THE HOT TAKE
Feminist Foreign Policy – another fad or substantial progress?
We need more political will!
by Yixu Zhou, Department of Political Studies, Queen’s University, Canada
Feminist foreign policy has gained momentum in recent years. Several countries have adopted foreign policies that they characterize as explicitly feminist: Sweden, Canada, Luxembourg, France, Mexico, Spain, and Libya. These countries have made significant progress in promoting gender equality in their foreign policies.
For example, Sweden has included gender equality as a key priority in its development cooperation policies, and Canada has launched a Feminist International Assistance Policy that aims to address gender inequality in its development initiatives. During the first term of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, himself a self-proclaimed feminist, Canada modeled representation by appointing the most diverse cabinet in Canadian history at the time, ensuring gender parity within the body.
“Canada is more enthusiastic about the economic side of development than it is about FFP. Sweden has also been criticized for its arms trade with Saudia Arabia, which has a notoriously poor record on human rights, particularly women’s rights.
However, it is worth noting that the Canadian focus on feminism was on poverty eradication rather than equality. Canada believes that women’s advancement and empowerment can be effectively achieved by closing the gap between rich and poor. This may mean that Canada is more enthusiastic about the economic side of development than it is about FFP. The Canadian government’s delay in its FFP white paper makes it difficult not to suspect that it has a more specific and comprehensive plan for proceeding with its FFP.
Sweden has also been criticized for its arms trade with Saudi Arabia, which has a notoriously poor record on human rights, particularly women’s rights. Critics argue that Sweden’s arms trade with Saudi Arabia contradicts its feminist foreign policy and undermines its commitment to human rights. This highlights the challenge of balancing foreign policy priorities and the need for countries to ensure that all aspects of their foreign policy are consistent with their commitment to gender equality.
Additionally, adopting a feminist foreign policy has increased awareness about gender inequality in foreign policy, resulting in higher funding for women’s rights and gender equality initiatives. However, significant challenges remain. One of the main challenges is the lack of political will in some countries to adopt a feminist foreign policy, which leads to inadequate resources and funding for gender equality initiatives.
“Countries like Sweden and Canada should take a leadership role and avoid contradicting the FFP philosophy in practice.”
It is also essential to address opposition to feminist foreign policy by recognizing that gender inequality is a global issue that affects everyone. Promoting gender equality in foreign policy is not about prioritizing women’s rights over other issues but is about recognizing that gender equality is necessary for sustainable development and international peace and security.
Although feminist foreign policy has made significant progress in promoting gender equality in foreign policy, it still faces several challenges. To realize its full potential, feminist foreign policy requires more political will and funding to ensure that gender equality is fully integrated into foreign policy. Exemplary countries like Sweden and Canada should take a leadership role and avoid contradicting the FFP philosophy in practice, which could lead to a decline in support and confidence in FFP. It is undisputed that FFP is more than just a passing fad. As a global idea is on the rise, people are supporting it and taking actions, although not nearly enough.
The best way to reduce poverty and inequality
by an anonymous contributor
A feminist foreign policy questions the traditional understanding of state security and calls for a people-centred approach to security and peace. In Canada, this approach recognizes that supporting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is the best way to build a more peaceful, more inclusive and more and more prosperous world. The essence of feminist foreign policy is essentially based on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. In fact, Canada’s feminist international assistance helps protect and promote the human rights of all vulnerable and marginalized groups and increases their participation in decision-making.
That clearly isn’t ‘another fad’ – it’s substantial progress.
Feminism goes beyond the popular perspective on the subject. Meaning that a large number of people merely view feminism as a movement established to turn women against men or simply fight men. However, the core ideas and beliefs of feminism are to achieve equal, social, political, and economic rights for women. Considering the fact that almost all contemporary societies are constructed on patriarchal beliefs, it is necessary for feminist voices to be heard and understood in order to create a safer environment for everyone because freeing those who are oppressed means freeing everyone. Discussions on gender equality within international organizations started to occur a long time ago.
However, it is important to know that there has been little employment of the notion of feminism within the work of states’ foreign policy or the language of international institutions.
