What does feminist foreign policy mean?

More and more countries around the world are calling their foreign policy ‘feminist’. The concept has been discussed in Finland, too. Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto will convene an international conference at the House of the Estates in Helsinki in November, discussing foreign policy that promotes gender equality.

The Netherlands, Spain, Canada, Luxembourg, Mexico, Germany, France and Chile are among the countries that are already embracing the concept of feminist foreign policy. Even more countries are interested in it. However, in Sweden, where the concept was first launched, the recently appointed government is giving up feminist foreign policy.

There is no clear-cut definition of what constitutes a feminist foreign policy, and different countries give the concept their own meaning. However, as a rule it means the mainstreaming of the participation of women and girls in all areas of foreign policy and empowering them in decision-making. Countries with feminist foreign policy often base their foreign policy on the three Rs: rights, resources and representation. One such country is Germany that added a fourth element, diversity, to their definition of feminist foreign policy.

The rights of women and girls and their participation in society are keys to a well-functioning democracy. That is why it is important to promote gender equality even by means of foreign policy. Feminist foreign policy is a demonstration of strong support for the rights of women and girls especially in a world where these rights are constantly under attack, for example, by the anti-gender movement that has gained ground in recent year. Transforming foreign policy into a feminist one has been seen to support gender mainstreaming in all dimensions of foreign policy and its day-to-day implementation.

While Finland does not officially embrace feminist foreign policy, the promotion of gender equality has been at the heart of the different dimensions of Finland's foreign policy already for years. However, Finland must adopt a more courageous and systematic approach to promoting gender equality in its foreign policy if we are to sit at all the global tables where gender equality issues are being discussed. Finland cannot rely solely on our historical reputation as an advocate of gender equality; instead, we must be able to show new ways to promote gender equality.

Sharing best practices benefits everyone

Drawing on the recommendations the Foreign Ministry received from the Advisory Board for International Human Rights, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto called a conference for 16 November to discuss the promotion of international gender equality and the concept of feminist foreign policy.  The conference at the House of the Estates in Helsinki will discuss the content and means of a foreign policy that promotes gender equality and share its lessons and best practices. The conference also aims to spark more discussion on feminist foreign policy in Finland. In addition, an independent review of the realisation of gender equality in Finland’s foreign policy will be presented in the conference. The review is being carried out at the initiative of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The conference will also feature a panel discussion, “Is Finland’s foreign policy already feminist?” The discussion is directed especially at the Finnish audience and the panellists are Finnish Members of Parliament who will be discussing feminist foreign policy from the Finnish point of view.

The conference will be streamed live on the website of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The stream link will be published later.

Text: Ambassador for Equality Issues Katri Viinikka, Senior Adviser for Gender Equality Katja Tiilikainen and Project Assistant at the Unit for Human Rights Policy Katariina Salo.