Under the leadership of the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, Sweden is formulating a Feminist Foreign Policy with an approach to international affairs based on the three ”Rs”: Rights, Representation and Resources for women, as a way to promote peace and security. The seminar will discuss how to implement these questions in practice.
The seminar was opened with brief introductory remarks by Liisa Laakso, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences.
The keynote speech was delivered by Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden. Ms. Wallström highlighted in her speech that sexual and gendered violence is not a women’s issue but an issue of security and peace for all humankind. It is one of the most serious and challenging issues of our times. To tackle this, Sweden has created a concept of feminist foreign policy. First Minister Wallström set the larger framework for gendered violence after which she continued with the concept and agenda of feminist foreign policy.
Minister Wallström called for holistic and evidence-based approaches to gender and conflict. Governments and global institutions are beginning to realise that they need much more gender disaggregated data and gender analysis in order to ensure effective responses.
Throughout her speech Minister Wallström illustrated the topic with examples. Among these was the crisis in Ukraine, where efforts to apply a gendered approach has proven very difficult due to the lack of relevant data. The conflicts in Syria and Mali serve as other recent examples where there is an evident lack of an integrated gender and conflict analysis.
Setting the Agenda
Gender analysis is as complex as it is crucial. It entails mapping, understanding, and ultimately transforming norms, power structures and gender relations.
Traditional and narrow concepts of security still dominate the global agenda. Minister Wallström explained that there is a clear gap between what people – both men and women – in conflict zones experience compared to high-level discussions that take place in the UN and elsewhere.
The history of women and girls in conflict and war is, until this very day, one of silent suffering in the face of insecurity – even after peace agreements have been signed (by men). This is challenging the very definitions of peace and security. Minister Wallström pointed out that it is more often through personal biographies and fiction from where we gain knowledge of violations committed against women in war and conflict zones, rather than by academic research or Foreign Ministry reports.
As a step forward, a legal shift took place in the 1990’s, notably through the Rwanda and Yugoslav Tribunals, and later at the International Criminal Court, when sexual violence as a war crime was recognised under International Humanitarian Law.
A Feminist Foreign Policy– policy of four R’s
Sweden has developed a feminist foreign policy. It aims at ensuring women’s rights and participation in central decision making processes, including peace building efforts and peace negotiations. It aims at transformative change, based on the conviction that gender equality is not just the right thing to do, but the necessary thing to do, if we want to achieve wider security and foreign policy goals.
Minister Wallström explained that the concept of feminist foreign policy is based on four ”R’s”: Reality check, Rights, Resources and Representation.
Reality check means finding out what really is happening and in what kind of cultural context. By rights, she meant basic rights for women as equal gender. Resources in this respect means applying gender perspective in aid and in any conflict management measures. Lastly, representation means implementation of the gender setting in all levels, both in the high tables and in the monitoring and ground levels.
Minister Wallström emphasised that a changing course will encompass everything from agenda-setting, data-gathering, decision-making, design of interventions, to follow-up and accountability. It will also require commitment at the highest political level.
Minister Wallström noted that she is grateful for having a strong ally in Foreign Minister Tuomioja. According to her, Minister Tuomioja consistently makes the case for gender equality as an indispensable prerequisite for development and progress. Minister Wallström said that Sweden wishes to work even closer together with Finland, in order to push this agenda forward at the global level.
She also called for wider Nordic cooperation in this field; Minister Wallström is convinced that the Nordic countries have important experiences to share. Nordic countries have set a global example of how ensuring women’s rights have benefitted Nordic societies at large, men and women alike.
This year marks the double anniversary of Beijing +20 and the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Security Council resolution 1325. Minister Wallström stated that 1325 has impacted global policies and pushed the issue of gender based violence onto the global agenda.
However, so far resolution 1325 has failed to bring about real transformative change in how we operate with regard to gender in peace building and peace keeping. Minister Wallström warned that today there is a risk that 1325 is evolving into a theoretical exercise, largely seen as an issue exclusively for and by women, rather than a core operational aspect permeating the wider peace and security agenda.
Too few countries have adopted national plans and too few of the plans are being implemented. Consecutive evaluations under the auspices of the Secretary General have shown that implementation remains weak. Evaluations also show that EU-operations have consistently failed to live up to the global undertakings under resolution 1325. Minister Wallström highlighted that EU should set the example and show strong global leadership.
