Dear Ambassador Raghavan, Professor Chaturvedi, distinguished panelists and participants from India and South Asia.
I am pleased that the prestigious ICWA under your leadership is gender mainstreaming it’s strategic policy universe. I applaud it as a feminist, a practitioner of international relations and diplomacy for 45 years and more specially as someone who had the privilege of nurturing UNWOMEN - the first and only feminist global governance entity - for 7 out of its 10 years.
It does not require a feminist to highlight as the historian Yuva Noah Harari does in his Sapiens series, that the power hierarchy of supreme importance in all known human societies over the ages is the male dominated hierarchy of sex or gender. Our families, communities, societies, economies, countries and international relations suffer to a greater or lesser extent from the almost atavistic, “patrilineal fraternal syndrome” of gender injustice and discrimination against women.
While we seek it’s rectification, we need to dismantle its deepest civilizational foundations and what better way to do that than to leverage the United Nations. Is it not, first and foremost, the keeper and shaper of our evolving equity based civilizational values through the 21st century?.
I believe that the un[at]75’s major achievement is as the fountainhead of gender equality norms and gender debates in international relations. It can be credited with taking the “personal is political” feminist dictum to its logical conclusion. It has been most influential in the incorporation of global norms on GEWE and women’s human rights in national policies but also in diplomacy and foreign policy of member states. The UN has driven a virtuous cycle and feed in feed back loops of global regional, national and local norms, laws, policies and their implementation with member states and it’s feminist collaborators.
Although feminism arose in the West, India and our South Asian Region has a rich tradition and panoply of women’s movement and homegrown feminist thought and political leadership and role models. South Asian feminism has contributed majorly to the significant body of GEWE norms and standards, soft law and international rules of the game especially at the United Nations and I pay tribute to them.
Equally feminist theories have found voice and validation, dynamism and traction in and through the U.N. at the global level. The very concept of gender mainstreaming is a case in point. In effect, I can assert that there is a new international feminist order emerging at the U.N. especially in the last 10 years, resisting continuing misogynist backlash. What are the elements of this order?.
Feminist Theories of IR are well reflected in the gendered interpretation of International Relations, global governance and multilateral system anchored in the United Nations. By now all four projects of U.N. for humanity are integrally gender mainstreamed - peace and security, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian and disaster response.
A systematic and substantive gendered lens is mandated in UN and international communities’ efforts in conflict prevention, peace keeping, peace building, preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism. The Women Peace and security Agenda enshrined in the landmark UNSC 1325 resolution of 2000 and several follow-up resolutions, have become an integral part of UN Peace architecture and operations.
Similarly, feminist theories of gendered international political economy and development find resonance in the UN. As a former UNCTAD development advocate, I believe that the centre - periphery and dependency theories are applicable beyond post colonial, North South economic inequality metrics.
In another extension of the personal is political marginalization idea, these theories capture the grossly inadequate and unequal participation and leadership of women in national and international economy, trade, aid , finance, business and employment as acknowledged in Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for development of 2015 and its recommendations to remedy that.
To address this, GEWE has been centre staged in the U.N. and BWIs development template by now, especially through the universal, gender responsive Agenda 2030 For Sustainable Development that sets out 17 SDGs encompassing the trinity of economic, social and environmental targets for humanity including a transformative SDG 5 on GEWE and complementary gender responsive targets in 11 SDGs - something I am proud to take credit for instigating !
As our panelists will show, feminism is a variable geometry turbocharger for more inclusive and effective international relations. Gender mainstreaming can therefore be justified in different theories of international relations - be they liberal / idealist, realist or constructivist. GEWE is about principles but also hard nosed national interest as also a combination of the two.
For has GEWE not been crowned as a global public good, equity and human rights principle to be pursued by states for its own value? Equally is it not recognized as a source of both soft and hard power and critical to realization of the four national and international projects of humanity and the entire range of other public goods. Yes it is.
Historically, almost since UN’s founding, a dedicated Commission on the status of Women - CSW as an organ of the ECOSOC was established in 1946. It became the unique global platform for policy makers and feminist activists to dialogue and set feminist global standards for member states to follow.
It spawned the landmark CEDAW - a Women’s Bill of Rights acceded to by 187/193 countries with governments regularly reporting to the CEDAW Committee and holding themselves accountable for the implementation of its provisions. Four World Conferences on women from 1975 to 1995- the last adopting the Beijing Platform for Action - have been held.
25 years old this year, the BPA has 12 areas of concern and Action - Women and poverty, economic empowerment, power and decision making, eliminating violence against women, education, health, media, women in armed conflict, institutional mechanisms, environment, human rights and the girl child.
