Speech Minister Bruins Slot at the Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy Conference

Speech by Hanke Bruins Slot, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, at the Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy Conference, The Hague, 2 November 2023.

Good afternoon everyone,

It’s good to see you all here today.

This conference is taking place in turbulent times. And I realise that this is a difficult period for all of us. The world has been shocked by the horrific developments in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

The Netherlands strongly condemns the indiscriminate terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel. And we support Israel’s right to defend itself, using measures that are proportional. Using measures that are in line with international humanitarian law. And restraint from Israel is necessary when it comes to the use of force.

As my colleague Liesje Schreinemacher already pointed out, the gravity and scale of the conflict are deeply concerning. And we must do what we can to prevent regional escalation. Yes, we must stop the suffering in Gaza, and loss of life, which is immense.

To the people raising their voices right now, I want to say: thank you for speaking out. I hear you. And I see your concerns. And I can tell you: I too have grave concerns regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

It is good that you’ve addressed this issue during the whole conference. Because Feminist Foreign Policy is about dialogue, and about finding shared goals. 

It’s important that we as the Netherlands have set aside another 15 million euros for assistance, on top of the 10 million euros already pledged. It’s also why the Netherlands is urgently appealing for humanitarian pauses and a humanitarian corridor. And it’s why I’ve stressed to all our international partners that aid needs to be entering Gaza much more frequently and much faster. Because essential human needs must be met, and further loss of civilian lives must be prevented.

There’s another important point I’d like to raise: the work of NGOs, civil society organisations, and humanitarian aid workers is crucial. Everywhere – and especially in conflict areas. What is also crucial is that you speak up and speak out. And that you can do this without having to fear reprisals.

Feminist Foreign Policy is not a soft topic. It deals with the harsh realities in which many women, girls and marginalised groups live. And that’s why current events are playing a major role in this conference.

From the violence in Gaza and Israel, to the war in Ukraine, and the coups in the Sahel… it’s conflicts like these that demonstrate why Feminist Foreign Policy is so crucial. Because women are often victims in these conflicts. But also because women, in all their diversity, can help prevent such conflicts. Research has shown that peace lasts longer when women have played a significant role in negotiating it.

More broadly, constructive dialogue and inclusive cooperation are intrinsic to Feminist Foreign Policy. As UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed put it during the first UN conference on this topic, and I quote:

‘We need to talk across. We need to find what binds us together and not what separates us. It’s going to be amazing, when we do it right.’

I find her words powerful for many reasons. Perhaps mostly because, together, they weave a compelling message of hope. A message that is so very welcome in a time tainted by conflicts and war, by power play and polarisation, by climate change and poverty.

To all of you here today, Thank you for being here. Your presence matters. And so does your valuable work. All of you are working so hard towards creating a more equal world… In the broadest sense of the word. A world in which gender equality is the norm. Rather than the exception.

And, in this light, let me also thank all the people who helped organise this conference. You are helping us reach the goals we’re all striving for.

By adopting a Feminist Foreign Policy, governments stand on the shoulders of great feminist thinkers of the past. And, also, on all the great organisations and individuals that we have in the room here, today. And so do many other countries, who believe in what Feminist Foreign Policy stands for, but prefer to use different words for this.

The Netherlands is strongly committed to promoting equality. In all our work, we try to strengthen the rights, resources and representation of women and other marginalised groups. For example, by including a gender expert in our delegation at COP27; By successfully advocating for EU sanctions against sexual violence perpetrators; And by emphasising women’s rights globally, and especially in peace processes.

Our goal of a more equal world must be integrated into all our endeavours. And that’s why we’re also launching an online tool to integrate Feminist Foreign Policy into everything we do at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Let me show you an animation about this.

What I find so powerful is that Feminist Foreign Policy promotes inclusivity in the broadest sense of the word.

It’s this broad equality I stand for too… And that’s not just because I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to speak up and participate. It’s because exclusion also impairs those who are included.

Because excluding half of the world’s population, literally means giving it just 50 percent. We can only address the problems in our world, when we put in our full effort. And when all voices are heard and included.

Of course, policy is not a panacea. By itself, it won’t put an end to sexual violence, to conflicts, inequalities, punishment, and insecurity. Yet I hope it will empower those who can put an end to all of this. That’s why I’m so pleased that Mexico has decided to host the next Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy Conference.

As Amina Mohammed put it so eloquently: ‘We need to make sure that every stitch in this feminist foreign policy tapestry is bright and vibrant and strong… as we are.’

Esteemed guests,

When I look before me, into this room, I can see how bright, vibrant and strong that tapestry is! And that makes me truly grateful. My gratitude for your important work is immense.

Thank you.