Germany unveils guidelines to give foreign policy ‘a more female face’

Germany’s center-left government on Wednesday released new guidelines set to shape all diplomacy and development work including the creation of a new role for an “ambassador for feminist foreign policy.”

Germany will lobby to ensure women’s concerns are more in focus worldwide, that women are increasingly included in peace processes and that 12 billion euros ($12.8 billion) of German development funds are allocated more to projects that tackle gender inequality, according to the foreign and development ministry guidelines.

Given Germany’s clout as Europe’s biggest economy and a key diplomatic actor, the move gives fresh momentum to the feminist foreign policy movement, which was pioneered by a leftist Swedish government in 2014.

Such a policy has been embraced in recent years by other countries like Canada, France, Mexico, and Spain – although Sweden abandoned it last year after a shift to a right-wing government.

“We will work hard to give our foreign service a more female face and to raise the proportion of women in senior roles,” Germany’s first female foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said in the introduction to the 88-page long guidelines.

“We will also more systematically allocate our financial resources in the service of feminist foreign policy,” the Greens politician said.

Baerbock has already made a point on her trips abroad to address gender issues such as sexual violence during the conflict in Ukraine and abortion in the US.

Critics say the government needs to avoid coming across as moralizing. Sweden antagonized several allies after it started focusing more on gender equality and human rights in its diplomacy.

“We must not make the error of mixing up value-oriented foreign policy with moralizing foreign policy,” Bijan Djir-Sarai, the general secretary of junior coalition partner the Free Democrats, told broadcaster Welt.

Resources for gender equality

Going forward, at least 8 percent of Germany’s development funds will go to projects with gender equality as their main goal, while 85 percent must have it as their secondary goal, the development ministry announced.

Gender will also be taken more into account in foreign policy spending, according to the foreign ministry.

Germany will lobby to hike the participation of women in formal peace processes, given this was shown to increase the chances of a lasting peace, according to the policy guidelines.

Germany was in a good position to do so, they said, as a member of the commission overseeing the UN Peacebuilding Fund and other initiatives. It was already supporting the African Union with establishing a network of women mediators.

The ministry said Germany would also seek to ensure European foreign policy would focus more on the concerns of women.

Former conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel became a feminist icon during her 16 years governing Germany, but it was only towards the end of her tenure that she accepted that label and conceded “we should all be feminists”.

And it was not until the current center-left government took office in late 2021 that gender issues were brought to the forefront of politics, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz for example insisting on a gender-balanced cabinet.

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