resources looked after."
She pointed to the work of the Nordic Women Mediation Network, a year-old effort that links women from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and trains them to participate in peace processes.
"We want to expand that to other parts of the world," Wallstrom said. "We don't want to hear the argument again that there are no women mediators or negotiators."
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, additional reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Alisa Tang. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)