A Feminist Foreign Policy for All
Kristina Lunz is the co-founder and Germany Co-Executive Director of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, a human rights activist and former advisor to the German Federal Foreign Office. She was named as Forbes 30 under 30 (in both Europe and DACH), is a Handelsblatt/BCG “Vordenkerin 2020,” a Focus magazine “100 Women of the Year 2020,” an Atlantik Brücke Young Leader, Ashoka Fellow, as well as BMW Foundation Responsible Leader. She is a first generation university student with a graduate degree from Oxford University.
In light of recent events in Afghanistan, we sat down with her to discuss a path forward for women’s rights and security.
Monika Jiang: I first heard about feminist foreign policy thanks to you, when we met at the House of Beautiful Business gathering in 2019. What has happened since?
Kristina Lunz: The Center for Feminist Foreign Policy in Berlin has grown to a team of 10, still dedicated to advocacy, research, and community work with the goal to bring feminist analysis into foreign and security policy. We’re committed to smashing patriarchal ideas and the underpinnings of traditional foreign and security policy. The current system and hence, international politics, are largely reliant on military spending — for example, Germany is the fourth biggest arms exporter albeit vocally defending human rights and claiming to work towards sustainable peace. This doesn’t really make sense. As a proponent of militarization, you’re equally attacking women’s and LGTBQI rights. We’ve seen this in recent months, for example the near-total abortion ban in Poland, the anti-LGBTQI-law in Hungary, as well as violations under the Trump administration, similarly in Bolsonaro’s Brazil or Duterte’s Philippines.
With the most recent situation in Afghanistan, we’re seeing a similar pattern of the international community now largely leaving girls and women, but in general, the people of Afghanistan, behind.
MJ: Let’s stay with Afghanistan for a moment. Help us understand how a feminist approach towards foreign policy could have impacted the last twenty years?
KL: A foreign policy centered around the needs and demands of a feminist civil society in Afghanistan would have represented and included their voices in every decision made. This has not been the case at all. Team members of one of our partner organizations, International Civil Society Action Network, have been doing advocacy work for years, to own a seat at the table. Now, with the Taliban back in power, they’re kept out of these conversations. Here too, in Germany, leading diplomats have said that in negotiations with the Taliban “we have to make compromises, and women’s rights cannot be a priority.” With such a view and lack of integrity, no actual progress was possible.
Feminist Foreign Policy understands peace not only as the lack of active fighting and conflict, but as a positive peace where people’s basic needs are taken care of: they live in security, they have food, and there’s no oppression.
Lastly, there’s a degree of “pink-washing” when it comes to using women’s rights to justify military intervention. I’m not saying this is always the case, because sometimes you have to save people from the worst. However this has happened when it comes to the international community’s actions towards Afghanistan, and also Iraq. It’s arguably the worst foreign policy decision of our time.
MJ: Together with HÁWAR.help, you and your organization CFFP have started the “Defend Afghan Women” initiative. What are you hoping to achieve?
KL: When Kabul fell, my co-founder and I were on the phone pretty much the whole day. We ourselves don’t have colleagues in Afghanistan, but our partner organizations do. With our contacts and networks, also the Foreign Office, we tried to mobilize all actors together as fast as possible, as it was not really clear what was happening. Now we have all seen what happened. And a word on this: had anyone listened to the human rights defenders on the ground, no one would have been surprised. They fled the regions they were working in, days and weeks before. They’d been issuing warnings for weeks and months. So they were not surprised, but the international community and those in power were.
Since then, many people in our community and networks have been offering help, everything from donations to private jets. Personally, I felt quite overwhelmed because I didn’t know what I as an individual, but also with my organization, could do that really made sense for the people on the ground. So we decided to join forces with Düzen Tekal from HÁWAR.help who has vast experience with defending Yazidi women’s rights, using our platform, raising donations (about 200,000 EUR now) that we’ll distribute to 100% local organizations who currently are not able to do fundraising or other advocacy activities.
We launched eight demands focused on the protection of women’s rights, security, and support, but also continuous support for feminist civil society and civil society in general.
MJ: How did feminist foreign policy become a personal mission of yours?
KL: I started my feminist activism several years ago. A campaign I did in 2016 was about changing German law regarding rape. At the time acccording to the law rape was only rape if the victim physically fought the perpetrator, and groping was no criminal offense. And one reason this campaign was ultimately successful was because we used the argument that Germany had ratified the Istanbul Convention on the prevention of violence against women, so Germany had the obligation to turn that treaty into national law. Whilst we always think decisions made in Geneva, New York, or Brussels are far removed from us, these decisions have a 100% real impact on daily lives.
I didn’t want to accept policy conversations being closed-off or held within an international, elite group. Coming from a working-class background in a small village, this world could not have been further away from my reality. But I just didn’t want to accept that we leave it in that space. The decisions made historically, mainly by men in a very patriarchal way, are not the only standard. Feminist demands are valuable in those spaces.
MJ: What’s next for your work?
KL: The biggest challenges we are facing right now are the attacks on international human rights, and more specifically, feminist issues — from the increasing militarization of security to climate justice. How do you want to fight climate justice or the attacks on LGBTI rights? The bottom line is: Business-as-usual foreign policy doesn’t work anymore. We need a paradigm shift.
MJ: Thank you so much, Kristina.