Highlights of the Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy Conference 2023

On 1 and 2 November, WECF participated in the Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy Conference held at the World Forum in The Hague, Netherlands. Our involvement included two groundbreaking breakout sessions as well as organising a stand in collaboration with the Green Livelihoods Alliance for the Forests for a Just Future programme, showcasing our unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability and gender equality. The energy of the event was heightened by the presence of several Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), including our regional partners FEMNET, FEIM, WEP, and APWLD.  

Community festival – The Triple Nexus+: Gender, Climate, Peace, and Security 

In preparation for the Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy conference, WECF attended the Feminist Foreign Policy community festival the day before. One of our partners, Priscilla Achakpa from the Women Environment Programme (WEP) gave an inspiring talk about the Triple Nexus+: Gender, Climate, Peace & Security: “Women have the power to change society”. She highlighted the interconnected nature of these issues by explaining that we cannot understand insecurity without understanding climate change, and that conflicts are increasingly scarcity-motivated. Thus, by only focusing on either climate change, or conflict mediation, true root causes are not addressed. She shared how her organisation is committed to peacebuilding and integrating these interconnected issues into solutions. This is done by working with the population and ensuring local commitment, rather than imposing solutions: “we do not need military intervention, we need to talk to our people”. She stressed the need for grassroots organisations and the impact these groups can have: “Somehow, the people in power are involved. we need to do our own research to find who are those that are involved and target them, to stop.”

Day 1 Reality Check 

The “Women Making Waves” session, organised by Simavi and WECF International brought to the forefront five critical themes: drought, flooding, extraction, pollution, and conflict. It was a deep dive into the intersection of water, gender, and climate, broadened to encompass land rights, biodiversity and forest conservation discussions. 

The talk show was brilliantly moderated by Aniek Moonen, co-chair of WECF BoT, who seamlessly connected diverse topics and themes throughout the event. Key insights were shared by powerhouse speakers: Sareen Malik of ANEW on the positive impacts of women on water committees; Priscilla Achakpa of WEP on the vulnerability of communities to climate change, especially women and girls in Nigeria; Professor Toni Haastrup on integrating feminist postcolonial and decolonial perspectives into foreign policy; and Griffins Ochieng of CEJAD on pollution and gendered health impacts. 

Real-life cases were presented with the impacts of drought and flooding, the role of women in water management, pollution and health impacts, and the intersections of conflict with climate and water stress elaborated.

Policy recommendations by the experts include: 

  • Incorporate Women and Girls’ Interests: FFP should prioritise the inclusion of the interests and needs of women and girls in foreign policies, particularly concerning climate-induced challenges such as drought, flooding, and other related issues. This should include the Involvement of women in water management and decision-making processes and highlight the positive impacts of women’s participation in activities such as water committees. 
  • Support for Local Initiatives: Emphasise support for feminist initiatives that have a deep understanding of local needs and can provide targeted solutions to combat water-related issues in Africa. This support should be aimed at empowering local communities and organisations, especially those led by women, to address water, climate, and gender issues effectively. 
  • Integration of Feminist Perspectives: Integration of feminist postcolonial and decolonial perspectives into foreign policy discussions. This inclusion can help to address the unique challenges faced by women and girls in the context of water and climate issues and ensure that policies are sensitive to their experiences and needs. 
  • Address Vulnerability of Communities: Develop policies that specifically address the vulnerability of communities, with a focus on women and girls, to climate change impacts. This may involve implementing measures to enhance their resilience, access to resources, and protection in the face of environmental challenges. 
  • Intersectionality: Recognise the complex interrelations between gender, water issues, and climate change, as highlighted in the text. Develop policies that consider the intersectional nature of these challenges, considering factors such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geography. 
  • Environmental Conservation: Integrate discussions on land rights, biodiversity, and forest conservation into foreign policies. Recognise that these issues are closely linked to water and climate concerns and should be addressed holistically, and the principle of polluters pay should be adhered to.
Credits: Filosofien

The discussions were not only verbal but also visually captured in a graphic recording by Filosofien, adding a dynamic and memorable layer to the dialogue. This event underscored the necessity of integrating the needs of women and girls into foreign policies, particularly in the face of climate-induced challenges. The session provided a nuanced layout of the complex interrelations between gender, water issues, and climate change in Africa, and how an intersectional Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP) could address these realities. It highlighted the interconnected challenges and the crucial role of inclusive, feminist policies in fostering resilience and driving positive change in the face of conflicts and environmental crises. 

