The are numerous reasons why countries should adopt a Feminist Foreign Policy. Among other things, it creates accountability and resistance to the anti-gender and anti-feminist movements, and provides an opportunity to stand up for some of the most marginalised.
To adopt a Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP) is a signal that a different world order is possible. Policy coherence is important to make an FFP credible, and no areas of foreign policy should be exempt from scrutiny and reform. From the moment a government adopts a feminist foreign policy, a feminist analysis should underpin every foreign policy decision that is taken. The policy must also focus on transformative actions, that addresses the root causes of inequality.
The implementation of an FFP is not done at the moment of declaration, and it takes time to change a whole policy area. But it can be done with a strong leadership, clear ambitions, concrete goals and a transparent process that is possible to monitor in order to promote continuous improvements.
For feminists fighting for equal rights around the world, a Feminist Foreign Policy is an important statement that the governments do not accept the continued violations of women’s rights and will not rest until gender equality is achieved. An FFP should come with genuine and meaningful opportunities to hold governments to account on their promises. Qualitative consultations and dialogue with women’s rights organisations is intrinsic to a Feminist Foreign Policy, but also clear goals and commitments that are possible to monitor and follow up on.
Originally “invented” by Sweden, the three R’s are emerging as a standard among the countries with an adopted FFP. These are the core concepts of a Feminist Foreign Policy, which provide a framework for analysis and implementation that looks holistically at what is needed to achieve more gender equal societies. Women’s and all people’s human rights should be at the heart of an FFP, based on principles of non-discrimination, equality and inclusion. Looking at resources are key, both with gender-budgeting and mainstreaming a gender perspective in resourcing discussions, and in securing funding for the most financially vulnerable and chronically underfunded—women human rights defenders and grassroots women’s rights organisations in the Global South. The representation leg is essential to put a power perspective front and centre—women deserve a seat at every table where decisions are made about their lives and societies. Nothing about us without us!
For women human rights defenders and women peacebuilders, a Feminist Foreign Policy sends the signal that a government is on their side, ready to stand up for them and be their allies in the fight for equality, peace and human rights.
Diplomats will not be the ones to “bring” gender equality or women’s rights, to any context. This will be done by feminists and women’s movements, pushing for change in their societies to achieve get better policies, legislation and changing norms and attitudes. But diplomats can be important door openers for women’s rights defenders and diplomatic pressure can be used to stand up for women’s rights. And this is becoming even more important, with anti-gender movements on the rise.
Anti-gender movements are on the rise in many places in the world, as part of, and fueling, an authoritarian and anti-democratic backlash. There is an alarming global trend of increased efforts to silence the women’s movement and those who fight for gender equality. Silencing the women’s movement is one of the main objectives of disparate forces such as anti-gender movements, authoritarian governments, patriarchal religious structures, community leaders, nationalists and alt-rights. Human rights standards must be defended, in multilateral spaces and in bilateral relations, and countries with FFPs should be committed to this fight.
How are we keeping people safe, both in countries of peace and of conflict? Women’s rights advocates have fought for decades to get the causes of women’s insecurity included in international frameworks, from sexual violence in conflict to domestic violence. Feminist approaches to security also provides a framework of viewing the rise of anti-women, anti-gender and anti-LGBTQIA+ movements as early-warnings to violent conflict. Taking these threats seriously is pivotal to invest the right resources into conflict-prevention in time.
Women’s rights organisations, especially in the Global South, are systematically underfunded, with only fractions of global development assistance aid reaching these organisations and, activists. Financing systems and structures are not set up in a way that benefit smaller, less established organisations, and the opportunities to influence how funding mechanisms are developed are very limited. Yet, local women’s rights organisations are the ones who drive change, demand better legislations and work to transform harmful norms in countries around the world.
A Feminist Foreign Policy should include a system-change approach to transforming the financing structures so that they actually function for local and grassroot—as well as national and regional—women’s rights organisations, women human rights defenders and women peacebuilders. Fund us like you want us to win!