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Speech by President of the Government of Spain at presentation of "Feminist Foreign Policy Guide"

Madrid, Wednesday 10 March 2021

Good day, dear Minister Arancha, dear Minister Reyes, Speaker of the Upper House, and also the President of the Council of State, María Teresa, dear Mabel, Fuencisla, thank you very much. Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, who also accompanies us here, Secretary-General of the SEGIB, dear Rebeca, thank you very much friends for accompanying us here at this very important event. State secretaries that I can see here, thank you very much because this is an event that, in short, fills me with great pride, because what we are doing, in the end, is to materialise and give visibility to two State policies that are aligned - one is foreign policy and the other is feminist policy. If anything identifies feminist policy it is its capacity for integration. No, it is not a policy that goes against anyone; quite the opposite, it calls on most citizens, whether men or women, and it precisely aspires to make policies much more integrating, does it not?

In short, on 8 March 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organised a round table entitled 'Women in Europe', which spoke about the First International Congress of Women, held in The Hague in 1915. This was headed up by Jane Adams - a woman who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her dedication to different causes related to the social environment, to social policies and, in particular, to feminism.

And at that Congress, held in the midst of the upheaval of World War One, more than 1,100 women from 12 countries took part. Some of those countries were precisely on opposite sides on the battle field. Two demands were made at that Congress, which I wish to copy here today, because I feel that frustratingly they continue to be issues today.

Firstly, that international conflicts, as mentioned here by the former Secretary of State of the United States - who is truly inspirational, a source of information, undoubtedly for many of the career diplomats that accompany us here, but also for those of us who have learned to love foreign policy - that international conflicts should be handled through peaceful means and that the vote for women is a right that must be extended.

These women not only braved the dangers of the war to attend that Congress, but also demonstrated from the outset that feminism, peace and justice are inseparable goals; and this is a great beginning that I believe must inspire us all who are engaged in the public cause.

This Monday, or better put, on Monday, 8 March we celebrate International Women's Day, a day that always reminds us of the need to make progress, don't you think, on equality, not just on this day but on every day of every year, as all the ministers that take part in the different events advocating the International Day of Working Women rightly said and bear witness to. A day that always reminds us of the need to make progress and also of the long fight by women which, in reality, as was rightly mentioned here by both Fuencisla and also Mabel, well, is the case for all of Mankind.

That is why I want to be very clear, as I also was on 8 March, last Monday, we must not let our guard down. This has been said here on many occasions, as the minister rightly mentioned, in times of crisis, it seems that equality policy and also everything related to the ecological transition are only matters to raise when things are going well and that, when things are going badly, we should leave these things to one side, when things should precisely be the other way around.

I believe that we must not let our guard down and we should never take a backward step. A backlash is taking place; we saw this in one of the main democracies just a few weeks ago, in response to which there is only one solution: we must make progress, in Spain, in Europe and around the world. Because we must not forget the re-emergence and appearance of the far right with its stark male dominance and a discourse of fury that seeks to trample everything. It is not just limited to halting progress, but proposes an about-turn.

We must thus advance and do this without any complexes, with the conviction and determination that you have all shown from this podium, with a formula that I feel is unbeatable: one: a feminist perspective; two, feminist policies, and three, feminist diplomacy. And that is how nobody and nothing is going to stop us because, quite rightly, feminist policy must not only, as Mabel said, extend to all government action policies, to all public policies, but it must also be present in State policies, in foreign policy, above all because we live in an increasingly more interconnected world, as we have precisely seen with the pandemic that the whole planet is suffering from.

We said that the cause of feminism is the cause of Mankind, and in this case, I would also like to recall the words of Hilary Clinton when she was First Lady, and declared at the 1995 Beijing Conference that the rights of women are merely human rights and that human rights cannot be negotiated or divided up, which I feel it is also very important to make clear.

That is why this event is important. That is why the government places so much importance on the visibility of this feminist foreign policy. We have made a great deal of progress over recent years, dear Mabel, and I also want to back the action taken by other governments, also of a progressive nature, that preceded the present one and that did a great deal, and here we precisely have someone who is now the President of the Council of State and who was previously a Vice-President of the Government in that period to stamp this feminist bent on many of the public actions taken back then.

And it is true that we can all agree that the task is incomplete, as long as we still diagnose heart-breaking inequalities in the world, as Mabel rightly mentioned, when she eloquently spoke about her experience in speeches and in interviews made in Latin America - a continent in which we obviously have, as you know, an affinity and an alignment in all walks of life.

