L.BYAMBAKHAND: As researcher, I would say that Mongolia is taking step towards feminist foreign policy

L.BYAMBAKHAND: As researcher, I would say that Mongolia is taking step towards feminist foreign policy

  • By Misheel   -   Mar 27,2023
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In the following interview, international relations researcher L.Byambakhand delved into her research on feminist foreign policy and the measures taken by the government in this field.

You conducted a research on feminist foreign policy and the government policies and activities, as well as the measures that can be implemented in the future. What is a feminist foreign policy?

Gender equality is being talked internationally. This concept was first created in 2014 by Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom. She proposed the principle of 3Rs: rights, representation and resources. Rights refer to achieving gender equality by combating gender-based violence and discrimination. Representation means supporting women’s participation at all levels of decision-making. Using all resources is also the principle of implementing projects and programs aimed at eliminating gender inequality. In general, the issue of creating equality will be placed at the center of foreign policy. Canada launched its Feminist International Assistance Policy in 2017, positioning Canada as a champion for gender equality in its international assistance programming. Moreover, Australia is implementing this policy, devoting approximately 80 percent of all aid to gender equality. As a result, by 2018, 40 percent of the country’s diplomatic missions, embassies, and foreign ministry were made up of women. Developing countries such as Mexico and Libya expressed interest in pursuing feminist foreign policies.

The Government of National Accord was established in Libya, a woman was appointed as the country’s foreign minister, and the priority of foreign policy was announced as a feminist foreign policy. From this point of view, feminist foreign policy covers many fields. Another thing related to this is the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1325. Women are the most affected by armed conflicts and security-related problems around the world. The resolution was adopted with the goal of protecting their rights, involving women in peace negotiations, and supporting female peacekeepers.

Defining the policy as “feminist” seems to make women more relevant. In fact, gender equality is not only a women’s issue. What do you think of the definition of “feminist foreign policy”?

Let me briefly explain how feminism is viewed in international relations. For example, every nuclear weapon has a name. Because of its mass destruction nature, nuclear weapon is often given a masculine name. Nuclear weapons are an expression of power and dominance. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan are called “Little Boy” and “Fat Man”. On the other hand, the war of 1945, in which Russia won, is defined as “motherland”. The word “mother” is used. In other words, a weak part is represented by the female gender. Relations between countries are also defined as “brotherly”. The principle that “brother” knows everything well and “younger” should listen carefully to his words automatically creates a line and difference. For example, there was a security agreement between USA, Australia and New Zealand. The reason New Zealand left the agreement was because the USA intended to station a nuclear-tipped warship in that country. The American side expressed, “We are your brother, because we know more, so we will place it in your place.”

In fact, these countries were formed almost at the same time. It cannot be denied that Mongolia was formed at the same time as those countries that we consider to be “brothers”. Such a concept in  international relations is not only about gender. It means that international relations should be conducted equally. You’ve probably heard the term “sister cities”. Here we are talking about the issue of rank. On the other hand, in the past, only power was studied in international relations, but now this concept is used to explain the unequal relations between countries.

Feminist foreign policy is a recent concept. What kind of progress has been made in the countries that have implemented it? The countries you just mentioned provide more gender equality and support women. Did they define the basic policy and principles that they followed before?

The gender index of these countries is the highest in the world. However, women’s participation in the decision-making process has not yet reached a sufficient level. As for France, as soon as it announced the implementation of a feminist foreign policy, as of January 1, 2022, it has successfully achieved the goal of having half of its diplomatic staff working in European countries be women. In addition, the percentage of women working as ambassadors increased from 11 to 28. The country also dedicates 75 percent of its official development assistance to projects and programs aimed at ensuring gender equality. In other words, looking at the big picture, this policy has had the effect of increasing women’s participation at the decision-making level. In this regard, it is necessary to pay close attention to the changes in the implementation measures, loans and aid spending of countries like ours that receive official development assistance from foreign countries.

