FEMINIST FOREIGN POLICY: Is this Our Only Hope for Peace?
Stephen Colegrave speaks to Kristina Lunz, co-founder of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, on why we need to fundamentally alter the lens through which we view foreign policy and how it is conducted.
Kristina Lunz has a huge job on her hands. Foreign policy must be one of the most male-dominated bastions in our society today, from policy-makers to diplomats to the military and armaments trade.
However, change is starting to happen. In 2014, Sweden became the first country in the world to publicly adopt a feminist foreign policy. Since then, Canada has taken up its ideas and it is also beginning to make an impact in France, Spain and Germany.
Sweden’s feminist foreign policy involves making domestic and global gender equality issues a central focus of the government.
“A feminist foreign policy means questioning the very power structures and assumptions foreign policy is based on,” explains Kristina, co-founder of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy – a research and advocacy organisation dedicated to promoting a feminist foreign policy across the globe.
But, towards the end of the second decade of the 21st Century, the overwhelming male dominance of structures and power in foreign policy is still overpowering.
Sweeping Away the Old Power Structures
Kristina has never shirked from a challenge or from injustice.
Growing up in a small village in Franconia, Germany, she was the first in her extended family to go to university, when she went to study global governance and diplomacy at Oxford. But, Kristina was as much an activist as an academic.
As part or her studies, she looked into the correlation between the sexualisation of men and women in the media and sexualised violence towards women. When she returned to Germany, as an activist she launched a petition to stop sexualised images of women at Bild Zeitung, Europe’s most widely read newspaper.
163 million women were killed by violence in the 20th Century.Valerie Hudson, Professor of International Affairs at Texas A&M University
Kristina has first-hand experience of working internationally on initiatives focusing on gender equality and women’s participation in peace-building, including working for a local NGO in Bogota on women’s participation in the Colombia peace process, and in Yangon for the United Nations Development Programme, working on gender equality, peace and security as part of the development process of its five-year strategy for Myanmar.
This, and the research she did for Scilla Elworthy’s Business Plan for Peace, convinced her of the need for a paradigm shift in foreign policy that for centuries had been created around a male-centric view of the world.
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“I don’t believe that men and women are biologically different,” says Kristina, “but society has conditioned masculinity to be associated with power, money and violence leading to the fact that most violence in society is perpetrated by men.”
It is clear that Kristina wants much more than an incremental increase in the number of women involved in foreign policy and all within its scope. She wants to completely change the lens through which foreign policy is viewed and planned. To sweep away the old power structures and architecture, because “policies are only as good as people behind them are diverse”.
Millions of Women Killed by Foreign Policy
There is strong evidence that the current way of conducting foreign policy has killed millions of women.
A few years ago, in an interview with Gloria Steinem, the actress Emma Watson made a chilling claim: “More lives are lost from violence against women, sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, suicide, egregious maternal mortality, and other sex-linked causes than were lost during all of the wars and civil strife of the 20th Century.”
Investigation into these figures indicates that the scale of women’s lives lost in the 20th Century is indeed more – or on the same scale – as lives lost by the participants (mainly men) in wars and conflicts.
A feminist foreign policy means questioning the very power structures and assumptions foreign policy is based on.Kristina Lunz, co-founder of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy
Valerie Hudson, Professor of International Affairs at Texas A&M University, in her book Sex and World Peace estimates that 163 million women were killed by violence in the 20th Century, versus 153 million deaths as a result of 53 wars and conflicts in the same period. Other academics have come up with higher figures for deaths in conflicts – perhaps as high as 200 million – and the data is not definitive for either statistic. However, the scale of female deaths is harrowing and certainly a significant enough reason for a complete change of how foreign policy is conducted.
What a Feminist Foreign Policy Looks Like
So, what does a feminist foreign policy look like?
It starts from a completely different place. Traditional male-centric foreign policy is outward, elitist, and aggressive. It is all about self-interest and conducted for and by the dominant sector of society. It is not interested in the marginalised or the abused at home. It separates foreign from domestic.
In Sweden, Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has applied a systematic gender equality perspective throughout Sweden’s entire foreign policy plan. This feminist foreign policy involves making domestic and global gender equality issues a central focus of the government. It focuses on improving women’s and marginalised groups’ experiences and quality of life. It is not about building armies or power, which it believes only makes people more vulnerable.
Traditional male-centric foreign policy is outward, elitist, and aggressive.
This is certainly the antithesis of foreign policy as exercised by the Foreign Office in the UK, whose very building is a constant reminder of Empire and Palmerstone’s gunboats.
But, the figures for women killed from violence alone call for disruption and revolution not incremental change. If we were starting with a blank sheet of paper today, in a world where gender, race and diversity should be equal, this is how we would construct a fair and effective foreign policy.
So, let’s be feminist and follow Sweden’s lead and support Kristina on her quest.