Written by Rosamund Shreeves
It is now 20 years since governments across the world and international donors – including the European Union (EU) and individual Member States – committed to working towards gender equality and empowering women and girls at the fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. This year also marks the culmination of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which included gender equality as a stand-alone goal (MDG 3). The process of adopting a post-2015 development agenda and specific sustainable development goals (SDGs), has been marked by wide-ranging reviews of the progress achieved, the persisting inequalities and the new gendered challenges arising in connection with evolving risks, such as increasing inequality, armed conflict, migration and the effects of climate change. Scaled up and effective financing will be necessary to meet a new gender equality goal beyond 2015.
“We cannot fulfill 100% of the world’s potential by excluding 50% of the world’s people. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.” Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General
Why gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls matters for development
One of the lessons learned over the past 20 years is that macro-level economic and development policies can have different impacts on women and men, girls and boys, as a result of the gender roles ascribed to them and the connected power relations, division of labour and access to and control over resources. There is also now increasingly ample evidence that gender inequalities can have a negative impact on development outcomes, hampering poverty alleviation and restricting the potential to increase wellbeing. Conversely, as well as benefiting individual women and girls, closing gender gaps can benefit men and boys, societies, businesses and economies as a whole. Investing in gender equality can therefore accelerate progress towards other development goals, such as food security, and create a virtuous circle for sustainable development. As an issue of human rights and justice, gender equality is important in its own right. From this perspective, empowering women and girls gives them greater agency to get their voices heard and orient development in ways that meet their needs.
Although progress has been made in some areas, notably gender parity in access to primary education, it has been slow, and large gender gaps have persisted globally. No country in the world has eradicated gender inequality.
Development cooperation, in partnership with national governments and civil society, particularly women’s organisations, can have an impact in crucial areas including:
- Improving maternal health and support for parents, including support for fathers, and developing social protection systems;
- Helping women and girls to emerge from poverty, by increasing their access to education and good quality jobs, supporting their role in farming and food production and recognising their unpaid care and domestic work;
- Enhancing the participation of women and girls in decision-making, both inside and outside the family;
- Combating violence against them, including sexual violence in conflicts; and
- Ensuring that they enjoy full human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Financing for gender equality – achievements and challenges
The volume and focus of funding
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has reported that aid targeted at gender equality by its members has more than tripled over the course of the MDGs, from US$8 billion in 2002 to US$28 billion in 2012, but that, despite the upward trend, investments are ‘vastly insufficient to achieve gender equality and only a small proportion of aid addresses women’s specific needs’. EU, and other, aid has tended to be focused on a handful of sectors. UN Women has also highlighted that ‘persistent and chronic underinvestment‘ has been an obstacle to progress. Women’s organisations, often engaged in long-term work to change deep-rooted, structural causes of inequality, saw a drop in their funding as donors turned to shorter, more measurable projects.
The effectiveness of funding
It is not only the volume, but also the effectiveness of financing that is important, how gender issues are built in to its design and implementation and how impacts and outcomes are monitored and assessed. Strategies and tools – specifically the use of gender-disaggregated data and indicators and gender-responsive budgeting – have been developed to ensure that financing is gender-sensitive. A recent EU-sponsored programme has helped to further develop best practice and demonstrated the added value such tools can bring. However, knowledge and take-up of such guidance, by countries and donors alike, is patchy, as noted in a recent evaluation of EU support.
New and innovative forms of funding
The financing landscape is also changing. Official development aid (ODA) continues to be a central source of financing for development, as shown in the EU’s reiteration of its pledge to collectively reach the 0.7% ODA/GNI target. However, aid effectiveness agreements have also led to a focus on new kinds of partnership and funding for development. These include: the mobilisation of domestic financial resources, private-sector funding, philanthropy, and revenue from combating tax evasion and illegal financial flows and from better coordination. From a gender perspective, these forms of financing offer both opportunities and challenges. Innovations such as the Global Financing Facility (GFF) and the Brazilian Bolsa familia scheme target women directly. However, research by the women’s organisation, Gender and Development Network, has highlighted that new financing is not gender neutral and that its benefits and pitfalls need to be explored.
