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Germany’s Feminist Foreign Policy: What does this mean for climate action?
Presentation of the Guidelines for Feminist Foreign Policy at the Federal Foreign Office, 1 March 2023.

Presentation of the Guidelines for Feminist Foreign Policy at the Federal Foreign Office, 1 March 2023.

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7 March 2023

On March 1st, Germany’s federal minister for foreign affairs, Annalena Baerbock, debuted a new set of feminist guidelines for the country’s foreign policy strategy. Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy is an 80-page report meant to overhaul the current framework of the foreign office. Apart from introducing an ‘Ambassador for Feminist Foreign Policy’, the new guidelines will ensure that Germany’s diplomatic endeavors align with its goals for global gender equality. This being: rights for women and girls globally; representation for women in all areas of society and foreign policy; and equal access to resources for women and marginalized groups.

This announcement does not come as a surprise to German election watchers. Feminist foreign policy was a key pillar in the Green Party’s election platform in 2021 and was included in the coalition agreement signed by the SDP and the FDP. While the new strategy has received support from within the government and civil society groups, opponents worry that the policy may come off as moralizing and hinder relationships with allies.

Baerbock also announced that €12 billion of development funds will be allocated to projects that tackle gender inequality. In addition to the specific funds, gender budgeting will be applied to all projects. The German Federal Foreign Office will allocate 85 percent of project funds in a 'gender-sensitive' manner and 8 percent in a 'gender-transformative' manner. The distinction is based on the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) gender equality policy marker. As per the policy marker, funds used in a ‘gender-sensitive’ manner are “intended to provide different responses to meet the practical needs of men and women” while funds used in a ‘gender-transformative’ manner are “specific actions targeting changing gender roles and aim to contribute to long term structural and sustainable changes in societies.” The new budgeting system will include ensuring every climate package has a gender-specific impact.


Feminist Climate Policy

As for Germany’s climate policy, these guidelines will mainly affect the approach in which Germany conducts its climate diplomacy and its focuses. Climate policies will inherently recognize the specific vulnerabilities that women and other marginalized groups face due to the climate crisis and all projects are assessed for their impact on these groups. By putting an intersectional focus on climate endeavors, the policy recognizes that the climate crisis affects people unequally and implementing targeted policies to assist actors such as women, indigenous people, and marginalized groups is necessary for a just transition – where no one gets left behind.

On this point, Germany will put more resources towards gender-responsive and transformative energy and climate projects that reduce the burden of the climate crisis on women and children. For example, placing an emphasis on climate-induced human mobility that can affect women and minority groups uniquely.

Baerbock also emphasized the importance of representation in policy making. This means ensuring that gender issues are emphasized in international climate frameworks such as the UNFCCC dialogues, while also ensuring that women, Indigenous community leaders, and minority groups are represented at the negotiating table.


Looking across the Atlantic: FFP in Canada and the US

Feminist foreign policy is not a new concept to the Canadians. Back in 2017, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced the Feminist International Assistance Program (FIAP) aimed at taking a feminist approach to foreign policy and international development. Similar to the guidelines introduced by Germany, the Canadian approach put gender equality and women's empowerment at the center of its foreign assistance goals. Since then, the federal government has directed 95 percent of Canada’s bilateral international development assistance to target gender equality.

This includes its foreign climate policy. In the TCB's Climate Bridge podcast episode with Canada’s Ambassador for Climate Change, Catherine Stewart, she spoke on the work being done to bring women and those from marginalized groups to multilateral climate fora and Canada’s work in training female climate negotiators.

The FIAP has not come without criticisms. When established, the policy lacked a clear definition of feminism and critics argued that the policy focused more on the narrative of women and girls’ empowerment rather than clear strategies to address the systemic barriers against women across the world. The over CAD$300 million in funds donated directly to organizations to combat gender inequality is commendable. However, there is a lack of transparency in how these funds are used on the ground and their effectiveness.

The United States is not as behind on a feminist foreign strategy as some may think. During the Obama Administration, the U.S. adopted a National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security which empowered women in the diplomatic, development, and defense sectors. This strategy was renewed in 2019 with an added focus on women’s participation in peace building. However, the strategy still lacks in its intersectional approach and has no mention of climate security. The strategy is set to be updated in the coming term and the White House’s new Gender Policy Council, which aims to center gender issues in all White House activities, could play a role in it. 


Moving Forward

The German Federal Foreign Office follows allies Canada, Sweden, and Mexico in introducing a feminist foreign policy, but it can play a leading role in the European Union, influencing other states to adopt similar policies. However, it is vital that these guidelines are followed by real action. Strategies focused on addressing systemic barriers and identifying the unique vulnerabilities that women face, rather than just focusing on the empowerment narrative will be crucial. The policy should also aim to be intersectional. As Baerbock stated last week, “feminist foreign policy is not foreign policy for women, but for all members of a society.” This includes those “marginalized by society on the basis of gender identity, origin, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or other reasons.”

For international climate policy, the test for the Foreign Office will be to ensure that these guidelines are utilized when engaging in multilateral climate fora and bilateral climate and energy partnerships. Women, indigenous groups, and marginalized groups are key actors in the climate crisis and the guidelines aim to amplify these voices.

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Trisha Kershaw

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Project Assistant on the Transatlantic Climate Bridge at adelphi