The understanding of the concept of a feminist foreign policy remains quite limited in Ukraine today. It is mostly narrowed down to gender equality in the diplomatic service. Meanwhile, an increasing number of European countries approve their own versions of feminist foreign policy. This allows us to speak of a trend that is expanding in the world. Moreover, different countries — especially NATO members — are ever more conditioning the supply of aid to third countries according to their gender policies and issues.
Authours: Hanna Shelest, Yevgeniya Gaber
The research is conducted in partnership with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung | Representation in Ukraine
- The understanding of the concept of a feminist foreign policy remains quite limited in Ukraine today. It is mostly narrowed down to gender equality in the diplomatic service.
- Studying the experience of those foreign partners who have introduced feminist approaches in foreign policy is important for Ukraine.
- Gender-balanced and anti-discrimination policy in various spheres should become one of the preconditions for cooperation with international partners in the context of Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction, promotion of Ukraine’s image and a tool of war diplomacy and restoration of justice.
This covers both humanitarian assistance and development aid, as well as conflict resolution and impact management, and even trade in arms.
For example, the European Parliament planned in 2020 that 85% of official development aid should go to programmes that include the gender equality component as one of their key goals and began to design their concepts and strategies in line with a feminist foreign policy.
While this policy is still not mainstream, more and more countries, in addition to those listed above, have made gender equality and feminist approaches to public and state governance priorities in their foreign policy, and aid and development programmes. For example, Norway and Australia have adopted foreign policy gender strategies. In 2021, seven countries adopted the Global Partner Network for Feminist Foreign Policy to promote these approaches around the world. More initiatives emerge that were previously not included in the gender discourse. For example, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the UK founded Women in Cybersecurity to support female diplomats in cybersecurity, primarily in the UN Open-Ended Working Group on ICTs in international security. Disarmament is another sphere where experts call on countries to increase the participation of women in fora and talks on conventions banning anti-personnel mines, cluster bombs, nuclear weapons and more. The consideration is that this is necessary for the evaluation of various consequences following the use of these types of weapons in conflicts, among other purposes.
Hard security issues and feminist approaches increasingly coincide in a single context. In some countries, the supporters of a feminist foreign policy condition military assistance or the authorisation of the arms trade according to compliance with gender standards and proper respect for women’s rights in the recipient countries.
Gender-balanced and anti-discrimination policy in various spheres should become a precondition for cooperation with international partners in the context of Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction. Introducing such standards in entrepreneurship and socio-economic development programmes, the integration of gender issues in sectoral policies, monitoring, evaluation and reporting should all be an important part of the process.
As an active participant in European projects, and a recipient — now and potentially in the future — of significant European assistance, Ukraine should thus understand clearly what this concept includes, what options exist for feminist foreign policy, and which best practices it can implement. While international development has focused on the rights and services for girls and women as a pathway to social and economic development for some time, foreign policy is just catching up.
Ukraine already has some mechanisms that are aspects of feminist foreign policy. They were designed as part of the effort to implement UNSC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the Istanbul Convention, and cooperation with the UN, OSCE and Council of Europe. But the consequences of the Russian aggression, the greater urgency of humanitarian and technical assistance, and Ukraine’s EU integration have made this issue more pressing. On the one hand, studying the experience of those European partners who have introduced feminist approaches in foreign policy, and taking into account these aspects in Ukraine’s own policy is important. On the other hand, Ukraine’s leadership in defending democratic rights and freedoms by holding back the aggression of Russia, “one of the most anti-feminist world powers … with colonial, patriarchal and sexist underpinnings,” creates new opportunities for the Ukrainian state to positively rebrand itself and develop international partnerships that merit more detailed analysis.
In 2019-2020, together with the UN Women, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a gender audit10 of the equality of rights and opportunities for women and men, to implement gender equality in ministries, including policies, processes and structures. While the results of this audit were not disclosed fully, the available reports highlight that the main accent was on gender equality, which is only a part of the concept of a feminist foreign policy. Back then, Minister Dmytro Kuleba signed a decree to establish the Gender Equality Commission. Minister Kuleba is chair, and MFA department employees are members of the commission. It was tasked with designing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to overcome inequality in Ukrainian diplomacy. It developed the Strategy to Ensure Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men in Diplomatic Service of Ukraine by 2025. Also, the MFA Action Plan was adopted to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women and men in the bodies of Ukraine’s diplomatic service that included several key sections: legislative (amendment of laws, introduction of feminine words in internal documents, etc); staff (ensuring gender equality, increasing the number of women, including in leadership roles); communications (information and PR campaigns to raise awareness); educational (workshops, thematic education events); and technical (implementation of accessibility, a children’s room at the MFA, etc).
Further steps included launching the Association of Women Diplomats under the MFA, setting up the mentorship institution, developing women’s leadership, including gender approaches in hiring and career promotion, and awareness raising on gender equality — still a major problem on the path towards feminist diplomacy in Ukraine. The 2019 audit revealed the perception of the gender equality issue among the staff of Ukraine’s MFA, whereby 90% of women and 71% of men who worked at the MFA thought that the implementation of gender policy is an important element of the diplomatic service. Only 38% of women believed that they had experienced equal rights in their career. A total of 39% of women aged 40+ and none of the men mentioned gender-related limitations.
The aim of this research is to look at the practices and principles of feminist foreign policy in Europe, outline the elements that can affect Ukraine’s interaction with donors and partners, and examine the key elements of feminist foreign policy from the perspective of Ukrainian women diplomats and civil servants. The authors of this research held a series of in-depth interviews with women diplomats and civil servants relevant to this research in December 2022. While the sample is not representative, it reveals the opinions of different generations of female Ukrainian representatives about their experiences in the diplomatic service, their understanding of feminist foreign policy and Ukraine’s priorities in this spheres, as well as the best practices in the countries where they were assigned as diplomats or on a work trip.
- The basis of feminist foreign policy
- Are perspectives on feminist foreign policy uniform in Europe?
- Contours of the EU’s feminist foreign policy
- Feminist diplomacy and the foreign policy of Ukraine: where we are and where we want to move to
- Internal policies and procedures of the MFA
- External aspect of foreign policy and Ukraine
- Recommendations: what Ukraine should take into account
- Internal processes
- Interaction with international partners
- Respondents interviewed for this research