Built on Shaky Ground: Reflections on Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy


Cadesky, Jessica. 2020. “Built on Shaky Ground: Reflections on Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy.” International Journal: Canada’s Journal of Global Policy Analysis 75 (3): 298–312.

Author: Jessica Cadesky


In October 2017, Canada launched its Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP). While Canada’s explicit use of the words “feminist” and “feminism” may be refreshing, critical questions on the FIAP’s interpretation and application of these concepts remain. These challenges are not unique to the FIAP. Rather, the central weaknesses of the FIAP can be seen as symptomatic of several endemic challenges that persist in the current policies and practices that seek to promote gender equality in the developing world and beyond. This article presents the theoretical and conceptual lineage that has informed the FIAP, drawing from challenges present within literature on security, gender equality, and gender mainstreaming. Three main shortcomings relevant to both the literature and the FIAP are explored: first, the assumptions and essentialization of “gender” to mean “women”; second, the frequent conflation of “gender equality” with “women’s empowerment”; and last, the paradox of gender, gender equality, and feminism being simultaneously overpoliticized and depoliticized to suit prevailing policy environments, with particular implications for the global coronavirus pandemic, as well as impacts in fragile and conflict-affected states. This analysis sheds light on persistent challenges in feminist foreign policymaking and offers insights for the development of Canada’s White Paper on feminist foreign policy.

Keywords: feminist foreign assistance policy, gender equality, women, empowernment, discourse, fragile and conflict-affected states, COVID-19

Topics: Feminisms, Feminist Foreign Policy, Gender, Gender Mainstreaming, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Security Regions: Americas, North America Countries: Canada

Year: 2020

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