Outlook: The UN conference on financing for development and the UN summit to adopt sustainable development goals (SDGs)
How the post-2015 agenda is financed and implemented will be determined at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in July 2015. Efforts to ensure that the FfD3 outcome document is gender-sensitive and contains scaled up commitments to support an ambitious new stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s rights are on-going. Advocacy groups have issued recommendations, statements, and comments on the successive drafts of the document.
For its part, in the Council Conclusions on Gender in Development, the European Union has backed the ‘twin-track approach’ of combining a stand-alone goal on gender equality and empowering women and girls with comprehensive gender mainstreaming. It has also highlighted the need to align commitments with financing in the FfD3 process.
The European Parliament makes specific mention of the need for a gender perspective in financing in its Resolution on the EU and the global development framework after 2015, Resolution on Financing for Development and the Report on tax avoidance and tax evasion as challenges for governance, social protection and development in developing countries (Elly Schlein, S&D, Italy). MEPs will be part of the EU delegation attending the FfD3 conference.
Sources and further reading
I/ Why gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls matters for development
1) The current situation
- The European Year for Development: Women and Girls/ Lerch, M. and Claros, E. European Parliament, 23 February 2015. Briefing and infographic based on figures from the Gender Inequality Index, (GII) of the United Nations Development Programme.
- Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) 2014 Synthesis Report/ OECD Development Centre, 2015.
- Millennium Development Goals Gender Chart/ United Nations Statistics Division, UN Women, New York, March 2014.
- The World’s Women 2015 – At a Glance/ UN Women, 2015. Brochure summarising the key findings of the upcoming publication, The World’s Women 2015: Trends and Statistics. Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016: Transforming economies, Realising Rights, UN Women, 2015, the main flagship report looking to post-2015.
- The State of the World’s Girls 2014: Pathways to Power: Creating Sustainable Change for Adolescent Girls/ Plan International, 2015.
2) Interconnections between gender equality and development outcomes
- Why Women Matter: the Story of Microcredit/ Lott, C.E. Journal of Law and Commerce, Vol. 27, No. 2, University of Pittsburgh, 2009. How providing financial services and access to women can trigger a powerful multiplier effect with benefits for individuals, households and local communities.
- World Survey on the Role of Women in Development 2014: Gender Equality and Sustainable Development/ United Nations, 2014. 132 p. Explores how the causes and underlying drivers of unsustainability and gender inequality are deeply interlocked.
- Voice and Agency: Empowering women and girls for shared prosperity/ The World Bank, 2014. 226 p. Includes a section (p. 30) on changing social norms by working with men and boys. On the role of men and boys in gender equality, a Report on the State of the World’s Fathers will be launched on 16 June 2015.
- Achieving Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the Post-2015 Framework/ Smee, S. and Woodruffe, J., Gender and Development Network, January 2013. 66p. Part one examines why addressing gender inequality is so crucial for tackling global poverty (pp. 9-15).
- World Bank 2012 Development Report: Gender Equality and Development/ The World Bank, 2012. 432p. How closing gender gaps matters for development and policymaking, both because gender equality is a core development objective in its own right and because greater gender equality is also smart economics, enhancing productivity and improving other development outcomes. A short summary is set out in the article Empowering women is smart economics, by the same authors.
- An Investment that Pays off: Promoting Gender Equality as a Means to Finance Development/ Seguino, S., Berik, G., and Van Der Meulen Rodgers, Y., Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, May 2010.
- Gender equality and economic growth: is there a win-win?/ Kabeer, N., and Natali, L., IDS Working Paper, Volume 2013 No. 417, February 2013. Finds evidence that gender equality, particularly in education and employment, contributes to economic growth is far more consistent and robust than the relationship that economic growth contributes to gender equality.
- Closing the gap! The cost of inequality in women’s employment/ Action Aid, January 2015.
- The Business Case for Women’s Economic Empowerment: An Integrated Approach/ ICRW, Oak Foundation, Dalberg and Witter Ventures, 2014.
- Women in agriculture: Closing the gender gap for development/ Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome, 2011. The report documents the gender gap in agriculture and the gains in productivity and other economic and social benefits of closing it. It estimates that bringing the yields on the land farmed by women up to the levels achieved by men would increase agricultural output in developing countries between 2.5 and 4 per cent. This increase in production would in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by between 12–17 per cent or a minimum of 100 million people.
