FES Syria

EU Feminist Foreign Policy on Syria

How a holistic perspective can inform EU policymaking on Syria

Photo: iStockphoto - Ponomariova_Maria (ID 1211724947)

After ten years of an internationalized civil war in Syria, a political solution to the conflict, responding to needs and rights of all Syrians, seems out of reach. The conflict has disproportionally affected women and marginalized groups, while their role in conflict resolution has been sidelined. Nora-Elise Beck and Barbara Mittelhammer analyze the EU’s foreign policy toward Syria through a feminist foreign policy lens. Although Syria is of the utmost importance to the EU, its current approach does not offer ways out of the political impasse. The authors argue that the EU needs new perspectives to respond to Syria’s multidimensional crises and support all Syrians, but also in the EU’s own interests.

The study applies feminist foreign policy as an analytical framework which takes the realities of peace and conflict into account, and places gender equality, women’s and human rights at the heart. The concept is based on a broad definition of security, critically examines power relations, and focuses on diversity in policymaking. Nora-Elise Beck and Barbara Mittelhammer show that feminist foreign policy offers new ways of thinking and acting to achieve a more inclusive, equal, and comprehensive EU foreign policy approach for Syria.

The authors demonstrate that the EU’s strategic approach toward Syria is not gender aware, consisting of an »add women and stir« approach rather than a transformative approach along the lines of feminist principles. Furthermore, national interests dominate the discourse and marginalize the aspirations of Syrians and Syrian civil society. The authors explain that these power dynamics and imbalances culminate in the lack of inclusion and equal participation of Syrians, particularly Syrian women, in political transition processes. According to the authors, the EU has not overcome structural barriers to equal participation and substantial feminist and civil society input in its policymaking. Nora-Elise Beck and Barbara Mittelhammer propose that the EU needs to close the gender information gap and broaden its strategic framework based on a gender-aware provision of human security, integrating an intersectional approach, and including marginalized and vulnerable groups. They call for more inclusive EU policymaking based on the needs of all Syrians, civil society, and marginalized groups.

Beck, Nora-Elise; Mittelhammer, Barbara

EU feminist foreign policy in Syria

How a holistic perspective can inform EU policymaking on Syria
Beirut, 2021

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