Gracefully, this is starting to change.
As an illustration, according to the millennium development goals report of 2015, over the past three decades, the world has made significant progress in reducing poverty which has led to higher income, broader access to public goods and services and a better standard of living for many of the world poorest citizens. Comparatively, millions of people are still suffering from the persistence of poverty and inequality, exacerbated by violent conflicts and the effects of climate change. That is the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo where women are being constantly abused and raped as a method of war.
Thus, investing in women and girls is the best way to reduce poverty and inequality.
A New Dimension for Global Governance
by Hannah Romkema, a Canadian student of Political Science and Global Development
Some commentators argue that feminist foreign policy is simply a superficial trend that will soon fade away. They argue that it is a response to popular pressure and a desire to be seen as progressive, rather than a genuine commitment to gender equality. Moreover, they suggest that it is unlikely to have any meaningful impact on the lives of women, either nationally or internationally, and that it risks distracting from more pressing issues.
However, I suggest that this view fails to fully appreciate the potential of feminist foreign policy to bring about real and lasting change.
For one thing, it is worth noting that this approach is not merely symbolic, but is often backed up by concrete policy initiatives that aim to promote gender equality in a range of areas, from trade to diplomacy. Moreover, feminist foreign policy can help to raise awareness of the importance of women’s rights and gender equality, both domestically and internationally, and encourage greater engagement with these issues across different sectors of society. Its main goal is to transform the practice of foreign policy to the greater benefit of women and girls everywhere. It has the potential to impact a country’s diplomacy, defence and security cooperation, aid, trade, climate security, and immigration policies.
“A feminist foreign policy reenvisions a country’s national interests, moving them away from military security and global dominance to position equality as the basis of a healthy, peaceful world.”
A feminist foreign policy reenvisions a country’s national interests, moving them away from military security and global dominance to position equality as the basis of a healthy, peaceful world. Implementing feminist foreign policies would deliver for women in practice, not only on paper, and would address entrenched gender norms, stereotypes, and gender-based violence.
Furthermore, feminist foreign policy has the potential to challenge some of the gendered power dynamics that underpin international relations. By highlighting the ways in which women are often marginalized in global politics and diplomacy, and by advocating for their inclusion and empowerment, this approach can help to promote more equal and just international governance. It can also help to shift the focus away from traditional modes of power and influence, towards a more inclusive and collaborative model of global leadership.
“A powerful and progressive approach to global governance that has the potential to challenge entrenched power structures.”
In conclusion, while feminist foreign policy may still be a relatively new and evolving concept, it is much more than a passing fad. Rather, it represents a powerful and progressive approach to global governance that has the potential to challenge entrenched power structures and promote greater gender equality and justice. As such, it is an approach that should be taken seriously and supported by policymakers and activists alike.
A Novel Rendition of Imperialism
by Oliver Moore
Feminist Foreign Policy is most certainly another fad. It is, at the very least, a novel rendition of imperialism. An FFP supposes that states meddle in the business of third-world countries so as to promote Western values. This is done with little to no regard for the pre-existing belief systems or cultures that remain present within these developing states.
This respectful submission does not mean to suggest that the gender dynamics within such states are morally permissible. No, instead, this submission suggests that those who cantilever feminist foreign policy tread carefully in their never-dying support.
“To gain gender equality to the extent that much of the West has achieved will require a significant overhaul of the values on which societies sit.”
Perhaps the empirical example of Canada is emblematic of the point here. The political suffrage of women in Canada ended in 1918 when they received the right to vote. Since that time, the secularity of Canadian society has seen a significant decline. Hence, the point here, in large part, is that gender dynamics are tied to the social and cultural pillars of a given society. To gain gender equality to the extent that much of the West has achieved, therefore, will unequivocally require a significant overhaul of the values on which the society sits.
Imperialism is defined as a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force. Is this not what a feminist foreign policy is? Gender equality is perpetuated in the West, whilst such a policy goes so far as to recommend that such a moral standing ought to be perpetuated beyond the confines of the West. Furthermore, gender dynamics are not wholly societal zeitgeists. Indeed, there are ties to long-standing religious institutions. Again, what does the feminist foreign policy suppose ought to be done here?