It still constitutes a feminist gold standard and blueprint for governments and stakeholders to follow in their national and international policy. Most countries have based their gender equality policies on BPA and participated in the quinquennial national, regional and global reviews - one just completed!
UNWOMEN has become the fulcrum of the new international feminist order, Its creation in 2010, elevated and intensified GEWE related global discourse, international relations and diplomacy, striving for six qualities or shad gunas of excellence.- since we talk about indigenization of feminist discourse.
The first Guna relates to the creation of a UNWOMEN centred gender equality global governance and institutional architecture - a locus of Shakti. It is more integrated, strengthened, multisectoral and equipped to promote GEWE in a focused and comprehensive way than any other in history. It is an axis for empowerment of and dialogue among women’s affairs ministries and a catalyst for engendering all key institutions everywhere- public and private including foreign ministries.
UNWOMEN is also a repository of and radiates the other five gunas. The Second Guna - Bala is the quality of force multiplication. UNWOMEN in its UN System Coordination function has ensured that GEWE SWAPs, policies and programs and accountability frameworks are embraced by almost all 68 / agencies and departments of UN system including IMF/WB/ WTO.
These together constitute a GEWE infused universe, measuring impact on delivering their global public goods - whether health or education to women and girls while igniting their empowerment and agency. Another important commitment is to gender parity in UN at all levels from recruitment to top leadership of women.
The third Guna Veeryam is the quality of transformative and “brave new” global norms and standards Apart from BPA, the GEWE “motherboard” of standards have been strengthened through landmark resolutions of CSW, UNGA, ECOSOC, and UNSC and CEDAW Committee jurisprudence expanding and deepening GEWE body of soft law and practice including SDG 5.
SDG 5 sets nine global targets on EVAW, recognizing, valuing, sharing and provision of unpaid care work, access ownership and control of economic resources, technological empowerment, sexual and reproductive health and rights, participation and leadership in economic and public life and decision making and comprehensive legal and policy reform to end gender based discrimination. Key Global agreements from Rio plus 20, Paris Climate, New Urban Agenda, WSIS and Sendai Disaster response have additionally been engendered.
A veritable ideational and normative Gender Equality Global compact among states, private sector and civil society which is comprehensive and transformative exists. But we need to continue to push the frontiers especially in culturally contested areas, and develop the normative of implementation in every old and new field including governance of digital and TechEconomy 4.0 and the future of work.
The fourth Guna - Aishwarya is mobilizing actors and assets through Advocacy, movement building and multistakeholder partnership with the feminist movement. It is about deploying the power of game changers for gender equality including men and boys, youth, media, private sector, religious groups, other CSOs with women’s movement at the center.
GEWE is a psychosocial enterprise as much as a political and economic one. These all of society convergences are essential for dismantling discriminatory social norms, harmful practices and patriarchical structures that stubbornly prevent rapid GEWE transformation.
Examples of UNWOMEN international Advocacy campaigns joined by stakeholders include the successful He For She, Step it up for GE, Planet 50/50, Unstrereotyoe, Generation Equality Now, Ring the Bell for Gender Equality in Stock Exchanges, Women’s Empowerment Principles for Private sector and Interfaith Alliance for gender equality.
The fifth Guna is Sarvagyaana the quality of omniscience. UNWOMEN has been working to be a one stop centre for GEWE related information, knowledge and wisdom to use TS Eliots hierarchy of knowledge power. Beginning with bridging the gender data gap - “Making women count” it is vital to continue to make the case for why GEWE matters for national interest and foreign policy, what does it constitute in different areas/ sectors and how can countries articulate and organize themselves to get to that destination.
Becoming the best practices treasury to draw from on what works what does not, is important. A Global observatory and GEWE related knowledge exchange and R&D platform has been the ideal with national partners like India who can also be regional cooperation leaders.
Traditional feminists have balked at the instrumental argument for GEWE or for that matter working with private sector. For mindset change in political and corporate leaders or public opinion makers we need to highlight both the right thing to do because it is gender justice and the smart thing to do because it serves social, economic, democratic and effective governance and profit purpose.
The 12-18 trillion global GDP increase by 2025 through gender parity case made by Mckinsey and nearly 800 billion increase in GDP for India by 2025 are persuasive arguments as are corporate profitability benefits of gender parity. The penny literally drops and as Amartya Sen argues, the economic and poverty eradication benefits of GEWE is a no brainer.
The sixth Guna is Tejas - the extraordinary resource mobilization and increased impact of programs on the ground in cooperation with donor states and beneficiaries in core areas of GEWE complementing bilateral cooperation programs for women’s empowerment in WEE, WPS, PPL, GRB, EVAW.
