Feminist Foreign Policy: Challenges and Pathways

The Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI) hosted Feminism: Theory and Praxis, a Three-Day Immersive Online Certificate Training Course. The program laid emphasis on the practical application of feminist principles, providing participants with actionable insights into translating feminist theory into real-world action at both individual and societal levels. The overarching aim was to empower participants with the knowledge and tools needed to actively contribute to dismantling gender-based inequalities and fostering more inclusive and equitable societies. 

Integrating Feminist Principles in Global Diplomacy

The second speaker of the day was Dr. Vahida Nainar whose presentation on Feminist Foreign Policy provided a comprehensive exploration of the integration of feminist principles into global diplomatic strategies. The session covered two main themes: Women, Peace, and Security, and Trade and Economic Cooperation, offering insights into challenges, possibilities, and potential pathways for progress. 

The discussion began with an examination of foreign policy as a mechanism for nations to guide their diplomatic interactions globally. Dr. Nainar outlined the various factors influencing foreign policy, such as geography, finances, politics, and the behaviors of other nations. 

The incorporation of feminist principles into foreign policy was then explored, focusing on intersectionality, commitment to peace, gender-sensitive economic development, and the “3 Rs” – Rights, Representation, and Resources. Specific examples were provided to emphasize the commitment to universal human and women’s rights, the need for genuine representation beyond symbolism, and the push for equitable resource allocation. 

Promoting Gender Equality in International Relations

The session moved beyond theory, addressing tangible challenges and possibilities within feminist foreign policies. Issues spanning peace and security, human rights, trade and economic cooperation, humanitarian emergencies, trans-border interactions, and health and climate concerns were discussed, presenting a realistic view of the global challenges at hand. 

A significant portion of the presentation critically examined conventional foreign policies within the Women, Peace, and Security framework. Dr. Nainar highlighted the inherent militaristic approach and the prioritization of state security over human security. Concrete examples, like the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, underscored how protecting women’s rights could be strategically used for geopolitical motives. 

A detailed analysis of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and National Action Plans followed, revealing nuanced successes and challenges within the Women, Peace, and Security agenda. Country-specific examples from Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Afghanistan illustrated how the implementation often fell short of feminist visions, emphasizing the need for a holistic and sustainable approach.

Transitioning to the second thematic area, Trade and Economic Cooperation, Dr. Nainar provided an in-depth exploration of the barriers hindering women’s economic participation. Specific examples elucidated the gender gap in access to technology, unequal land ownership, and limited access to formal credit, offering a pragmatic view of the challenges faced by women in the region. 

The feminist foreign policy approach towards trade and economic cooperation emerged as transformative. Dr. Nainar emphasized the necessity of dismantling structural barriers and addressing root causes, citing examples from cultural norms and family laws to social constraints. The intricate intersections of these issues demanded a comprehensive and nuanced approach for meaningful change. 

Despite acknowledging the sociopolitical realities of highly militarized and patriarchal societies, Dr. Nainar remained optimistic about achieving the goals of feminist foreign policy. The session concluded by underscoring the pivotal role of advocacy, women’s rights activism, people’s movements, and civil society mobilization in driving incremental advances toward a more inclusive and gender-sensitive approach to global challenges.

Acknowledgment: Reet Lath is a Research Intern at IMPRI.

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