- Farming as equals: How supporting women’s rights and gender equality makes the difference/ Action Aid, May 2011.
- Gender and food security in brief/ Aboud, G.; Ballara, M. and Brody, A., Bridge, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), UK, 2015. 8p. Argues that tackling gender injustice and truly empowering women is not only a fundamental prerequisite for improving food and nutrition security. It needs to be seen as a goal in its own right.
- DAC Guiding Principles for Aid Effectiveness, Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment / OECD DAC, 2008. Why achieving internationally agreed development goals will not be possible without progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and how recent reforms in aid delivery can help to accelerate progress towards these goals.
II/ Financing for gender equality – achievements and challenges
Statistical data on funding for gender equality and women’s rights
- The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is one of the principal sources for data on Overseas Development Aid (ODA) funding for gender equality and women’s rights. The organisation has developed a “gender equality policy marker” (also used by the EU) a statistical tool for measuring whether overseas development aid (ODA) targets gender as a policy objective. Its Development Assistance Committee (DAC) maintains a portal on aid in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment, which includes an online dataset (2002-2013) and annual statistical charts showing the aid allocated to gender equality by each DAC donor. The most recent chart was published in March 2015 with aid data for 2012-2013. Information includes a general overview of the share of aid focused on gender equality, a breakdown by sector and a chart for each DAC donor, including: the EU institutions, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Analysis of the data on funding for GEWE
- From commitment to action: Financing gender equality and women’s rights in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals / OECD/DAC, 2015.
- Financing the unfinished business of gender equality and women’s rights: priorities for the post-2015 framework / OECD/DAC, 2014.
Assessments of EU support to gender equality and women’s empowerment (GEWE)
- The post-2015 framework for gender equality policy in foreign affairs and development cooperation / Debusscher, P., Study for the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, 2015. Gender analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of EU aid for gender equality.
- Evaluation of EU Support to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Partner Countries / External evaluation carried out for the European Commission, April 2015.
- Gender-responsive budgeting: Innovative approaches to budgeting, Sgueo, G., European Parliamentary Research Service, June 2015
- Analytical study on the EU Budget for Gender Equality, Part 6 – Gender Budgeting Analysis of Development and Cooperation, Directorate-General for Internal Policies, Policy Department D: Budgetary Affairs, IP/D/ALL/FWC/209-056, Forthcoming.
Assessments of GEWE funding in specific sectors
- Funding gender in emergencies: What are the trends?, briefing paper, September 2014.
- Costing and Financing 1325, 2010: Analysis of resources needed to implement Security Council Resolution 1325 at national level as well as the gains, gaps and glitches of financing the women peace and security agenda. Case studies.
- What Women Want: Planning and Financing for Gender-Responsive Peacebuilding, Cueva Beteta, H., Rodriguez, L.B., et al, UN Women, 2010.
- Gender and climate finance: double mainstreaming for sustainable development / Schatalek, L., Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America, May 2009. Summary for a European Parliament Hearing, October 11 2011. Update (December 2014).
- Innovative Funding for Women’s Organisations, Issues Brief No. 3, OECD, 2008.
- Beyond Investing in Women and Girls: Mobilising Resources / Association of Women in Development (AWID), February 2014.
Outcome documents from the United Nations Conferences on Financing for Development:
- Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development (2003) – in particular §8: financing for sustainable, gender-sensitive, people-centred development; §11 – gender equality and other aspects of development are mutually reinforcing; §16, gender sensitive investment in basic economic and social infrastructure; §19, gender budgeting; §23, businesses to take account of gender implications of their undertakings; §64, commitment to mainstream the gender perspective into development policies at all levels and in all sectors.
- Doha Declaration on Financing for Development (2008), reiterating the commitment to resourcing gender equality, in particular §4, 10, 11, 13, 19 and 41.
Outcome documents from the High Level International Fora on Aid Effectiveness:
- Rome Declaration (2002), Paris Declaration (2005), Accra Agenda for Action (2008), Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (2011) (gender equality – §20), and the Busan Joint Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development (2011).
Report for the 52nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women
- Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women / Report of the Secretary-General, E/CN.6/2008/2, United Nations Economic and Social Council, 2008.
