Foreign Minister Margot Wallström.
Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. Credit: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Aid groups say foreign policy not feminist

"There are some areas where policies are in direct contradiction"
5:13 min

After the election in 2014, the Social Democrat and Green government proudly announced it would pursue a "feminist foreign policy". Now a report by 12 organisations working with foreign aid and development says several of its decisions are not very feminist at all.

"There are some areas where policies are in direct contradiction to what we think is a feminist foreign policy" said Jessica Poh-Janrell, policy co-ordinator for gender equality at Concord, which is an umbrella organisation for 12 organisations, including Diakonia, Kvinna till Kvinna and the Swedish Church's branch for development work.

In a report published this week, they look at the the government's feminist credentials in traditional foreign policy areas, but also areas such as the environment and migration policies. And it in in the latter, in particular, where decisions have been made that go against what the organisations behind the report deem as feminist.

"Especially the proposal for limiting the possibility for family reunification for refugees will hit women and girls very, very hard," said Jessica Poh-Janrell.

"In practice this proposal would mean that women who normally would be able to come to Sweden through a secure journey in order to reunite with their partners who usually are the ones to make the trip first to Europe now will be stuck in conflict areas or forced out on the journey themselves, where they are exposed to a lot of dangers and a lot of risks for sexual violence and trafficking."

Other areas where the government does not get a pass are weapons' exports to undemocratic countries which commit human rights offences and women's rights offences, and the fact that a significant part of the aid budget this year goes to help pay for migration.

Among the positive examples mentioned in the report are the network that has been initiated for women mediators and negotiators in peace processes around the world. The dialogue between Swedish embassies and local women's rights organisations has also improved, and the Syria strategy has "a really good gender perspective" according to Poh-Janrell.

Commenting the criticism, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has said it is far too early to evaluate a foreign policy that is still about to be implemented. Only recently, an action plan for the whole foreign policy areas was adopted, she said.

According to Jessica Poh-Janrell, they are aware that not much time has passed, but that the report is supposed to help push the government forward and that it is their job to point areas where the government could do better in the future.

"We understand that Sweden has not been able to change its whole direction of foreign policy within in a year... But political decisions are made every day, so every day that you are make a political decision that are not taking gender equality or women's rights into account, you are delaying making changes," she said.

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