You are currently viewing The Evolution and Development of Feminist Foreign Policy 

The Evolution and Development of Feminist Foreign Policy 

Women’s and girl’s rights serve as a barometer of the state in which societies are. However, Feminist Foreign Policy is not only directed at women. Rather, it places a stronger emphasis on people who have been marginalized due to their origin, religion, race, disability, gender, or sexuality. On an international level, it is evident that there is a lack of legal protection for women and marginalized groups in many places, and it is more challenging for them to participate in the decision-making processes of the state and society. 

In the 21st century which has been considered the modern era, women are still suffering from an unequal distribution of pay, no access to education and proper health, and less representation in politics and the economy. They have been pushed back from authoritative positions and have to work in the male-dominated hierarchy. So, to address these issues, the feminist foreign policy provides values and principles with a pragmatic vision and course of action.

What Is Feminist Diplomacy?

Feminist diplomacy is a type of diplomacy and a rising concept in international relations. It urges the states to include women’s rights and gender equality in the foreign policy components, including human rights, economic and trade diplomacy, climate and environmental policy, international development, and peace and security. Feminist diplomacy has its foundation in the evidence that women and girls suffer violation and discrimination of rights around the globe and relies on the fact that achieving gender equality is not just a women’s issue rather it helps all people and countries 

The attainment of women’s rights and equal and full participation in society is not only an international obligation for the members of the United Nations or the Sustainable Development Goals agenda by the UN. Rather, feminist diplomacy is crucial in attaining peace and security in the world as the welfare of the countries and the well-being of women go parallel to the welfare of society. 

Also, Read About Best Diplomats 2023: Uniting Global Leaders for Diplomacy and Women’s Rights

Why We Need Gender Equality?

Women constitute half of the world’s population and also contribute to half of its potential. However, in today’s world, gender equality persists around the globe and has halted social progress. The representation of women in political leadership is still undermined in the 21st century. In some countries, girls start facing inequality since their birth and experience it all their lives. They do have not access to proper education, health care, and nutrition leading to a higher mortality rate. So, to avoid violence and different behavior toward women in society, we need gender equality. 

Gender equality discourages the differences between men and women, specifically preventing violence against girls and women in society. It is important for the prosperity of the economy. The equal distribution of resources and opportunities between men and women leads to a healthier and safer society. It has been observed that gender equality correlates with peace and stability. Countries with greater gender equality are more inclined to abide by International treaties and laws and less likely to use aggression and violence in times of conflict. 

What Is Feminist Foreign Policy?

Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP) is a growing trend, first adopted by Sweden in 2014. Later, other countries joined the bandwagon and started developing FFP. After Sweden, the governments of Luxemburg, Canada, and France adopted the feminist foreign policy and by 2023, 16 countries had incorporated the feminist foreign policy objectives in their diplomacy and foreign policy. 

Lyric Thompson and Rachel Clement defined Feminist Foreign Policy as; 

“Feminist Foreign Policy is the policy of a state that defines its interactions with other states and movements in a way that prioritizes gender equality and enshrines the human rights of women and other traditionally marginalized groups, allocates significant resources to the realization of this vision, and seeks, through its implementation, to disrupt patriarchal and masculine power structures through all of its levers of influence (aid, trade, defense, and diplomacy), informed by the voices of feminist activists and movements.”

The following are the components of feminist foreign policy; 

  • Ensuring women’s and girl’s universal and equal rights and protection from violence.
  • Giving sufficient human and economic resources to achieve FFP objectives.
  • Ensuring women’s participation in all sectors of society including politics and economy.

Also, Read About Yemen Committed to Women’s Empowerment Using Diplomatic Collaboration

Efforts for Women’s Rights at International Level

United Nations established the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 to ensure gender equality. The document says, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms outlined in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, … birth or another status.” Feminist movements grabbed the attention of the world in the 1970s. UN General Assembly (UNGA) organized the first World Women’s Conference in 1975 and declared this year as the International Women’s Year. During the conference, the Voluntary Fund for Women was also established. 

1) Formation of CEDAW (1979)

In 1979, UNGA passed the International Bill of Rights of Women and adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). It includes the setup and agenda to end discrimination against women. The treaty also affirmed the reproductive rights of women. 

2) Birth of Global Feminism (1985)

The World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development, and Peace, was held in Nairobi in 1985. Many referred to this conference as “the birth of global feminism.” The 157 participating member countries adopted the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies to the Year 2000. Further, 15,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) representatives participated in a parallel NGO Forum. The document laid new ground by setting all issues to be women’s issues.

3) Women Beijing Conference (1995)

In 1995, another World’s Women Conference was held in Beijing, China. It established the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which asserted the rights of girls and women as human rights and committed to particular actions to guarantee respect for those rights. 

