Kristina stimulates a cultural transformation of global foreign policy towards feminist values. She does this by connecting a feminist approach in social sciences with ministries and the active thought-leader civil society. The goal is to overcome dominant political thought patterns and patriarchal conventions. In doing so, she fosters an increase of peace building, the support of human rights and the elimination of gender stereotypes.
The New Idea
Based in Germany, Kristina leverages Germany’s dominant position in global foreign policy to influence the integration of women and feminist values into the German political environment and therethrough the global foreign policy system. Together with her now co-director Nina Bernarding, she built the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy (CFFP) in Berlin as the world’s first Think and Do Tank focused on making foreign policy more feminist, more transparent and more intersectional. It takes a step outside the black box approach of traditional foreign policy that is mainly focused on military force, violence, and domination. Kristina offers an alternate and intersectional rethinking approach to security including the viewpoint of the most marginalized groups. The Think and Do Tank represents an entity through which academics, individual countries’ political actors as well as many other stakeholders can collectively work towards fundamentally changing the existing framework around foreign policy.
Kristina bridges her research with advocacy and inclusive community building. Unlike other political actors who try to bring their message across by dominating political discussions, she engages stakeholders of all backgrounds and all perspectives including the ones with opposing perspectives related to foreign and security policy. By making all the voices heard through inclusion, she effectively addresses misperceptions and stigma around feminism and so-called female values and approaches. The research created by and collected from her Think and Do Tank serves as the basis for informed advocacy and the identification of common ground among diverse stakeholder dialogues to align around (often unconsciously) shared goals.
While the Ministry of Foreign Policy (Auswärtiges Amt) has the star role in the foreign policy system in Germany, it is slow to change. Decades of male dominated leadership have created a deep culture and understanding of how foreign policy should be handled leaving little room for innovative thinking and new approaches. Kristina has identified a unique way to bring change from within the system while maintaining her independence and neutral voice. In her role of advisor to the Foreign Office in Germany, Kristina has found a lever to influence the ministers’ behavior and way of thinking. She can impact this through changes in how speeches are written, how trips to foreign countries are planned, and how the ministry’s budget is allocated. Moreover, she has brought inclusive diverse roundtables and events around feminist foreign policy onto the premises of the Ministry of Foreign Policy in Berlin.
Foreign policy lacks diversity within leadership and methodology. The foreign policy field perpetuates patriarchal structures which continue to subjugate marginalized communities and perpetuates both male and Western perspectives as standard. Foreign policy is a difficult field to break into for those who seek to make change. This challenge is magnified for those whose voices are typically excluded from foreign policy dialogues. One example are the conversations around reforming the UN Security Council that have been going on for many years. Those with privileges among which are states, organizations and individuals are not willing to give up power. This fact continues to marginalize the already marginalized, as was recently seen in April, when Germany, which is currently represented in the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member, introduced a resolution on ‘Women, Peace and Security’ and more specifically on sexualized violence in conflict. The US – having the privilege to be a veto-power, threatened to veto the resolution as it included reproductive rights which led to Germany agreeing to take it out. The example shows that patriarchal mindsets in international politics continue to oppress political minorities.
International conflict research, with Frances Stewart leading the way, repeatedly demonstrates that the greater the disparities amongst different groups of people the more likely violent conflict occurs within or between societies. This is particularly the case if these inequalities are persistent over time. Studies show that peace agreements are 35% more likely to maintain for at least 15 years when women are involved in the negotiation process. Countries focused on gender equality are less prone to violent extremism. In fact, women's equality has a higher positive effect on a state's overall stability than democracy or GDP. According to the UN Women and experts like Marie O’Reilly and Valerie Hudson around sex and world peace, sustainable long-term peace is impossible in unequal and patriarchal structures. A feminist influence on foreign policy effectively implements international treaties and resolutions that strengthen the rights and participation of women and other political minorities, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. It is an approach that stays mindful of discrimination due to race, class, age, gender, religion and disability.
Contributing further to this problem, a broken logic of security dominates the political system. National security based on arms buildup is falsely equated with security for society. Minorities, however, are not protected. High propensities to violence lead to an increase of conflict. This strengthens an international system based on violence and aggression. A feminist foreign policy demands a radical re-prioritization of the concerns of foreign affairs. Most importantly, it supports abandoning the militarization of security structures. A feminist approach to foreign policy rejects the common belief that “more weapons equal more security and nuclear weapons are the ultimate guarantor of security because they are the biggest, baddest weapons”, as Ray Acheson, Director of Reaching Critical Will, puts it. Today, four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a body whose mandate is the maintenance of international peace and security, according to the UN Charter, are amongst the world’s five biggest arms exporters. Together with Germany, the US, Russia, France and China accounted for 74 per cent of all arms exports in 2013-17. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom recently published their guidance note for Security Council members ‘Towards a Feminist Security Council’. Here, they clearly outline how measures including strengthening partnerships with women civil society, prioritizing gender conflict analysis, and ensuring action on disarmament would lead to a more peaceful world.