III/ Tools and best practices for financing gender equality and women’s empowerment
- Toolkit on Mainstreaming Gender Equality in EC Development Cooperation / European Commission, Third Edition, 2009.
- An EU Resource Package on Gender Mainstreaming in Development Cooperation is currently being developed by the EU and the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation (ITC/ILO), and will be made available online by the end of 2015.
- The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) is developing a Donor Scorecard to assess the performance of donors (bilateral, multilateral, private, global north and south) which will be online in the autumn of 2015.
- Women’s Empowerment Principles: Equality Means Business / UN Women, UN Global Compact. Guidelines for businesses.
- Increasing Accountability in Financing for Gender Equality: The goal of the programme implemented by UN Women, in partnership with the International Training Centre of the ILO, was to work with governments, donors and civil society organisations in sixteen countries to ensure adequate financing for national gender equality commitments and strengthen accountability. The final programme brief (2015) draws on country case studies to highlight effective strategies and tools for increasing financing for gender equality.
- Women Moving Mountains Julia Miller, Angelika Arutyunova, and Cindy Clark, AWID, 2014. The publication analyses the aggregate impact of women’s organisations around the world that received grants from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ MDG3 Fund.
- UN Women: Financing for gender equality portal.
- UN Women: Gender responsive budgeting portal
- EC/UN Partnership on Gender Equality for Development and Peace: Financing for gender equality
- Bridge: Cutting edge pack, gender and budgets
IV/ Outlook: The UN conference on financing for development and the UN summit to adopt sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Key UN documents
- ‘The future we want’ / United Nations General Assembly, A/Res/66/288), June 2012. This outcome document from the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development launched the process of establishing a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to converge with the post-2015 development agenda (§ 245-251). It recognised the need for significant mobilisation of resources from a variety of sources and the effective use of financing to support developing countries in their efforts to promote sustainable development (§ 253-268). The vital role of women and the need for their full and equal participation and leadership in the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development was reaffirmed (§ 236-244).
- The road to dignity by 2030: ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the planet. Synthesis Report of the Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda/ United Nations General Assembly, Resolution A/69/70, December 2014. (In particular: gender equality §51, 65, 67, 68, 69; financing: §60).
- Report of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing/A/69/315/ United Nations, 2014.
- Zero draft of the outcome document for the UN Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda/A/69/315, United Nations, to be discussed on 22-25 June, 2015.
- Zero draft of the Outcome Document of the Third Financing for Development Conference (3FfD)/ discussed at the first drafting session from 13-17 April 2015.
- Revised Draft of the 3FfD Outcome Document/ discussed at the second drafting session from 11-15 May 2015.
- The Third Drafting Session will be held from 15-19 June 2015.
Positions of international organisations
- Roundtable on Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment/ Vital Voices, OECD, UN Women, September 19 2014
- Priorities for financing gender equality and women’s rights in the implementation of the sustainable development goals/ OECD, March 2015
- Financing UN Security Council Resolution 1325: aid in support of gender equality and women’s rights in fragile contexts/ OECD
European Union positions
Council of the European Union
- Council Conclusions on Gender in Development, ST 9242 2015 INIT, 26 May 2015. Draws attention throughout to girls as well as women. Para. 4 refers to gender equality as a core topic and the importance of alignment with FfD in Addis Ababa. Para. 10 addresses sexual and reproductive health and rights. Paras. 11-12 cover inter-linkages between gender and peace and security. Para.18 evokes the key role of the private sector in women’s economic empowerment. Paras. 21-22 cover gender analysis, statistics, results oriented monitoring, financial tracking, delivery and impact.
- Council Conclusions on A New Global Partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015, 26 May 2015. Paragraphs 6, 11, 25, 43 and 44 include references to gender equality.
- The Communication “Increasing the impact of EU development policy: and Agenda for Change” (COM/2011/0637 final)
- The Communication “A Decent Life for All: Ending poverty and giving the world a sustainable future“, adopted in February 2013, laid out a common approach for the EU in the forthcoming international processes, such as the MDG Review (September 2013) and the formulation of Sustainable Development Goals. It was based in part on the public consultation run by the Commission in summer 2012.
