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Hugo Shorter

British Ambassador to Lebanon

Part of Shoulder to Shoulder UK in Lebanon

8th March 2017 Beirut, Lebanon

#IWD2017: Give women the chance to succeed

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Lebanon is a beautiful country. Its young people are some of the most talented in the world; its workforce one of the best educated; its businessmen amongst the most savvy and its artists among the most creative.
But there is something else I need to say too. Lebanon could do even better.
Because 50% of its population is being held back.
Prime Minister Hariri said it himself last week, at the launch of the Ministry for Women’s Affairs: empowering Lebanese women economically, socially and politically, means empowering all of Lebanon. It was an excellent speech at just the right moment.
Because Lebanon is standing before an opportunity. Elections are approaching in the coming months. And while there are a number of other issues people will discuss on International Women’s Day, there is one key issue which we can do something about now. And that is finally lifting Lebanon from its position near the bottom of the global table for women’s representation. Lebanon should never be at the bottom of the table for anything. I know, and you know, that Lebanon is so much better than that.
Equality is not a British project or a foreign plan. Equality is something Lebanon, along with 189 states worldwide, agreed to when it signed the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. Getting women into politics is something that over 150 Lebanese civil society organisations are rallying behind under the umbrella of the National Coalition for Women’s Political Participation, led by the National Commission for Lebanese Women, a public body.
Women in Lebanon are proving their mettle in all walks of life. They are CEOs of companies, editors of newspapers and university professors. But they are notably absent in politics. 3% of seats in parliament and 3% of ministers in cabinet is simply not representative.
This can change, and the parliamentary elections are the chance to make it happen. According to studies, in the municipal elections 75% of voters who were given the opportunity to vote for women, did so. And 59-83% said they did so because they wanted to encourage women’s participation. The results bear this out: an extra 133 women were elected – but this still represents only 5.4% of council members nationwide.
There is a general consensus that a temporary quota to achieve at least 30% women in parliament is the best way to fix this. Around 90 countries worldwide, including 9 Arab countries, have already implemented a quota law as a necessary temporary measure. When you include the countries where political parties have themselves imposed a voluntary quota – also a valid way to boost representation – this number reaches over 100.
This is not about giving women an easier way out, or about giving them an unfair advantage over men. It is about helping remove the very real, specific obstacles faced by women.
And the success of women who have made it into politics – both here in Lebanon and in my own country, where we now have our second woman Prime Minister – demonstrates that the idea women aren’t up to succeeding in politics is no more than a myth. Over 600 women are now working in local municipalities up and down the country, and they can do the same on the national level.
Think about women you know, women you admire, in your community, in your town, perhaps in your own family.
Women have so much to offer. They just need to be given the chance to show it.

About Hugo Shorter

Hugo Shorter was appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to Lebanon in September 2015. He presented his credentials on 16 November 2016 following the election of Lebanese President General Michel Aoun. This…

Hugo Shorter was appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to Lebanon in September 2015. He presented his credentials on 16 November 2016 following the election of Lebanese President General Michel Aoun.
This is his first Ambassadorial position coming straight from personally advising the Foreign Secretary on a wide range of Foreign Policy priorities as Head of External Affairs for Europe Directorate. In this role he has accompanied the Foreign Secretary on a monthly basis to the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU, helping negotiate EU foreign policy decisions in areas such as crisis management, sanctions and military operations. He has also co-ordinated the UK’s foreign policy work on G7/8, including during the UK G8 presidency in 2013 and the G8 Summit at Lough Erne. This work comes after an early-career focus on defence, security and trade policy, and successful postings as Minister Counsellor for Europe and Global Issues, Paris and Deputy Head of Mission, Brasilia.

Hugo Shorter, like many Lebanese, has a special connection to Brazil, having grown up there and attended school in Rio de Janeiro, before taking degrees at Oxford University and the École Nationale d’Administration.

He arrives in Lebanon with his wife Laura and three children.