A key Investment and program is Training in Gender responsive diplomacy - be it bilateral or multilateral and capacity building for women diplomats including in specialized areas that are key to any countries foreign policy including trade, economic, finance, environmental and climate change, cultural, social and technological cooperation, disarmament, peace making and building among others.
Including women in second and third track diplomacy in mixed or discrete groupings as UNWOMEN facilitated in Afghanistan, Syria or Columbia and in G20 Women's Engagement Group is important too. It is not as a substitute to their being crucially at the main negotiating table but also in a preparatory and reinforcing role.
This UN based New Feminist Order has had a cascading impact on bilateral and plurilateral, regional and interregional diplomacy. UNWOMEN regularly tracks how increased HOS/G championship of GEWE is reflected in UNGA speeches going beyond the Western group.
In Asia PM Abe of Japan and President Xi of China assumed high profile global champions role in partnership with UNWOMEN. In South Asia, PM Modi as HE For She and Sheikh Hasina as Planet 50/50 Champion have been notable in their global championship of GEWE.
The climax of this mobilization by UNWOMEN of the top mostly male leadership of all countries (only 21 out of 193 have women heads) around the world was the first ever Global Summit on Gender Equality in history with 70 heads of governments / states and 165 countries making commitments to implement the Global Gender Equality Compact.
UNWOMEN encouraged countries pursuing a feminist foreign policy in the UN, in G77 (a first in 50 years), LDCs, SIDS, G20, G7, OECD in regional fora such as SAARC, ASEAN, CELA etc. Feminist ideational templates entered bilateral and plurilateral diplomacy especially of Nordics / EU with developing countries, including as part of aid, human rights, economic, diplomatic and security cooperation.
We encouraged peer influence and bilateral cooperation programs to target gender programs for funding, gender mainstreaming of transversal programs and GEWE policy compliance as incentives vis a vis beneficiary countries. Sweden became the first country in the world to declare a feminist foreign policy - applying the gender perspective throughout the foreign policy agenda with the Three Rs of Rights, Representation, Resources.
In my earlier avatar at UNWOMEN I cherished working with South Asian countries and India to advance their national and international GEWE agenda. UNWOMEN engender SAARC programs, Gender Policy Advisory Group and 3 year Action Plans.
Going forward, I would recommend the 6 Gunas approach to advancing the GEWE agenda in South Asia / Indian foreign policy and in their conduct of international relations including in and with the U.N.
1) Establish institutional focal points within PMO/ foreign ministry/ trade and economic ministries and support that in other countries as part of S-South and South-North cooperation. Ensure Women’s equal representation and leadership in foreign policy institutions, in diplomatic missions and negotiations abroad as the best manifestation of Shakti.
2) Follow an All of Ministry. All of government/ and all of society approach to gender mainstreaming of foreign policy in close coordination with the National women’s machineries/ ministries and women’s organizations and support their global networking and exchanges.
3) Foster data, knowledge and best practice hubs and networks, regional and global. Let there be osmosis between the strategic security and foreign policy community, academia and think tanks and the feminist one.
4) Proactively support upgradation of the Gender Equality normative Compact, gender mainstreaming of progressive regional and global norms in international fora including in new areas.
5) Lead and support Advocacy and movement building on GEWE and join global campaigns. Beti Bachao beti padhao is an exemplar for others. He For She drew highest commitment in India and even a stamp was issued.
6) Make targetted investments in and Promote international / bilateral cooperation in practical, scalable and replicable programs that act like lighthouses and demonstration models and invest in women’s capacity building and training. India’s ITEC - south south cooperation program can become an instrument of women’s empowerment in partner countries.
Gloria Steinheim my feminist hero famously said "Don't think about making women fit the world - think about making the world fit women." It’s that transformation of the world, overturning millennia old Patriarchy and enabling empowered women to prevail that 21st century international relations and diplomacy must advance.
The BPA+25 reviews and WEF Mind the 100 Year Gender Gap Report raise alarms on slow and uneven implementation . At this rate SDG 5 is not achievable within this century. We need giant strides of change, not faltering steps. This requires the “international feminist order” and Global Gender Compact marshaled by the UN to work in symbiosis with bold gender responsive political leadership and feminist movement building in countries.
Planet 50/50 by 2030 is humanity’s most important transformational mission and now a goal of international cooperation too. It needs to be addressed with a sense of priority and urgency . The COVID 19 pandemic presents the right creative destruction moment to unlearn patriarchy, reinvent a world “fit for women” in its true narivadi / feminist vision, everywhere.