Cómo la política exterior feminista puede cambiar el mundo, con Kristina Lunz

Mar 22, 2023 - 36 min escuchar

En la segunda conversación de nuestra serie de podcasts sobre el Mes de la Historia de la Mujer, Kristina Lunz, codirectora ejecutiva y cofundadora del Centro de Política Exterior Feminista, se une a los copresentadores de Doorstep Nick Gvosdev y Tatiana Serafin para hablar de la necesidad de una nueva mentalidad en la toma de decisiones de política exterior que promueva la igualdad de género a escala mundial.

Hasta la fecha, 11 países han adoptado una política exterior feminista para cuestionar las jerarquías de poder heredadas y las instituciones sexistas, con Alemania a la cabeza. ¿Qué pueden aprender otros Estados, incluido Estados Unidos, de su ejemplo? ¿Qué retos quedan por superar para la aceptación global de una nueva forma de enmarcar los debates de política exterior? ¿Cómo pueden las alianzas de la sociedad civil promover nuevas narrativas que cierren la brecha mundial de género?

Política Exterior Feminista Lunz Doorstep podcast Spotify link Política Exterior Feminista Lunz Doorstep Apple Podcast link

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Welcome, everyone, to this edition of The Doorstep podcast. I am your co-host, senior fellow at Carnegie Council Nick Gvosdev.

TATIANA SERAFIN: And I am Tatiana Serafin, also a senior fellow here at Carnegie Council, continuing our series this Women's History Month discussing how to close the global gender gap, how we get to parity, and today looking at this term "feminist foreign policy" and how over the last couple of years it has risen to a level of serious conversation and serious implementation. Today we are going to have Kristina Lunz join us, entrepreneur, author, activist, and co-founder of the not-for-profit Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, the first such organization looking at this issue, looking at how we can reframe our discussions about foreign policy, and what that means related to domestic policy, which I think is so important. I am really excited for this second part of our series, Nick, and let's go to Kristina now.

Thank you so much, Kristina, for joining us today on this very important topic. Here in the United States we are celebrating Women's History Month, so we are conducting a series of podcasts this month focusing on how does the globe get to gender parity, a big ask I think, but one way is—and it is not new, but I think it is gaining traction—the idea of creating a feminist foreign policy. I am so excited to have you at the forefront of this effort because yours is in fact the first organization to focus solely and exclusively on promoting this topic and on helping governments achieve this goal.

For our audience, who might not understand what it is—and there are various definitions; there is not one definition—maybe we can start with a broad definition of what is and what does feminist foreign policy entail and then move on to maybe more specific successes and challenges and how we can apply them here in the United States, which is going to be another big, big ask as well, but we will tackle that later on.

KRISTINA LUNZ: Sure. Let me unpack feminist foreign policy a little bit. A short definition could be that feminist foreign policy focuses on human security and human rights instead of military security or economic interests vis-à-vis other countries, other states.

Feminism as a movement or a collection of movements is 200 to 250 years old. Feminism has always been about upending patriarchal structures. Patriarchy means the unjustified privilege and supremacy of men in states and in the family. In order to have this kind of supremacy you need hierarchies in society, hierarchies toward women, hierarchies toward people of color, hierarchies toward sexual minorities, and so forth.

To keep hierarchies in place you need violence. A patriarchal society that we have all been living in for the past 4,000 to 6,000 years has been characterized by the impunity of male violence, and these structures have also translated into foreign and security policy. This focus on militarized security and this kind of false rationale that militarized society will keep everyone safe is what a feminist foreign policy argues against and instead articulates a vision in which the security needs of all people take priority.

TATIANA SERAFIN: I found a paper that was trying to give even more specifics. I know these are some of the initiatives that you are working on at the Centre. Tell me what you think of this—it is kind of long, but I think it may lead to more discussion of specifics so that our audience really understands where we are going with this and what it can achieve:

"Feminist foreign policy is the policy of a state that defines its interactions with other states as well as movements and other non-state actors in a manner that prioritizes peace, gender equality, and environmental integrity in trying to promote and protect the human rights of all, seeks to disrupt colonial, racist, patriarchal, and male-dominated power structures, and allocates significant resources, including research, to achieve that vision. Feminist foreign policy is coherent in its approach across all levels of influence, anchored by the exercise of those values at home and co-created with feminist activist groups and movements both at home and abroad."