Over these last 25 years, for example, in this progress we have made, it is clear that access to health, to the education of women and girls, have considerably improved, that the number of girls who did not go to primary school and the first cycle of secondary school has dropped by half, thus approaching gender parity, and, for example, between 2000 and 2017, the maternal mortality rate has dropped by 38% around the world. In terms of representation, it has been mentioned here that women continue to be insufficiently represented in senior public positions, although it is also true that their numbers have significantly risen in terms of political and also institutional participation.

In fact, since 1995, the number of positions held by women in national parliaments has doubled and since Ana Pauker became the first female Minister for Foreign Affairs of Romania in 1947, more than 250 women have held this position of responsibility.

At present, there are 35 female foreign affairs ministers around the world. This figure is absolutely insufficient, but it is also true that we are making progress at a slower pace than many would wish for, don't you think?

Those of you here today are a clear example of this progress I am talking about. We have just heard, for example, Madeleine Albright, who became the first female Secretary of State of the United States in 1997. And when I saw, for example, President-elect Biden say that the United States would finally have a female Vice-President, I thought, congratulations and welcome! Spain reached that milestone a long time ago and we not only have one vice-president of the government, but three; we have a gender equal government and, in short, I feel that the progress we are making in Spain towards parity and the representation of women in positions of responsibility is positive.

And you also have Federica Mogherini, who I also had the good fortune to coincide with when she was the High Representative of the European Commission. We also heard the testimony of Mabel Lozano and of Fuencisla talking about the business and digital perspective.

Almost a year after the last commemoration of International Women's Day, the challenges to achieve gender quality are even greater for obvious reasons, which you have borne witness to here.

The pandemic has shown that crises have unfortunately once again made the most underprivileged groups suffer particularly harshly, and women and girls are clearly suffering particularly harshly from this crisis. The pandemic has shown that women continue to be one of the groups that most lose out. The health emergency, the economic emergency and the social emergency have extended the gaps that existed and have caused a setback in equality that the government is obviously aware of and seeks and works to reduce.

And this is something that we cannot allow, and indeed the world must not allow this. We know that the pandemic has not attacked us on grounds of ideology, gender or border matters, but the consequences of the pandemic do affect structural inequalities, as you have rightly mentioned. This is one of the reasons why I believe that the equality policy must be one of the main pillars of the Government of Spain. Firstly, because we seek the goal of resolving existing gaps on socio-economic, labour, legal and cultural matters between men and women, but also because we know that there are many women and also many other groups that feel forgotten in Spain, that feel neglected, above all when we suffer from a crisis.

This commitment and this sensitivity can be seen, for example, in the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan. We have always said this and here we have had the chance to present plans tied in, as Fuencisla rightly reminded us, to digitalisation, that there are two vectors that will clearly define the transformation, reconversion, prosperity and progress of societies. One is the digital vector and the other is the ecological transition, but so that, in short, all people feel called to this we must incorporate a threefold perspective of integration, one of which is territorial, another is intergenerational - because there are many young people who are suffering from the consequences of this crisis and there are also many not so young people who feel a great deal of uncertainty and insecurity faced with the way in which the digitalisation and automation processes have speeded up.

And then you also have to incorporate the triple social, territorial and also gender dimensions because it is true, as Fuencisla rightly mentioned before, that right now there is an unobstructed scope to increase the training of women in everything related to the STEM disciplines.

For the first time, we have incorporated the 2030 Agenda perspective of the Sustainable Development Goals and also the gender perspective in the National Budget we have approved and set in motion in 2021.

So, I want to say to you that we are obviously well aware that we must continue incorporating feminism in all spheres of public policy as a State policy.

The second reason is that faced with this extraordinary and global challenge of the pandemic, we need to find an extraordinary and global response both within and beyond our borders to combat inequalities. That is why our foreign policy must be and must continue to be a feminist policy that defends the rights of women and girls around the world.

That is why I liked what the minister mentioned that, for example, those questions that are also related to human trafficking, which is slavery at the end of the day, will also be one of the aims of Spanish foreign policy.

This feminist diplomacy is absolutely in line with our government project, first of all, and I am also convinced that it is in line with the majority feeling of Spanish society, which precisely identifies itself with the value of feminism in a broad spectrum. This is the materialisation of the defence of the values that Spain promotes around the world.

And what does our feminist foreign policy translate to exactly? Well, I would say that, first of all, it translates to integrating the gender focus in all areas of foreign policy, under the leadership and commitment of the Government of Spain, of the ministerial departments affected by the foreign services.

This means, for example, developing it under the five principles that I would like to summarise for you.

Firstly, applying a transforming approach to profoundly change structures, the work methodologies in international and institutional culture, as mentioned here by the minister.

Secondly, for the whole of the foreign service to take on leadership committed to these values, guaranteeing the management of the available material human and financial resources.

