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Spain announces that its foreign policy will be feminist

- The announcement that Spanish foreign policy will be feminist opens up opportunities and can accelerate a cultural change in organizations that carry out foreign action.

Spain announces that its foreign policy will be feminist

In March 2021, Spain announced the implementation of a Feminist Foreign Policy, presenting a document[i] that summarizes the lines that this public policy will follow. The same day of his presentation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Arancha González Laya, spoke on the radio program Hora 25[ii] of Cadena Ser about the existing resistance to the implementation of this policy: “Because this is about empowering. And in the word empower is the word power. Whoever has it doesn't want to let it go and whoever doesn't have it, wants it”.

Despite the fact that a lot of internal work will be necessary to iron out resistance and improve the skills of the personnel involved, Spain probably has not gone through a better time to take this step forward and consolidate a line of work in which it has remained, with greater or less momentum depending on the government in power, for more than 2 decades. To what has already been done, there are some contextual opportunities that can favor its implementation:

  • On the one hand, the Spanish feminist movement has had enormous international visibility in recent years, both because of the pressure it has exerted to promote legislative changes in the country and protest violence against women, and because of its ability to dialogue and monitoring of similar movements that have taken place in the world. There is a lot of capacity, as well as multilevel work networks.
  • Secondly, Spain has taken important steps both in the approval of laws that promote equality and in equal political representation. You can share your experience with other countries, for example, within your international development cooperation programmes. In addition, thanks in part to feminists who work in civil service, there is a history of constant support for initiatives and spaces related to gender equality at the international level.
  • On the other hand, in the current government there is a significant number of feminist women. This leads to an interesting opportunity: demonstrating that equality is above partisan interests. This opportunity may be lost if the coalition parties fail to champion feminism and/or if a space is not guaranteed for the participation of the Spanish feminist movement and the countries in which it works.
  • Finally, Spain joins other countries that since 2014, led by Sweden, have defined their foreign policy as feminist. In addition to being able to learn from the experience of these countries in terms of successes and errors, it has a relevant number of possible allied countries to advance the global gender agenda.

The group of countries that define their foreign policy as feminist is reinforced

Sweden announced in 2014 that its foreign policy would be feminist. She did not avoid what the cursed word was: feminism. In this way, she was breaking a taboo and riding a wave that has not stopped growing, given the importance that global feminism has been taking with historical mobilizations around the world[iii].

Once the barrier is broken, it would be followed in 2017 by Canada[iv]. France in 2018 approaches this trend by approving its “French International Strategy for equality between women and men (2018-2022)”, currently speaking openly about feminist politics and diplomacy [[v]](# _edn5).

At the end of 2019, the Secretary of Foreign Relations of Mexico assured before the General Assembly of the United Nations that "the Government of Mexico considers itself a feminist government"[vi]. At the beginning of 2020, this country announced the adoption of its feminist foreign policy, being the first to do so in Latin America.[vii] Chile is currently in a process of reflection on the matter.[\ viii]

All countries have their own definition of what they pursue, addressing equality as an end in itself or as a means to achieve other objectives. They have produced reports on the execution of their policy and have received criticism about them.

FEMINIST FOREIGN POLICY. Promoting Equality in Spanish Foreign Action

Spain presented its feminist foreign policy by disseminating a brief document that is divided into 6 points and, to a large extent, includes actions and dynamics in progress. The document is structured as follows:

  1. Promoting Equality in Spanish Foreign Action

At this point, although it is not directly defined, the purpose of this policy is attributed to contributing to "advancing towards real and effective equality at the international level". It frames this new approach in its public policies to promote and guarantee equality, alluding to the need for foreign policy coherence with them, and the opportunity that politics offers to “deepen in compliance with the international commitments assumed by Spain"

2. Guiding principles: What does the adoption of a feminist foreign policy translate into?

Here it is stated that "the new Foreign Action Strategy of Spain includes the active promotion of gender equality as a transversal principle and a priority axis of Spanish foreign action". It takes the orientation that Spain has maintained in its international development cooperation policy of combining a transversal and sectoral approach.

The five guiding principles of this strategy are:

  • Transformative approach
  • Committed leadership
  • Appropriation
  • Inclusive participation and promotion of alliances

3. Instruments: How will feminist foreign policy be carried out?

He cites what he considers the main tools for executing the policy:

  1. Mainstreaming the gender approach in foreign policy
  2. Bilateral and regional diplomacy
  3. European Union
  4. International cooperation for sustainable development
  5. Protection and consular assistance
  6. Public diplomacy
  7. Equality policies within the Foreign Service

4. Lines of action: Thematic priorities of feminist foreign policy

At this point, the issues that will be a priority within this policy are developed, in addition to the effective mainstreaming of the gender perspective.

