A Conversation with Margot Wallström, Swedish Foreign Minister: On Women, Peace, and Security
On March 14, 2016, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in collaboration with the Swedish Representation to the European Union co-hosted a public conversation with Margot Wallström, the Swedish minister for foreign affairs. The conversation, which was moderated by Dr. Corinna Horst, deputy director of GMF’s Brussels Office and president of Women in International Security (WIIS), focused on the Swedish government’s commitment to pursue a "feminist foreign policy" that puts gender equality and human rights at the center of Sweden’s international objectives.
Wallström defined the feminist foreign policy as a make-or-break issue for peace, security, and sustainable development as a whole. She highlighted the importance of including men in her strategy.
“Our action plan underlines the importance of involving men and boys in advancing gender equality.”
Wallström’s goal is to put the collective force of bilateral, multilateral as well as communicative tools of the Swedish government behind the same objectives and focus areas, which are the so called ‘3 Rs’ of their foreign policy.
"Firstly, respect for human rights and rule of law constitute a starting point for every discussion about gender equality ensuring women's rights and access to justice must be seen as central in achieving the overall human rights agenda,” said Wallström.
“Secondly women must be represented at all levels of society, in parliaments, local authorities, at the negotiating table, in board rooms and in peacekeeping missions to name but a few.”
“And thirdly, resources must be distributed evenly."
Minister Wallström made a special appeal to the European Union. As gender equality is at the core of European values and enshrined within its legal and political framework, Wallström argued that the EU must lead by example. In particular, she saw the need of further action in applying gender perspective when staffing its institutions as well as in political dialogues with third countries, the EU’s neighborhood policy, its enlargement policy, and trade policy. She commented positively on the new Gender Action Plan 2016-2020 as well as the appointment of the gender advisor role but emphasized that we urgently need to address the issue of representation.
"We would in particular want to see more women in the managerial posts at least as heads of delegations and deputies but also in our missions and in headquarters,” said Wallström.
“The outcome of last year's rotation were only five out of 35 nominations of heads of delegations were women illustrates that more has to be done."
In the audience, there were policymakers, civil servants, scholars, journalists and representatives from NGOs. After Minister Wallström’s comments she engaged in a Q+A with the audience. Topics focused on how to solicit the help of men in creating greater sensitivity on gender issues, how to strengthen the EU’s impact on the ground in conflict zones like Syria, Iraq or Congo to follow through on the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 commitments as well as the new initiative of a network of female negotiators and mediators.
Wallström concluded that when the EU institutions and member states join forces and build on the expertise, knowledge, and commitment available, gender equality is not only about rights, democracy, resources, and justice but also reason and efficiency – a much needed impetus in the current time of crises within Europe.
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