Taking a feminist approach to international relations: position paper

This position paper sets out the scope and guiding principles of our feminist approach to international relations.

Executive Summary

There is no community on earth untouched by the global challenges we face – from climate change and humanitarian disasters to conflict and insecurity. But the impacts of these crises are not felt equally and require collective global action. Our vision of Scotland remains outward looking: a nation committed to good global citizenship, with a strong, respected voice in the world.

Gender equality is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s vision for a fairer world. The 2023-24 Programme for Government sets out our commitment to gender equality. We want women and girls to be empowered to exercise equal rights and opportunities, have equitable access to economic resources and decision-making, and live their lives free from all forms of violence, abuse and harassment.

A feminist approach recognises the relationship between addressing inequality and tackling insecurity in pursuit of a fairer world for all. In the 2021-22 Programme for Government, the Scottish Government reiterated our commitment to ensuring our policies and actions abroad were consistent with our focus on fairness and inclusion at home, ensuring our international work reflected a feminist approach to our international policymaking. We have since been reflecting further on what a feminist approach could look like for Scotland, seeking to ensure progressive steps in our domestic policy are mirrored in our international activity. The guiding principles we set out in this paper are the lens through which we will review Scottish Government policy that has an international dimension, in line with our Global Affairs Framework and the programme of work set out in our forthcoming international strategy.

The Scottish Government is determined to be a good global citizen, making a constructive contribution to addressing global challenges and achieving fairer outcomes. Our international work is rooted in:

  • The key values of fairness, equality, inclusion;
  • A commitment to international human rights standards;
  • Securing a fair and just global transition to a net zero and climate-resilient future; and
  • An internationalist outlook based on cooperation and the rule of law.

Scotland’s feminist approach to international relations will be different in its reach compared to countries with the full powers of an independent state. As a progressive country, we have the opportunity to contribute to advancing the core principles of feminist approaches to foreign policy and, working with others, to help drive the transformative change needed to ensure greater equality.

This position paper sets out:

1. Why the Scottish Government is taking a feminist approach and what that means;

2. Action taken to date to understand and prioritise where Scotland can make the greatest impact;

3. Cross-government actions and four thematic areas of focus:

a. International development and humanitarian;

b. Climate justice;

c. Trade; and

d. Peace and security.

4. Next steps, including how we propose to monitor impact while remaining collaborative, accountable and transparent.

Our feminist approach is a journey towards systemic change considering not only what we do, but how we do it. This position paper is the first part of a process to consider and respond to recommendations drawn from engagement with experts, including contributors from the Global South. A second phase will further consider recommendations made on four priority areas: international development, trade, climate justice, and peace and security. A third phase will set out a monitoring and evaluation framework to underpin transparency, learning and accountability.


Email: laura.maclaughlin@gov.scot

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