  1. Women, Peace and Security
  2. Violence against women and girls
  3. Human rights of women and girls
  4. Participation of women in decision-making spaces
  5. Economic justice and women's empowerment

5. Actors: Working together

The actors mentioned in this section, which are assumed to be the main ones, are: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAUC), Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID), other organizations linked to or dependent on the MAUC ( Instituto Cervantes, Fundación Carolina, Fundaciones-Consejos and the Red de Casas), other Ministries and Public Administrations (General State Administration, regional administrations and local administrations) and actors external to the administration (non-governmental organizations, organizations defending the rights of women, private sector, universities and research centers, multilateral organizations).

The document closes with a brief point with the title “Follow-up mechanisms and resources”, in which it calls for reflecting the gender approach in existing financing instruments and support for projects and organizations that promote rights of women and girls. Likewise, it communicates that this policy will be monitored through annual reports that will be presented at parliamentary headquarters, in addition to announcing the creation of a high-level Advisory Group to identify priorities and courses of action.


The announcement that Spanish foreign policy will be feminist opens up opportunities and can accelerate a cultural change in the organizations that carry out foreign action, for which it will be necessary to foresee a change management strategy. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs herself acknowledges, resistance exists and gender training is required from leadership positions to those of execution of actions. The implementation of a feminist policy is complex without a feminist organization or, at least, with feminist leadership in key positions.

Given that the minister assured in the presentation that the launch of the policy does not respond to an aesthetic decision, launching a feminist policy is based on an essential premise: equality between women and men is an essential global good whose scope will contribute to a more just world. . It also takes as a starting point the recognition of inequality, discrimination and violence against women as a structural and global problem that hinders development, democracy and well-being. It implies the recognition of feminism as a movement and doctrine; its implementation at the international level presumes the acceptance of the existence of the different feminisms that make up the global movement. It is also based on the fact of the need for equitable measures to achieve substantive or real equality, given the existing obstacles.

The document presented for the launch of the policy includes actions already under way and lines of action for the future, sometimes mixing very diverse fields of work and with different objectives, such as diplomatic work and international cooperation for development. It lacks a definition of mission, vision and values, which would be useful to facilitate the definition of objectives, results and indicators, something that will be essential to measure the real execution and impact of the policy. It could be interesting that this new orientation of foreign policy as feminist would give rise to a review of the mission and core values of each of the areas of foreign action.

Clearly separate the actions to be undertaken internally (for the appropriation of the policy) and those that will be implemented in its foreign action, making clear the part of the policy aimed at promoting and defending the interests of Spain and the one that is implemented based on to the global good of gender equality, would facilitate its application and understanding.

International Cooperation for Development is, possibly, the area in which the assumption of the policy will be easier, given the trajectory in gender work and for not having renounced the double approach of horizontal and transversal work, when this was the trend. However, for the AECID, as for the rest of the actors in the international development cooperation and humanitarian action system, the generalization of gender mainstreaming is still a challenge. Apart from the existence of rules, agreements and instruments to do so, this matter requires staff training and that they have the will (or control mechanisms) to put it at the center of their work. The application of policies, programs, projects and actions with a gender perspective requires something essential: a gender-sensitive look, what we feminists call "violet glasses". The coupling of these glasses requires training, awareness and deconstruction, as well as strong leadership and follow-up from management positions. On the other hand, Spanish cooperation is undergoing a profound reform process that will define its future.

Something that draws attention is the absence of unions as actors for the implementation of this policy, given their role in the decent work agenda and the promotion and protection of workers' rights.

The launch of a feminist foreign policy is not only an opportunity to contribute to reducing the gender gap at a global level, but it is also an opportunity to promote profound changes in the organizational culture of the Spanish public administration and to promote policy coherence. . I hope it is used.


    [i] Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, Unión Europea y Cooperación Política Exterior Feminista (2021). Impulsando la Igualdad en la Acción Exterior de España. (Consultado el 5 de abril de 2021)

    [ii] (Consultado el 5 de abril de 2021)

    [iii] (Consultado el 5 de abril de 2021)

    [iv] (Consultado el 5 de abril de 2021)

    [v] 2020 Haut Conseil à l’Égalité entre les femmes et les hommes. La diplomatie féministe. D’un slogan mobilisateur à une véritable dynamique de changement ?.

    [vi] Expansión política, “El gobierno de México es feminista: Marcelo Ebrard en la ONU”, 28 de septiembre de 2020, Expansión. (Consultado 5 de abril de 2021);



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CASTRO, MARÍA. “España anuncia que su política exterior será feminista.” CEMERI, 25 sept. 2022,