|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Commission on the Status of Women
4th & 5th Meetings* (AM & PM)
WOMEN’S COMMISSION PANELS DISCUSS WAYS TO ENSURE DEVELOPMENT FINANCING
RECOGNIZES WOMEN’S CONTRIBUTIONS, SUPPORTS THEIR ECONOMIC RIGHTS
Issues Include: Gender Sensitive Budgeting; Examining Government Policies
Through ‘Gender Lens’; Integrating Gender Perspective in Monterey Review Process
Warning that there could be no sustainable development if women and girls were left behind, gender equality experts addressing the Commission on the Status of Women today urged Governments to work harder -- and think more creatively -- to ensure that all aspects of development financing fully recognized women’s economic contributions, and supported their economic rights and integration.
The experts and representatives of United Nations agencies, participating in two panel discussions on the priority theme of Commission’s fifty-second session -- “financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women” -- called for a revolution in public policymaking that not only promoted women’s integration and social advancement, but increased budget allocations for employment generation and productive growth in oft-ignored sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure and finance.
Noting that the United Nations system was gearing up for the review later this year of the Monterrey Consensus, which was adopted by the 2002 International Conference on Financing for Development, several of the experts called on the Commission and the wider international community to address key gender policy issues by integrating a gender perspective in the Monterrey review process. That would ultimately help to reverse the current trend where the social dimensions of development were sidelined when Governments prioritized market-based solutions.
In the morning panel, Mireille Brunings-Stolz, Head of the Annual Reports Division of the Central Bank of Suriname, said that despite efforts to introduce gender-responsive budgeting as a structural way to achieve sustainable development and democracy, women had gained little ground. Government budgets soon resumed their old “neutral” character, assuming that men and women could act the same as economic agents, benefiting equally from the provision of public goods.
That, however, was not true, she said, stressing that, if not adequately covered financially, the reproductive functions and tasks of women would lead to unequal income distribution between men and women. So, while it was clear that government action was required to ensure equal opportunities, Governments must not wait for adequate resources to address problems. Rather, they should start with the available budgets. “A small budget could still be gender-sensitive,” she said, adding that the key to mainstreaming gender in public sector reform was to examine all policies -- from tax laws to general budgets -- through a “gender lens”.
Caren Grown, Economist-in-Residence in the Department of Economics at American University in Washington, D.C., noted that Governments had done a good job “incorporating the rhetoric of gender equality in budgets”, but had made no real moves to integrate concrete gender development goals into the plans they themselves had set. She called for, among other things, increased efforts to mobilize international resources and domestic resources in gender-aware ways.
Many costs needed to be met through increases in official development assistance, and Governments should live up to their agreed commitments. But, at the same time, they could consider innovative schemes like a 1 per cent tax on speculative currency transactions, and the implementation of a one-time “wealth tax” on wealthy households. Such schemes would immediately inject new flows into the international development financing system towards the achievement of the Millennium Declaration’s gender targets.
Finally, she said that all countries must consider putting in place a process to estimate costs related to gender financing and link them to concrete planning and budgetary exercises. That required political will to allocate the money and achieve results. “If we have the numbers, it gives us a starting point,” she said.
During the afternoon panel on “capacity-building for gender mainstreaming”, Purima Mane, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that women made up half the world’s population and that to unleash the equality dividend for development, stronger partnerships and the resolve of Governments, civil society and the private sector, donors and the United Nations system were required.
Perhaps most importantly, success required strengthening the capacity of partners, especially at the national level, to be able to realize gender mainstreaming in the development, implementation and evaluation of national policy programmes and in budgetary processes. She said UNFPA was committed to capacity-building, and its approach was built around national ownership, mutual accountability and partnerships, particularly involving civil society and communities. As United Nations agencies took on a stronger supportive role and one of providing technical assistance, UNFPA saw its brokerage position as one that could contribute significantly to making resources work for women’s empowerment.