4) The Commission on the Status of Women (1996)

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) expanded the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to fill the gaps and the problems in the Beijing Conference. The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a significant global intergovernmental body exclusively committed to the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality.   The member states acquire an understanding of additional measures aimed at advancing women’s exercise of their rights in social, political, and economic spheres.

5) UN Women (2010)

On 2 July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)  decided to create a single UN body with a unanimous vote tasked with advancing progress in attaining gender equality and women’s empowerment. The new UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as  UN Women has merged four international agencies and offices:  the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues. 

6) Women and SDG’s 

Women have a crucial role to play in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), recognizing women’s empowerment and equality. Goal 5 of SDGs is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Ensuring the rights of women globally entails significant legal and legislative reforms. By 2014, a record 143 states had enshrined a guarantee of gender equality in their constitutions. 

Also, Read About South Korea’s Struggle for Women’s Rights: A Call for Solidarity

Feminist Foreign Policy In Action

Sweden was the first country to adopt the Feminist Foreign Policy in 2014. After that, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Spain, Luxemburg, and other countries have joined the bandwagon. The world is still in the process of recognizing women’s rights as fundamental rights and adopting FFP in their main Foreign Policy. Here we have a case study of Sweden, Germany, and Spain to see how do have these countries progressed in Feminist Foreign Policy. 

1. Sweden

Sweden was the first country to inaugurate Feminist Foreign Policy in 2014 announced by Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström. The Swedish FFP approach is the most holistic, expanding to all areas of foreign policy and seeking to advance and promote gender equality for its own sake, and in service to other objectives of foreign policy. The Swedish FFP framework encompasses 3Rs which are women’s Rights, women’s  Representation backed with equal distribution of Resources. Sweden is credited with normative legitimacy by many states. 

According to Sweden’s “Feminist Foreign Policy Handbook”: In the pursuit of our foreign policy, it gives us the confidence to have a strong ideological framework for gender equality and the complete support of the political leadership. This has given us sharper instruments to pursue gender equality issues in a variety of forums. The Swedish FFP has three domains; national and foreign security policies, trade and promotion policy, and development cooperation. 

The policy views gender equality as both a primary objective in its own right and an instrument to promote other foreign policy goals.  Its 2019-2022, Foreign Service action plan has identified six external objectives along with yearly updates. The following are the objectives; 

  1. Complete enjoyment of human rights
  2. Freedom from physical, psychological, and sexual violence
  3. Political participation and influence in all areas of society
  4. Participation in preventing and resolving conflicts, and post-conflict peacebuilding.
  5. Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
  6. Economic rights and empowerment

 A seventh objective was identified in 2017 with an emphasis on internal policies and practices of the Swedish Foreign Service.  Additionally, the 2021 plan also took into account the COVID-19 disproportionate impacts on girls and women.

Also,  Read About: How Leadership for Women Benefits Society in the 21st Century

2. Germany

The new feminist foreign policy of Germany is based on the framework acquired by Sweden under the leadership of Margot Wallström in 2014. Following Sweden’s approach, the guidelines of Germany emphasize three main objectives: equal rights for girls and women, equal access to resources for women and girls, and the equal representation of women in all sectors of society (3R; Rights, Resources, and Representation).

These objectives state that Germany will shed light on women’s rights and gender equality in different domains of external sectors, including humanitarian response, peace and security, human rights policy, foreign trade and investment, external energy policy, climate diplomacy, and public and cultural diplomacy. It focuses on increasing women’s share of senior positions. In the Federal Foreign Office, women’s share among director generals has increased from 21.9 % to 36.4 % between 2020 and 2022. As a head of missions, women’s position has increased from 19.4 % to 27.1 %. 

3. Spain

Spain adopted a Feminist Foreign Policy in 2021 and became the sixth country to adopt FFP in their Federal Foreign Policy. The guide to FFP intends the framework for the practical execution of feminist public policy aligned with national and foreign policies and actions to solidify its commitment to girls and women. The aim of Spain’s FFP is to feminist diplomacy and gender perspective into all phases of foreign policies and actions. 

There are 5  principles of Spain’s Feminist Foreign Policy which  are as follows;

  • Within the Foreign Services, structural reform will made to change work culture and institutional practices, while integrating a gender perspective in all actions via a  “transformational approach” for ensuring coherence across all domains of external action.”
  • Strong leadership among its Foreign Services to integrate the foreign policy framework into its management practices and budget processes.
  • Developing coordination mechanisms to increase implementation and ownership of the feminist foreign policy among multiple stakeholders.
  • Strengthening participation and alliance forming to unite efforts of the state toward gender equality, including reaching a consensus on the plan of action with civil society and other related ministerial stakeholders.
  • The concept of diversity and Intersectionality, with an emphasis on gender, ethnicity, religious belief, sexual orientation, place of origin, economic status, and disability. 

