You are here: A feminist approach is self-evident and necessary

Three years ago I launched the world’s first femi­nist foreign policy. It was based on the Swedish Government’s firm conviction that gender equal­ity is not only a goal in itself but also a means of achieving other goals – such as peace, security and sustainable development.

Sweden’s feminist foreign policy uses all available foreign policy tools for gender equality and for the full enjoyment of human rights by all women and girls. It is a systematic approach to ensure that we apply a gender perspective in everything we do. It is an analytical tool for making informed decisions. And it is an agenda for change, which aims to increase the rights, representation and resources of all women and girls, based on the actual circumstances where they live.

Three years after the policy was launched, we can see that it has changed the Swedish Foreign Service’s way of working. It has made its mark at the multilateral, regional and bilateral levels, and in relation to all the objectives of the Foreign Service’s action plan. Here are a few examples of how we now address some of today’s challenges:

  • Conflict: Between 1992 and 2011, women made up just nine per cent of negotiators and four per cent of signatories to peace agreements. Sweden promotes inclusive peace processes in a number of countries, and has launched a Swedish and Nordic network of women media­tors. As a member of the UN Security Council, we are pushing for the full implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. We promote the prevention of violent conflict as a priority throughout the UN and EU, emphasis­ing the need for this work to be underpinned by gender-sensitive analyses. We also push for the involvement of women in the design and imple­mentation of early warning systems.
  • Mass displacement: An unprecedented 65.6 million people have been forced from their homes and over 141 million people depend on humanitarian aid. This ongoing tragedy is aggravated when the humanitarian response is gender-blind. Humanitarian actors must take account of the different challenges for women, men, girls and boys. As chair of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies, Sweden contributed to 67 part­ners making 310 concrete commitments. One of Sweden’s own commitments is to fund only those humanitarian actors that base their work on gender-disaggregated data.
  • Gender-based violence: Sexual and gender-based violence is used as a tactic of war and ter­rorism. Sweden’s approach is to raise the issue continuously in the Security Council, including by introducing such crimes as a specific listing criterion for targeted sanctions. We also support the International Criminal Court, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and partner countries in their efforts to counter impu­nity and to promote the integration of a gender perspective at all stages in the work against radi­calisation and violent extremism.
  • Shrinking democratic space: The last decade has seen a constant decline in global freedom, particularly in relation to respect for the rule of law, freedom of expression and civil society space. This trend poses a dual threat to women human rights defenders, journalists and others, since they are targeted both for being vocal and for being women. Sweden has put emphasis on protecting human rights, particularly freedom of the press, as well as respect for the rule of law and democ­racy. We also invite women’s organisations and NGOs to UN Security Council briefings.

We recently reviewed the policy – the findings are available on www.government.se. What we found is that change is possible. And change is badly needed at a time when hard-won gains for gender equality and women’s and girls’ enjoyment of their human rights are regressing, as the World Economic Forum’s new Global Gender Gap Index and many other studies show. A feminist approach is a self-evident and nec­essary part of a modern view of today’s global chal­lenges. It is about harnessing all potential, including entire populations, and leaving no one behind.

Photo: Rick Bajornas. Copyright: UN Photo.