Ambassador Fries (left) and former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert answer questions during the open forum.

In celebration of National Women’s Month, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) hosted a Mabini Dialogue on “Pioneering the Swedish Feminist Foreign Policy” on 26 March 2018.  Ambassador Harald Fries shared the experiences and insights of Sweden—the first country to pursue a feminist foreign policy—in its pioneering work toward promoting gender equality and women’s rights in bilateral, regional, and multilateral fora.

Ambassador Fries argued that gender equality is a prerequisite for achieving other foreign policy goals. Advancing gender equality has a positive impact on addressing food security, health, education, and various other key global concerns. Launched in October 2014, Sweden’s feminist foreign policy aims to ensure women’s rights and participation in central decision-making processes.

The core areas of the feminist foreign policy include the promotion of full enjoyment of human rights by all women and girls, including combating all forms of violence and discrimination, and women’s participation and influence in decision-making at all levels and in all areas. In its three years of implementation, Sweden has achieved significant strides toward gender equality. It has prohibited the purchase of sexual services; published 135 country reports on human rights, democracy, and rule of law; focused development cooperation on gender equality; and supported civil society’s efforts to empower women and girls. The country has worked intensively in combatting destructive masculine norms and strengthening partner-countries’ capacities to prosecute perpetrators and assist crime victims.

As a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Sweden has placed women, peace, and security among the priority agenda. It assumed a leading role in boosting the participation of women in peace processes, gendered approach to development aid, and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) by initiating the global “She Decides” movement. Other noteworthy initiatives of Sweden include pushing for equal share of nonpaid work, addressing gender stereotypes in schools, highlighting the critical role of midwives to reduce maternal mortality.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Delia Domingo-Albert shared the Philippines’ efforts in addressing gender inequality and discrimination. She said she prepared the first draft of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) when she was working under Senator Leticia-Ramon Shahani. This draft was adopted by the United Nations as a basic working paper. The Philippines is among the few countries to have a comprehensive women’s human rights law that seeks to eliminate discrimination through the recognition, protection, fulfilment, and promotion of the rights of Filipino women. Pursuant to the Magna Carta of Women, all government agencies allocate at least five percent of their annual budget to mainstreaming gender perspectives in their policies, programs, and projects.

During the open forum, Executive Director Lourdes M. Salcedo of the Department of Foreign Affairs–Human Resources Management Office and FSI Director-General Claro S. Cristobal both shared insights on the increasing inclusivity of women in the Philippine foreign service.  Currently, 49 percent of officers are female and 20 of them are heads of mission, according to Executive Director Salcedo.  Ambassador Cristobal revealed that majority of the candidates in the Foreign Service Examinations were women, predicting that in 12-15 years, 67 percent of the Philippine foreign service officers will be women.

The importance of educating men and including them in gender equality initiatives was highlighted, and the influence of culture and religion in shaping gender roles was also raised.

Director-General Cristobal (rightmost) with Ambassador Fries and Ambassador Albert.