Guidelines for Feminist Foreign Policy: a foreign policy for all

Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy Logo

Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy Logo, © AA

01.03.2023 - Article

Societies are more peaceful and prosperous when everyone can play an equal part in political, social and economic life. That is why Germany’s foreign service has given itself guidelines to help it reach these overall objectives.

Being not an end in itself, but a means to an end

Presentation of the Guidelines for Feminist Foreign Policy at the Federal Foreign Office
Presentation of the Guidelines for Feminist Foreign Policy at the Federal Foreign Office© Kira Hofmann/photothek.de

In many parts of the world, people still face structural disadvantages. Feminist Foreign Policy works to mitigate these – and that starts with empowering Foreign Office staff. The guidelines for Feminist Foreign Policy provide guidance to all female and male staff of the Federal Foreign Office, besides encouraging them to reflect on, and get involved in, this issue. They were developed in cooperation with international partners and Foreign Office staff, as well as through an exchange with civil society. By adopting them, Germany is following in the footsteps of other countries, such as Sweden, Canada and Mexico. Foreign Minister Baerbock will present the guidelines this Wednesday.

Women’s rights are a barometer of the state that societies are in. However, Feminist Foreign Policy is by no means directed only at women. Rather, it places a stronger focus on people who have been pushed to the margins of society on account of, among other things, their origin, religion, disability, gender or sexual identity. On a global scale, it is clear that in many places there are gaps in the legal protection of women and marginalised groups, and it is more difficult for them to take part in decision-making processes. There is still unequal access to education, networks and financial resources. To deal with these issues, Feminist Foreign Policy combines principles with pragmatic action.

A collective theme for German foreign policy

Ten guidelines provide both context and impetus for action to Foreign Office staff – both within and outside the organisation. Feminist Foreign Policy, with its focus on women and marginalised groups’ rights, representation and adequate resources, cuts across all areas of activity of the Federal Foreign Office. In the sphere of peace and security policy, for example, the focus is on participation in peace processes; for humanitarian assistance and crisis management, it is about placing more emphasis on intersectional and gender-specific risks; and in the area of cultural and societal diplomacy it aims to promote, and give greater visibility to, marginalised people in art and culture, research and science, education and the media.

The Federal Foreign Office has ambitious goals regarding the allocation of project funds, as well: by 2025, 85% of project funding should be allocated in a way that also acknowledges the needs of women and marginalised groups. That is because it makes a difference whether or not women have a say when, for example, a village in Nigeria that was destroyed by Boko Haram is rebuilt and their needs are thus taken into account. Ultimately, this allows us to achieve greater security for all of society. Also, eight percent of project funds are to be spent with a focus on promoting gender equality.

The only way for external action to be credible is if we also change the way we work in the foreign service. That is why the guidelines address things the foreign service can do to strengthen equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion, as well as to interest a wide range of people with various talents and capabilities in joining the foreign service, with the goal of making it reflect Germany’s modern society that is focused on the future.

It is clear that Feminist Foreign Policy is not a magic wand that can make all obstacles disappear – but it is an important and long overdue step in the right direction. It will continue to be developed through a dialogue with civil society and international partners, as well as adapted to meet new challenges.


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