from Women Around the World and Women and Foreign Policy Program

Understanding Gender Equality in Foreign Policy: What the United States Can Do

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom addresses the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security, on October 27, 2017. Ryan Brown/UN Women

A new report by Jamille Bigio and Rachel Vogelstein offers a comprehensive overview of how countries around the world are integrating gender equality as a foreign policy priority, and how the United States can advance security and economic growth by drawing on the benefits of women’s empowerment globally.

June 29, 2020

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom addresses the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security, on October 27, 2017. Ryan Brown/UN Women
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Today, the Women and Foreign Policy Program launched a new report, Understanding Gender Equality in Foreign Policy: What the United States Can Do, by Jamille Bigio and Rachel Vogelstein.

Understanding Gender Equality in Foreign Policy offers a comprehensive overview of how countries around the world are integrating gender equality as a foreign policy priority, and how the United States can advance security and economic growth by drawing on the benefits of women’s empowerment globally.

More on:

U.S. Foreign Policy

Women and Women's Rights

Foreign Aid

Defense and Security

Women and Economic Growth

In 2014 the Swedish government adopted an explicitly feminist foreign policy, becoming the first nation ever to do so. Since then, Canada, France, and Mexico have followed suit, and a handful of other countries—most recently, Luxembourg, Malaysia, and Spain—have pledged to do the same. Short of a comprehensive feminist foreign policy, there are numerous ways that nations can advance the rights of women and girls through their defense, diplomacy, development, and trade efforts. Focusing on women’s rights is not new in the realm of public policy, but in recent years a growing number of countries have elevated the issue by adopting national action plans, creating standalone funds, appointing gender envoys, balancing senior diplomatic staff, and setting aid targets for foreign assistance.

“Unlocking the potential of half the population is not just a moral obligation—it is an economic and security imperative,” write Vogelstein and Bigio. “At a time when resources are limited, investing in women and girls is a proven way to bolster good governance, economic growth, community health, and stability.” Nations seeking to advance national security, maximize the utility of foreign aid, and support democratic partners should prioritize women’s advancement.

In revising its own approach, the United States can look to the examples of its neighbors and partners across the globe. The report includes concrete recommendations for U.S. policymakers to strengthen and expand its efforts to advance gender equality. Among other recommendations, the authors urge the U.S. government to launch a high-level White House council to elevate and coordinate efforts to advance the status of women and girls, issue a government-wide strategy to advance gender equality as a domestic and foreign policy priority, close the gender financing gap, and mainstream transparency and accountability into foreign policy initiatives. The United States should demonstrate genuine leadership, adopt strong policies, and provide sufficient resources that will not only improve the lives of women and girls but also strengthen the stability and prosperity of entire economies and nations.

Read the report here>>

More on:

U.S. Foreign Policy

Women and Women's Rights

Foreign Aid

Defense and Security

Women and Economic Growth

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