I keep saying "at home" because I think part of the buy-in is to make sure that societies where we are trying to implement this are ready—almost—for this shape-shifting and new way of thinking. Do you believe that? What are some other specifics? Climate in that definition was one, and I know that is one of your initiatives as well. Maybe we can start focusing then from the power structure changes to more specific areas of focus as well.

KRISTINA LUNZ: Definitely. I completely agree with that definition. If I am not mistaken, it is the one by the International Center for Research on Women, with whom we have been working very closely and our colleagues in the International Global Partner Network for Feminist Foreign Policy, a network that advocates for the adoption of feminist foreign policies around the globe. That is true.

For us as an organization, for the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, we are working, for example, across six program areas. Those program areas include climate justice, demilitarization, defending human rights with a focus on LGBTQI and women's rights, feminist international assistance policy, and decolonized foreign policy.

With the program areas that we are doing we are trying to break that down exactly, so looking at specific domestic areas and trying to understand where power lies, where the access is, and who has been historically disadvantaged. Within our disarmament and feminist peace program, that includes working on nuclear disarmament and trying to change the narrative about nuclear deterrence, giving the arguments why that has never worked and why nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction will never keep anyone safe.

It also includes working on the Arms Trade Treaty, the first international treaty trying to regulate arms exports. That also takes into consideration gender-specific aspects. For example, when weapons are being exported by a country, if there is a possibility that those weapons would be used to commit sexualized violence, then this Treaty says they should not be exported. These are examples of how we are working in the field of disarmament and demilitarization.

We are also looking at cyberspace and the increasing militarization of cyberspace and what, for example, that means for human rights defenders. Human rights defenders in Iran, who by specific state-used software, are tracking women who are not properly wearing the hijab and so forth.

Also, looking at our program area on climate justice, we of course start at why different groups of society are affected by the climate crisis in a different way. Why are 80 percent of climate refugees women and children? What about the power dynamics between the countries of the Global South and the Global North? Who is demanding and who has historic guilt for the situation that we are in? This is how we are trying to break it down.

Not more importantly or even more urgent—all these topics are equally urgent—is the area of defending human rights. Over the past five to ten years there has been a stark increase in the power, funding, and coordination of the international anti-feminist, anti-gender movement, a movement that tries to undermine women's rights and LGBTQI rights around the world with lots of the money coming from the United Staters and Russia with successes, for example, being in Poland with an almost total ban on abortion or Turkey leaving the Istanbul Convention, and so forth.

TATIANA SERAFIN: We can go deeper into all of these topics, and I think one way to do it is to look at Germany and look at how Germany plans to actually institutionalize movements in these areas. As of this month indeed there are some policy priorities set up by Germany's first female foreign minister, and I am wondering if you can take us through some of those as an example of how it can be done or perhaps how a movement for global acceptance of feminist foreign policy can start, specifically looking at the German example.

KRISTINA LUNZ: It is truly remarkable what happened on the first of March in Berlin. On that date not only the foreign ministry but also the development ministry published feminist strategies for their ministries. Germany now has a feminist foreign policy and a feminist international assistance policy. That is historic and of course is a huge milestone for the feminist movement.

Looking at the foreign office, our first female foreign minister in the 152-year history of the Foreign Office—in itself of course is a scandal. It is even better that we now have not only a female foreign minister but a feminist prime minister.

The 80-page strategy sets out core priorities, and they are really great. I am asked a lot about my assessment of Germany's feminist foreign policy. Of course it always depends on what you compare it to or what your reference frame is. If the reference is other countries and states around the world—including those states that have a feminist foreign policy, by now 11 in total—it is one of the best strategies on feminist foreign policy. It is comprehensive and it has a fantastic analysis and a development process including hundreds of actors. Compared to other states it is fantastic. Compared to the demands of feminist civil society around the globe there is a lot to improve still, and that is fair, because as feminist civil society it is our task to demand a lot to eventually get a little.