Shireen Lateef, Director of Social Sectors in the South East Asia Department of the Asia Development Bank (ADB), said that, in development, gender was said to be “everywhere and nowhere”. Gender mainstreaming was something that everyone believed was taking place, but very little of it was actually under way in concrete terms. Effective gender mainstreaming, therefore, required capacity not only in the national gender focal point agencies, but in other key ministries and line agencies, as well.
With that in mind, she said that the Asia Development Bank began to target sectors -- “generally where all the money is” -- and build the capacity of project implementation staff at the sector level. The evolution and progression from national focus to sector agencies was a result of experience, lessons learned, adoption of a more strategic approach and institutional imperatives.
In the context of a development financing institution, a more strategic approach required aligning more closely with the core business of lending operations. “In short, we followed the money,” she said, stressing that the shift to sector agencies had also encouraged those agencies to take ownership of gender mainstreaming by adopting relevant policies, strategies and action plans. In many instances, that had resulted in the reassessment of sector priorities and, ultimately, a reallocation of resources.
The morning panel was moderated by Commission Vice-Chair Julio Peralta (Paraguay), and also featured the participation of Isabella Bakker, Professor and Former Chair of the Political Science Department at York University, Canada; Mayra Buvinic, Sector Director for Gender and Development, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network for the World Bank; Lydia Alpizar Duran, Executive Director of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development and Chairperson of the Expert Group Meeting on Financing for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, and Dubravka Simonovic, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
The afternoon panel was moderated by Commission Vice-Chair Enna Park (Republic of Korea), and included Mareme Cisswe Thiam, Director of Female Entrepreneurship in the Ministry of the Family, Female Entrepreneurship and Microfinance of Senegal; Olga Filippova, Social and Gender Policy Expert in the Department of Social and Economic Policy, Office of the President of Kyrgyzstan; and Julia Benn, Manager of the Statistical Policy, Analysis and Outreach Section of the Development Co-operation Directorate, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The Commission on the Status of Women will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 27 February, to hear introductory statements from representatives of United Nations agencies and continue its general debate.
The Commission on the Status of Women continued its fifty-second session with a panel discussion this morning on financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women. In the afternoon, the Commission was expected to hold related interactive discussion on capacity-building for gender mainstreaming.
Opening the discussion, Vice-Chair JULIO PERALTA (Paraguay) said that the international community had not fully implemented the commitments on financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment that had been made by political leaders at the 1995 Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, the General Assembly’s twenty-third special session, “Women 2000”, as well as at the 2002 Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development.
Further, despite a growing body of evidence demonstrating that investing in women and girls had a cumulative effect on poverty reduction, productivity efficiency and sustained economic growth, adequate resources had not been systematically allocated. He said that increasing resources for gender equality was crucial to achieving all development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. Some achievements had been made, however, and over the past decade, gender-responsive budgeting initiatives had been launched in more than 50 countries, promoting changes in budget policies, allocations and outcomes.
Still, he emphasized that further efforts were needed to ensure a shift from analysis to implementation, to broaden the focus to include both revenue and expenditures and to ensure that all stakeholders were involved. The upcoming Doha, Qatar, follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development provided an opportunity to hold stakeholders accountable to previous commitments and to secure increased resources for gender equality and the empowerment of women. He hoped that the today’s panel would add substantively to the debate.
Panellist ISABELLA BAKKER, Professor and Former Chair of the Political Science Department at York University, Canada, said that a key shortfall of the Monterrey Consensus, in terms of gender-related financing, was that, while it recognized the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment, those principles were not integrated throughout key areas for action identified, including the mobilization of domestic resources for development, trade, private capital flows, official development assistance, debt, and systemic issues related to the international financial system.
Therefore, there was a lack of coherence between economic policies that emphasized low inflation and mobility of capital, on the one hand, and the social commitments for poverty reduction, human rights and gender equality, on the other. The latter commitments often required public spending to support social provisioning and to stabilize social imbalances that resulted from deflationary policies. However, that was the very spending that might be downgraded as external debt, and debt-servicing payments were given priority.