- The Communication “Beyond 2015: towards a comprehensive and integrated approach to financing poverty eradication and sustainable development” (COM/2013/0531 final), published on 16 July 2013. This was accompanied by a Commission Staff Working Document “EU Accountability Report 2013 on Financing for Development, Review of progress by the EU and its Member States” (SWD/2013/0273 final), issued on 16 July 2013.
- A new Communication “A Decent Life for All: From Vision to Collective Action“, issued in June 2014, expanded on the EU’s vision and provided the basis for a new EU position ahead of the 2015 intergovernmental negotiations.
- The Communication “A Global Partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015” (COM/2015/044 final) published on 5 February 2015 informed EU positions in the preparations for the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa and the UN post-2105 summit in New York later in 2015. The Annex presents actions that could be taken by the EU.
- European Parliament Resolution on the EU and the global development framework after 2015 (2014/2143 (INI). Addresses the mobilisation of financial resources: § 78-84 and makes specific reference to a gender perspective in financing, using the European Development Fund, in §26. Multiple references to gender equality and women’s rights: §. C, E, G, J, N, O, P, 2, 4, 6, 18, 28, 30, 34, 40, 44, 48, 49, 50, 52, 53-59, 64, 75, 85.
- European Parliament Resolution on Financing for Development/ (2015/2044(INI)), 19 May 2015
- Report on tax avoidance and tax evasion as challenges for governance, social protection and development in developing countries/(2015/2058 (INI), Rapporteur: Elly Schlein, S&D, Italy. (Gender issues are addressed in K. and §12).
- Making Financing for Development Work for Gender Equality: What is needed at Addis and beyond/ Staszewska, K. (ActionAidUK), Capraro C. (Christian Aid), Cansfield, B. (Womankind Worldwide) and Woodroffe, J. (GADN), Gender and Development Network Briefing, June 2015.
- Towards the Third International Conference on Financing for Development: Old Tensions and New Challenges Emerge in Negotiating Session/ Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), 2015. The article, written before the first drafting session, sets the Addis Ababa conference in the context of the FfD process, identifies the main conflict areas between the different blocks of countries, and sets out recommendations.
- The Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development (WWG on FfD), is an alliance of women’s organisations and networks that advocates for the advancement of gender equality, women’s empowerment and human rights in the FfD-related UN processes. The group’s statements at the drafting sessions and reactions to the successive draft outcome documents can be found on their website. With regard to gender equality, the zero draft evoked strong criticism from the WWG FfD and other CSO organisations, which noted that language on gender equality and human rights was not consistently reflected throughout the document and that there was a “contradicting tendency towards the “instrumentalisation and commodification of women”.
- Feminist Sustainable Development: A Transformative Alternative for Gender Equality, Development and Peace, Vision Statement from the Post-2015 Women’s Coalition. Recommendations include a call for a move away from short-term funding cycles towards more predictable, multi-year core support, and for gender budgeting and data on the outcomes of financial support.
- A Geopolitical Analysis of Financing for Development (FfD3), Regions Refocus 2015, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Third World Network (TWN), 2015. The briefing analyses government positions and recommendations from regional workshops convened with civil society organisations in 8 regions of the world.
- Concept note on the African Feminist Meeting on the Post 2015 & Financing for Development, organised May 6-8 2015, in partnership with the Post 2015 Women’s Coalition, FEMNET (African Women’s Development and Communication Network) and AWDF (African Women’s Development Fund).
Background documents – gender issues in previous FfD conferences
- Gender issues and concerns in financing for development, Floro, M., Çagatay, N., Willoughby, J. and Ertürk, K., INSTRAW Occasional Paper No. 3, 2004. The study includes a discussion of the key inter-linkages between gender, finance and development and gender analysis of the development financing strategies endorsed in the 2002 Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development and the preparatory process itself.
- Financing For Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women: a Backgrounder, Gender analysis of the issues at the second International Conference on Financing for Development held in Doha, Qatar in 2008.
- From Beijing to Doha: Tracking the Gender Dimension of Financing for Development and Gender Equality. An annotated guide to the UN conferences and associated outcome documents and follow-up meetings that make specific reference to increasing financing for gender equality and/or to support a strong gender dimension in financing for development, 1995-2008.