“Should the West seek to rip those roots out of the ground to
perpetuate its agenda, so be it, but it should very know what it is doing.”
Perhaps Western states ought to undermine the religious doctrine within a society, on the account that their views are of a higher moral order. Recall that the church and state only separated some centuries ago, at least in the West. Notwithstanding, the church presides with a firm grip on the social norms in non-western states. Thus, insofar as Western states seek to change the gender dynamics of their less developed counterparts, so too do they seek to change the fundamental societal pillars.
Again, gender equality is a morally praiseworthy objective – at least from the Western perspective I am privy to. However, one ought not to forget the appendages that come with gender equality and a foreign agenda seeking to change the social regime of a given state, which is rooted in beliefs and culture. Should the West seek to rip those roots out of the ground to perpetuate its agenda, so be it, but it should very well know what it is doing.
A Well-Meaning Promise Unfulfilled
by Thanina Maouche
It is with great sadness, imbued with a lingering, yet fading, optimism, that this essay contends that, in its current formulation, feminist foreign policy will only yield unfulfilled initiatives, despite its hopeful beginnings.
A number of democracies sought to implement this seemingly propitious program. Yet, governments’ feminist foreign policy frameworks often fail to clearly and consistently define what exactly are their objectives, how they will achieve them, and what their long-term approach consists of. While Sweden identified foreign and national security policies, development cooperation, as well as trade as its three key objectives, other countries, like Canada, only presented an indeterminate, vague roadmap. Practically, in 2017, Canada vowed to dedicate 92% of its foreign assistance to gender equality and has implemented the Equality Fund, towards which $300 million of its budget in the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act were sent.
Theoretically, though, Canada has failed to define what its feminist foreign policy means, as it simply broadly calls for more gender equality with the aim of reducing poverty and building women’s economic agency.
If the two most acclaimed states leading the birth of feminist foreign policy have such diverging approaches, other countries are doomed to misalign themselves with one of them, or produce even more unfocused plans.”
Unlike Sweden, Canada’s approach is marked by a profound dearth in devotion, as it does not aim to “disrupt” the patriarchal power structures complicit in the subjugation of women. Canada’s more traditional application of the FFP model fails to address the underlying, often persisting power dynamics, legal frameworks, and social inequalities embedded in the cultural, political, and economic fabric of the global south. If the system is left intact, with no retribution, then not only are there concerns that the funds allocated towards women and girls will not actually reach them and, instead, be squandered by elites. But there are also questions as to how effective or sustainable Canada’s contributions will be in the long term. Thus, if the two most acclaimed states leading the birth of feminist foreign policy have such diverging approaches, other countries are doomed to misalign themselves with one of them, or produce even more unfocused plans.
This inadequacy was present in states’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Though many increased, by millions, the amount of foreign aid and assistance to countries of the global south and to non-governmental organizations, their approach was often gender-blind, rather than focused on helping women and girls specifically.
“The fight for women, girls’ rights and equality with men deserves more than a band-aid. Otherwise, not only will the wound o gender-based violence, discrimination and injustice never heal, but it may even enlarge if not properly attended to.”
Because the virus illuminated so many challenges, including food insecurity, inequitable access to water or vaccines, overpopulated shelters, and so forth, northern countries preferred to adopt an all-encompassing response, rather than one tailored to women and girls. As a result, they were unable to prevent rising rates of domestic violence, both domestically and internationally, nor were they able to ensure the consistent education of girls, who often had to prioritize domestic labor, over their educational attainment. As such, while FFP works towards subverting gender-blind policies and decision-making, aiding women living in low-income settings, promoting the sexual and reproductive health of women, and eliminating the gendered division of labor, its implementation suffers from its incongruous and incomplete execution.
After all, the fight for women, girls’ rights and equality with men deserves more than a band-aid. Otherwise, not only will the wound of gender-based violence, discrimination, and injustice never heal, but it may even enlarge if not properly attended to.