She said that there was no doubt that macroeconomic policies had important implications for financing for gender equality. There was indeed a growing body of evidence that gender inequality was bad economics. Unfortunately, however, gender financing had only received limited attention in the five years since Monterrey. By example, she noted that only one of the round tables during the General Assembly’s High-Level Dialogue on Development Financing in 2003 addressed gender equality. The annual high-level meeting between the Economic and Social Council and top Bretton Woods officials had likewise given the issue short shrift. With all that in mind, it was clear that it was crucial to integrate a gender perspective into the Monterrey follow-up process. The focus should be on establishing coherence between economic and social policies, including meeting gender equality objectives. That would include gender-sensitive impact assessments of trade liberalization, employment and fiscal policy.
MIREILLE BRUNINGS-STOLZ, Head of the Annual Reports Division of the Central Bank of Suriname, said despite efforts worldwide to introduce gender-responsive budgeting as a structural way to achieve sustainable development and democracy, women had gained little ground. Government budgets soon resumed their old “neutral” character, assuming that men and women could act the same as economic agents and benefit equally from the provision of public goods. That, however, was not true. If not adequately covered financially, the reproductive functions and tasks of women would lead to unequal distribution of income between men and women. Government action was, therefore, required to ensure equal opportunities for men and women.
Since 2000, women’s organizations in Suriname had called for gender-responsive budgeting to address the drop in real income faced by women due to the national currency devaluation in the 1990s, she said. Despite drawing up consecutive five-year Integral Gender Action Plans in 2000 and 2006, few projects were carried out. Recently, in the framework of the “Partnership on Gender Equality for Development and Peace” -- a joint project of the European Commission, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) -- national consultations on gender and aid effectiveness were held in Suriname to assess capacity needs and field test indicators to track the impact of aid effectiveness on gender equality and build partnerships to strengthen gender equity in national development plans and budgets.
That project, she said, led to important recommendations on creating a gender management system, including a gender database, and donor coordination mechanisms. Key indicators were identified to monitor the effectiveness of new aid methods to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. They also recommended a new method for gender-responsive budgeting and a pilot project in one or two Government ministries during the next phase of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Suriname project. Most politicians were not gender-sensitive and sometimes claimed that they could not include gender in their projects because women and men must be treated equally and that gender inequality was not an obstacle to development. However, there was a certain measure of “gender-friendliness” in Suriname’s recent monetary policy. It was essential that Government policy be extended to the larger public sector, including non-governmental organizations, particularly women’s groups, so that gender awareness was included in the process in which the Government and non-governmental organizations met to develop national development objectives and to monitor and evaluate the progress of programmes to implement them.
MAYRA BUVINIC, Sector Director for Gender and Development, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network for the World Bank, said that the Bank had been making progress in integrating gender issues into its operations, especially in education and health sectors. The Bank also monitored attention to gender equality by conducting annual reviews of the new lending portfolio and projects under supervision, as well as of country strategies and analytical work.
Here, she noted that, in 2002 and 2004, 28 per cent of Bank analytical reports addressing gender issues did so in education and 24 per cent did so in health, while only 4 per cent focused on gender issues in water, credit or land. Only 1 per cent touched on infrastructure, all of which supported the sense that it was easier to mainstream gender issues in the social sectors than in economic areas. She acknowledged that the Bank’s uneven performance mirrored progress in gender equality in developing countries. In those countries, progress in expanding women’s capabilities had far outpaced expanding their opportunities.
For instance, through concerted efforts from Governments, civil society and the development community, girls’ enrolment at all levels of schooling had risen significantly in recent years, while the gender gap in labour force participation remained. Indeed, women’s labour force participation in the developing world still trailed men by some 37 per cent overall. Women also trailed in access to credit, entrepreneurship rates, income levels and inheritance and ownership rates. All that was problematic not only because it was unfair -- a person’s life chances should not be preconditioned at birth -- but because restricting economic opportunity for women was bad economics.
