Feminist Foreign Policy

  • From left Prof Ismene Gizelis, Ambassador Bard, Dr Louise Plsson and Dr Jana Krause

    From left: Prof Ismene Gizelis, Ambassador Bard, Dr Louise Olsson and Dr Jana Krause Photo: Jannie Lilja

Opening Address H.E. Swedish Ambassador Veronika Bard.

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am honoured to address you today.

I would like to thank the Graduate institute of Geneva and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation for organising this event.

Standing here in the newly constructed Maison del la Paix, I keep thinking:

What a perfect place to raise one of the most acute challenges facing the 21s century:

How to effectively counter a continuous, and in many places growing, gender discrimination and violations of the human rights of girls and women both in war and in peace time.

We are here today to launch and discuss a book contribution on a key dimension of that task: the important issue of how to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

We are grateful for the dedicated efforts by the Swedish Folke Bernadotte Academy 1325 research network, which under the able guidance of Dr. Louise Olsson, and Professor Ismene Gizelis, has produced this book.

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This book is filling some serious gaps with regard to knowledge in the field of women, peace and security.

The history of women and girls in armed conflict, is until this very day, one of silent, undocumented and unrecognised suffering in the face of overwhelming insecurity. But it is also one of undocumented contributions by women to the peaceful resolution of conflict and the consolidation of peace.

The demand for evidence-based approaches to gender and conflict is growing. Governments and global institutions are beginning to realise that they need much more gender disaggregated data and gender analysis to ensure effective and impactful responses.

Filling these gaps both represents an academic opportunity – and a potential contribution to improve the lives of people who find themselves in the worst situations of distress.

I hope that some of the students here today will feel inspired to take on these challenges.

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It is striking that states with high measures of gender equality are less likely to encounter war or widespread human rights abuses, than states with low measures of gender equality, according to research from Uppsala University Department of Peace and Conflict research – including Dr Louise Olsson and Professor Håvard Hegre – as well as Professor Ismene Gizelis.

The war and conflict data from 2014 seem ‘to coincide with the areas in which gender relations have worsened substantially, and that ‘the worsening oppression of women is particularly ominous because of the relationship between gender equality and peace’.

This is also striking. It suggests that policies of social exclusion primarily directed against women may serve as early warning indicators to the international community.

Sweden’s feminist foreign policy aims at ensuring women’s rights and participation in central decision making processes, including in the promotion of peace.
The feminist foreign policy is, and will form an even more integral part of activities throughout the Swedish Foreign Service.

Our methodology can be summarised in four words, all beginning with the letter “R”.

I) Reality.

Reality is about getting the facts right from the outset. What is the situation on the ground, if we draw information from 100 per cent of the population? You as researchers can play an incredibly important role in systematically documenting what is going on below the media radar.

II) Rights.

Rights – the simple fact is that human rights are also women’s rights. Here, two tracks must be followed. Firstly, areas where we aim for prohibition, such as gender-based discrimination, forced marriages and female genital mutilation. Secondly, areas where the aim is for progress, for example equal rights to inheritance, and ensured sexual and reproductive health and rights.

III) Resources.

Resources refers to Sweden’s ambitious international work, for example in development. The most basic starting-point here is the need to apply a gender perspective when distributing aid and other resources. Investment in gender analysis is worthwhile.

IV) Representation.

Representation, which includes influence over agenda-setting, starts by asking a simple questions such as: Who makes decisions – at all levels?  Sustainable development, peace and security cannot be achieved if half the population is excluded.

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It is clear that traditional and narrow concepts of security still dominate the global agenda. There is a gap between what women and girls in conflict zones experience – and the high-level discussions that take place in the UN and elsewhere. 

Without a doubt the ground breaking UN Security Council resolution 1325  has impacted global policies and pushed the issue of gender based violence and women’s participation onto the global agenda.

However, so far the work on 1325 has, to some extent, been an exercise in isolation – and been perceived as a women’s issue. It has been surrounded by confusion. People do not know how to bridge the distance between normative commitments and their daily work.

Therefore, Sweden, together with others, is striving to identify necessary measures and mechanisms of accountability at the operational level that can ensure implementation.

We have to start with ourselves.

In the Swedish Foreign Service, we need to treat gender equality more broadly as a core operational aspect of our daily work.

We have to consider where we get our information from, whom we meet and consult with, clarify the target groups for various interventions, terms of mandates, who is influencing decisions, how we distribute our support and so forth.

Applying Gender analysis to our daily work – ultimately means transforming, norms, power structures and gender relations.

Changing course will encompass everything from agenda-setting, data-gathering, decision-making, design of interventions, to follow-up and accountability.

It requires leadership and commitment at the highest political level.

The Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven has made it clear that gender equality is a priority for the whole Swedish Government and for all facets of the Government’s work. 

Step by step - parental leave by parental leave, pushing forward in all areas of society, in Sweden we have started to transform norms and values into a concrete social acquis, which enjoys broad ownership amongst everyone, men and women alike.

While much remains to be done, no doubt about that, this shows that gender transformation is within reach -  slowly, yes, it takes at least a generation or more – but this process is possible and powerful once set in motion.

What I want to get at, is that to improve conflict prevention - we have to take a comprehensive approach to the overall promotion of gender equality in all our societies.
Once violence, armed conflict, and large-scale abuse has flared up – we are already late.

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To conclude, I congratulate the authors of the book on this extremely important contribution to enhancing our understanding of women, peace and security.

I look forward to the discussion and to learning more from the panelists.