Q&A with Nina Bernarding (CFFP) on Germany’s Feminist Foreign Policy and its implications for the EU
On 13 April 2023, Marie Lena Groenewald spoke with Nina Bernarding, co-founder of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy (CFFP) about the recent developments for Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP) in Germany, focusing on the new ‘Federal Foreign Official Guidelines on Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy’ published on 1 March 2023 as well as the German Federal Foreign Office concept on ‘Shaping stabilisation: Foreign and security policy strategy for an integrated action for peace‘ published in November 2022.
Q: How do you evaluate the recent developments for FFP in Germany through the ‘Federal Foreign Official Guidelines on Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy’ and the concept on ‘Shaping stabilisation: Foreign and security policy strategy for an integrated action for peace’?
A: We at CFFP welcome both strategies, especially – of course – the guidelines on FFP. In comparison to other existing [national] concepts on FFP, the German guidelines are the most comprehensive so far. They recognise very important aspects of what we at CFFP also consider as core components of FFP, such as the acknowledgment that FFP must strive for disarmament, and the need for an intersectional approach that reflects post-colonial realities. With that, the German Federal Foreign Office (FFO) goes further than many of the other governments with a FFP. However, with Germany being the [world’s] fifth biggest arms exporter, we would have liked to see a commitment to drastically reduce its arms exports and to address the increasing militarisation of our international system. We further would have liked to have seen a recognition that FFP is a concept developed and coined by feminist civil society. We welcome the creation of a high ranking steering committee which will oversee the implementation of the guidelines and which will also include feedback from civil society. We are looking forward to see what this will look like in practice.
“Any efforts related to conflict prevention, stabilisation or peacebuilding can only be successful when they are gender-sensitive or ideally gender-transformative.”
The concept on ‘Shaping stabilisation’ is also relevant to our work because it outlines the German Federal Foreign Office commitment to working towards peace (and not just security or stability). In the past, we have criticized that Germany does not have a national strategy for peace. Currently, Germany is in the process of – for the first time ever – developing a national security strategy. We at CFFP would have wished for this to be a national peace strategy but at least there is this paper on ‘Shaping stabilisation’ [which will be part of the national security strategy], which was published at the end of 2022. Many of the criticisms that we raised towards the FFP guidelines also hold true for this concept. While civil society is mentioned in the concept, it is not considered a core agent of promoting peace. We know however from research that feminist civil society is crucial for driving social change, in particular for marginalized communities. However, the concept is very state-centric. As a feminist organisation, we, of course, regret that gender is not mainstreamed throughout the concept but that one page is dedicated to gender. Here, we welcome the acknowledgment that understanding gender dynamics can lead to more inclusive processes. But of course we would have liked to see a more feminist approach to Peacebuilding, including the recognition that any efforts related to conflict prevention, stabilisation or peacebuilding can only be successful when they are gender-sensitive or ideally gender-transformative. In our view, a feminist approach enables peacebuilding to be successful in the first place. It is also disappointing that neither arms control, nor arms export control or demilitarization are mentioned in a concept aimed at promoting peace.
“Now is the time to push for an EU Feminist Foreign Policy.”
Q: What could these German developments mean for the European Union (EU) both in terms of policy language and implementation?
A: Within the FFP guidelines, there is a specific commitment to use the guidelines to drive the discussion among EU foreign ministers towards a feminist EU foreign policy. We welcome this very concrete commitment and hope that the guidelines will advance the debate about an FFP in the EU. Concretely, we hope that this will create a momentum for all those EU countries that already have an FFP to come together and to push for an EU FFP, and to also consolidate this in policy names, structures, and strategies. The example of Sweden exemplifies that the name Feminist Foreign Policy can be scrapped really quickly with a changing government. But guidelines and structures that are based on the understanding of an FFP are more difficult to reverse.
“Member states that have already adopted a Feminist Foreign Policy can drive the EU to be more feminist and more outspoken about anti-feminist governments and tendencies within EU member states.”
Q: You mentioned that some states have adopted FFP before, this might imply that there are also some laggards. How do you assess the role of the EU given the different positions among member states on FFP?
A: The EU and its different member states can play a really important role. On the one hand, states that have already adopted an FFP can of course influence other member states to also adopt an FFP. On the other hand, they can also drive the EU as an actor to be more feminist and more outspoken about ant-feminist governments and tendencies within EU member states. We would really like to see that further in the future.
“The exchange with countries outside of the EU that would be impacted by an EU Feminist Foreign Policy is important.”
Q: What would be your advice for supporters and activists of FFP at the European level? In your view, what should be the next steps? How can feminist civil society proceed?
A: This relates partly to what I have mentioned before. There is a need to push for the EU to adopt an FFP in the name and to create structures and documents that make it difficult to reverse a feminist approach to foreign policy. This is in line with what we recommend to governments and institutions in face of the anti-feminist movement that we see nationally and internationally. We believe that the response to the anti-feminist movement should be to be more pro-active in pushing for feminist policies, and not to leave discussions about feminism to anti-feminist actors. For governments and activists pushing for an EU FFP, the exchange with countries outside of the EU that would be impacted by an EU FFP positively or negatively would be important. And lastly: do not give up! We are living in times with a strong feminist momentum but also strong anti-feminist movement. But we are having the staying power.
Thank you very much for these encouraging last words and for your time, Nina!