February 21. 2024. 7:10

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Germany embraces feminist foreign and development policy

Germany has presented a new plan for a feminist foreign policy, prioritising political and financial support for projects that defend and advance women’s rights, gender equality and participation of women in policymaking.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said the policy shift was an overdue means to an end of greater peace and prosperity in societies.

“Women’s rights are a barometer of the state that societies are in,” said Ms Baerbock, a senior Green Party politician. “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.”

Ms Baerbock said the need for this policy – already flagged in the 2021 coalition agreement – had become even more clear to her since she became the first woman to head Germany’s foreign ministry.

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From climate talks, negotiating aid for Ukraine or a new strategic concept for Nato, the minister said she noticed how “time and again it was an interregional group of dedicated women foreign ministers who co-ordinated and liaised with each other” to emphasise a focus on human security.

“When we negotiate peace treaties, these are more stable and robust when all people sit at the table, particularly one half of the population – women,” she added.

Federal development minister Svenja Schulze agreed, saying that fighting against hunger and poverty and for climate justice would be more effective “if one doesn’t do without half of the potential – of women”.

Acknowledging the policy was a work in progress, Ms Baerbock has vowed to appoint a full-time female ambassador in her ministry dedicated to advancing feminist foreign policy.

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With women heading just 26 per cent of its embassies, Germany’s chief diplomat saw “lots of room to improve”.

In time, she hopes the policy will cultivate a “feminist reflex” across government and parliament, prioritising interests of women and minority groups in disaster relief and climate protection work.

Germany has vowed to allocate €12 billion by 2025 from its development budget to support projects with a gender-equality component. In addition, German trade policies and climate packages will be prioritised for funding if they encourage women in the workplace, or tackle human rights violations in supply chains or other stated goals.

In addition, German diplomacy and development aid will focus on even greater support for endangered female scientists, journalists, artists and human rights activists.

Leading German charities welcomed the plan to widen access to rights, resources and representation beyond traditional structures dominated by self-selecting groups of men.

“We know that aid projects designed from the perspective of women and focused on women benefit their families, communities and society as a whole,” said Dagmar Pruin, president of Brot für die Welt, a Lutheran church aid group.

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Not everyone in Berlin’s ruling three-way coalition is convinced of the Green project. Free Democratic Party (FDP) deputy leader Wolfgang Kubicki said such policies were “less about improved diplomatic relations and more the emotional satisfaction of domestic actors”.

The principles of feminist foreign policy were first floated in 1915 and have been adopted in recent years by Canada, Mexico, France and Sweden.

The latter was the first country in the world to adopt feminist foreign policy in 2014, but it was abandoned by the new centre-right government last year.

Announcing the shift, Swedish foreign minister Tobias Billström insisted that gender equality remained of fundamental importance for Sweden and its new government. He added feminist foreign policy was a “label obscuring the fact the Swedish foreign policy must be based on Swedish values and Swedish interests”.