"Feminist foreign policy", Op-Ed by Jean-Yves Le Drian and Marlène Schiappa (8 March 2019)


France aims to support the empowerment of women around the world through combatting sexual and gender-based violence, fighting for occupational equality and fighting for the education of girls.

During the past year, France has been the driver of a new initiative: a genuine feminist foreign policy. A feminist foreign policy that forgot no subject. A foreign policy to combat sexual and sexist violence. A foreign policy to promote the education of girls and women, boys and men, throughout the world. A foreign policy to foster women’s economic empowerment worldwide, and particularly in Africa. A tangible foreign policy, not limited to mere words, which is truly active and produces real effects to support women, all women.

How is France working to further this feminist foreign policy? By deploying the resources necessary. The French President created a grants budget in order to give international reach to the great cause of his term: gender equality. This budget, €120 million, will be managed starting in 2019 by the French Development Agency (AFD), with the key goal of supporting feminist movements and NGOs, particularly in developing countries, to fight for the equality, rights and dignity of girls and women everywhere.

In 2018, more than half of the projects financed worldwide by the AFD included a component focused on gender equality, showing France’s strong commitment to this issue. Now we need to do even more, in line with the United Nations 2030 Agenda. This is why the Government has tasked the AFD with reaching, by 2022, a total of €700 million annually in funding aimed primarily at reducing gender inequality. In 2018, France was voted champion of the “She Decides” Initiative for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls.

We are combating sexual and sexist violence. To do so, the President of the Republic has proposed the universal adoption of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. This Council of Europe Convention is essential. And yet, there is no escaping the fact that many States have not ratified it, including some of our European partners. This situation has to change. France has been actively campaigning to achieve this.

Furthering this feminist foreign policy means working to ensure that both girls and boys around the world get better access to education. To this end and at France’s instigation, a conference on girls’ education in Africa will be held in Paris on 5 July, tied in with the Sahel Alliance.This feminist foreign policy also means fostering women’s economic empowerment, and especially in Africa. To achieve that, the President of the Republic has announced the creation of a financial instrument for women’s entrepreneurship, fostering occupational and pay equality between men and women.

In the context of its G7 Presidency in 2019, France will be launching a unique initiative in the coming weeks: the Biarritz Partnership for Gender Equality. The experts at the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council are currently working to create a compilation of laws made up of those “most favourable” to women worldwide.

In May, the Gender Equality Ministers of the G7 countries will meet in Paris. The compilation of laws will then be presented and endorsed by the Ministers. They will adopt a first statement committing to incorporate at least one of the laws in the compilation into national legislation in the coming years.

A commitment to legislate is necessary but not sufficient in itself. Laws are made to produce effects. This is why the President of the Republic has announced the creation of a mechanism to monitor the Partnership’s commitments, in cooperation with the relevant international organizations. It is therefore clear that we are looking for “Action!”.

These actions will be particularly powerful as we can build on genuine gender parity in high-ranking positions within France’s diplomatic apparatus. In the past five years, the number of female French ambassadors has doubled, with 52 of them now representing France abroad. The efforts of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs to foster equality in its workforce have been highlighted since 2017 by an AFNOR label for occupational gender equality. Moreover, a support and guidance unit has been set up within the Ministry for victims of sexual harassment and has enabled victims to speak out and receive proper support.

Furthering this feminist foreign policy worldwide means fighting for equality between men and women everywhere and all the time. That is the goal of the President of the Republic. That is the goal of France. This Friday, the President will award the Simone Veil Prize of the French Republic, which recognizes actions to promote women’s rights in the world.

In every multilateral body, France champions policies in favour of women’s rights and human rights. The President of the Republic denounced “femicide”, using this exact term – a first for the United Nations.

France is back. France is back for itself: Gender equality is the great cause of President Macron’s term. But France is also back for the wider world: Gender equality now needs to become a great global cause.

France is back and feminism as well. Let us match President’s commitment in favor of all girls and women, everywhere in the world. Together.

Published in Libération, 8 March 2019