Annalena Baerbock's and the German Foreign Office's feminist foreign policy strategy look at different areas from peace, humanitarian aid, and climate justice, but also internal structures. It mentions projects that it worked on in the past, but it also articulates new goals which include, for example, that by 2024 the vast majority—almost all—of project funding by the German foreign office 85 percent is supposed to go to projects that focus on gender equality in some way, either Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development marker 1 or 2, meaning that in some way they will all contribute to eradicating inequalities. That is fantastic because that really means a significant shift in how resources are being distributed.

Then again, when I mention that it is important that we keep in mind that despite seeing an increase in funding for women's rights work and feminist work by governments over the past couple of years—the International Center for Research on Women has done a fantastic analysis on that as well—there has hardly been an increase of money directly going to grassroots women's rights organizations and feminist civil society because most money is still given to big intermediaries or international organizations like UN Women and so forth. So we are still lacking the financial support of feminist civil society.

The strategy is also actually fairly strong on making the links to disarmament and climate justice and being very clear about intersectional priorities, meaning that it is not only about women's rights and gender equality but that the global oppression of women is directly linked to the oppression of other groups of society depending on race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and so forth.

We applaud that Germany mentions that it wants to focus also on, for example, the consequences and humanitarian costs of testing of nuclear weapons and wants to support the victims of that testing, but we do not see a clear commitment to convincing ideas of how to advance nuclear disarmament. While it mentions stricter arms-export control, the reality is that that has already been part of the German coalition agreement in the so-called "customs export control gesetz [law]," but it has not been turned into reality yet.

Then again, the strategy gives clear examples on the work Germany has been doing with regard to Afghanistan. When a special representative for Afghanistan was implemented at the United Nations Germany contributed to making sure that this person had a strong focus on women's rights as well.

So there are lots of very small and concrete examples also on where the money is supposed to go when it comes to Afghanistan and other conflicts, but there is also a strong section on changing power within the ministry. At the moment only one quarter of all German ambassadors abroad are women, so the foreign office wants to change that dynamic as well.

So there is a lot in there, and we applaud it. Of course as civil society it is our task to show what is missing, and we will have a close look at the implementation.

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: I wanted to ask a bit further on that because one of the things that I am struck by is that in many parts of the world it is the physical security of women that is at stake. Women are vulnerable to depredations not only of armed gangs, but in many places it is the very security forces—the military, the police, and UN peacekeepers in refugee camps—that are targeting women and making life for women unsafe and uncertain.

You mentioned Afghanistan, and of course we want to see the emphasis on women's rights, but I wanted to ask about where a feminist foreign policy fits in in the short term on questions of security assistance. If security services, security forces, and police are largely still made up of men—as you noted is the case in the diplomatic corps—is there a case in the short term that women need to have the security tools to secure themselves and to secure others? Even if in the long term the goal is to move toward a more peaceful world, is there a role for a feminist version of security assistance to get us to a position where more women around the world will be able to live, work, and be educated with a degree of confidence that their very physical security—their freedom to not be attacked, not be beaten, and not be killed—is going to be guaranteed and not just trusting that the existing security environment is necessarily going to do that? Even as you noted, in advanced democracies in the West rollbacks are taking place on women's rights. Is there a vision of feminist security assistance perhaps moving forward?

KRISTINA LUNZ: I guess that is one of the key questions, and it is so important that you are raising that.

In general it can be said that feminist foreign policy or feminist analysis of all policy fields, be it domestic or be it foreign policy, is about reimagining and redefining what security means for different people. In that sense, yes, there is feminist analysis and feminist demands for security sector reforms.

You mentioned the term "short term." It is important to understand that feminist foreign policy distinguishes between short, medium, and long term. We do live in a hyper-militarized state of the world where for decades and centuries so much more money every year is invested into destruction and violence compared to peaceful structures. In this status quo violence happens all the time.

We need to make sure that we support those people who are affected by violence and keep them safe. That sounds crazy at the first thought, but that can include arms deliveries because we have accepted that the world develops in a way that even mass murderers are in possession of weapons of mass destruction—as in the case of Putin, for example. In that sense in the short term even weapon deliveries can be a way of contributing to security.

It is complex. So many countries have contributed to the fact that Russia has been able to arm itself over the years, weapons now being used in Russia and Ukraine. Those weapons can save people from more violence, but the very same weapons are being used to rape women, for example. The same weapons will be those weapons—where we can already now expect that once the war is hopefully soon over—will be brought back home, and we will experience an increase in domestic violence and violence toward women and children after the war. So the same tools that can in the short term save people already in the medium term will cause violence on people.