The Extinction of Feminist Foreign Policy: Canada vs. Sweden
by Shay Raval, Queens University
Throughout its tenure, the global FFP movement has created large strides in the positive direction of policies tailored to the advancement of women by creating linkages that enable women bureaucrats working in the state to connect with women’s movement actors working outside the state. This is illustrated through the historical landscape of how Feminist Foreign Policy continues to trailblaze its inclusive policies into global and national institutions.
Though Feminist Foreign Policy continues to make waves across the globe with its inclusive political framework ‘centered around the wellbeing of marginalized people and invoking processes of self-reflection regarding foreign policy’s hierarchical global systems’, certain societies continue to vilify the movement as an opposition to natural order.
And many states ‘act’ as if they are inclusive of the policies the FFP produces; however, they choose to go about how they implement these policies in different ways. This is illustrated by the difference between the Canadian and Swedish FFP.
“Canada’s FFP is not a progressive movement, rather it is simply yet another social movement waiting to be forgotten.”
Canada merely uses the FFP as a tool to advance other social factors within the nation. It has not produced true feminist policies as there is a linkage break between what is conceived as a policy and what is truly implemented in Canadian society. Continuously, Canada’s FFP relies heavily on short-run fixes rather than creating holistic plans that allow for short, medium and long-run policy implementation; it does not allow for civil society actors to create change. Given these constraints within its feminist policies, Canada’s FFP is not a progressive movement, rather it is simply yet another social movement waiting to be forgotten.
“Sweden’s FFP presents a liberal feminist outlook foreign policy, which can work within existing national and international structures to enact change.”
Sweden’s FFP holds a more traditional approach than that of Canada. For Sweden, gender inequality is the central problem that feminist foreign policy must address. Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is a continuation of domestic commitments, international agreements, and its membership in international and transnational bodies. Its policy works by systematically mainstreaming feminist understandings into the workings of state bodies, human rights discourse, and political institutions. It presents a liberal feminist outlook on foreign policy, which can work within existing national and international structures to enact change.
Though Sweden’s approach truly defines the Feminist Foreign Policy approach, its government has found that the mere FFP name has become more important than what it truly stands for, fundamental change in marginalized populations.
Ergo, is the FFP truly a global force or is it merely a driver towards a larger social objective?
Another Eurocentric Fad
by Cordelia Jamieson, Political Studies Department, Queen’s University, Canada.
FFP as a conceptual practice is symbolic and performative, lacking any solidified basis for tangible change. A state’s adoption of a gender-sensitive foreign policy agenda allows that country to contribute to international and collective pressure, lead by honourable example, and constructively guide governmental and non-governmental champions of gendered policy implementation.
Ultimately, it makes that country look really good.
Unfortunately, this grandiose performance without sustaining a long-term agenda or intersectional approach blinds the state to its own superiority complex and its policy becomes synonymous with bellicosity, self-interest, and imperialism. This association voids any policy motive and renders progress selfish and ideational.
“Intersectionality is a necessary pillar of gendered policy, which FFP is notably lacking.”
Intersectionality, outlining simultaneous oppressions and providing an analysis of the compounding effects of race, gender, and class discrimination, is important in understanding FFP implementation. Intersectionality is a necessary pillar of gendered policy, which FFP is notably lacking. Power is relational and inextricably tied to the societal construction of gender and identity.
Foreign policy is largely considered within the realm of hard power and hypermasculinity, emphasizing the use of strong-arm tactics and larger performative displays of power. Intersectionality is inextricably tied to empowerment discourse and ultimately empowerment should not be a short-term or superficial fix to inequality, but rather requires broader, long-term engagement with social, political, and economic inequalities.
Evidently, identifying and deconstructing structural inequalities that restrain the inclusion and equality of women in the political arena is a lengthy process. However, “foreign policies seldom survive changes in government”, making it intrinsically challenging for any foreign policy to have a lasting impact and sustain cross-party transitions considering varied party approaches and stances on the prioritization of a feminist foreign policy agenda.