One of the most important goals of a feminist foreign policy is international disarmament under the premise that neither military nor weapons make anyone secure. On the contrary, the current international security architecture is based on the ability to dominate and destroy. Instead of fostering security, weapons serve those in power to stay in power. New developments of fully autonomous weapons will not only reinforce these power dynamics but take them to a new level. If fully autonomous weapons become operational, governments can deploy them without human control on or near battlefields. As seen with drones, this distance and safety leads to an increased use of force and more civilian casualties. Fully autonomous weapons make it easier and less risky to destroy and dominate others. This could lead to the association of killer robots resulting in more governments aiming to possess these weapons. An arms race with weapons that are not controlled by humans and do not comply with international humanitarian law would threaten humankind irreversibly and on a new level. Ironically, overcoming militarism has scientifically been proven to not only foster human security and equality but also free-up millions of Euros. The three-times Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Scilla Elworthy and author of ‘Business Plan for Peace’ comments: “We are spending (US)$1686 billion annually on militarization, when $38 billion would bring clean water and sanitation to every child on the planet.” Calculating the costs for preventing conflict and war she adds: “We could have prevention for $2 billion dollars while we are spending $1686 billion on militarization.”
With foreign minister Maas’ focus on multilateralism, human rights and ‘women, peace and security’, there is a great window of opportunity to make German foreign policy more feminist which, given Germany’s influence in the world and respected standing, could have important knock-on effects.
Kristina understands that if states around the world are serious about building peace and preventing conflict, foreign and security policy must be focused on the eradication of injustices and inequalities, the prioritization of human rights as the approach to national security, and the redistribution of power, locally and globally. For her, feminist foreign policy is exactly this. It acts as a tool to analyze power. Who has it? Who uses it? How is it being sustained, and for what purposes? It calls into question who gets to speak or make decisions, who has been silenced, and whose needs and experiences are prioritized and regarded relevant. Only by analyzing these power dynamics through a feminist lens are their consequences understood to be destructive. CFFP strategically builds and empowers a community of feminists, activists, MPs, government officials, and foreign policy experts in order to make feminist foreign policy voices heard, understood and adopted in public as well as academic settings and policy around the world. This endeavor is backed by research and advocacy work.
Kristina’s objective is for all stakeholders to recognize that inequalities- including gender inequalities- are prevalent in all societies around the global and that those inequalities must be actively eradicated with every foreign and security policy decision. For Kristina, a feminist foreign policy always has two dimensions: equal representation and a feminist analysis of all relevant policy areas. CFFP provides the world's first free and in-depth reading list on topics surrounding feminist foreign policy for the public. Apart from creating their own content, CFFP also serves as a platform compiling scattered existing information. Content includes policy briefings, academic research, expert interviews and disruptive online journals including research from authors, journalists and policy students. Through this content, Kristina shows connections to new and current topics in politics that would otherwise not be associated with feminism. For example, against the background of aiming for international disarmament, Kristina and her team advocate the banning of killer robots (lethal autonomous weapons systems) as their existence solidifies skewed, patriarchal power structures. Moreover, CFFP highlights lighthouse policies coming from UK, France, Sweden and Canada. By sharing existing policy experiences and knowledge of feminist foreign policy, Kristina ensures a clear public perception of what feminist foreign policy entails and how it can be applied in practice. Best practices and actionable implications show its relevance and reduce the excuses of the ministries for not implementing the changes.
By introducing feminism as a solid tool of power analysis into foreign policy and diplomacy through different channels such as community work, advocacy and research, Kristina creates a narrative where feminism is eventually understood as a standard concept in foreign policy. For that, she and her team sensitize young diplomats, students and young academics to this new way of thinking and arranges a series of fireside-chats and summer schools. Inspired by Kristina’s work, the King’s College London master's student Karoline F. is researching for her master’s thesis and then to be continued as her PhD "The Politics of Equality: Feminist Foreign Policy and the German Foreign Office” as she wants to understand what needs to change in the German Foreign Office for a feminist foreign policy to be implemented successfully. For this she is conducting an expert interview with Kristina and draws substantively on CFFP’s work. Kristina moreover cultivates relationships with many diplomats in the Foreign Office in Berlin. Annette L., for instance, approached Kristina to organize a high-level panel on feminist foreign policy at the Foreign Office for international women’s day. The celebrations for international women’s day were opened by the German Foreign Minister giving a feminist speech and Kristina organized and moderated the Foreign Office’s first panel on feminist foreign policy in front of 200 diplomats and with the Swedish and French ambassadors on stage, as well as a senior German diplomat.
