BRUSSELS — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led a group of powerful women, including presidents and prime ministers, in calling Thursday for a world where women's talents are used as much as men's to make peace and fight poverty.
Rice, speaking at a conference on women's rights, joined an international appeal for a fairer political role for women, especially in addressing the urgent problems of the day — climate change, terrorism, religious fundamentalism and impoverishment.
"In today's modern world, no country can achieve lasting success and stability and security if half of its population is sitting on the sidelines," Rice said.
"We in the international community should make sure that we hear the voices of women and account for their concerns wherever we seek to establish or keep the peace. If we do that, we are actually making the job of keeping the peace easier."
More than 50 participants, including Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of Ukraine, Foreign Minister Olubanke King-Akerele of Liberia and Egyptian first lady Suzanne Mubarak, participated at the talks to promote women's empowerment. International Women's Day is Saturday.
The European Union's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who hosted the conference, said participants agreed to continue high-level talks to ensure that expanding the roles of women stays at the top of the international agenda.
She said they also agreed to push for full implementation of the 8-year-old U.N. resolution 1325, which calls for the involvement of women in conflict resolution.
Many participants, especially Israeli and Palestinian female lawmakers, complained they have been kept out of peace talks by their male counterparts.
"Women should be at the table," said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Israeli lawmaker Amira Dotan said she was eager to work with her Palestinian counterparts "to look for new initiatives, a new way of thinking," to bring peace to the Middle East.
Ana Palacio, vice president of the World Bank, said women also should play a key role in fighting poverty, pointing to U.N. statistics that say 70 percent of the world's poor are women.