Canada’s lack of long-term and consistent engagement with non-Western states showcases the country’s efforts as Eurocentric and void of intersectionality. Canada ultimately needs to be more concerned about the Westernized overtones of their FFP implementation and develop strategies to mitigate those international concerns, which is something that has been strikingly absent.
It’s neoliberalism, not feminism
by Giuliana Iacobucci, Department of Political Studies, Queen’s University, Canada
Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP) shows a markedly performative venture into equalizing the field of International Political Economy (IPE). Its performative nature is displayed in its neoliberal foundations related to economics and its essentializing nature, effectively minimizing the importance of feminism in the international arena by reducing this radical ideology to one that is palatable by working within current systems of power and privilege.
Feminist Foreign Policy is a framework that reflects on existing power structures within the global system by acknowledging the well-being of marginalized groups and provides an intersection approach to security, as well as aiming to dismantle the patriarchy, heteronormativity, capitalism, racism, imperialism, and militarism.
“The emphasis on economic advantage echoes sentiments of neoliberal thought. FFP uses feminism as a way to further the neoliberal agenda, placing distinctly capitalist and masculinized notions on women.
Canada’s FFP does not exemplify FFP and feminism as a whole due to its imbued ideas of neoliberalism. Canada’s FFP aims to include marginalized groups in political, economic, and social participation. This emphasis on economic advantage echoes sentiments of neoliberal thought. For example, Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) states that women and girls have transformative effects when allowed to participate economically, shown in increased economic output where women’s participation increases GDP by as much as $12 trillion within a decade.
FFP uses feminism as a way to further the neoliberal agenda, placing distinctly capitalist and masculinized notions on women. While aiming to dismantle systems of oppression, FFP uses neoliberalism as a function of capitalism to bring about liberation, despite the system in question being the current oppressor. FFP aims to include women in the international economy, without actually acknowledging the very real and structural processes that dictate women’s economic participation like the gender pay gap or the double shift. Instead of changing the system, FFP aims to reform the very systems it aims to dismantle, effectively reducing its activist praxis to one that is performative instead of transformative.
By depoliticizing feminism through neoliberalism and turning it into a paradigm of market-based outputs, FFP removes the ability to solidarize women and essentializes their experiences. Instead of grounding FFP in bottom-up, intersectional understandings which it claims to do, Canada’s FFP shows its motivations of increased neoliberal participation, furthering an agenda aimed to reinforce capitalism instead of pursuing goals that would benefit women. This reduces FFP to another neoliberal policy. Without understanding differences in sites of power and privilege, FFP reinforces it by catering its policy in an essentializing way, which will only benefit the most privileged, widening the gap between them and the most marginalized serving to split women up.
“The use of the state in its masculine form cannot dismantle systems, it instead reinforces the private and public distinction, furthering the divide between high and low politics to reduce the roles of men and women to traditional spheres of influence.”
In academia, Feminist Policy Analysis (FPA) uses essentializing discourses regarding the state, showing its performative nature. FPA is confined to state-centrism and has only just begun to move away from North America and Europe to include non-state actors. The use of the state in its masculine form cannot dismantle systems, it instead reinforces divisions between women and men, effectively essentializing experiences. Focusing only on the state reinforces the private and public distinction, furthering the divide between high and low politics to reduce the roles of men and women to traditional spheres of influence.
FFP cannot dismantle structures while using current manifestations of the state. If women are seen as belonging to the private sphere because of the dominant understanding of the state, their liberation will never be achieved. FFP uses discourses of feminism to undermine the system, but does not do so because of the analytical tools it aims to add onto feminism; this reduces the saliency of feminism as a whole, using the façade of feminism as a way to further essentialist notions within the international system. It reduces feminism to a palatable ideology instead of one that radically breaks down systems of power and privilege.
FYI, FFP is more than a hashtag
By an anonymous contributor
There have been observable milestones met in the prioritization of women’s rights and gendered lenses when addressing global issues over the last decade. For instance, the combined donation of over $10 billion in foreign aid for the purposes of gender equality and the United Nations resolution 1325, which solidifies the role of women in peace and conflict resolution, provide clear examples of this. However, these milestones are significantly undermined when influential countries claim to adopt feminist foreign policies that are more performative than effective.
