If my country, the United States, were to adopt a feminist foreign policy, I believe there would be a major, positive shift on this planet. I tweeted that sentiment after interviewing my current guest, Kristina Lunz. I was a little nervous about doing it. I’m not sure exactly why. Speaking your truth is always a little scary, especially for us women. But I got a lot of likes on Twitter from men and women alike. That was interesting to see.
What is a feminist foreign policy? I will let Kristina mostly answer this question because she will do it much better than I. But I will say at the outset that, like this podcast, it supports processes and leadership that build common ground rather than dividing and polarizing people. It emphasizes more of the win-win, less win-lose to resolve differences.
Frankly, the egocentric “I want it now and it's your fault that I can't get it”, the “blame game”, is wearing super thin on me. This includes the drumming up of conflict and zero-sum thinking, and attacking people to get your interests met as a style. It’s not just developmentally juvenile, it’s plain dangerous, especially if the person using it has a lot of power. And its end-game is a homogeneous world where one dominant cultural group, often white straight men, are on top, with the rest of us supporting them and dependent on them for handouts and our survival. I know I’m not interested in that, and I know so many others -- men, women, people -- who are not either.
This podcast advocates empowering women, not just because it's an end in itself, which it is, but because it's the most powerful way to get to a more peaceful and sustainable planet for all of us. To begin with, you can only have real democracy when you have real democracy starting at home — and better sex too, by the way.
I hope you've noticed that what the countries with the best coronavirus responses have in common is that they are run by women. This is not because there aren't many great men leaders out there, but because these women are probably more effortlessly bringing the quality of collaboration to the table which is so sorely needed on the planet right now. My greatest wish for the silver lining of this pandemic is that it deeply underscores our interdependence and need to further develop our collaborative skills. As Kurt Lewin, a grandfather of social psychology said long ago, everyone understands authority, but democracy is a learned behavior.
The Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy (CFFP) was co- founded by my current guest, Kristina Lunz. It's an international research and advocacy organization, was established in 2016, and is dedicated to promoting feminist foreign policy across the globe. The problem CFFP addresses is outdated, patriarchal structures, and their vision is to create an intersectional approach to foreign policy globally.
Kristina tells me that research shows that…
"The most significant factor toward whether a country is peaceful within its own borders or towards other countries is the level of gender equality. So, if that's true, it's pretty easy. It just means that there won't be any peace without feminism."
Kristina is an award-winning human rights activist, co-founder and Germany Director of the Center for Feminist Foreign Policy and advisor to the German Federal Foreign Office. She was also recently named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. She graduated with distinction from University College London School of Public Policy, and did a second Masters at the Oxford Department of International Development in diplomacy. Her activism started at Oxford and has continued ever since.
I've learned so much from doing this episode and talking to Kristina. Here are a few of the many things that stand out:
I spent years traveling to The Hague to provide intercultural negotiation skills programs for ICTY, the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia), but wasn't aware until now that 100 years ago, during the First World War, about 1500 women came to the Hague from many parts for the International Congress for Women. They called for an end to the First World War and to establish a set of resolutions to avoid another World War. These included, for example, the dismantling of the military-industrial complex, the prioritization of mediation for conflict resolution, and the democratization of foreign policy, reverberations of themes which have motivated me throughout my life. History is always so interesting.
I found it deeply moving that Sweden describes its government as “feminist” and created the first feminist foreign policy (for modern times) in 2014. This was followed by Canada, followed by Mexico. Check out the CFFP website to see the history of feminist foreign policy. It shows what's possible.
I found it interesting to hear about the actor, Emma Watson's conversation with the academic Valerie Hudson, and the latter's new book called The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide. I can’t wait to read it and hope to get Hudson on the podcast soon. In reading the transcript of that conversation, I learned from Emma Thompson that I can refer to myself as “self-partnering” rather than “single”. I’ve enjoyed my journey of the last 10 years living without a partner, though I've dated some wonderful guys. Self-partnering somehow struck me as empowering because living without the protection of a guy can still feel frightening to so many women around the world, myself included.
So I'll stop there and let you listen to Kristina Lunz, a woman who is really on fire, and is going to do a lot to contribute to our common great future.