With all that in mind, the Bank had launched in January 2007 its Gender Equality as Smart Economics Action Plan, which sought to redress those imbalances, to improve performance in integrating gender issues in the economic sectors and to expand women’s economic participation in client countries. Overall, it aimed to promote shared growth and to accelerate implementation of the gender-focused targets of the Millennium Declaration. It could do that by helping to make markets work for women and empowering women to compete in markets, with a focus on four key areas: land; labour; agricultural products; and financial markets. That had the potential to produce rapid and sustained increases in women’s productivity and incomes.
LYDIA ALPIZAR DURAN, Executive Director of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development and Chairperson of the Expert Group Meeting on Financing for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, said the Expert Group Meeting’s recent report indicated there had been limited progress in allocating and channelling resources for gender equality through gender mainstreaming and targeted elimination of gender-based discrimination and women’s empowerment. Exceptions were found, however, in education. Trade liberalization, increasing migration, the international security agenda, rising religious fundamentalism and international private capital flows, among other factors, had increased inequalities and had an impact on financing for gender equality.
The report also noted that macroeconomic policies based on high levels of tax revenue and public expenditure were more conducive to gender equality and women’s empowerment, she continued. Overall, gender equality had received limited attention to date in the follow-up process to Monterrey. The report recommended that Governments incorporate social development and gender perspectives into the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade policy review mechanisms, and into their public finance systems, requiring that budget guidelines include gender impact assessments and resource allocation for gender equality. It also called on decision makers to adopt a gender perspective in employment-related development goals.
The United Nations needed clearer mechanisms to ensure the involvement of civil society, particularly women’s organizations, she said. Commitments made at Monterrey, and as part of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, for scaling up official development assistance should increase financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment to 10 per cent of official development assistance by 2010 and 20 per cent by 2015. There should also be better tracking of official development assistance directed to gender equality. National gender-equality strategies should be an essential part of sector-wide approaches. Research showed that, in the past decades, funding for gender equality was limited and diminishing. An August 2006 survey revealed that only 13 per cent of women’s organizations had secured the funding needed for that year, while 61 per cent had raised just half or less of their budget needed for the year.
The next speaker, CAREN GROWN, Economist-in-Residence in the Department of Economics at American University in Washington, D.C., called for a focus on tools and techniques for estimating costs, identifying the minimum resource envelope necessary to address gender equality in low-income countries, and concrete estimates on the share of resources devoted to investments in areas such as water and sanitation, health or education in relation to those targeted for women’s empowerment in those areas.
She said that her research had shown that one third to less than one-half of total Millennium Development Goals investments were targeted to gender-sensitive budgeting. Addressing that imbalance required, among other things, mobilization of an in-country process -- with Governments and non-governmental organizations working together -- to adapt methodology and tailor it to specific country requirements for financing gender equality. She stressed that Governments had done a good job “incorporating the rhetoric of gender equality in budgets”, but no real movements had been made to integrate concrete gender development goals into the plans Governments themselves had set.
Stressing the importance of costing interventions for gender-responsive financing, she called for, among other things, increased efforts to mobilize international resources and domestic resources in gender-aware ways. Many costs needed to be met through increases in official development assistance, and Governments should live up to their agreed commitments. But, at the same time, they could consider innovative schemes like a 1 per cent tax on speculative currency transactions, and the implementation of a one-time “wealth tax” on wealthy households in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Such schemes would immediately inject new financial flows into the international system towards the achievement of the Millennium Declaration’s gender targets.
There were many other ways Governments could mobilize resources, including through changing polices on the reserves they held against financial shocks, especially developing country reserves. There was a feeling now that such reserves were becoming excessive -- even counter-productive -- and were now costing Governments as much as 1 per cent of gross domestic product that could be used for gender financing. Governments could also change the way they set tax systems and collected taxes.
