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Madeleine Rees On Sweden And What It Means To Have A Feminist Foreign Policy

24 March 2015

In an openDemocracy 50.50 article, WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees comments on the recent decision by the Swedish government to end their military cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Margot Wallström, the Swedish Foreign Minister, had previously criticised the Saudi authorities for their lack of respect for human rights, calling the sentence of 1,000 lashes and flogging of liberal Saudi blogger Raif Badawi “mediaeval”. When Saudi Arabia recently blocked Wallström from addressing the Arab League due to her statements, it was the final nail in the coffin for the already contested “Saudi agreement”.

As we look at the conflicts that are going on today, we must not forget that weapons are at the heart of the problem, and that anyone claiming to have a feminist foreign policy must address the issue of where these weapons come from.

“There are choices that we have to make.” Madeleine Rees writes in her article. “We can have foreign policies that give succor to regimes that kill, torture and maim their own citizens, and then pass on the weapons we sell to their protégées in other countries. Or we can choose a fundamental change in the way we do business and demand foreign policies that promote human rights and that refuse to facilitate conflict through the use of more and more violence and militarism.”

Read the full article.

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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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Demilitarisation

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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