Feminist Foreign Policy in the Asia-Pacific Region an Online International Workshop Program, a Two-Day Immersive Online Discussion Workshop was conducted on 19 and 20 September 2023 by IMPRI, Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi.
Ms. Farida Akhter, the Executive Director of UBINIG – Policy Research for Development Alternative and the President of Narigrantha Prabartana in Bangladesh, conducted an analysis of the concept of Feminist Foreign Policy. This approach, which has been sidelined for many years, is slowly gaining the recognition it rightfully deserves thanks to the collaborative efforts of transnational feminists in the realms of peacemaking, peacebuilding, and peacekeeping. A Feminist Foreign Policy offers a powerful perspective for challenging the entrenched global power structures, such as patriarchy, racism, cultural nationalism, imperialism, and militarism, that continuously expose the majority of the world’s population to enduring vulnerability and hopelessness.
Eurocentrism vs. Global Issues
One crucial point raised during the workshop was the Eurocentric nature of FFP. While the origins of FFP may be rooted in Western countries, it’s essential to adapt and expand its scope to address the unique challenges faced by nations in the Asia-Pacific region. Issues such as structural gender differences, inequalities, and justice are pressing concerns in this context, requiring a broader perspective on FFP that goes beyond gender equality alone.
The Bucharest conference in 1974 highlighted the need to involve women in development efforts, recognizing that population control policies would not succeed without their participation. This historical perspective underscores the significance of women’s engagement in tackling global challenges, including climate change.
Gender Disparities in Climate Decision-Making
Gender disparities persist in international climate decision-making bodies. Women remain underrepresented, especially in high-level committees tasked with delivering climate action. This imbalance hinders the comprehensive consideration of gender perspectives in climate policies. The lack of gender-sensitive approaches in climate negotiations is a global concern.
Efforts to address this disparity are essential. As highlighted during the workshop, women’s underrepresentation in these bodies can limit the scope and effectiveness of climate policies. It’s crucial for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to advocate for more inclusive and diverse representation in climate negotiations, ensuring that gender perspectives are integrated into climate actions.
Challenging Carbon Emissions and False Solutions
A key concern expressed during the workshop was the failure of developed countries to commit to substantial carbon emission reductions. Climate policies that prioritize nature-based solutions and net-zero emissions without concrete actions can be misleading. It’s essential to hold GHG emitters accountable for their carbon emissions and challenge false solutions that perpetuate environmental degradation.
In the context of the Asia-Pacific region, where many nations are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, addressing carbon emissions is a matter of urgency. Rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and disruptions to livelihoods are among the immediate consequences of climate change that disproportionately affect this region. Feminist foreign policy should emphasize the need for developed nations to take responsibility for their historical emissions and support vulnerable countries in adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Ecofeminism and Biodiversity
Ecofeminism emphasizes the connection between the environment, women’s rights, and biodiversity. Women in the Asia-Pacific region often play pivotal roles in defending their communities and biodiversity against extractive projects and the impacts of climate change. Local practices, including climate-resistant farming and forest management, are essential components of sustainable solutions.
Incorporating ecofeminist perspectives into climate policies can lead to more holistic and effective strategies. Acknowledging the crucial roles of women in environmental conservation and sustainable agriculture should be a central component of feminist foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region.
Global Initiatives and Challenges
Feminist foreign policy aligns with global initiatives that recognize the importance of gender equality in addressing climate change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) acknowledges the disproportionate impact of climate change on women and calls for women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in international climate processes. However, there is a need to ensure that gender inclusion is not merely a token gesture but a fundamental aspect of climate actions.
Efforts to challenge the male-dominated and corporate-driven climate agenda are vital. Climate policies should prioritize the needs and experiences of women in the Global South, particularly those in vulnerable communities. Indigenous women, in particular, have been at the forefront of climate activism and environmental protection, demonstrating the critical role they play in addressing climate change.
Ecofeminist Manifesto and Diversity
In June of this year, an Ecofeminist Manifesto was adopted, denouncing industrial and corporate-controlled solutions to food and environmental issues. The manifesto emphasizes the importance of biodiversity and opposes gene editing and genetic engineering in crops and animals, which are often driven by corporate profit motives.
Diverse food systems, seeds, economics, cultures, and languages are essential for promoting sustainability and resilience in the face of climate change. The manifesto calls for a transition to local, biodiverse ecological systems that work in harmony with nature, recognizing that diversity is a source of strength.
Feminist foreign policy offers a valuable framework for addressing global challenges, including climate change. However, its success in the Asia-Pacific region hinges on its ability to adapt to the unique needs of the region. Recognizing the intersection of gender issues, climate change, and biodiversity is critical for crafting effective policies. FFP should not be a means to an end but a pathway to a more just and equitable world, where all voices are heard, and all solutions are genuinely sustainable.
As nations in the Asia-Pacific region grapple with the impacts of climate change, a feminist foreign policy that promotes inclusivity, diversity, and environmental sustainability can lead the way toward a brighter, more resilient, and equitable future.
Acknowledgement: Rehmat Arora is a research intern at IMPRI.
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