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Fernanda Vazquez

What is feminist about Sweden's Feminist Foreign Policy?

- The world's first feminist foreign policy was established in 2014, but is it really feminist?

What is feminist about Sweden's Feminist Foreign Policy?

This is the first in a series of three articles intended to explain and critically analyze the feminist foreign policies of Sweden, Canada and Mexico.

The feminist movement has had important advances and achievements, both nationally and internationally; however, women still have to fight to live in dignified conditions and for the rights that belong to us. In response to the above, some governments have adopted the demands of said movement and have modified their policies to guarantee that the women and girls of the world have a dignified life, with full access to their human rights; an example of the above is feminist foreign policies.

According to the Center for Feminist Foreign Policy (CFFP) or, in Spanish, Center for Feminist Foreign Policy, feminist foreign policy can be defined as:

A political framework focused on the well-being of the marginalized that invokes processes of self-reflection in relation to the hierarchical global systems of foreign policy. The PEF takes a step away from the black box approach of traditional foreign policy thinking and its focus on military force, violence and domination, offering an alternative and intersectional rethinking of security from the point of view of the most vulnerable. . It is a multidimensional political framework that aims to elevate the experiences and agency of women and marginalized groups to examine the destructive forces of patriarchy, colonization, heteronormativity, capitalism, racism, imperialism, and militarism. [1]

Throughout history, Sweden has been characterized by the establishment of progressive policies that promote gender equality and the rights of girls and women within the country and around the world. In response to the above and "in response to the discrimination and systematic subordination that still mark the daily lives of countless women and girls around the world"[[2]]( /contentassets/fc115607a4ad4bca913cd8d11c2339dc/swedens-feminist-foreign-policy-spanish.pdf), the Swedish government launched, in 2014, the world's first feminist foreign policy.

The objective of this policy was to “modify the structures and improve the visibility of women and girls”; In addition, it sought to end gender discrimination and inequality in all contexts. In this way, the Swedish Foreign Service would seek the consolidation of three main elements: rights, representation and resources. All of the above, under an intersectionality perspective that respects the realities and contexts of each girl and woman. Sweden's feminist foreign policy was based on the Action Plan (2015 – 2018) which contained six main areas:

  1. Human rights of all women and girls;
  2. Women and girls free from mental, physical and sexual violence;
  3. Participation of women and girls in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and the restoration of peace;
  4. Political participation and influence of women and girls in all areas of society;
  5. Rights and economic empowerment of women and girls;
  6. Sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Although the launch of this foreign policy is well-intentioned to achieve gender equality and access for all girls and women to their human rights, adding the suffix “feminist” is not something to be taken lightly and we have an obligation to wonder if Sweden's feminist foreign policy is really feminist.

The Swedish government has gotten it right and made progress in some of the areas on which this foreign policy focuses. For example, “the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the resolution on child, early and forced marriage”[[5]]( /swedens-feminist-foreign-policy--examples-from-three-years-of-implementation.pdf) or, in 2014, in response to the fight to eradicate colonialism and imperialism, Sweden became the first country of the Union European Union to recognize Palestine as a State[6].

However, an important element of feminist foreign policies, and of feminism itself, is the fight for the eradication of the patriarchal system; the existence of this system is not mentioned in any of the official documents of Sweden nor of said policy, therefore, it does not seek its eradication.[[8]]( 11/11/how-feminist-is-the-swedish-feminist-foreign-policy) In addition, returning to the previous definition, a feminist foreign policy must seek an alternative approach to violence and military force, but the Swedish government has decided maintain a policy of exporting arms to States in conflict and whose governments violate the rights of girls and women, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, among others.[9]

As a conclusion, it can be affirmed that the feminist foreign policy of Sweden, in effect, has important elements of the feminist movement and theory, in addition, it places women, girls and vulnerable groups at the center of the analysis and execution of the feminist foreign policy. ; “Sweden's feminist foreign policy is a continuation of national commitments, international treaty promises and membership in international and transnational organizations”[[10]]( content/287/5/591.short). However, it has significant gaps in terms of the definition of concepts necessary to establish a true feminist approach, such as empowerment, patriarchy or feminism itself, and there is a lack of coherence between the actions and the discourse of the Swedish government.

Undoubtedly, as the Swedish government mentions, "change is possible", but for this, it is necessary to adopt certain state attitudes that allow a foreign policy to be completely feminist; for example: a political will that allows to reform all the institutions of a government and make the change tangible and real, congruence that goes beyond the economic and political interests of the public and private sector and is also A real intersectionality is necessary that takes into account the reality that women and girls live around the world and that, following a decolonial feminism, does not impose ways of life on other cultures and traditions. In addition to that, as previously mentioned, it is necessary that feminist concepts be defined and applied correctly.

“From a feminist point of view, gender equality is not achieved by including women in existing structures, values and norms. It requires fundamental changes in the structure; and the creation of new structures”.

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Vazquez, Fernanda. “¿Qué tiene de feminista la Política Exterior Feminista de Suecia?.” CEMERI, 25 sept. 2022,