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Feminist Victory Stops Swedish Military Deal With Saudi Arabia

11 March 2015

Last night presented a major victory for WILPF Sweden and other disarmament and women’s rights activists, as the Swedish government declared it will not continue a heavily criticised military cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia.

While the agreement did not include explicit provisions on specific arms deals, it has been a key driver for Sweden’s increased arms sales to the Saudi regime the last decade. We’re very hopeful that last night’s decision will stop this trend.

No military cooperation with a regime violating human rights

WILPF Sweden has been working hard with other civil society organisations to place respect for women’s human rights at the centre of the debate about the so-called “Saudi agreement.”

WILPF has engaged in advocacy, built a social media campaign, and published op-eds arguing that Sweden cannot have far reaching military cooperation with a regime that systematically and brutally violates women’s rights.

One of our recommendations when the Human Rights Council for its second Universal Periodic Review reviewed Sweden, was that Sweden must stop its arms sales to states that violate human rights.

Despite the interest of economic players, we won the fight

Powerful players, mainly from the private sector, have highlighted export incomes from trading with Saudi Arabia and argued that Sweden must continue the military cooperation.

While little information has been released about the government negotiations between the Social Democratic Party and the Greens, it has been very uncertain whether they would take the step to stop the agreement. While the Greens have a history of opposing arms trade in general, the Social Democrats, on the other hand, have traditionally been very protective of the Swedish arms industry.

But as last night showed, despite the clear interest of major economic players to keep the agreement, the disarmament activists and the women’s rights defenders won this round.

Sweden’s feminist foreign policy

WILPF Sweden has declared this a feminist victory. Sweden’s minister for Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, stated in her first day in office that Sweden will run a feminist foreign policy, and the government has highlighted the gender provisions of the UN Arms Trade Treaty. It would have been impossible to motivate how a feminist policy can entail military deals with Saudi Arabia.

Stopping Swedish arms trade to human rights abusers once and for all

While we’re excited about last night’s news, there is still a more critical debate to be had around Swedish arms exports and human rights.

In April, a parliamentary committee will propose new regulations for Swedish arms exports with the aim to sharpen export controls towards non-democratic states. The pressure is on. The public debate these last weeks has shown a very strong support for putting human rights and gender equality front and centre. Swedes do not want to arm human rights abusers.

Much hard work remains. But last night was a feminist victory that will give us the energy we need to stop Swedish arms trade to human rights abusers once and for all.

This blog was written by WILPF Sweden

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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