Finally, she said that all countries must consider putting in place a process to estimate costs related to gender financing and link them to concrete planning and budgetary exercises. That required political will to allocate the money and achieve results. “If we have the numbers, it gives us a starting point,” she said.
DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that, while the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women did not explicitly refer to the question of financing required to achieve the Convention’s goals, it was clear that the Convention as a legally binding instrument had international obligations for States parties to fully finance its implementation. Further, article 2 of the Convention obliged States to condemn discrimination against women in all its forms and to pursue a policy of eliminating discrimination against women “by all appropriate means”. Financing for implementation was in fact required and formed part of the “appropriate means” clause. The Committee was in the process of forming a general recommendation on article 2.
The Convention also required States parties to ensure, through laws and other appropriate means, the “practical realization” of the principle of equality of men and women, she continued. In considering States parties reports, the Committee had addressed the issue of financing. Despite some positive aspects in some cases, there had been significantly more instances where the Committee was concerned about the lack of, or insufficient, resources and financing for Convention implementation. Of particular concern was the situation of States parties’ national machineries for women’s advancement -– mechanisms that were crucial for the effective promotion of gender equality and that needed adequate human and financial resources and the ability to influence decision-making power at the highest level.
Of the 69 States parties’ reports considered in 2006-2007, the Committee commended 13 States parties for their work in financing for gender equality, she said. In several cases, it welcomed the strengthening of national mechanisms through increased financing methods; the introduction of gender-sensitive budget policies; expanding of gender-budgeting approaches to all Government ministries; gender assessments of budgets; and increased resources for particular goals, such as increasing the number of women candidates. The Committee also welcomed financial assistance to victims of violence, the lowering of school fees for girls, increases in State budgets to improve maternal health and the creation of dedicated funds to improve women’s access to microcredit. However, in 43 States the Committee found the national machineries for women’s advancement -- such as gender equality ministries, ombudsmen and commissioners -- to be under-resourced, especially in terms of budget, staffing and technical capacity. Stressing that effective implementation of mandates was not cost-free, the Committee had called upon States parties to, as a matter of priority, adequately fund national machineries, fully implement the Convention and develop initiatives to raise awareness.
Further, the Committee found shortcomings in resource allocation to address all forms of violence against women, including through national action plans, she said. In many States, victims’ support services were underfunded and free legal aid was not available. The Committee also found significant funding gaps in women’s health-care services, including reproductive health, such as family planning and obstetrics. Such concerns were particularly pronounced among rural and minority women. The Committee had called on States parties to step up national funding for health and seek support from the international community. Further, it repeatedly urged States to search for resources to increase educational opportunities and female literacy, in order to address obstacles that prevented girls from attending schools or continuing their education. The Committee also identified financial shortcomings and made several recommendations to States parties to increase women’s opportunities in the labour market, pointing out the need to sufficiently fund labour inspectorates that enforced labour laws and equality protections.
In the first round of comments and questions to the panel from Commission delegations, speakers welcomed the expert’s focus on costing tools and the need for better macroeconomic policies and policymaking. One delegate asked if the experts had any suggestions on reforming country-level distribution of wealth policies. Another was concerned that political leaders -- usually, men -- “just turn off” when they hear the term “gender equality”, believing it meant women fighting only for their representation, not equal representation for both men and women. So, what was the one action that could spark political will and make a real difference?
Another speaker from the developing world agreed that gender-targeted financing was often relegated to the “policy sidelines”, and added that she was equally concerned that an important mechanism like the World Bank had to offer special incentives to promote gender-responsive budgeting allocations and programmes. A representative of civil society called for greater focus on financing full employment and the Decent Work Agenda, as well as education for all, as key ways to drive women’s advancement, as well as improve the lives of children, especially girls. Many speakers were concerned that the United Nations efforts in the area were lagging.
