Reality Checks: A Crucial Step to Realise Feminist Foreign Policy

10 Jun 2024Ruth van de Velde | Charlotte Stam

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) is currently working to operationalise its Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP). To date, the degree to which this policy will be faced with trade-offs with other policy objectives, and to what extent it is possible to operationalise it for local realities (specifically in fragile settings) remains unclear. To ensure FFP’s effectiveness, conducting an in-country reality check focused on understanding the practical implications, unintended consequences, and trade-offs of implementing FFP in these contexts is crucial.

In a joint project with Cordaid and the Women’s International Peace Centre, The Broker conducted a reality check of the Dutch FFP in South Sudan and Afghanistan. The purpose of this reality check is to assess the opportunities and challenges of implementing such a policy in these complex environments by including the people working in this context. This involves discussing the social, cultural, and political dynamics of these settings and understanding how they may either facilitate or hinder the realisation of feminist principles and policies. 

The resulting report with insights and concrete policy recommendations is available now. It serves to inform and improve future interventions and policy decisions related to the Dutch FFP for countries affected by conflict and fragility, ensuring that it remains relevant, effective, and responsive to the realities in the countries where the Netherlands aims to realise its FFP objectives. 

The project outcomes show that there are gaps between the theory underpinning this policy and the local realities in which it is implemented. The report points to the importance of working closely with local experts to achieve the FFP objectives. This would help to effectively align actions with local contexts. By directly engaging with local experts, civil society actors, and policymakers in these conflict-affected countries the project provides grounded insights that can easily be overlooked in developing policy frameworks at headquarters level in The Netherlands.

Addressing these challenges involves making informed choices to integrate gender equality into foreign policy, mindful of local contexts and national interests. In the report, we provide country specific recommendations that try to take into account achievability, effectiveness and potential for sustainability of interventions. We also offer considerations for opportunities in the context and for stakeholder support.

Key Considerations: 

  1. Language matters in “doing no harm”. Nuanced language and creative framing is necessary to navigate sensitivities surrounding women’s rights issues and ensure civil society is able to work locally. For example, in South Sudan and Afghanistan, both patriarchal societies, words like ‘feminism’ or ‘gender equality’ are controversial.
  2. It is necessary to establish structures for meaningful participation with women(‘s groups) in the countries themselves to understand and respond to the changing needs of specifically women and girls in fragile settings. 
  3. Flexibility is key in navigating fragile contexts, allowing timely responses to emerging issues and opportunities. For instance, in the context of Afghanistan, flexible funds may allow actors to focus on sectors where continued engagement is feasible like the health sector and humanitarian aid. While allowing embassies to access more funding flexibly would allow them to respond to opportunities in a timely manner.

For more recommendations and key insights on the Afghanistan and South Sudan context and needs, as well as actionable recommendations for enhancing FFP see the full report below.

 We are excited to announce that the official launch of the report will take place on the 29th of August. We invite you to be part of the conversation where we will delve into the findings and discuss the future of feminist foreign policy. Interested in joining or for more information please contact us at