New Swedish Government Scraps Country’s ‘Feminist Foreign Policy’

Swedish officials and journalists have promoted “feminist snow plowing” and “feminist urban design”

Image Credits: JESSICA GOW/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images.

Sweden’s new government has announced it is ditching the country’s “feminist foreign policy” launched by its left-wing predecessors less than a decade ago.

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said the approach introduced and popularized by the Social Democrats was counterproductive for Sweden’s international agenda.

The term “feminist foreign policy” was attributed to former Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, and the approach which placed gender equality at the heart of Sweden’s international agenda. Its stated goals included the promotion of economic emancipation abroad, fighting sexual violence and improving women’s political participation across the globe.

It was widely touted by both Social Democrats, Swedish institutions that deal with foreign policy and the country’s left-leaning press, which all hailed Sweden as the first country to embrace feminism as part of its international outreach. However, as of now, various publications on the subject are in the process of being taken down from the Foreign Ministry’s website.

“Gender equality is a fundamental value in Sweden and also a fundamental value for this government”, Billström, representing the liberal-conservative Moderate Party, told the newspaper Aftonbladet. “But we’re not going to use the expression ‘feminist foreign policy’ because labels on things have a tendency to cover up the content. That label has served no further good purpose and it has obscured above all the fact that Swedish foreign policy must be based on the question of what Swedish values interests are”.

On a more concrete note, Billström pledged to “change parts of Swedish foreign policy” and instead put a greater emphasis on European and Nordic-Baltic cooperation.

Fruits of Feminist Foreign Policy

While Sweden has long put an emphasis on women’s rights and made an effort portray itself as their paragon, the efficacy of the so-called “feminist foreign policy” has been questioned. Among others, its architect, Margot Wallström, gained international notoriety by damaging relations with Israel and the Arab world alike.

In 2014, with her very first step in office Wallström recognized Palestine as a state, which immediately soured Stockholm’s relations with Israel. Subsequently, Wallström was declared persona non grata in Israel for backing an investigation into what was dubbed “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinians. At the same time, Wallström provoked a diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia by slamming its human rights record and its ways as “medieval”.

Furthermore, Wallström damages ties with Morocco by moving to recognize Western Sahara, a disputed former Spanish province partially under Moroccan control, as an independent republic. Ultimately, the Swedish government reversed the recognition, giving in to pressure from Rabat.

Lastly, Wallström was criticized for never fulfilling former Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s previous promise to recognize the Armenian genocide of 1915.

The Swedish delegation to Iran was also roasted on social media for donning headscarves during their 2017 trip to Iran, with critics, including former Liberals leader Jan Björklund calling the appearance “ruinous for the feminist foreign policy”.

At the same time the label “feminist” has been slammed for being used too liberally in Swedish politics and social life, to the point of being rendered meaningless. For instance, Swedish officials and journalists have been promoting “feminist snow plowing” and “feminist urban design”, drawing ridicule online.

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