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Towards a feminist foreign policy
Written by Javier Maquieira, senior associate
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
12 March 2021
One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is how corporate vernacular is so ubiquitously riddled with masculine, military language. On a daily basis, we rally the troops, battle with competitors, and take no prisoners. One could say business culture is pretty much a culture of conflict.
Of course, we use these terms subconsciously rather than literally; they’re jargon and as such provide mental frames and shortcuts.
On a deeper level, however, it is noticeable how covert military business language has given men a subtle leadership advantage, reinforcing a system of institutionalised masculinity that has evolved through centuries of conflict to end up permeating the fabric of our organisations.
When it comes to countries, perhaps surprisingly to many, studies have found that the very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth or democracy, but how well its women are treated. Faced with this realisation, some states have taken the first steps to adopting a so-called feminist foreign policy (FFP).
At the heart of FFP, there’s the ambition to position equality as the basis of a healthy, sustainable, peaceful world by moving national interests away from conflict-driven ideas of global dominance and retaliation. The idea is hardly radical: building more just societies can’t simply happen without ensuring that the rights of half the world’s population are promoted and defended.
Examples of countries that have started to apply a FFP framework include democracies such as Sweden, Canada, France, and Luxembourg, which have all committed – to varying degrees – to being guided by intersectional, decolonial, and anti-racist principles and values to create a global system that works for everyone.
We aren’t anywhere near achieving that ambition anytime soon. The United States and China are unlikely to replace their international military security strategies with a feminist foreign policy, despite the Biden administration’s best intentions. In the UK, the idea of “global Britain” as phrased by Boris Johnson in his first speech as prime minister hardly mirrors the decolonial values of an FFP either.
Even the European Union’s diplomatic service, which set a target of having women in 40% of senior posts by 2025, has kept appointing men to top jobs since Spain’s Josep Borrell took over as high representative, turning the European External Action Service into what’s been described as “an exclusive club of (often Southern European) male managers with little interest in or appetite for female empowerment”.
Yet the sooner we realise that empathy and cooperation are a far more powerful force than opportunism and competition have ever been, the sooner we’ll learn to live in peace. Until then, here’s a daily reminder that women’s rights are human rights.
President Joe Biden has set the Fourth of July as the moment Americans may be able to gather in small groups to celebrate “our independence from this virus”. In a primetime address marking the anniversary of the pandemic being declared by the World Health Organization on Thursday night, the US leader directed states to make every adult eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine by 1 May. (£)
In Scotland, MSPs passed the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill by 82 votes to 32 last night – a day later than expected. The legislation consolidates existing law and extends protection for vulnerable groups with a new offence of “stirring up hatred”, which previously applied only to race. Opponents of the bill, including writers, journalists, campaigners, police, and religious and cultural groups, have raised concerns about its impact on free expression.
The Metropolitan police is facing an investigation into its handling of a claim of indecent exposure involving the suspect in the alleged murder of Sarah Everard four days before her disappearance. Wayne Couzens, who served in the parliamentary and diplomatic police protection unit, has been arrested on suspicion of the 33-year-old woman’s kidnap and murder.
Business and economy
Royal Mail is to trial Sunday parcel deliveries as the courier company looks to satisfy the expectations of customers, following unprecedented pressure placed on the mail system as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The firm is currently building a new parcel hub in Daventry, Northamptonshire, with the capacity to process a million parcels a day – the second and largest parcel hub constructed to date.
The UK government has had to delay the introduction of border checks on EU imports by six months after a string of traders and ports said the required infrastructure would not be ready in time for the July deadline. Most import checks have now been pushed back to 1 January 2022, meaning the UK will start these processes a year later than the bloc. The minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, has blamed the need for delays on the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, has warned supplies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine threaten to fall short of its EU delivery targets, as the pharmaceutical company struggles to increase production in the bloc. Separately, the European Commission has told diplomats that efforts to secure additional AstraZeneca doses from the US were unlikely to succeed in the short term. (£)
Columns of note
James Marriott argues in The Times that there is freedom and wisdom to be found in accepting the fact that humans are “merely a data point in a mass of similar data points”. As census information appears to remind us, besides being average, people are also predictable. That’s why in our individualistic age, Marriott concludes, there should be some humility in remembering that no matter how unique or special we may feel, our opinions, feelings, and ways of life are not superior or original; “just normal and largely beyond our control.” (£)
In City AM, Sam Monaghan opines that care workers need to be paid at least the real living wage in order to support and appreciate the invaluable work that they do. He calls on the government and local authorities to agree a fair price for care that includes increased pay for staff across the board, and a workforce strategy with better career qualifications, progression, and opportunities. Ultimately, Monaghan writes, investing in social care should be viewed as an essential part of the UK government’s aim to level up communities.
What happened yesterday?
London stocks ended higher on Thursday, as investors mulled the latest policy announcement from the European Central Bank. The FTSE 100 was up 0.17%, while sterling was stronger on the dollar by 0.25% at $1.3967 but remained flat against the euro at €1.1681.
Meanwhile, US stocks soared to further records. The S&P 500 rose one per cent to close at a record high, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped 2.5%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average continued to advance into record territory.
In company news:
Marshalls rallied 7.49% as the landscape products firm lifted its expectations for 2021 following a strong start to trading, despite posting a decline in full-year profit and revenue as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Spirent Communications surged 6.95% after the telecommunications company reported a rise in full-year profit and declared a special dividend.
IG Group gained 4.87% as the online trading platform said third-quarter revenues surged 65% thanks to “exceptional” levels of trading activity throughout the quarter.
Rolls-Royce ended 0.71% higher after the engine maker said it expected to turn cash flow positive in the second half of 2021, as it reported a £4bn annual loss caused by the pandemic.
Morrisons closed down 0.99%, after the supermarket chain reported a halving of annual profits, despite declaring a special dividend alongside a final payout.
What’s happening today?
UK economic announcements
(07:00) Gross Domestic Product
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(07:00) Manufacturing Production
(07:00) Balance of Trade
(07:00) Industrial Production
Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Consumer Price Index (GER)
(10:00) Industrial Confidence (EU)
(13:30) Producer Price Index (US)
MI6 once hacked an Al-Qaeda website and replaced bomb-making instructions with cupcake recipes. (source: @8fact)
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