On May 21st, WEDO and over 50 leading humanitarian, foreign policy and women’s rights groups launched a broad vision laying out what feminist foreign policy would look like in the United States. After the launch event, WEDO took some time to reflect on bold visions for people, planet, & peace, and how feminist frameworks can deliver a gender and climate just world.
Blog post is cross-posted on Medium
by Bridget Burns & Mara Dolan
On May 21st, a groundbreaking new report titled “Toward a Feminist Foreign Policy in the United States” was published, with inputs and collaboration from dozens of organizations working at the intersection of foreign policy and women’s rights. This report puts forward a vision of U.S. foreign policy that promotes overarching goals of gender equality, human rights, peace and environmental integrity, while articulating concrete recommendations. It includes a proposed definition, key principles and policy recommendations that provide a forward-looking approach for a fundamentally different way of conducting foreign policy, placing people and the planet above profit.
Feminism has never been so explicitly integrated into governance policies and proposals. Numerous countries around the world have put forth feminist foreign policy plans, Hawaii has published the first statewide feminist economic recovery plan, and progressive leaders around the world are identifying and naming feminism in their governance goals. As Gawain Kripke wrote, “While women’s rights and gender equality have been a growing focus of U.S. foreign policy in recent years, a feminist approach offers a more transformative framework. This approach requires deep analysis of the patriarchal power structures and inequalities that exist in the world, identifies forms of exclusion and denial of human rights, and challenges systems of oppression.”
Towards a Feminist Green New Deal
The belief in feminist principles to underscore policy was at the core of our work in early 2019, when national momentum picked up the rallying cry for a Green New Deal here in the United States. Feminists leaders and climate justice activists turned toward each other in collective to define a set of principles for what this would look like from a feminist perspective, now known as the Feminist Agenda for a Green New Deal.
WEDO and the dozens of other organizations in the Feminist Green New Deal Coalition understand that a truly intersectional feminist vision requires a collective of individuals and organizations working towards justice at all of the intersections that the environmental crisis touches. And it touches them all: migrant justice, racial justice, economic justice, labor justice, reproductive justice, and gender justice.
From a gender justice perspective, we know that here in the United States:
- Men represent approximately 72% of workers in energy and fuels production, including workers in sectors at risk from shifts to a low carbon society, as well as those in sectors that will benefit. At the same time, we see women, particularly women of color, making up a vast percentage of frontline workers in care industries such as healthcare and education, and we know that care jobs are green jobs, but aren’t receiving the pay and protective equipment that indicate we as a society value, and indeed rely on, their work.
- Gender, race and class are determinants across numerous health impacts of environmental degradation and increased disasters, from high rates of mortality among men affected by flooding, reproductive health issues and high rates of cancer in communities located near extractive and toxic industries, and increased rates of violence and economic insecurity in post disaster situations.
- Furthermore, there are countless examples of women, including Indigenous and grassroots women on the frontlines of these impacts who are leading radical solutions centered on regeneration, and their leadership must be central to policy responses.
The collective feminist analysis of a Green New Deal began with a set of 10 principles. These guiding principles include systemically confronting exploitative and unsustainable production patterns, creating regenerative economies that center systemic, feminist alternatives, and more.
One that is most central to connecting this Feminist Green New Deal work with the initiative around a Feminist Foreign Policy for the U.S. is recognizing there is no such thing as domestic climate policy. Even in the context of a U.S. Green New Deal, we must commit to global justice through diplomacy, international cooperation, and a reckoning that the U.S. has been the world’s largest historic carbon polluter, while those in the Global South have suffered the worst impacts of climate change.
Connecting Frameworks for Transformation
Both the Feminist Green New Deal and the platform for Feminist Foreign Policy in the United States are situated in the understanding that the current status quo is untenable for women and girls around the world, and systemic transformations of power relations are necessary to build a liveable and just planet for all. The intentionality in crafting agendas that are grounded in feminist principles allows for a deeply important conversation around the inadequacy of efforts to deliver on gender equality so far. These efforts are often delinked from systemic root causes, whether trade, corporate power, environmental destruction or militarism. Together, these initiatives are situated in the belief that if we have a Green New Deal or a foreign policy that is not feminist, it is patriarchal, entrenching our unequal status quo. Such an approach is unacceptable.
In this context, like the Feminist Green New Deal, the blueprint for Feminist Foreign Policy for the United States calls for re-engagement in the Paris Agreement and a full scale re-commitment to providing climate finance that is reflective of real ambition, the U.S.’s fair share based on historical emissions, and gender-responsiveness across all its provision.
However, it also recognizes that meaningful U.S. global climate action goes beyond simply re-committing to the Paris Agreement. It also requires, for example, that all trade agreements follow the “polluters pay” principle, creating clear measures that prevent U.S. industries, particularly fossil fuel operations, from profiting off unregulated and uninhibited exploitation of laborers and environmental degradation. Furthermore, it is critical that all efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change must cut across sectors, including specific protections for and acknowledgment of harm to communities of color, Indigenous peoples and other frontline communities around the world experiencing the impacts of climate change, as well as addressing gender inequality.
By placing these frameworks in conversation, the Feminist Green New Deal helps illuminate the need for transformation in existing foreign policy norms, centering those currently pushed to the margins by international governance systems and occupying powers — including Indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees, undocumented peoples, and those deemed “stateless.” From Palestinians, to the Wet’suwet’en’s struggle in British Columbia, to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe here in the United States, from whom the current administration is in the process of stripping sovereignty and disestablishing their land ownership status, a feminist foreign policy must commit to recognizing sovereignty domestically and globally. It must acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples hold rights over and protect 25% of the earth’s land surface and 80% of remaining biodiversity, and to accurately reflect substantive solutions to the climate crisis in our policy, Indigenous sovereignty and solutions are paramount. This includes binding legal recognition of Indigenous land rights; real enforcement of the vital framework of Free, Prior and Informed Consent; and recognition of the Rights of Nature.
A Vision for Peace
For WEDO, a critical part of the Feminist Foreign Policy vision is recognition that “to achieve the goal of a more peaceful, equitable and healthy planet, U.S. national security and defense operations must be transformed with peace being the ultimate aim of defense.”
Our reality is that a warring world is a warming world. We believe the visions for Feminist Foreign Policy and the Feminist Green New Deal serve to create the cracks in antiquated understandings of “national security” — towards a security instead centered on a peaceful and healthy planet, investments in social protection and the ability to live life free from violence, persecution, climate impacts and economic exploitation.
Mara Dolan (she/her) is an Advocacy and Program Associate for the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, where she works on climate and gender justice policy research, advocacy, and coalition building among feminist and climate justice movements.
Bridget Burns (she/her) is the Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) in the United States. A feminist and environmental activist, Bridget specializes in policy advocacy, research and movement building at the intersection of gender equality, women’s rights and environment/climate justice. Bridget serves as the co-Focal Point of the Women and Gender Constituency, which supports the political participation of women’s rights advocates into the United Nations climate process.