15 years after the adoption of 1325, women are still routinely excluded from peace processes and when they do take part it is often only after extreme efforts on their own part and/or at the mercy of male leaders dominating the process.
Minister Wallström argued that, the goal is not just about ensuring women’s rights per se, but rather ensuring sustainable peace for all.
Knowledge about the structural obstacles to women’s participation in peace building is still too non-existent. However, lack of knowledge is not the main reason. The reason why gendered peacebuilding and peace keeping operations are scarce is because the designers of these operations have failed to actively take gender into account. As a result, Minister Wallström argued, the operations have become gender blind.
The crisis in Ukraine is a case in point. Women represent the largest group of internally displaced people in Ukraine (66 % according to the UNHCR) and a large group of women – their exact number is unknown – remain in the conflict zone.
Peace building is a societal process, it can only be sustained by and through the concerned populations. Peace requires inclusive processes at all levels. Excluding women not only defies the purpose of the process itself, but also robs it of important competences and contributions. Minister Wallström stated that prioritising women’s participation in peacebuilding will be a key element in Sweden’s feminist approach to peace and security.
Today 1,5 billion people are living in fragile states and conflict zones, placing far reaching demands on international peacekeeping and crisis management. Working on the basis of gender analysis as routine, strengthening the collection of gender aggregated data, improving accountability and bringing women to the fore of peace negotiations and peace building will be vital in moving forward.
Marjaana Jauhola, researcher from the University of Helsinki discussed in her comments the feminist point of view and its difficulty especially in international politics, security and diplomacy. She asked what it is that feminism and a feminist approach can offer to the field of foreign policy.
Dr. Jauhola argued that feminism in foreign policy means analyses. It can offer critical reflections on how certain ”given” concepts or tools are embedded in various power relations. A feminist approach in international or foreign policy is far from simplistic or purely technical. However, Dr. Jauhola also challenged the concept. Is feminism always something positive? Feminists have also been challenged to transform their goals and forms of action to be reflective of racism, class and other privileges.
According to Dr. Jauhola, celebration of being world champions in gender equality has created the dangerous myth of assuming gender equality has been achieved in Finland. Jauhola encouraged critical thinking in gender issues in the Nordic countries.
The UN resolution 1325 is a tool in enhancing gender equality in international political thinking. Jauhola highlighted its importance not only in foreign policy but also at least as importantly in domestic political change. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the resolution. 1325 offers a comprehensive map forward, if there is the political will to take it forward. If significant acts are not taken – the message of the resolution will not move on.
Dr. Jauhola concluded by challenging the definitions of a successful peace using the example of ten years of peace process in Aceh, Indonesia. Whereas international relations theories, notions of peace tend to focus on stability and security of the state. Feminist approaches on security, conflicts and post-conflict states focus simultaneously to longer timespan, macro and micro levels of analysis: experiences of the everyday.
This dramatically changes the terms by which successful or sustainable peace is defined. With certain measures, such as the decreased number of violent hostilities, demobilization of armed forces, transforming ex-combatant to politicians and businessmen and number of steps taken in post-conflict legal frameworks and programming, Aceh can be said to be peaceful. However, as Acehnese women legal experts and women’s rights activists pointed out in regional consultation for the global study of the implementation of 1325 in Kathmandu couple weeks ago: the celebrated peace process has major challenges when gender lenses and women’s rights are positioned at the centre of the analysis: The peace process and the international humanitarian aid in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami has fuelled severe new forms of political struggle that use the rhetoric of respectability, Acehnese identity and actively uses the special autonomy status granted for Aceh to target ‘dissident women’. Yet, far from being passive victims or being driven by any outside forces, Acehnese women’s organisations and Islamic feminist scholars have fought for decades for their right to be included in the legal debates, setting political agenda and providing holistic perspectives to tackle multiple forms of insecurity: physical, political, economical and also related to their environmental security vis-à-vis natural hazards, and climate change.
Finally, Dr. Jauhola reminded the audience that feminist foreign policy to succeed, requires sufficient resource allocation and systematic effort to support feminist research and teaching.