Historic Legislation Calling for a Feminist Foreign Policy Introduced in U.S. Congress

Press Release Date

23 September 2020

Press Release Author

Joe Shaffner, Senior Communications Manager, ICRW

Coalition for a Feminist Foreign Policy in the United States

WASHINGTON — Today, 24 members of Congress – led by Congresswomen Speier, Lee and Frankel – introduced historic legislation calling for a feminist foreign policy in the United States.

“A feminist approach to foreign policy demands that we reject oppressive policies and elevate tools to promote peace by prioritizing racial and environmental justice, human rights, and gender equity. Doing so will require a whole of government approach, including a commitment to diversity and gender parity in hiring and promotion in the national security and foreign policy sectors, adoption of zero-tolerance policies toward gender-based violence and workplace harassment, and access to reproductive health care,” said Rep. Speier, Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, upon introduction. “We know that our world is more peaceful and prosperous when women have the tools to succeed and be equal members of society. A feminist foreign policy will bring us closer to that goal.”

The resolution calls for adoption of a far-reaching feminist foreign policy, to include foreign assistance and humanitarian response, trade, diplomacy, defense, immigration, funding, and oversight mechanisms.

“When girls and women are educated, healthy and safe, their communities are more secure and more prosperous. To make this a global reality it will take the commitment and efforts of all United States agencies and departments,” said Rep. Frankel, Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus.

“It’s long overdue to rethink U.S. foreign policy to reflect the reality that half the world is female,” said Rep. Lee, Co-Chair of the Pro Choice Caucus. “America needs to promote a foreign policy that reflects, supports and defends the human rights of all people, no matter their gender, race or ethnicity. Adding a feminist lens to our foreign policy would help build a more peaceful, cooperative world that dismantles age-old systems of oppression and gives every human being the chance to thrive.”

The resolution defines a feminist foreign policy as “the policy of a state that defines its interactions with other states, as well as movements and other non-state actors, in a manner that prioritizes peace, gender equality, and environmental integrity; enshrines, promotes, and protects the human rights of all; seeks to disrupt colonial, racist, patriarchal, and male-dominated power structures; and allocates significant resources, including research, to achieve that vision….is coherent in its approach across its levers of influence, anchored by the exercise of those values at home and co-created with feminist activists, organizations, movements, and stakeholders, at home and abroad.”

This definition was developed by a coalition of gender equality and foreign policy experts drawing from a series of discussion, research, and consultations with more than 200 feminist activists from more than 40 countries to arrive at a vision of a U.S. foreign policy. That vision – launched in May 2020 – calls for the U.S. to reconceptualize national interest in the context of global goods.

“The Coalition for a Feminist Foreign Policy in the United States is grateful for the leadership of these incredible Congresswomen, and proud to partner with them in this effort to make U.S. foreign policy feminist,” said Lyric Thompson, the Senior Director for Policy and Advocacy at the International Center for Research on Women and the lead author of a white paper, endorsed by the Coalition and more than 70 organizations, outlining what a U.S. feminist foreign policy might look like. “This Resolution is an unprecedented step forward by Congress, and given the state of the world, such an approach couldn’t be timelier,” she concluded.

Pioneered in 2014 by Sweden, and then followed by a growing number of countries including both of America’s neighbors and two of its most valuable trade partners, Canada and Mexico, feminist foreign policy has emerged as the world’s most promising policy innovation to advance gender equality, defend human rights, and promote peace and planet.

“A Feminist Foreign Policy recognizes the critical role that diplomacy, development, and other soft powers play alongside defense in achieving our national and foreign policy goals,” said Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, Founder and Executive Director for Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS). “We must therefore continue to strengthen the important role of international institutions, respect for international law and partnerships, and show that the U.S. is a nation not alone, but among many.”

Before the onslaught of COVID-19, the World Economic Forum estimated that, if the status quo was maintained, it would take almost 100 years to reach global gender equality. As COVID-19 exacerbates health, economic and gender inequalities globally and the world’s female leaders increasingly make headlines as having led some of the most effective responses to the pandemic, today’s resolution is a reminder both of what is possible, and how much work still must be done.

“To build a more equitable future for all people, the U.S. must proudly and boldly embrace a feminist foreign policy,” said Monica Kerrigan, executive director, Planned Parenthood Global. “We commend Reps. Speier, Lee, Frankel, and the original cosponsors for introducing this critical resolution, and for emphasizing sexual and reproductive health and rights as a core principle within it. We look forward to working alongside these proud feminist champions to turn this vision into a reality.”

Partner Quotes

“CARE is proud to support this resolution that brings national and global attention to a core message our organization stands firmly behind: centering gender equality in diplomacy, development assistance, and humanitarian response is not only critical to advancing the rights of women and girls, it is foundational to making our world more equitable and safe,” said Michelle Nunn, CARE USA President & CEO. “We are long past the time for confronting the inequalities that hold millions of women and girls back – now is the time to stand on principle and act. CARE thanks Congresswomen Speier, Frankel, Lee, Meng, Schakowsky and the other original co-sponsors for taking this bold message forward.”

“With whistleblower reports of women in ICE facilities being forcibly violated and given hysterectomies, a global health crisis at play, and wildfires raging on across the West – it’s long past time that we change our approach to foreign policy issues, which as it stands now, has left us terribly ill-equipped to tackle today’s most urgent crises,” explained Serra Sippel, President of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). “Our national foreign policy priorities must change to reflect the reality of the fundamentally new world that we are living in. We need a new way forward – one that prioritizes the health and human rights of people, the wellbeing of our planet, and the goal of peace.”

“This resolution is a step towards not only equality but progress,” said Elmira Bayrasli, CEO of Foreign Policy Interrupted. “It is vital that foreign policy in the 21st century break free from its militaristic 20th century straightjacket. Today’s issues require a multitude of approaches and perspectives. That includes prioritizing humanitarianism, human rights, and development. As the world grapples with Covid-19, along with other transnational issues, it’s time to embrace a feminist foreign policy.”

”As an organization dedicated to engaging men as allies in women’s empowerment, Promundo is pleased to sign on to the core message in this resolution, namely that our stake in the world beyond our borders must center full equality for women and girls everywhere. We applaud Congresswomen Speier, Frankel, Lee and all original co-sponsors for their leadership on this issue, and call on more male members of the House to put their voice behind this cause and show their allyship for full equality for women and girls,” said Gary Barker, President and CEO, Promundo-US.

“A feminist foreign policy is essential for a constructive U.S. approach to global engagement and would enable the U.S. to make significant contributions towards a truly sustainable and equitable world. The executive branch should take note as civil society and key members of Congress work together to realize this goal.” – Kavita N. Ramdas, Director of Open Society Foundations’ Women’s Rights Program


About the Coalition for a Feminist Foreign Policy in the United States: The Coalition for a Feminist Foreign Policy in the United States was founded in 2020 to advocate with U.S. policymakers to share recommendations, analysis and resources and encourage the United States Government, in whole or in part, to take up the recommendations articulated in the paper Toward a Feminist Foreign Policy in the United States.