From a feminist perspective security takes all of this into consideration. Weapons can save people from rape, but weapons can also be used to facilitate rape. How do we ensure that when weapons are being delivered that they are not misused in a way that they are not meant to be?

For example, from a feminist perspective there is a lot to say about militaries, and I think we need a couple of these sessions to talk only about militaries, so let me try to make this short. There is of course justification to have security structures to keep people and states safe. We now can see that in the case of Ukraine, but the same structures because of the power that is given to them can cause violence to people and usually does to women and racialized people. It is the same with rape committed even by peacekeepers, for example. If we keep building these structures of security, we need to understand how power within those structures can be used to exert violence from structures that are supposed to keep people safe, and we can only do that if we understand the different safety needs of people.

To give a very concrete example, in Germany energy-saving measures are being implemented, and in many cities in the evenings streetlights are switched off. In a world where only men are walking around at night that might make sense because a minority of men would feel unsafe walking around in the evening, but pretty much every woman feels unsafe walking around in the dark. This understanding that security means something very different to different groups of people is at the core I think.

TATIANA SERAFIN: I think that is a specific and great example of how we need to continue this conversation and have definitions. I think that is why this is such a great start for us and our audience in the United States because I do not think we talk enough here about feminist foreign policy. I would venture to say we do not talk about it at all if we are looking broadly across the country, so this is such an important conversation to challenge the structure of our conversation on this topic.

I think it is also important to know—and here at The Doorstep we try to bring everything home to how people look at it in their wallet—what would a feminist foreign policy mean to me in my day-to-day life and how would it affect me—sometimes it hurts with inflation and energy costs?

I say this because in October Sweden, which was at the forefront of feminist foreign policy, abandoned the policy with a statement saying that Sweden's foreign policy "must be based on Swedish values and Swedish interests," and that seemed to be very much looking internally whereas what I think, I hear, and I hope is that a feminist foreign policy really looks at human rights globally, on closing the global gender gap. Sweden seems to be looking internally. Why is Sweden saying that, and how are those domestic challenges tugging at some of your work in trying to maybe broaden the lens? In Sweden's case at least it looks like they are looking internally.

KRISTINA LUNZ: It is important for us to understand what is happening in Sweden and how is this a part of a bigger picture. Whenever in history it happens that there is a move to the very conservative right, within governments and within institutions, always means somehow to some extent cracking down on women's rights and minority rights.

This happened in Sweden. There were government elections. A more right-wing government started their work, and one of the first things they did was cancel the feminist foreign policy. That was no surprise at all because the very right wing have always done that.

While it is no surprise of course it is not acceptable, and we have to understand how this is part of this big international movement toward more autocratic states and more anti-feminist alliances, less rights, attacking more women's rights and LGBTQI rights.

I am hopeful—and this has proven true so far—that this, albeit still small, movement of feminist foreign policy countries and the feminist foreign policy movement is strong enough so that this canceling of the world's first feminist foreign policy on a state level will not have a long-term impact on the movement itself especially because now we have so many champions. Germany is doing a good job. Colombia only last week or the week before presented their feminist foreign policy. We have Chile, we have Mexico, France, Spain, Luxembourg, and Canada. We have so many countries and convincing countries with incredible foreign ministers at the forefront who are pushing for that.

TATIANA SERAFIN: Where does the United States fit in? What do you see from your lens in Europe on this front? I personally have not seen any movement, but are you seeing something? Is the United States taking a position in your organization that maybe I am not seeing?

KRISTINA LUNZ: There is no mentioning of the words "feminist foreign policy." I am not at all an expert on U.S. politics. That is important to mention.

With the White House Gender Policy Council and with the commitments of more money also at the U.S. Agency for International Development being dedicated to gender-specific projects and support there has been a shift. Even more important there are civil society alliances that are pushing for the adoption of feminist foreign policy in the United States, and these efforts are being led by the International Center for Research on Women, which has been building coalitions to push for that for the past two or three years. That is the right thing to do.

