The gender diplomacy trap and the security race
Manus Island in Papua New Guinea has again been cast into the international spotlight as the geopolitical contest for power intensifies. During the 2018 APEC meeting, China’s growing interest showed at the highest level with the President’s visit – the ‘redwashing’ of Port Moresby with Chinese flags and symbols, and the opening of several major construction projects. Australia responded by launching its own investments and, with the US, announcing a trilateral arrangement to re-establish the Manus Island naval base.
Putting aside tensions between China and the US, two issues – gender and security – are important to the relationship between PNG and Australia. For many PNG women and the daunting challenges they face, the bilateral program is a beacon of hope, and programs funded under the partnership have led to great progress. Support from Australia is critical because the PNG Government provides limited budget allocations towards issues like gender-based and sorcery accusation-related violence.
On the other hand, security, a male-dominated domain, binds PNG and Australia together. Bruce Hunt’s 2017 book Australia’s northern shield notes that, although Australia has historically viewed PNG as a shield against external threats to Australia, recent defence cooperation has moved towards mutual security interests. See this recent blog for a review of these contemporary strategic considerations and the associated risks.
In using the term ‘gender diplomacy’ I situate gender within the Australian Foreign Policy White Paper alongside other terms such as ‘economic diplomacy’ (p. 64), ‘commercial diplomacy’ (p. 76); ‘digital diplomacy’ (p. 111); ‘science diplomacy’ (p. 113-114); ‘sports diplomacy’ (p. 114); ‘police-led diplomacy’ (p. 115) and ‘cultural diplomacy‘. Even though gender is not couched explicitly in terms of ‘diplomacy’, it is listed in the Foreign Policy White Paper as one of …read more