Responding, Ms. BRUNNINGS-STOLZ said that the key to mainstreaming gender in public sector reform was to examine all policies -- from taxation laws to general budget allocations -- through a “gender lens”. Also, civil society should be actively involved in helping identify gender-specific needs. “There are plenty of people out there willing to help with this,” she said.
Ms. DURAN said that the United Nations must develop the type of machinery to comprehensively address women’s issues in the new century. The Organization should create a new body that was active at international as well as national levels, with a clear mandate for community interaction and cooperation with civil society groups. She also agreed that gender-responsive assistance had heretofore been seen as an “add-on” to broader development initiatives, which was actually a disservice to those broad goals.
Ms. GROWN said that costing tools were one mechanism to enhance the efficiency and transparency of public expenditure. Many countries had plans in place, but there was always a question of whether those programmes were gender sensitive. She stressed that integrating gender was not about earmarking, but about achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in all economic and social activities. At the same time, gender-specific projects, such as those aimed at eradicating violence against women, should receive targeted financing.
Also speaking on the role and work of the United Nations, Ms. SIMONOVIC reminded delegations that the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention “is not a list of wishes, it is a binding international legal instrument”. So, State parties had tools to advance the situation of women and girls and should put them to use, including through broad participatory processes at national levels to assess implementation. The instruments were there, but they must be used. There must be financing. There must be political will.
She added that the Convention monitoring body was doing its part by producing concluding observations on its assessments of all State party implementation efforts. Those observations set out clear national measures Governments could implement. At the same time, however, she acknowledged that the best national level plans would not produce results without adequate financial resources.
A representative expressed concern over the lack of sustainability of funding for women’s empowerment due to many countries’ limited budgets and the fact that many international donors imposed conditions on funding. What did the panellists think about that? Another asked the panellists to elaborate on the cost of gender equality. How did one identify the cost? One speaker asked what strategies could be put in place to involve the private sector in financing for gender equality. How could policies in the nascent stages be translated into fully institutionalized policies and mainstreamed into national budget processes? How could technical personnel contribute to better gender-sensitive policies? One speaker recommended that gender equality and women’s advancement be made a top priority, not just a supplementary issue, in the agenda of the upcoming conference on financing for development. Were international donors properly doing their part to provide aid to developing countries, or were they just occasionally making promises?
Stressing that it was difficult to measure progress with statistics only, one speaker asked the panellists to elaborate on the formulation of gender indicators. How did one encourage other donor organizations to follow the World Bank’s lead in allocating funds for gender-related development? How could countries include gender-specific indicators in their budgets? Should they do that by just determining percentages or quotas, or were there other effective ways? How could Governments ensure that civil society organizations they engaged with were truly representative of women’s human rights? What was an example of a country that had successfully implemented strategies for gender equality with the assistance of the World Bank? How could countries compel donors to comply with their commitments? Should gender-responsive budgeting be made a key performance indicator of Government ministries?
In response, Ms. BRUNINGS-STOLZ said training courses in gender budgeting were indeed useful. In practice, when Governments achieved results with women’s organizations, they realized that projects were gender responsive and would be more willing to work with those organizations in the future. Governments should not wait for adequate resources to address problems. Rather they should start with the available budgets, she stressed, adding that a small budget could still be gender-sensitive.
Ms. ALPIZAR DURAN said the lack of political will was indeed a problem and that gender equality and women’s rights were still not a main priority for society at large. Discrimination against women permeated the United Nations system and Governments. A clear indicator of political will was money. Donors must fulfil their commitments to countries in the south and, in turn, the Governments must make good on their gender equality promises. She would make available to participants the various recommendations on aid effectiveness that resulted from consultation and she referred participants to the Expert Group Meeting paper. Civil society’s meaningful participation was crucial, as was the need for civil society to follow up effectively on the experts’ recommendations. The “ Dublin+1” meeting in London next week, organized by GenderNet, would focus on best practices.