Thirdly, continue with the principle of appropriation, implementing coordination mechanisms to foster the appropriation of feminist foreign policy throughout the foreign service.

Fourthly, foster inclusive participation, strengthen alliances and, in fifth place, maintain the principle of intersectionality and diversity.

Hence, it is not possible to make progress on the real situation of girls and women without taking into account all the forms of discrimination, which are many, when we are talking about women.

Women suffer from discrimination for being women, but they also suffer from worse discrimination for their ethnic racial origin, their sexual orientation, their economic status, their religious beliefs, the different capabilities they may have or their place of origin.

A black women, a Muslim woman, a lesbian, for example, suffer a chain of forms of discrimination that may change their life, in short, into insufferable or even become invisible for society as a whole.

That is why our foreign policy must pay heed to this these multiple problems of complex societies like Spain's which are societies that are making progress, including internally through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in our foreign action service.

We must strengthen the equality policies of our structures. We must promote candidacies and the presence of women on international bodies. The minister is well aware of this. As is the Minister for Foreign Affairs who, from my point of view, every time that there is an option to try and promote someone to some position of responsibility, we always try and ensure that this is a very specific woman, and as the minister mentioned here, we have taken on-board a commitment to achieve 25% of female ambassadors compared with the 15% we had at the start of the term of office.

Hence, we are going to undertake a feminist foreign policy, also working with other countries and with international organisations. For example, just yesterday, at an informal group we have set up with Sweden between different countries precisely to specify what multilateralism means, with the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Canada, and a number of other countries, the question of gender equality was very present in this necessary reform of the multilateral system, including the strengthening of the United Nations system.

We must do this at an international level; we must also do this at a regional level, within the framework of the European Union. I believe that it is very important that we have a woman, for the first time, as the President of the European Commission.

We must promote agreements, identify joint projects, give visibility to women's organisations and human rights defenders.

To do that, we will implement five lines of action that the ministerial department has been working on.

Firstly, Women, Peace and Security.

Secondly, violence against women.

Thirdly, the human rights of women and girls.

Fourthly, the participation of women at decision-making forums. Fundamentally, this is what Federica referred to.

And fifthly, economic justice and the empowerment of women.

In other words, we must and will back the elimination of discriminatory legislation through dialogue and cooperation, the eradication of all forms of violence against women and girls, and access to the rights of sexual and reproductive health.

We will not turn our backs on the prosecution and prevention of the criminal offences of human trafficking or sexual violence, dear Mabel, including in conflicts and humanitarian contexts.

We are going to search for a consensus to adopt trade and economic policies, dear minister, that guarantee greater economic justice and equal access to resources, to dignified work, to digitalisation and, together with our partners, which are many and fortunately I can see here some representatives of very friendly countries, such as the French Ambassador, together with our partners in the network of countries, we are going to push through feminist foreign policies, we are going to extend the voice of women so that they have greater influence at multilateral forums.

Hence, we must not forget the leading figures of the path we have taken and of the future - women's organisations, women peace-builders, teenage girls, young girls and human rights defenders.

Our action must be geared towards improving their condition and guaranteeing that they are the leading figures in any change and any strategic definition made by the public powers.

Spain also has a powerful private sector and this has been mentioned here, a pioneer of important initiatives designed to close economic, business and wage gaps. This includes recognised think tanks, such platforms for exchanges as the Cervantes Institute, the network of 'Houses' and the Royal Language Academy and our universities.

In short, this foreign policy must be based, above all, on hard facts and not just on words, although they may be persuasive. What I like about politics are facts, which for decades now have placed Spain, fortunately, which I feel it is very important to underline, at the vanguard of the defence and promotion of the rights of women and girls around the world. And I should add that feminist diplomacy is a key operational tool in tackling the global challenges we are facing.

We live in a world that is still predominantly built from a male perspective and although our country is one of the most advanced countries in terms of conquering rights, no country has managed to close the gender gaps.

It is true that equality demands a transfer of privileged power that men have cornered during the whole of the history of Mankind. A transfer that feminist men have taken on-board as a genuine opportunity for transformation, for progress, for integrating prosperity. Because it is only through feminist leadership and the participation of women on a level playing field in political, economic and social life that we will achieve a genuine transformation of our countries.

We want women to be equal so that they can be truly transforming, with a feminist perspective, as I said before, with a feminist policy and with feminist diplomacy.

Remember that feminism, peace and social justice are inseparable. I stress this; this is a great start that will lead us to a great end.

So, ministers, presidents, friends, congratulations on this event. Congratulations on the steps we are taking. And of course, the only thing I want to convey is my emotion and my commitment to a more feminist policy that is absolutely united to your cause in an unfettered fashion.

Thank you.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation