Grantee & Partner News

September 25, 2018

One Small Step for Feminist Foreign Policy

Grantee News From: International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and Fuller Project for International Reporting

On Sept. 21 and 22, Canada will host the first-ever meeting of female foreign ministers, as part of a package of commitments it made to prioritize women’s issues under its G-7 presidency this year. Currently, about 30 women lead their countries’ diplomacy, including eight in Europe, 10 in Latin America and the Caribbean, five in Africa, and others in Asia, Australia, and the region.

The Montreal meeting will be historically unprecedented in its display of female power on the world stage. But symbolic achievements shouldn’t suffice. It would be a tragedy not to use the opportunity to focus attention on concrete ways to improve women’s status globally and advance what has been called a “feminist foreign policy.”

The Canadian government seems to agree. “This meeting is an historic opportunity to have a range of discussions amongst women foreign ministers,” said Marie-Pier Baril, a spokeswoman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, “including such topics as international security, reinforcing democracy, diversity, and combating sexual and gender-based violence. It is important to bring these voices together.”

The concept of a feminist foreign policy was first popularized in 2014 by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, who will be in attendance this weekend. Wallstrom has described a feminist foreign policy as “standing against the systematic and global subordination of women” and a “precondition” for achieving Sweden’s wider foreign development and security policy objectives. Gender equality is a right on its own, she argues, and is also the most effective means for achieving other goals, such as the eradication of terrorism, economic growth, and improvement in health.

Reactions to Wallstrom’s ideas have ranged from giggling to outright hostility. Numerous Canadian officials—including outspoken, self-proclaimed feminist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—have spoken about the backlash they have encountered in launching policies with the word “feminist” attached to them. Nonetheless, pieces of this idea have been adopted over the years by countries around the world, including in the United States. Australia’s first female foreign minister, Julie Bishop, spoke openly about making gender equality central to global peace and security. And the United Kingdom’s former foreign secretary, William Hague, made ending rape in war a priority of his policy platform during the country’s G-7 presidency.

In the United States, the Obama administration never pursued a feminist foreign policy under a single institutional umbrella. But the State Department, under Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, did craft a collection of issue-specific foreign policies on various gender issues, including a U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally; a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (which dozens of other countries had also adopted well in advance of the United States); and a Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls.

These were groundbreaking for the United States at the time but still fell short of Sweden’s full embrace of the concept. That’s consistent with the pattern elsewhere. Most countries that talk about a feminist foreign policy aren’t really implementing it; they’re simply adding aid programs for women. A truly feminist foreign policy would have to be more ambitious; either it must enshrine women’s rights across the government or it’s not deserving of the name. As Wallstrom has written, including in a recently released a handbook on the concept, such policies must aim to allocate sufficient resources to achieve gender equality, and they must disrupt male-dominated power structures, from the tables of diplomacy to the design of foreign assistance programs.

This weekend presents an opportunity to hone, define, and refine the idea of a feminist foreign policy and articulate feminist foreign-policy goals that governments everywhere can strive toward. “So much progress has been made [in Canada] with the Feminist International Assistance Policy, the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, as well as the gender focus in their progressive trade agenda and the new defense policy,” said Diana Sarosi of Oxfam Canada. “We now need to bring it all together in a feminist foreign policy to ensure coherence in all components of Canada’s foreign actions, including arms sales.” That should be the model not just in Canada but everywhere.

Accomplishing these goals will require a clear-eyed view of the policies that have been developed to date and the challenges they have faced. The first critique regards scope: Does a policy only address so-called “woman’s issues,” such as wartime rape, or does it seek to advance equity across all relevant social divisions—gender (including gender identity and orientation), age (including adolescent girls as well as aging women, young gay men as well as women of reproductive age), race and ethnicity, and other facets of identity? A further, and equally critical, scope question concerns whether all facets of a country’s foreign policy, ranging from aid to trade to development, have been involved.

Scope also relates to budget. This is perhaps the most fundamental issue in today’s context of shrinking foreign aid budgets, which severely threaten a government’s ability to achieve transformational change. Canada is a good example. The country made headlines last summer with its announcement that within five years, 95 percent of its aid initiatives would be dedicated to advancing gender equality. But the fine print reveals that the primary aim of these aid projects would not necessarily be to advance gender equality but rather merely to affect it in some way. Furthermore, this is a larger percentage of a shrinking pie: Critics point out that Canada’s budgets for official development assistance, while slightly larger since 2016, are still hovering around a 50-year low in real terms.

This isn’t a problem unique to Canada. In the United States last year, the Trump administration cut many programs for women, including $350 million from reproductive health. The administration has also neglected to staff the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the State Department and proposed numerous approaches to gut foreign assistance architecture and budgets. Among the G-7, only the U.K. reached the international goal of 0.7 percent of spending on foreign assistance last year, and data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development indicate that despite growing commitments to spending foreign assistance dollars on gender equality, the percentage of projects whose principle aim is advancing gender equality or women’s rights is persistently lagging, up to only 4 percent last year.

Finally, there is the issue of rights. At stake here is whether foreign policies include the complete body of women’s rights—including the more politicized components, such as family planning and access to abortion, that have become the most embroiled battleground in today’s diplomatic discussions, from the United Nations to the G-7.

For example, in the G-7 meetings this year, U.S. representatives refused to accept any discussion of “sexual and reproductive health and rights”—a body of rights that had been officially recognized in the latter years of the Obama administration and which includes the right to access contraception and abortion, the right not to be raped, and the rights of LGBTQ people to live free of violence and discrimination. This year, the Trump administration stripped all reference to these rights from the State Department’s Human Rights Reports, an essential source of information for reporting on abuses and holding abusive governments to account not only in U.S. diplomacy but for various other governments around the world and also for businesses assessing where to invest operations abroad.


The United States has also torpedoed similar language in U.N. resolutions. This should be no surprise: Under the Trump administration, any foreign policy that relates to women is led largely by ideologues who have counseled abstinence-only health education and conditioned billions of dollars of U.S. health assistance on providers refusing to offer, refer, or advocate for lifesaving abortion, thereby severely compromising health outcomes in poor countries. The Trump administration has even asserted that the United States will no longer recognize reproductive rights, a core commitment in international law accepted by both Republican and Democratic administrations since the Cairo conference on population in the early 1990s.

The final frontier for this issue is that leaders must address the criticism made by civil society and women’s groups that a feminist foreign policy is undercut by defense policy. Here even Sweden is under fire: When Sweden announced the world’s first feminist foreign policy in 2014, and then a year later signed a deal to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, a country where adult women are still legally defined as dependents under male guardians’ care, it came under a storm of criticism for being hypocritical. This was not only because of Saudi Arabia’s poor record on women’s rights but also because those weapons presumably would be used in conflicts that hurt women.

The goal of critique is not to shame those governments that have been brave enough to try. Instead, we should critique with an eye toward strengthening the overall approach. Successful feminist foreign policy will also require overcoming political constraints. The Canadian government has admitted it is already confronting backlash ahead of the country’s elections next year.

But the way we talk about these policies almost matters as much as the policies themselves. The answer should not be to stop using the word feminist, but rather to foster a conversation in which gender equality is not presented as a zero-sum battle where men lose and women win. In reality, it is a rising tide that raises all ships. The more the world leaders can present their ideas in that light this weekend, the better for all.

Lyric Thompson is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). @lyricthompson

Christina Asquith is editor in chief and co-founder of The Fuller Project for International Reporting. @ChristinaAsquit


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August 7, 2018

Forty-One Minutes to Save The World: Investing in Nuclear Security

Grantee News From Peace and Security Funders Group:


Forty-one minutes.

That’s how long it takes for a North Korean nuke to reach Washington, D.C. That’s less than an episode of the Handmaid’s Tale and, apparently, less than the time we spend eating all our daily meals. It’s also the amount of time that life as we know it would change forever.

The first—and, thankfully, only—time nuclear weapons were used in war was 73 years ago this week. On August 6 and August 9, the United States dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 150,000 Japanese people instantly and another 100,000 in the aftermath, including through painful death from radiation. Today’s nuclear weapons are more than 3,000 times as powerful as those used in 1945.

You’d think that the escalating tensions with North Korea, Russia and China—all nuclear-weapons states and all U.S. adversaries—would have everyone investing their philanthropic dollars in nuclear issues.

Alarmingly, that’s far from the truth. Only $45.6 million per year is spent on nuclear issues. It may sound like a lot, but that’s only 13 percent of all peace and security philanthropy, which makes up less than 1 percent of total philanthropic giving. Put another way: Nuclear funding makes up 0.01 percent of all philanthropic giving in the United States.

Since nuclear weapons are indisputably one of the world’s greatest challenges—if not the greatest—why aren’t more funders invested in this issue?

One possible reason is that progress in reducing nuclear threats happens gradually over many decades, and demonstrating impact over that span of time is difficult. But many newer philanthropists (think: those in Silicon Valley) made their money in ventures that yielded a high and oftentimes immediate return on investment. Those of us looking to attract these new donors should be prepared to make the business case they’re used to seeing. We need to explain how important it is to tackle seemingly intractable and global threats; they should follow in the footsteps of original philanthropists—like Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford, to name a few—who committed to fighting these challenges so many decades ago. Today’s new philanthropists should strive to join this elite club and do so focused on nuclear challenges. After all, the world needs their help: Tens of thousands of nuclear weapons are stockpiled across 14 countries, and we have enough fissile material to make tens of thousands more.

Another possible reason for the dearth of nuclear funding is its framing. Nuclear weapons are—and should be—frightening and overwhelming. We’re talking about the end of human existence, here; where does one even begin to chip away at this existential threat? But many nouveau philanthropists made their money in society-changing, “moonshot” ways—like the internet, e-commerce, Facebook, and the shared economy—so we should encourage them to think as big and bold with their charity. 

The third challenge is that if nuclear security is done right, few will ever know. How do you prove a negative? How do you prove that you’ve prevented nuclear war or a nuclear terrorist attack? When you can’t tell or show stories of success, it’s hard to attract funding to a cause.

Finally, unlike education, healthcare, or the arts, nuclear issues aren’t ones your average American experiences in their daily lives. Though a nuclear war could kill millions and fundamentally change society as we know it, it’s all theoretical. How can we relate to this? How can we connect to something so horrific—yet so unimaginable—when there are other more tangible, “real life” things we all need to worry about? Through innovative efforts like OutriderNSquare, or The Bomb, the nuclear community has begun to address this challenge, but much more needs to be done to connect to today’s citizens.

Thankfully, there is a small and mighty cadre of funders who care about nuclear issues and can serve as thought partners to nouveau philanthropists. They have decades of hard-won lessons learned from funding research, public education, congressional engagement, and local activism. They know their investments are long-term and they are ready to share their philanthropic strategic patience models with others. It may seem unsexy at first glance, but this approach has a hefty set of recent wins under its belt, including ICAN’s 2017 Nobel Peace Prize; the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which resulted in the U.S. and Russia decreasing their nuclear warheads and launchers by hundreds; and four global nuclear security summits, which encouraged more than a dozen countries to eliminate all weapons-usable material from their soil.

So the next time you watch an episode of the Handmaid’s Tale on your Smart TV, you can thank the nuclear funders. And if you’re one of the Silicon Valley innovators who gave us this amazing technology, you should think of throwing your money into the ring to join them.

Alexandra I. Toma is Executive Director of the Peace and Security Funders Group, a network of 63 funders collaborating on a range of national security, peace, and conflict issues, including nuclear.

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Women’s voices are still lacking in foreign policy op-eds

Grantee News From Foreign Policy Interrupted:

Image via Pixabay.

WE FACE A STAGGERING ARRAY OF FOREIGN POLICY CHALLENGES today: climate change, extremism, epidemics, increasing inequality, threats of nuclear war, and cyber-attacks. Yet, somehow, we continue to underutilize a valuable resource to address these challenges: women.

The Women’s Media Center notes that when it comes to bylines and credits in 2017, 62 percent of bylines belonged to men; 38 percent to women. Sixteen percent of Pulitzer Prize winners have been women.

Women’s voices and perspectives are equally scarce on the op-ed page, a critical forum for influencing public opinion, promoting and affecting policy, and exerting leadership. To quantify the gender gap, Foreign Policy Interrupted, an organization that aims to increase female voices in the media, undertook a systematic review of foreign policy op-eds in 1996, 2006, and 2016 in the four largest newspapers in the US: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.

ICYMI: You’re probably not quoting enough women. Let us help you.

We found that we are far from gender parity on the op-ed page, and it’s not changing fast enough.

FPI identified 3,758 foreign policy op-eds across the three one-year periods. These articles spanned global affairs, national security, war, development, human rights, global trade and commerce, and bilateral and multilateral issues. Of these, 568, or 15 percent, were written by women.

“At that rate, we won’t approach parity until 2056, a full professional generation from now.”

The total number of op-eds by women has increased rapidly in two decades—from 58 in 1996 to 250 in 2016. However, this largely reflects the increase in total content available through online platforms, rather than an improvement in parity. Across the four publications combined, the proportion of op-eds authored by women increased more modestly over time: from 8 percent in 1996, to 15 percent in 2006, to 19 percent in 2016.

In the Times and the Post, women’s share of op-ed bylines has increased over time from 4 percent and 15 percent to 23 percent and 24 percent respectively. In the LA Times, the share of female bylines also increased, from 8 percent to 17 percent, though the number of foreign policy op-eds published by the LA Timesdecreased.

The increase in equal representation did not hold across all publications. In The Wall Street Journal, women were no better represented in 2016 compared to 1996—fewer than one in eight foreign policy opinion pieces was authored by a woman.

The FPI review shows that the share of women’s bylines has increased by as much as 7 percentage points per decade. At that rate, we won’t approach parity until 2056, a full professional generation from now.

The tendency to publish the same bylines and quote the same sources repeatedly is partly driven by the pressure on today’s media to produce more content with fewer resources. When breaking news hits, daily beat journalists eager for sources reach out to the first people they can find working on and influencing any given issue, not the experts working outside the nerve center or think tank world. This gives men, who dominate the top spots in think tanks, the Pentagon, the State Department, National Security Council, and White House an advantage. The Wall Street Journal, for example, published seven pieces by John Bolton in 2016.

This also leads to a self-reinforcing cycle: the more you are heard, the more influential you become. The numbers are daunting, but the problem is not intractable. There is no shortage of qualified women in the pipeline; Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Tufts’s Fletcher School, and Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Study all had more than 50 percent female enrollment in 2016.

There are clear steps to increasing the diversity of voices and thought leaders in foreign policy—and other fields where women’s voices are lacking. Editors need to widen their scope, and solicit and consider pitches from a more diverse range of voices and a more equal mix of women and men. Likewise journalists should be vigilant about reviewing their quoted sources to make sure they’re reaching out to women, too.

Columbia Journalism Review

Elmira Bayrasli and Elizabeth Radin are the authors of this article. Elmira Bayrasli is the CEO and co-founder of Foreign Policy Interrupted. Elizabeth Radin is a researcher and lecturer at Columbia University and an FPI Fellow.

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June 20, 2018

World Refugee Day video

Grantee News From Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security:

Despite navigating a world of constant disruption, Syrian women and girls living as refugees in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon bravely share why and how they continue to challenge inequalities and stereotypes in order to realize peace. These women peacebuilders may be separated by borders and war, but they have a single message to the world: Syrian women have ambitions and capacities to make change.Share your support and follow Syrian women changemakers of #MeWeSyria #WomenLeadingPeace.


