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Feminist Foreign Policy: Accountability Matters

by Ana Velasco and Daniela Philipson García

Feminist Foreign Policies (FFPs) and the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda are among the most powerful feminist international political frameworks of the last decades. Since it was first presented by the former Swedish government in 2014, FFP has sparked a growing body of scholarship and debates among civil society. With eleven countries having expressed an intention of implementing it, accountability is pivotal for the continuity of FFP.

Like the WPS Agenda, there is no single blueprint for the design and implementation of FFPs. Nonetheless, one key lesson for FFPs from the WPS Agenda is the importance of establishing clear accountability mechanisms that respond to local contexts, specific country agendas, as well as their capacity and access to resources. Such mechanisms are also critical to ensure engagement from civil society and continuity in the long term. Sweden’s case is a reminder that FFPs are not guaranteed and can be ended promptly when conservative agendas are prioritized. FFPs should be strategic and include external civil society stakeholders to support and sustain them, increasing the stakes for future administrations to eliminate them.

Like National Action Plans on WPS, FFPs must be designed and implemented with civil society. They must report data and outcomes on an annual basis, and have a sufficient and continuous budget allocation. Thus, civil society emerges as a strategic partner for policy-makers that are truly committed to the continuity of their work. In order to achieve this, we argue that the WPS Agenda is a reference for monitoring and evaluation. Below, we explore Mexico’s FFP and outline recommendations to the Mexican government on how to attain transparency and accountability for its FFP.

Mexico joined the FFP club in 2020. Although the Mexican government was internationally praised for introducing the first FFP of the Global South, local civil society was not consulted or included in the effort. One year later, the country presented its first National Action Plan on WPS. Again, civil society was not involved in its development. This pattern stands in striking contrast with the strength of the feminist movement in Mexico both on the streets and in academia. In light of this, we need to ask: why no dialogue?

Despite being in its fourth year, there is still little public information available on what Mexico’s FFP consists of and what it has achieved. Furthermore, there are no accountability or transparency mechanisms that allow independent researchers or civil society to gauge the scope and impact of Mexico’s FFP.

Internacional Feminista, a Mexican feminist collective focused on foreign policy and international security, (IF) was born as a response to this need. IF’s aim is to reclaim feminisms in international relations from a civil society lens. In response to the dearth of civil society participation and data on Mexico’s FFP, IF filed several freedom of information requests to define, evaluate and monitor each of the FFP pillars proposed by the government. IF also analyzed data based on the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs' responses to track the FFP’s objectives. In addition, we conducted interviews, drafted a literature review, and wrote two case studies. The result of IF’s in-depth investigation was a report, titled “Mexico’s FFP: A Brief Evaluation.” Below are some of IF’s report’s key findings:

  • The Mexican FFP has a broad and ambitious scope. Although the Secretariat says it seeks to mainstream gender perspectives across all foreign policy areas as one of its core objectives, IF found this does not happen in practice. The FFP is most visible in Mexico’s rhetoric in multilateral fora. However, it is largely absent from other foreign policy issues, such as defense, trade, and diplomacy.
  • Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretariat replied to IF’s freedom of information request saying that it had no records of personnel demographic data, disaggregated by gender or rank. Thus, it is not possible to assess whether or not there is gender parity across SRE’s ranks.
  • The Secretariat has announced several norms and protocols to prevent and address GBV within its ranks. However, there is very little information available regarding how these are implemented and if they have achieved their intended outcomes. Furthermore, diplomatic appointments have not been aligned with the FFP’s principles as there has been at least one in which the appointee had pending allegations of sexual harassment or assault against them.
  • The Secretariat reported that intersectionality-related efforts would be financed. However, data shows that the budget remained constant from 2018 to 2020 and that additional resources were not granted to support these efforts. In fact, the Mexican FFP interprets “intersectionality” and “gender perspective” as synonymous, which goes against the disruptive spirit of intersectional discourse and ignores multidimensional identities beyond binary gender categories.

In order for the Mexican FFP to achieve its full potential, IF recommended that, like Mexico’s National Action Plan on WPS, the FFP should consist of a policy roadmap that details actions, indicators, and impact in a transparent and accessible format that allows academics and civil society to monitor and evaluate results. Furthermore, Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretariat should report outcomes on an annual basis and ensure the meaningful participation of civil society.

The Federal Government should also design a budgetary framework and assign adequate resources for the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the FFP. Another key recommendation is that the Foreign Affairs Secretariat should collect personnel demographic data, disaggregated by gender, rank, and ethnicity. This data should be publicly available via SRE’s online portal, in an open format. Lastly, the Secretariat should guarantee that the FFP is an institutional policy. In other words, it should be clearly articulated and coordinated across the Secretariat in a cohesive way. All Secretariat units should cooperate and coordinate to ensure there is a consistent gender lens to their work.

Mexico will hold federal elections next year. This means that the continuity of the FFP is at stake. Should the current path of minimal engagement with civil society continue, there is a risk of instrumentalizing feminism and pinkwashing the governments’ rhetoric in lieu of laying the groundwork for leading transformative and feminist radical change.