Ms. GROWN referred to the United Nations Development Programme costing methodology used to determine the percentage allocated for gender financing of developing countries’ budgets for the Millennium Development Goals. That methodology was designed to take into account issues and synergies and was highlighted on the United Nations Development Programme web site. Several United Nations Development Programme bureaus had begun training country economists and other experts on how to use the methodology. There was a big effort in sub-Saharan Africa to ensure that gender costing was done adequately. The World Bank would be releasing a paper tomorrow that discussed good examples of countries that had done that successfully. She stressed the need to invest in data collection. The private sector was critical for financial mobilization, as it created jobs and spurred economic growth. A Government regulatory framework was needed to monitor corporate tax policy and investment flows, so that companies could become good corporate citizens. Private philanthropy was helpful, but it was not seen as a long-term strategy for gender financing.
Ms. SIMONOVIC said regular reporting to her Committee by States parties to the Convention was necessary to track progress on financing for gender equality. National measures must also be adequately financed.
Ms. BUVINIC said the World Bank’s gender action plan was a perfect example of good partnerships and how donors and member countries could really exert pressure to make financing for gender equality a priority. She encouraged similar efforts in other agencies and the need to engage the private sector.
Panel II: Capacity-Building for Mainstreaming Gender
In the afternoon, the Commission held another panel discussion on “capacity-building for mainstreaming a gender perspective in the development, implementation and evaluation of national economic policies and programmes and budgets”, which was moderated by Commission Vice-Chair ENNA PARK ( Republic of Korea).
She opened the discussion saying that efforts to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, through both gender mainstreaming strategies and targeted interventions for women, required adequate and sustainable financial resources. The panel would examine how existing policy commitments were being put into practice and what measures were being taken at the national and regional levels, and within organizations, to build capacity to mainstream gender perspective into policies, programmes and budgets. She expected the Commission and the panellists to look at the role of women entrepreneurs, the issue of costing resource needs, and allocations in bilateral assistance, among other things.
Panellist MAREME CISSWE THIAM, Director of Female Entrepreneurship in the Ministry of the Family, Female Entrepreneurship and Microfinance of Senegal, said that data -- what little reliable data there was -- showed that women were most affected by poverty, but most often overlooked in development policymaking. In its efforts to reverse that trend, Senegal had taken significant steps to ensure that women participated in society on an equal footing with men. Her Ministry had been established in 2002 to promote women’s enterprises aimed to ensure improved access by women to, among other things, credit and finance mechanisms.
The Government had acknowledged that women entrepreneurs faced many social and cultural obstacles to owning businesses and had set up ambitious support programmes that focused on training and education. Other programmes also focused on simplified management and negotiating tools useful for first-time business owners. Further, mentoring and networking programmes had been set up to build awareness and make sure that the empowerment of women could not be reversed. At the same time, she stressed that such capacity-building programmes had been supported by the Government, but still faced funding challenges, as Senegal’s economy was rather weak.
OLGA FILIPPOVA, Social and Gender Policy Expert in the Department of Social and Economic Policy, Office of the President of Kyrgyzstan, said her country had developed a comprehensive gender-equity strategy for 2007-2010 that drew on the counsel of experts and attempted to introduce gender comprehensive approaches and gender mainstreaming into all Government sectors and budgets. It focused not just on social data, but also on improving development policy to achieve gender equality. Thanks to the efforts of social and gender policy experts, Kyrgyzstan had integrated gender indicators into that system to appraise the country’s development strategy. It now made use of 36 sex-disaggregated gender data indicators. Gender equality was guaranteed by law. A presidential decree also governed the need to conduct gender analysis and budgets at various levels and by trained specialists.