Green Livelihoods Alliance Stand 

During the SFFP conference we had a stand for the Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA) project, in which WECF is one of the participating organisations. The stand was well-received and succeeded in engaging a substantial number of participants. It offered an array of valuable resources, including hard copies of publications, QR codes for accessing digital publications and materials, engaging quiz questions, a dynamic rolling video, and an engaging photobooth for heightened visibility. GLA representatives played a pivotal role in drawing visitors in and fostering meaningful discussions on the intricate connections between gender, forests, and biodiversity. They also spotlighted the noteworthy initiatives undertaken by GLA partners in gender-responsive forest governance and addressed the profound impact of foreign policies on forests and communities. Moreover, they advocated for the inclusion of underrepresented groups such as Indigenous people and local communities in decision-making processes.

Day 2 Forward Prospects

Feminist Foreign Policy Inspired by Grassroots Perspectives hosted by GROOTS Kenya together with UNWomen, Stand for her land and IDLO. Sascha Gabizon (WECF Executive Director) was one of the panellists and brought into sharp focus the pressing need for a gender-informed approach to policy and development. The discussion covered a spectrum of critical issues

  • Strategic Budgeting with Gender focus: The necessity for financial strategies that back gender equality and bolster grassroots organisations was a focal point, highlighting the need for dedicated resources to support sustainable change. There was a clear message about the urgency of funding grassroots initiatives, which are crucial in driving societal transformation. There is also the urgent need to prioritise gender in climate funding was clear, with a consensus that gender equality is central to the success of all Sustainable Development Goals 
  • Grassroots Engagement: The event underscored the importance of engaging with grassroots movements, asserting that true progress in feminist foreign policy must be rooted in the lived experiences of those on the ground. 
  • Land Rights and Empowerment: Land rights emerged as a pivotal issue, with a strong call for securing land tenure for women to combat inequality and foster empowerment. 
  • Policy Coherence vs. Patriarchy: The discussions tackled the necessity for policies that dismantle patriarchal structures, recognising that systemic change is essential for achieving gender equality. 
  • Debt Cancellation: Advocates argued for the cancellation of developing nations’ debts to unlock resources for vital gender-focused climate initiatives. 
  • Intersections of Conflict and Climate: The interplay between conflict, displacement, land rights, and climate change was a major theme, emphasising the need for integrated approaches to address these interconnected challenges. 
  • Comprehensive Development Approaches: The programme called for a holistic approach to development that incorporates gender considerations at every level. 
  • Support for Displaced Persons and Youth Inclusion: Building movements to support the rights of displaced persons was identified as a critical area for action and support as well as the significance of including young voices in policymaking was highlighted as essential for the future of inclusive policies.

In conclusion, the Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy (SFFP) conference served as a powerful reminder that feminist foreign policy transcends the superficial application of a gender lens, extending its reach to the essential transformation of systems that uphold unequal power dynamics, inequality, injustice, violence, and poverty. While our expectations for an official policy handbook were unmet, and the absence of a meaningful response to several pleas for an Israel-Gaza ceasefire was disheartening, our participation in the conference was marked by resounding success. Our side events sparked vibrant discussions with a diverse audience and yielded robust policy recommendations encompassing critical issues such as environment, pollution, health, access to clean water, land rights, and conflict. These outcomes serve as valuable contributions to the ongoing endeavour of advancing and shaping a feminist foreign policy and promoting gender equality on a global scale.