Now is the time for Canada’s feminist foreign policy

By Beth Woroniuk

When Ukrainian and Russian representatives meet to try to negotiate a way out of the crisis, the absence of women at these tables is flagrant. Yet research shows that peace agreements are more likely to last when there is meaningful engagement by women.

This is exactly when a strong feminist foreign policy is most needed.

A feminist foreign policy outlines key principles about who should be at the negotiating table, such as women peacebuilders who have deep community ties and a vested interest in building lasting peace. And it would ensure that our international actions are grounded in commitments to human rights, equality and human security.

In Canada, we still face a significant gap between promises and clear policy. For many years, we have heard that Canada has a feminist foreign policy. Four ministers of foreign affairs have defined Canadian foreign policy in this way. Yet, we have no guidance document or guidance document outlining what this means and why it matters in a global crisis like the one we are facing right now.

Where is Canada’s feminist foreign policy?

Budget 2022 prompted more questions with $8 billion in new defense spending as well as silence on promised feminist foreign policy.

New research shows us the scale of the stakes if we don’t close the gender gap. Gender inequality is correlated with instability and armed conflict. Autonomous feminist movements are key drivers of democracy. Understanding gender roles, relations and inequalities provides a more complete picture of violent extremism.

Clearly, a particular definition of masculinity informs Putin’s self-image and worldview.

All of this is strong evidence that bringing feminist analysis to the heart of our understanding of world affairs is not just a ‘signal of value’ or ‘wake-up talk’. It can mean the difference between life and death.

In February 2020, Canada’s then-Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, pledged to develop a document outlining Canada’s feminist foreign policy commitments. Since then, there have been discussions but no paper.

With a lack of clarity comes a lack of action.

There are many definitions of feminist foreign policy. Sweden, a pioneer in this area, centers its policy around representation, resources and rights. Analysts are pushing for a nuanced analysis that goes beyond a simple focus on “women and girls”, arguing that a “gender analysis” must include men, boys and non-binary understandings of gender. Many activists place demilitarization at the forefront.

With these differences, we understand why the federal government must intervene and define what it considers to be the priorities of Canada’s feminist foreign policy, the actions to which it commits and the resources it will invest.

The world’s response to the invasion of Ukraine is just the latest example of the failure of “old-fashioned” approaches to conflict resolution.

It is time to bring an anti-racist and decolonial analysis to international relations. It’s time to bring more diverse perspectives to the table. It’s time to ask questions about the voices that matter. This means going beyond warriors and including people who have a vested interest in stopping the guns for good, including women peacebuilders at local, national and international levels.

The benefits would be felt abroad and right here at home.

Proponents are quick to point out that feminist politics encompasses more than armed conflict. It’s about exploring “what makes us safe” in an increasingly fragile and interconnected world. It is about understanding the threats of climate change, pandemics, and global inequality, and the many ways in which these threats intersect.

It is about asking what values ​​we stand for as Canadians.

It is about re-examining power and structures in the global system. This is to ensure that we do not talk about principles and peace at the United Nations and then support arms sales and companies guilty of environmental destruction.

A feminist foreign policy is not a luxury that Canada turns to when things are going well. It is precisely at this time of crisis that a clear statement of guiding principles is needed.

We have evidence of relevance and potential impact. We have calls from activists. Now is the time to establish a clear roadmap with concrete steps for implementation.

Leave a Comment