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April 26, 2018

The World Is Getting More Dangerous. What Are Peace and Security Funders Trying to Do About That?

Grantee News From Peace and Security Funders Group:

At the beginning of this year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved its famed “doomsday clock” a bit closer to midnight—to two minutes, the closest point it’s been since 1953.

We live in dangerous times, with numerous armed conflicts underway around the world and a nuclear standoff unfolding on the Korean peninsula that’s been called a “slow-motion Cuban Missile Crisis.” Tensions are rising between the United States and both Russia and China, including in the shadow arena of cybersecurity.

In this fast-shifting, volatile landscape, it’s not surprising to find that some foundations are working to promote greater peace and security. This is one of the oldest missions of modern philanthropy, one that preoccupied Andrew Carnegie and many philanthropists who followed in his footsteps.

So what have such funders been doing lately to ensure that conflicts around the world are reduced or avoided?

The new Peace and Security Funding Index offers answers to that question. The analysis, using the latest data, tracks how much money is given by private foundations to peace and security efforts, including grants to prevent and mitigate conflict, to resolve conflict, and to build stable societies after conflicts have occurred. Overall, it paints a picture of a small but dedicated cadre of funders who are punching above their weight with grantmaking that adds up to less than 1 percent of total foundation giving.

Several takeaways emerge from the index, which is put together by the Foundation Center and the Peace and Security Funders Group, an affinity organization for grantmakers in the field.

For starters, peace and security funders have a global footprint that looms larger than the size of their giving. Totaling only $351 million in 2015, this grantmaking is enabling an enormous amount of activity. It sustains an infrastructure of nonprofits working in Washington, D.C., to sway U.S. national security policy, bankrolls academic research on issues like cybersecurity and nuclear nonproliferation, and supports civil society work around the world on everything from the rights of women and girls in Syrian refugee camps to conflict resolution in Africa. Beyond the diversity of approaches and issues tackled, funders in this field vary in type, regional focus, and average grant size.

That said, the leading strategies of peace and security funders remain policy and advocacy, as well as research and evaluation. Although funders support a full range of strategies, the majority of the money in the space backs policy work and research and evaluation as a strategic approach. Peace and security funders are almost two times more likely than other grantmakers to fund policy and advocacy strategies. Meanwhile, 16 percent of grant dollars awarded in 2015 funded research and evaluation, often to span the gap between academic and policy worlds on topics including cybersecurity and applying local knowledge in peacebuilding.

Peace and security giving funders provided 19 percent of their grant dollars through general support, which is consistent with the proportion of general support made by U.S. foundations overall. Just over 35 percent of funders in the field made at least one general support grant.

At Inside Philanthropy, we’ve reported on a number of cases in which foundations had impact on peace and security issues—most notably, by supporting the informal, so-called Track II diplomacy that led to the Iran nuclear deal. Funders now support similar critical work in Korea.


Given what’s at stake, why isn’t peace and security attracting more funding? We put that question to the folks at the Peace and Security Funders Group, who answered with their own personal opinions, rather than on behalf of the group’s membership.

“Although peace and security issues are on the front pages of newspapers across the world, the field requires strategic patience and long-term investments in building peace,” said Alexandra I. Toma, the group’s executive director. “So it’s difficult to showcase ‘success stories’ in a year or two, which is a turn-off for funders who want a quick, tangible ‘return on investment.’”

Toma also noted the difficulty of demonstrating the benefits of work that has prevented conflicts thanks to the efforts of peace and security funders.

“It’s hard to impossible to prove prevention, but that’s what’s most effective—both in terms of saving lives, staving off conflict, and cost,” said Toma. “It’s way better to prevent [things like] atrocities and nuclear terrorism—but it’s hard to make the case for funders that prevention is working because you can’t prove a negative.”

