Feminist Foreign Policy in the Asia-Pacific Region an Online International Workshop Program, a Two-Day Immersive Online Discussion Workshop was conducted on 19 and 20 September 2023 by IMPRI, Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi.
In a world where the voices of Western countries have long dominated international discourse, the emergence of feminist foreign policies among several Northern countries has generated both hope and skepticism. While the global feminist movement has made significant strides over the years, it’s crucial to distinguish between the feminist foreign policy framework and the broader feminist movement.
Ms Priti Darooka, Founder and Global Coordinator, BRICS Feminist Watch, examined the concept of feminist foreign policy, with a focus on its relevance and implications for countries in the Global South, particularly India. It also delves into the critical aspect of decolonization in shaping foreign policy narratives.
Feminist Foreign Policy: A Global Perspective
Feminist foreign policy has gained prominence in recent years, primarily within Northern and Western countries. These policies aim to integrate gender perspectives into diplomatic activities and advocate for gender equality on the global stage. While the intentions behind such policies are commendable, there are valid concerns about the imposition of Western frameworks on countries with different cultural, social, and historical contexts.
The Global South Perspective
As a decolonial feminist from the Global South, it’s essential to recognize that colonization’s legacy still permeates our societies. The process of decolonization, while ongoing, presents both opportunities and challenges. The discussions around feminist foreign policy are deeply rooted in this historical context.
The development of a feminist foreign policy should be a nationally driven process, not an imposition from external actors, no matter how well-intentioned. Sweden’s 14-year journey to establish its feminist foreign policy serves as a testament to the importance of a homegrown approach.
The Pitfalls of Artificial Universalization
The adoption of feminist foreign policies by Western countries inadvertently creates a benchmark that non-Western nations are encouraged to emulate. This artificial universalization of feminist foreign policy can be problematic as it tends to overshadow national efforts to address gender equality within their existing foreign policy frameworks.
The danger lies in defining what constitutes a “good” gender equality indicator based solely on the presence of a feminist foreign policy. This approach obscures the broader gender equality efforts taking place within a country’s foreign policy, rendering them invisible and inadequate in comparison.
The Hypocrisy of Western Feminist Foreign Policies
It is worth scrutinizing the actions of countries that have adopted feminist foreign policies, especially during critical global crises. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of these nations, despite their professed feminist principles, sided with pharmaceutical companies and prioritized corporate profits over equitable vaccine distribution. This raises questions about the sincerity of their commitment to feminist values.
Similarly, countries like Germany, with feminist foreign policies, are among the world’s top weapon producers. This contradicts the pacifist and humanitarian image they project through their foreign policies. It highlights the need for a more nuanced examination of the impact of these policies on global peace and justice.
A Different Approach: India’s Perspective
India, notably, does not have a feminist foreign policy. However, it has embarked on a path of decolonization and self-reliance, emphasizing a shift away from external influence and a focus on indigenous knowledge and culture. India’s commitment to women-led development, as championed during its G20 presidency, exemplifies this approach.
India’s vision of women-led development goes beyond women as mere beneficiaries of development to active leaders and participants in shaping development agendas. It emphasizes the importance of recognizing women’s leadership and dismantling gender stereotypes and biases.
Climate Justice and Women
India’s approach to climate justice and women’s involvement in climate change mitigation aligns with its broader policy framework. It acknowledges the disproportionate impact of climate change on women and emphasizes their participation in decision-making and leadership roles. This approach resonates with indigenous and rural communities and prioritizes sustainable development over Western patterns of consumption and exploitation of nature.
The emergence of feminist foreign policies among Western countries is a noteworthy development in the global pursuit of gender equality. However, it is essential to differentiate between the Western-centric feminist foreign policy framework and the unique policy perspectives of countries in the Global South.
India’s emphasis on decolonization and self-reliance, coupled with its commitment to women-led development and climate justice, presents an alternative approach that resonates with its cultural and historical context. As we continue to navigate the complex terrain of feminist foreign policy, it is crucial to remain mindful of the need for genuine inclusivity, respect for diverse perspectives, and the recognition that one size does not fit all in the realm of foreign policy.
Acknowledgement: Rehmat Arora is a research intern at IMPRI.
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