Swedish feminist foreign policy in the making: Ethics, politics, and gender

Karin Aggestam, Annika Bergman-Rosamond

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48 Citations (Scopus)


In 2015, the world's first self-defined feminist government was formed in Sweden with the explicit ambition of pursuing a feminist foreign policy. This essay seeks to unpack and highlight some of the substance and plausible future directions of a feminist foreign policy. The overarching ambition is three-fold: (1) to probe the normative contents of feminist foreign policy in theory and in practice; (2) to identify a number of potential challenges and ethical dilemmas that are detrimental to gender-sensitive global politics; and (3) to advance a research agenda that can deepen the normative and ethical notions of a feminist foreign policy. Sweden's feminist foreign policy is still in the making. Its conduct is mostly incremental and focused on international agenda setting and normative entrepreneurship, which is guided by an ethically informed framework of cosmopolitanism and human rights. Yet, this essay argues that this reorientation is distinct for two reasons: First, by adopting the F-word it elevates politics from a broadly consensual orientation of gender mainstreaming towards more controversial politics, which explicitly seeks to renegotiate and challenge power hierarchies and gendered institutions that hitherto defined global institutions and foreign and security policies. Second, it contains a normative reorientation of foreign policy, which is guided by an ethically informed framework based on broad cosmopolitan norms of global justice and peace. The article concludes by advancing a research agenda that draws upon feminist IR theory and enhances the ethical and transformative contents of the English School by making it more gender-sensitive and appropriate for the study of feminist foreign policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-334
Number of pages12
JournalEthics and International Affairs
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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