The Spanish FFP intends to implement these five principles in various sectors including trade, economics, defense, women’s rights, and climate actions. These principles intend to attain the following objectives;

  • Gender equality throughout all foreign policy instruments and initiatives, in areas such as bilateral relations, climate change, and other areas of foreign policy development. 
  • Gender mainstreaming across regional initiatives by bolstering ties with civil society, alliances, and partners through the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development.
  • Advancement and promotion of women’s participation in leadership and politics,  in the context of peace and security.
  • Advancing gender equality within the framework of the European Union by advocating gender equality instruments and actions, promoting women’s human rights, and developing and executing the EU’s Action Plan on Women.
  • Expanding its existing comments utilizing multilateral diplomacy and supporting actions and agendas on gender equality, enhancing collaboration with international organizations (IOs), and promoting women’s leadership and participation throughout international organizations and agencies.

Spain ratified the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Convention 190 (C190) in the pursuit of FFP, to respect and safeguard the rights of all workers and prevent gender-based harassment and violence and made a tremendous effort to enhance women’s representation in the parliaments and ministries. 

Also, Read About: Healthcare Leadership

Global Challenges Faced by Feminist Foreign Policy

While the concept of feminism has gained acceptance in many societies in various forms but the still the concept of Feminist Foreign Policy has yet to prove itself as a distinct, inclusive, and sustainable movement. The application, practice, and application of FFP is more complicated than just designing and adopting a policy and expecting it to become established and acceptable among societies.  There are many challenges on the way to implementation of FFP. The following are as follow:

1) Measuring Progress

First, there is the challenge faced by FFP is the lack of defining and measuring progress in execution. The announcement of a feminist foreign policy demands increased funding allocation to gender equality but research studies indicate that this is not the case. For instance, Swedish Feminist Foreign Policy is in place but still, its funding commitment fluctuates and is irregular. 

Further, countries that have adopted FFP have advocated the promotion of girls and women’s rights at the international and multilateral forum. However, Mexico has been criticized for not using its tenure on the UN Security Council (2021-2022) for the promotion of women’s rights. 

2) Navigating Opposition

The advocates of a Feminist Foreign Policy have faced a backlash within civil society and government as well.  The idea has gained attention precisely at a time when feminism itself is increasingly being stigmatized, specifically by right-wing populist forces.  For instance,  a new coalition government in Sweden that relies on the support of the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats formally left the country’s feminist foreign policy in 2022. 

Opposition is likely to expand to the positions of the  Foreign Office of Germany and the larger foreign policy formation, specifically to those sectors that have not worked on gender issues traditionally, particularly women’s rights.  Efforts to reorganize the internal recruitment of office and processes of promotion may also push back reform-mindedness and come over bureaucratic inertia. 

3) Reconciling Interests and Values

In the context of a growing geopolitical threat, countries such as Germany represent both an essential and captivating test case for figuring out how to balance a progressive feminist approach to foreign policy with an effort toward a more security- and deterrence-oriented approach.

As many countries consider implementing feminist foreign policies, the current era offers an opportunity for the advocates of civil society and their political allies to communicate and debate the different strategic tactics and visions put forward under the umbrella of feminist foreign policy.

Learn Feminist Foreign Policy with the Best Diplomats

Feminist Foreign Policy has two main agendas; Gender Equality and Women’s Rights. This is an international agenda that aims to deconstruct the male-dominated society and systems of foreign aid, defense, trade,  immigration, and diplomacy that have sidelined women and other minority groups worldwide. A feminist foreign policy integrates into a country’s national interests, moving them away from global dominance and military security to position equality as the basis of a  peaceful world to live in. Best Diplomats is an international diplomatic organization organizing diplomatic conferences worldwide. They provide excellent opportunities for the youth to learn the practice of diplomacy and foreign policy which helps them in their career-making. 

Register Yourself With the Best Diplomats!


The practice of Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP) varies from country to country. International efforts to ensure women’s rights have brought the attention to adoption of feminist foreign policies. The addition of feminist foreign policy in the main foreign policy is still awaiting in many countries. Particularly, third-world countries are reluctant to adopt feminist foreign policy.  FFP demands institutional and structural changes to accommodate the position and ranks of women in higher positions such as the head of missions or the director general. The well-being of the women is central to the well-being of all.  The interaction between global security and gender equality is naturally integrated and requires global attention to ensure the equal rights and representation of women in all sectors of life with the equal distribution of resources. 


How is feminist theory influencing international relations?

The feminist theory of international relations brings attention to women’s rights, experiences, representation, ideas, and activities. It studies concepts like gender identities and gender equality and examines social structures related to gender in all sectors. 

Which country represents itself as the most feminist nation in Europe?

Sweden, the first country to accept feminist foreign policy in 2014, became the most feminist nation in Europe. It has ranked first in the Gender Equality Index in the European Union (EU) with a score of 83.9 out of 100. 

Which country is least in gender equality?

Afghanistan, after the Taliban regime regained power in 2021, became the least in gender equality. The condition of women has decreased significantly, with no access to education, proper health, and jobs. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

Leave a Reply