One thing that has been observed in these countries is that they have implemented a feminist foreign policy by appointing a woman as their foreign minister or prime minister. Thу latest example is German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s announcement of a feminist policy upon taking office. From this point of view, women’s leadership is essential in promoting and implementing a feminist foreign policy. This is not to say that men working at the decision- making level are bad. On the other hand, smaller countries tend to implement this policy. This is because big countries can forcefully resolve issues involving many countries, such as world peace and security, disarmament and war. However, small countries have little influence in solving these problems. Countries with a high gender index, such as the Scandinavian countries, have been able to achieve equal development. 

Mongolian Minister of Foreign Affairs is a woman. Is Mongolia implementing a feminist foreign policy? Our country is also small.

B.Battsetseg is not the first woman to be appointed as the minister of foreign affairs of Mongolia. From 1998 to 2000, N.Tuya, and in 2007 and 2008, S.Oyun worked as the foreign minister. Female leadership is visible from the fact that Mongolia is going to organize a meeting of female foreign ministers next June. It is also noticeable that Minister B.Battsetseg actively participates in other meetings and activities of international women ministers. In addition, the number of female diplomats and ambassadors working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been increasing in recent years. As a researcher, I would say that Mongolia is taking a step towards a feminist foreign policy. On the other hand, our country did not announce that it would implement a feminist foreign policy, but I see that it was very active and involved. The oldest example is the “Role of Women in Society” seminar held in Ulaanbaatar in 1965. Mongolia also initiated the resolution of the UN General Assembly on improving the situation of rural girls and women. In addition, the country served as a member of the Human Rights Council of the organization from 2016 to 2018. Mongolia has a history of actively participating in major international agreements and negotiations related to women. In 1977, a Mongolian woman worked as the head of the working group of the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly to develop a convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. In this way, the country paid a lot of attention to the problems related to women and contributed to solving them.

Because our country is located between two big countries, it can be said that due to the geopolitical situation, we are working on topics that are accepted by all countries, such as gender, education and children. A total of 872 female leaders and officers were sent to participate in peacekeeping operations as part of the implementation of UN Resolution 1325.

Feminist foreign policy is only one part of the effort to achieve gender equality. We have a policy to ensure gender equality in all sectors and levels, but it seems insufficient in practice. What’s your position on this?

Compared to the population, the participation of women in our country is generally considered good. The biggest problem is the lack of participation in politics, at the decision making level, such as in Parliament and government. There are many factors affecting this, such as political party financing and election nomination procedures. The distribution of social wealth according to gender is common not only in Mongolia but also internationally. In addition to the regulations to deal with these issues, women should make demands for it in the relevant laws. Let me take an example of what happened in the Scandinavian countries in the 1970s. Women boycotted major political parties unless they nominate more women. In this regard, the parties supported and created a mechanism to support women. In addition, in a traditional society like ours, gender stereotypes should be abolished. In other words, comprehensive policies and actions are needed to achieve gender equality. In general, foreign policy has many aspects. I am saying this because I want this to be only one aspect of Mongolia’s foreign policy and diplomacy. The trend of other countries is similar. The work done today in the field of foreign policy does not turn into money tomorrow. The results of foreign policy are long-term. When US Secretary of State James Baker visited Mongolia in 1990, he said, “It would be nice to have the United States as Mongolia’s third neighbor.” On the day of his visit, Iraq invaded Kuwait and the USA passed a resolution opposing the military action. Along with this, our country issued a joint statement defending Kuwait. We have to remember the help provided by Kuwait to our country until today. Kuwait is helping us because it was one of the countries led by the USA that first opposed the invasion of Iraq in 1990. We mustn’t look at everything in economic terms. The fact that many countries helped us during the pandemic is also related to the foreign policy and path implemented by Mongolia.

You mentioned that women’s leadership is crucial. The election of 13 women members to Parliament was an improvement. But do you agree that women elected to Parliament made mistakes, performed poorly, and lacked leadership, which affects public attitudes and votes to support women in the next election?

Even though the male members are not role models, they are still elected. Since the beginning of the Mongolian state, men have ruled us. Many of them made mistakes. If a politician makes a mistake, it may be due to personal factors such as own morals and culture rather than gender.

Misheel Lkhasuren