Interview with Ambika Varma from the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy

Could you tell us more about yourself, your background and your position at the Centre of Feminist Foreign Policy?

I started my career in this field as a Program Editor for the ‘Women in Security’ program at the NATO Association of Canada then I went to Sciences Po Paris for my Masters degree in International Security, where I focused on viewing problems through a feminist lens. Currently, I volunteer at the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy in Germany as a Policy Assistant, am the Outreach Coordinator for WCAPS France, and also work as a Researcher for an urban exploration project in Canada. Remote work has afforded me many opportunities to work towards a feminist future as a Women, Peace and Security Specialist for organisations I wholeheartedly support!

How did you find out about the CFFP?

In February 2020, I attended the Young Munich Security Conference where I met a host of wonderful and talented people, one of them being Miriam Mona Müller, Strategic Research and Policy Advisor at CFFP. After learning about the organisation and reading about the great work that they do, I immediately wanted to get involved!

What does your work at the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy look like ?

The team I’m incredibly lucky to be a part of is working on a project called ‘Feminist Foreign Policy So-White?!’. The project explores whiteness as a crucial theme in our discussion of racism and racial hierarchy in feminist foreign policy research, strategy and practice. Its goal is prevent the reproduction of colonial patterns in feminist foreign policy through advocacy, community, and research work. The first brief written by Miriam Mona Müller and Anna Provan and assisted by myself and Husna Chhoangalia was released last month and you can check it out here: This policy brief is a short introduction to how whiteness affects foreign policy, feminist and otherwise, and what to do going forward. I work on researching and identifying resources and identifying sources for funding the project itself, which is planned to last for two years with very exciting initiatives in the making.

What is the main purpose of the CFFP?

CFFP is a research and advocacy organisation promoting a feminist approach to foreign and security policy. Foreign policy can be a mechanism for equality, justice, solidarity, and peace but there can 't be peace without feminism. So the CFFP uses advocacy, research, and community-building to change how foreign and security policy is being practised so that it creates a safer world for everyone, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

What does a Feminist Foreign Policy really mean?

Feminist Foreign Policy is people-centred. It places the needs of marginalised communities as a central tenet of foreign policy. It acknowledges inequalities that exist and the intersection within which they operate and it works to diminish them through policy.

How has it evolved and developed over the years?

I think with the passing of UNSCR 1325, twenty years ago, things have changed in the realm of peace and security. The development of the WPS Agenda also represents significant strides forward over twenty years. In these two decades, we have also seen states develop their own feminist foreign policies. There is progress, yes, but there is so much more to do. The development of feminist foreign policy must encompass an intersectional approach to be able to focus on the needs of the people instead of the state. It is vital that states recognize that and implement an approach that puts people first.

What was the response of the feminist foreign policy to Covid-19?

Earlier this year, CFFP released a very informative report written by Kristina Lunz, Nina Bernarding, Anna Provan, and Sarah Kenny Werner on this topic and there is even a wonderful 2-page executive summary which describes the multi-faceted consequences of global inequality, which have been accelerated, in some instances, by COVID-19. In addition to explaining why this global pandemic is a feminist issue, it also identifies concrete feminist policy recommendations and outlines the responses of countries with feminist foreign policies. I recommend everyone check this report out to be able to better understand how multi-faceted the consequences of this global pandemic really are:

Why do you think is it important that we talk about women’s role in diplomacy?

Women are essential to peace. New data from the Council of Foreign Relations shows that including women in peace processes leads to reduced conflict and advances stability. Though it has been twenty years since UNSCR 1325 was passed, women do not hold equal regard in the peace and security space. Talking about the role women play in diplomacy is empowering others to take action. It mobilizes people. But not only does this conversation encourage people, it also highlights how far we yet to go. Talking about women in diplomacy and their unique experiences can also bring light to the challenges that are faced by women in the workplace and to the barriers that exist for women seeking to enter the field of diplomacy.

Who is someone that inspires you?

Arundhati Roy. She is an unimaginably wonderful writer and a human rights and environmental activist. Most recently, I’ve read her book “Azadi: Freedom, Facism, Fiction”. It’s a brilliantly constructed collection of essays which explores themes such as, Hindu nationalism, racism, the complexity of language, and COVID-19. She speaks fearlessly about issues and is very concise and articulate. I think she’s amazing and I am very happy to have encountered her immense body of work!