Regarding the future of funding for peace and security work, Toma characterized the field as stable.

“Generally, peace and security work is long-term, strategic, and evolutionary, so you don’t frequently see major shifts in funder commitments in response to a political change or emerging crises,” she said. “While there may be the occasional ‘tipping points’ that cause funders to pivot or reassess their funding commitments, for the most part, foundations aren’t continually changing their strategies or focus in response to the latest crisis.”

However, Toma added that foundations “can be and are responsive to ever-changing contexts and do pivot to seize political opportunities. But all of this takes place within the context of their overall strategies and goals.”

She pointed to the work on the Iran nuclear deal and the Rohingya refugee crisis as examples of funders re-strategizing in response to emerging issues, yet staying within their long-term strategies.

With regard to Iran, Toma said, “there were grants in 2014-2015 on issues related to the U.S.-Iran relationship and nuclear agreement, but these grants were not made in isolation or as responses to a ‘motivating situation.’ Rather, nuclear funders had been supporting work on nonproliferation and on Iran for years, laying the groundwork for an eventual nuclear agreement. Grantmaking around the major peace opportunity fit into their existing strategies and work.”

In terms of the Rohingya crisis, Toma said, there had recently been a flurry of media attention to the refugees. But foundations “were paying attention long before the mainstream media cared. The Nexus Fund, for one, has been doing scoping, research, and funding in Burma on this issue since 2013. Another PSFG member, American Jewish World Service, has also been working with the Rohingya in Burma since 2013. These foundations were already there when the crises became mainstream news items. In other words, the flurry of funding you’re seeing around [the Rohingya] is not really coming out of left field.”


As for themes that might arise in the field in the near term, the director of the index project, Rachel LaForgia, observed several possible issues.

“A few current-day themes funders are considering are, ‘Have the rules of the game changed?’ ‘Is the post-WWII liberal world order dead?’ Is multi-polarity the wave of the future? If so, how will peoples all over the world relate to one another, to sovereignty, to the nation-state, etc.? Who will be ‘winners’ and ‘losers,’ and what is our role?” said LaForgia in an interview with Inside Philanthropy.

Among the other topics LaForgia discussed were the influence of artificial intelligence and machine learning on peace and security, the ‘rules of the road’ in the digital and cyber space, climate change’s effects on everything from refugees and migration to failing states and national security, and movements and social media trends such as #MeToo and #TimesUp.

Despite the challenges in the field, Toma offered a hopeful assessment of funding prospects.

“As peace and security issues will still be around in the next decade, our hope is that foundations continue to fund this work and that those who aren’t currently peace and security funders begin to consider how peace and security issues affect their work,” she said.

Toma calls peace and security funders the “ground zero” of the philanthropic community, in the sense that their work provides a foundation upon which other interventions  can succeed in everything from health care to economic development. This point echoes the logic of Carnegie and other earlier philanthropists in this space—without peace, it’s hard for humanity to achieve all of its other goals.

Toma’s assessment for the coming decade is that the “best-case scenario” for peace and security funding is that funders of all sorts view peace and security as fundamental to all their work, and they begin to invest more in these causes.

That’s a nice thought. Right now, though, apart from such stalwarts as the MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Open Society Foundations, there aren’t that many funders giving to peace and security issues on a large scale. The new index shows that only eight foundations made more than $10 million in grants in this space in 2015.

If the world really does stand at two minutes to midnight, it’s time for its billionaires and foundations to dig deeper on peace and security issues, in a way that’s proportional to the gravity of the challenges.

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April 12, 2018

Domestic abusers: Dangerous for women — and lethal for cops

March 21, 2018

Afghanistan-Taliban peace talks must include women negotiators defending their rights

March 13, 2018

Compton grantee, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health , staff are target of ICE detention

March 9, 2018

Ms. Must-Reads for International Women’s Day

February 5, 2018

ICAN launches 3rd thematic animation: Gendered Devolution