NYU European Horizons: Economic and Social Inequality in Our World as the 2018 Elections Approach

On December 14, 2017, alumni and professionals joined Masters in Global Affairs candidates at New York University at the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library for a conversation on current economic and social issues. Professor Colette Mazzucelli of NYU moderated the discussion and hosted Bani Dugal and Irina Schoulgin Nyoni. Bani Dugal is Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. Irina Schoulgin Nyoni is Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations. The guests spoke of their unique experiences of working toward economic and social equality, and captured the possibility of achieving these goals through a feminist lens. Specifically, they spoke of how the efforts of the Baha’i community and Swedish foreign policies utilize diplomacy to incubate organic notions of equality around the world.

As women become involved in economic and social advancement, there has been a struggle to balance the new roles of working women with the older, more traditional roles that have existed to this point. Some countries have slowly adapted to new combinations of these roles, but many societies still struggle to do so. Bani spoke of such tensions that exist in India, where social backlash has emerged against these changes. In her work with the Baha’i community, Bani explains how she engages in international level discourse to bring awareness to gaps in gender and other types of equality. In contrast, gender equality specifically has become normalized in Swedish society, and Irina has represented Sweden in its efforts to enact a feminist foreign policy by encouraging dialogue in other countries about the “Three R’s”: equal rights, equal representation, and equal access to resources. Both guests highlighted misconceptions around the world that feminism is anti-men and pro-women. However, the ideas of the Baha’i community and Sweden’s feminist foreign policy are meant to represent the needs of the entire population. This work is to ensure lasting economic and social equality for all.

Participants of this discussion seemed to agree that there is a need for equality, in order to create sustainable economic and social security. However, some attendees expressed concern for the pace at which diplomacy can enact change, as well as the appropriateness of foreign influence on the societal change of other countries. The moderator and guests addressed these concerns explaining that frustrations should not hinder people from the social responsibility of engaging with global society. Although current challenges may be daunting, a more hopeful outlook requires that all individuals make small, but significant efforts towards change. In this regard, it is crucial that individuals take action by making conscious decisions to eliminate their own prejudicial ideas. Doing so is difficult and takes motivation that can only be maintained if people focus on actions that they personally believe will lead to change. The discussion concluded with an understanding that diplomacy is helpful in bringing inequality to the attention of those working at the state level. Yet, personal understanding at the individual level will be necessary for ensuring continued societal change.

You can watch the whole conversation on YouTube here.

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