If the United States decided to commit to a feminist foreign policy, that would be an important step forward. There is a U.S. feminist foreign policy scorecard published every year to check how the United States is doing, but at this point I would love for someone from the International Center for Research on Women to comment on this because I am not an expert.

TATIANA SERAFIN: Aside from that, as a research tool for our audience—I like asking this question—are there news outlets that we should be looking to to read more about this or journalists who are covering this area? What we try to do here at The Doorstep too is to expand the knowledge of our audience. Who might you recommend?

KRISTINA LUNZ: Very fantastic that you brought that up.

We have the International Center for Research on Women. We have of course us, the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy. There is this amazing newsletter called Interruptrr Weekly by Foreign Policy Interrupted that focuses on women journalists and feminist journalists.

My book will come out in English in September. It is called The Future of Foreign Policy Is Feminist. We have those 11 countries that have a feminist foreign policy and even more that are interested, and they are organized together at the United Nations as well as part of the Feminist Foreign Policy Plus group.

Here in Germany we have a wealth of actors in civil society engaged on specific topics all from a feminist perspective, be it on Iran, Afghanistan, or climate justice. In my organization we are also mainly trying to be a platform for those other organizations and actors because we do have some access and also capacities to support the work of others.

On the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy website we have great resources and reading lists on the topic. There is a wealth of very smart people out there reporting and writing about it.

TATIANA SERAFIN: First, I would like to invite you back for our Book Talk series to talk about your new book when it comes out in September.

KRISTINA LUNZ: I would love that.

TATIANA SERAFIN: I cannot wait to read it and talk about it. I think this is an important topic.

I want to go back to short, medium, and long-term timelines for the implementation and acceptance of feminist foreign policy. What timelines are you looking at? Do you have any projections?

KRISTINA LUNZ: Do you mean for the work of my organization?

TATIANA SERAFIN: Yes. That feminist foreign policy does not become a niche topic globally are we looking at ten years out, 20 years out? I am particularly asking that because I do think that as a new generation gets into politics it thinks differently than the older generation. I am particularly looking at Gen Z and Millennials. There are different priorities for these new rising political superstars, and I do think that they might drive change a little bit faster. Do you agree with that? Do you not agree? What sort of timelines are you looking at?

KRISTINA LUNZ: I agree. I am incredibly hopeful, but that is also why I am doing the work I am doing because I do believe we can have an impact. We have had and will have more impact.

It is true, and we cannot be naïve. International movements against human rights and against feminism are very strong, and we have to be aware of them. We have to keep demanding money from governments to support our work so that we stand a chance at all, but I am very hopeful.

Even here in Germany when the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy started our work four to four-and-a-half years ago no one had heard about feminist foreign policy, and now after it came into the coalition agreement then the foreign office presented the strategy. I was on the panel that day with the foreign minister. I and a lot more gave interviews to all mainstream media about it. It was not the main news of the day.

People now know of it. Only within the last one-and-a-half years has there been a major shift from a term no one had ever heard of to something that people talk about with their friends and colleagues. That is phenomenal.

Germany still has a very important role to play internationally. It has the opportunity to be a role model. I am sure, especially with Annalena Baerbock, who is such an authentic and convinced feminist, as our foreign minister, that she has been inspiring others and will continue to inspire others. So yes, I am very hopeful.

I believe that within the next five to seven years feminist foreign policy as a term will no longer be niche but considered as a normal, convincing, and hopeful alternative to the traditional way of foreign policymaking and that we will see many more countries, maybe within the next five to seven years between 20 to 30 countries that have a feminist foreign policy. I believe so.

With the urgency of crises the need for new and better and ideas is getting stronger and stronger. I think it was Albert Einstein who once said that we cannot solve problems with the same mindset that created them, and that is exactly what feminist foreign policy is about. It is a new mindset to tackle the old problems.

TATIANA SERAFIN: Wonderful. Thank you so much. That is a great way to end our conversation, looking for a new mindset. We hope to see you when your new book comes out.

KRISTINA LUNZ: I would love that.

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Thank you very much.

KRISTINA LUNZ: Thank you.

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Carnegie Council para la Ética en los Asuntos Internacionales es una organización independiente y no partidista sin ánimo de lucro. Las opiniones expresadas en este podcast son las de los ponentes y no reflejan necesariamente la posición de Carnegie Council.

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