“A feminist foreign policy prioritizes the rights, treatment, health and security of women as indicators of the stability of a state.”
The adoption of a feminist foreign policy includes several commitments and responsibilities. These commitments include approaches to international issues and aid that not only target gender inequality but also seek to acknowledge and transform the structures and gender norms that create these inequalities in the first place. A feminist foreign policy also prioritizes the rights, treatment, health, and security of women as indicators of the stability of a state and as focal points in domestic and foreign aid initiatives.
“Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party used women politicians as tokens of diversity and repackaged pre-existing foreign aid as their monetary commitment to a feminist foreign policy.”
Although there are several countries which have claimed to have included these commitments in their foreign policy, few have genuinely adopted these key principles. Canada, for instance, under the leadership of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party, have considered themselves champions of progressiveness for women’s rights, all the while neglecting critical components that constitute a true feminist foreign policy. A country which has the means to contribute to substantial progress in global feminism has instead made feminist foreign policy appear as a fad. In order to appeal to progressive voters, they have used women politicians as tokens of diversity and repackaged pre-existing foreign aid as their monetary commitment to a feminist foreign policy.
Simultaneously, Canada refuses to take instrumental steps to the restructuring of global gender dynamics by failing to address the role that neoliberalism has played in the subjugation of women and ignoring the perspectives of minority women who are often most affected by gender stereotypes. A refusal to both acknowledge and commit to challenging traditional masculine foreign policy and global patriarchal structures makes countries like Canada complicit in upholding gender inequality across the globe.
“Alternatively, Sweden includes a commitment to disrupting the patriarchy both domestically and
internationally. Sweden has solidified their belief that achieving gender
equality is a goal in itself.”
Alternatively, countries like Sweden not only include the aforementioned cornerstones of feminist foreign policy, they also explicitly include a commitment to disrupting the patriarchy both domestically and internationally.
Sweden’s policy also includes a crucial distinction that transforms feminist foreign policy from a mere fad to the potential for substantial progress, and that is, the concept of feminism for its own sake. While Canada’s Prime Minister has suggested that a feminist foreign policy is the “smart thing to do” for the economic benefits of the country, Sweden has solidified their belief that achieving gender equality is a goal in itself. This distinction separates the idea of using women as a means to an end and pursuing gender equality for the betterment of women globally.
Overall, it is critical to acknowledge the subtle differences between what constitutes a country’s pursuit for genuine progress in global gender inequality and what can be considered as merely pandering to voters as a campaign initiative. Comparing the attitudes and commitments of Canada and Sweden clearly demonstrates how these distinctions can be the difference between a comprehensive and intersectional feminist foreign policy and treating women’s rights as a trend.
The Injustice of Feminist Diplomatic Politics
By an anonymous contributor
Some scholars argue that feminist foreign policy is necessary to achieve lasting peace and to recognise the importance of gender in conflict and post-conflict situations. For example, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a political think tank associated with the German greens, argues that feminist foreign policy is essential to building peaceful societies because it recognises the gendered impact of conflict and promotes gender equality in post-conflict reconstruction. It is also argued that feminist foreign policy has the potential to improve women’s rights in countries with a history of gender discrimination.
It is undeniable that the process by which feminist foreign policy was proposed and promoted did increase funding for women’s rights organisations and the inclusion of a gender perspective in peace negotiations, leading many to focus more attention on gender equality, human rights and the empowerment of women and girls, among other things.
However, its effectiveness and impact in practice is questionable.
“Feminism itself is divided into many different schools of thought. The development of women’s rights has also evolved differently from country to country. These different groups have different understandings, which should give rise to different types of feminist foreign policy.”
The Royal Society of Canada raised concerns about the implementation of Canada’s feminist foreign policy, arguing that it lacks clear goals and indicators to measure progress. There is also criticism that feminist foreign policy is a Western-centric approach that ignores the perspectives of women in the global South. Some critics argue that feminist foreign policy tends to prioritise the promotion of Western-style feminism over the lived experiences of women in other parts of the world.