Kristina also creates a series of multisectoral events that engage a variety of stakeholders including ones with a more conservative background regarding foreign and security policy and representatives from NGOs, foundations and activists worldwide. Fostering a participative dialogue without excluding anyone is a unique strength found in Kristina. For their launch event, a diverse range of speakers regarding sectors, gender and backgrounds as well as topics were gathered. A first panel consisted of male and female diplomats from Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Canada arguing for a feminist foreign policy and followed by a speech by an MP from the German liberal party FDP. A second panel saw a mixture of academics and activists attended by a multisectoral crowd of private sector, public sector, NGOs, embassies and foundations.
In less than a year, she together with her team has managed to gain traction, involving several embassies and the German foreign office as partners to create events and publications. Recently, CFFP in partnership with the Open Society Foundation and the Munich Security Conference created a database of female speakers specialized in foreign and security policy topics, called ‘WoX (Women Experts in Foreign and Security Policy) Network. Kristina desires to enhance female attendance at rather male dominated conferences. Also, she works with mavens to publicly broaden the issue of female foreign policy eventually resulting in concrete policy change. Inspired by CFFP’s work, the German Green Party brought a motion demanding a feminist foreign policy into the German Bundestag (parliament) last year (2019).
To completement her work around research, advocacy and community building, Kristina has found a unique way to change the system from within and gradually win over the central big player of German foreign policy: the German Foreign Office. As an advisor to the minister, she acquired the insights about the system’s dynamics to then sustainably infiltrate the system whilst making her own independence a priority. Independence is critical to her role, as it allows her to criticize German foreign policy when necessary unlike staff and gives her the authenticity to make her voice heard. Kristina has been consulting the German Foreign Ministry in creating a women’s right network between Latin America, the Caribbean and Germany called Unidas, which was officially launched by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on May 2nd, 2019 in Salvador, Brazil. Unidas brings together female human rights, peace and feminist activists and social entrepreneurs from the entire region.
CFFP has become a central voice and go-to-organization for expertise and networks on intersectional feminist foreign policy within Germany (and Europe). Kristina’s overarching vision is to see feminist influenced foreign policy applied globally entailing the acknowledgement of discrimination by governments all over the world and the acceptance of the fact that it represents the most influential factor: war and peace. This can only be solved by changing governmental priorities around gender issues and marginalization of underrepresented groups. For her, governmental priorities will need to shift towards gender and marginalization issues to get to less war, less abuse of power, less extremism and to more human security and peace. Necessary steps for this ambitious vision are to foster and enlarge the effective working relationships with representatives of German ministries, foreign policy think tanks and international embassies in Berlin. Also, it is becoming crucial to build relationships with key universities to influence the next generation of policy shapers and current research. Kristina wants to further broaden the internal expertise and knowledge of feminist foreign policy and continuously showcase alterative policy options as role models.
In the upcoming year, CFFP is planning on conducting a thorough analysis for and funded through the German government depicting how German foreign politics can become more feminist providing exact data, hands-on practices and clear recommendations for next steps.. While CFFP is currently financed publicly and privately through project funding, Kristina is focusing on developing a new financial model in the form of a network of private long-term funders, so-called ‘CFFP Visionaries’, which she and her team launched recently.
Kristina grew up in Reckendorf, a village with only 80 inhabitants in a conservative surrounding. Although she was one of the strongest students in elementary school, she nearly didn’t go to a secondary school that qualifies to go to university because it was not seen as a relevant future path from her completely non-academic surrounding. As a teenager she became influenced by German punk-rock music and began to question the rude and dominant behavior of older men in her environment. With small steps she overcame the fear of not belonging and not being “good enough” for a path beyond her own background. She describes her studies in London, Stanford and Oxford as transformative: So far, she was totally unaware of feminism or structural inequality and became more and more enlightened- and enraged.
She co-founded the NGO “Gender Equality Media” that challenges sexism in German media and looks at the link between media sexism and gender-based violence. The targeted campaigning contributed to BILD (Europe's most influential tabloid) dropping its topless models, but at the costs of having the influential (male)editor in chief making fun of her on his twitter account and exposing Kristina to hate and rape threats on the web. She didn’t give up and next she co-initiated UN Women National Committee Germany’s campaign “No means No” which resulted in a change of German law on sexualized violence and rape, making not violence the criterion for rape but missing consent– a milestone for the women’s rights movement.
After several years working for the UN and NGOs in South America on female empowerment and working with Scilla Elworthy, three times Nobel Pease Prizes Nominee, she realized that female foreign policy is the topic to she wants to focus her energy on. Together with Marissa Conway, who started CFFP as a website in the UK she became co-founder and started CFFP in Germany.