Today’s increasingly complicated and volatile global environment necessitates out of the box solutions. The feminist foreign policy model allows for a promotion of values and good practices to achieve gender equality, to potentially influence the wellbeing of millions of people through a rethink of diplomatic relations. While some countries have already incorporated this gender perspective into their foreign policy, there is still much room for improvement.
To explore the possible tools and methods to advance feminist foreign policy, GLOBSEC organized a roundtable discussion under the umbrella of the CEE Her Initiative. We invited three experts to discuss key challenges as well as possible improvements to a widespread adoption of this policy.
- Lorea Arribalzaga Ceballos, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain in the Slovak Republic
- Denisa Koterec Frelichová, Director General, Directorate-General of the Minister, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic; former Ambassador of Slovakia to Norway and Iceland
- Samuel Ulfgard, First Secretary, Embassy of Sweden, Vienna
Led by: Kevin Karabin, Director, Strategic Forums, GLOBSEC
In Sweden, feminist foreign policy commenced at the forefront of political discussions in 2014. After many years of promoting gender equality and human rights nationally and internationally, Sweden became the first country to pursue feminist foreign policy in the world. Driven by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sweden also developed feminist foreign policy handbook to serve as a resource in international work for gender equality and all women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights.
In 2021, Spain has pledged to adopt feminist foreign policy, making gender equality and empowerment of women as an essential part of their international area of interest. Spain’s new Strategy for External Action includes the active promotion of gender equality as a cross-cutting principle and a fundamental axis of Spanish foreign policy. Currently there are 280 women diplomats, constituting 30% of the overall number and two ambassadors that are specifically focusing on feminist policies.
Despite Czechoslovakia made a considerable progress back in 1919 adopting women´s voting rights early on compared to other European countries, it was followed by a period of stagnation. Nonetheless, with a new political leadership in 2020, gender equality has become a significant issue on the agenda. Although Slovakia has still a long way ahead, gender-related issues have become part of the compulsory trainings for policy officers and diplomats. With the new set of ambitions among the political leaders, it seems promising that the country will keep pushing and progressing forward.
The way forward: Obstacles and opportunities for women
One of the main obstacles when pursuing feminist foreign policy is generally the negative perception of the word “feminist”. There is a considerable lack of a proper definition and education among societies on what the concept really stands for. Public perception of feminism is often misleading. In reality, feminist foreign policy calls for the promotion of values and good practices to achieve gender equality for all. There is an increasing need to re-define the concept by manifesting its true positive connotation. This, however, will only be achieved through appropriate promotion and education of societies on the true meaning of the concept.
It is also important not to overlook the stereotypes associated with the “traditional role of women”, which unfortunately still prevail in our societies. The jobs in foreign service, which to a large extent determine personal life, are usually associated with men. Here again, addressing the stereotypes and talking about their deceptive meaning is key in overcoming them publicly.
Feminist foreign policy to large extent also manifests the need for equal opportunities. Women and girls around the world are still subjected to systematic discrimination and subordination. Everyone should be able to reach their full potential. In this light, an appropriate pipeline to help and advance personal growth is necessary. Paving a way for equality by focusing on mentorship, support, non-discrimination, mandatory trainings on mainstreaming gender perspectives as well as capacity building on women´s leadership, will be the key for further advancement.
To learn more about feminist foreign policy and female empowerment in national and international affairs, visit the CEE Her website.