Feminism itself is divided into many different schools of thought, such as liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, radical feminism, and postmodern feminism. The development of women’s rights has also evolved differently from country to country. For example, women’s rights in China came from women’s participation in the violent revolution fought for as part of the proletariat in the last century. These different groups of women have different understandings of women’s rights, which should give rise to different types of feminist foreign policy.
It can be seen that there are indeed countries where women are still clearly oppressed due to historical legacies or religious factors, so would they want the same feminist foreign policy as the one exported by the developed world? This is a very important question. Women’s rights should grow and be fought for in different ways in different regions, countries and cultures, and successful experiences cannot be directly copied and pasted for use. And if developed countries like Canada and Switzerland insist on using their own feminist foreign policy to influence the values of the rest of the national community, the results are not necessarily good and can even bring unimaginable unrest within other countries.
The Lack of Feminist Foreign Policy Internationally
by Charles Lidsky, political studies student at Queens University
Throughout history, men have dominated policy-making, especially in times of crisis.
This was most recently apparent in the administrative meetings between Ukraine and Russia, as the entire council was comprised of men. Society has grown to incorporate everyone’s opinions on certain topics; however, this has not been noticeable on an international level. For instance, many believe that women should be included in resolving the dispute, as peace accords tend to last longer, on average, when women are involved.
The push for feminist foreign policies seeks to implement equality-based legislation which benefits women. Sweden was the first country to include a feminist foreign policy, the Swedish Foreign Service Action Plan for Feminist Foreign Policy, based on liberal feminist approaches to rights, representation, and resources. As with many policies historically, it has spawned from developed nations and inspired many within the G7 Summit to follow suit. While only a dozen countries have followed the example, there have been negative responses, which demonstrated that feminist policies might be hard to implement on an international scale. Those who oppose the implementation of feminist foreign policies have made substantial efforts to counteract the incredible contributions of these developed nations.
“Those who oppose feminist foreign policies have made substantial efforts to counteract the incredible contributions of these developed nations. Sweden has experienced the strongest backlash of any country.”
Sweden has experienced the strongest backlash of any country that has installed feminist foreign policies. For instance, when the first IKEA location was supposed to open in Morocco in 2015, it was denied doing so. The north-African nation was not supportive of the policies which Sweden enacted, and subsequently acted in protest.
Sweden would not budge, and this threatened its economic relationships with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE as well. Sweden previously had an especially strong relationship with Saudi Arabia, engaging in arms deals. After being denied from addressing the Arab League, Sweden severed this relationship in support of their policies. Canada, on the other hand, did not follow suit and provided about $15 billion of armored vehicles to the country, with the knowledge that those vehicles might be used to internally repress certain citizens, contradicting the values of feminist foreign policy.
Unlike the US, Canada has been one of the leading contributors to equality-based policies, but they have oriented their missions towards reducing poverty. Immigrants have remained some of the poorest citizens. Many of these citizens have come from countries which entirely oppose these policies, effectively repressing female individuals. About 45% of Canada’s average annual immigrants have been women; however, in areas which place specific legal barriers on emigration, the proportion of female citizens is 36%. This figure demonstrated that while Canada has promoted feminism, they are not targeting the countries where women are oppressed the most. Instead, these women are more likely to stay in countries which exploit them for the sole purpose of retaining power.
“A substantial reason for the lack of substantial progress towards global feminist policies is that the current international hegemon, the United States, has enacted legistlation that negatively affects women.”
A substantial reason for the lack of substantial progress towards global feminist policies is that the current international hegemon, the United States, has enacted legislation that negatively affects women. Regions in the United States have criminalized abortions, and, in 2017, Trump cancelled the funding towards any clinic that performed the practice. Since the United States is currently the major global force, they have had the ability to set precedents for legislation. Instead, they have resorted to punishing women, and Canada and Sweden have had to fill this gap.
Feminist foreign policy has become a priority for many countries in the last decade. Substantial progress has been made in these developed countries. However, that has not been reflected in the majority of the world. As policies continue to develop in various countries, these values will become common around the world.
It is the responsibility of the global powers to ensure that every action is taken to implement these policies.
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