The Government was working to improve its state funding system, she said, noting that information on state policy and state budgets and expenditures concerning gender and other issues was publicly issued annually and could be found on the website of the Ministry of Finance. The Statistics Committee annually published data on the use of financial resources in various areas. The scope of funding for national action plans to achieve gender equality was agreed upon and carried out by various Government ministries. Kyrgyzstan’s officials looked at gender programming in the Russian Federation for guidance. They were also working with international donors and United Nations agencies to finance gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Further, she added they had created an advisory post within the Government to liaise on United Nations policy on gender issues, and were giving top priority to United Nations projects. Officials were also working to enhance the effectiveness of projects with outside donors to achieve the goals set forth in the Beijing Platform for Action. Kyrgyzstan was one of 12 pilot countries that were part of the Partnership on Gender Equality for Development and Peace, which aimed to integrate gender equality and women’s human rights into new aid methods, in accordance with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.
PURIMA MANE, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that women made up half the world’s population and that to unleash the equality dividend for development, stronger partnerships and the resolve of Governments, civil society and the private sector, donors and the United Nations system were required. Perhaps most importantly, success in that regard would come from strengthening the capacity of partners, especially at the national level, to be able to realize gender mainstreaming in the development, implementation and evaluation of national policies programmes and in budgetary processes.
She said UNFPA was committed to capacity-building, and its approach was built around national ownership, mutual accountability and partnerships, particularly involving civil society and communities. As United Nations agencies took on a stronger supportive role and one of providing technical assistance, UNFPA saw that brokerage position as one that could contribute significantly to making resources work for women’s empowerment. One major contribution to capacity-building had been UNFPA’s work in gender-responsive budgeting. In recognizing the value of such budgeting as a means to more equitable and responsive planning, UNFPA, working with UNIFEM, had been building the capacity of its staff and engaging with Governments and partners on how to use that powerful tool.
She went on to highlight UNFPA’s efforts to build the capacity of its partners through the creation of special funds and campaigns to address, among other things, strengthening health systems. For instance, it had developed the Thematic Fund for Maternal Health to boost global efforts to reduce the number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth. “This can be a reality,” she said, adding that UNFPA was working to reinforce health systems to provide quality maternal health care, strengthen mechanisms to reduce health inequities and, importantly, empower women to exercise their right to health care. The UNFPA intended to press ahead with its capacity-building efforts, working with civil society partners, to establish the accountability of public policies and budgets.
JULIA BENN, Manager of the Statistical Policy, Analysis and Outreach Section of the Development Co-operation Directorate, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said members of the Development Assistance Committee used a gender equality policy marker to monitor aid flows targeting gender equality programmes and activities. Members of the Development Assistance Committee and multilateral donors were required to report their aid activities to the OECD creditor reporting system database. Common reporting rules and standards ensured data homogeneity and comparability at the international level. Two instruments used to do that included a sector code for women’s equality organizations and institutions and policy markers for gender equality.
In their reporting to the Development Assistance Committee, donors were requested to indicate for each individual activity whether or not it targeted gender equality as a policy objective, she said. With that scoring system, it was possible to get a sense of the volume of gender equality focused aid. Despite progress in that area, much remained to be done. But this was, in fact, an area where peer pressure worked. In 2005-2006, a total of $8.5 billion was reported as targeting gender equality as a specific or principal objective.
For example, she said, during that period, Denmark gave $1.7 million to Somalia to help Somali women with projects in reconciliation and democratization, as part of the peacebuilding process. Finland gave $5 million to Nepal for projects to provide equitable and sustained water use in villages. The United States, a large donor of gender-equality focused aid, did not report to the Development Assistance Committee. The gender equality policy markers provided a good basis for starting analysis. They helped monitor change in donors’ programmes over time and made it possible to see to what extent the aid focused on specific sectors, such as health, education and agriculture. In 2006, the aid allocated to women’s equality organizations was $150 million.
The final panellist, SHIREEN LATEEF, Director of Social Sectors in the South East Asia Department of the Asia Development Bank (ADB), said that, in development, gender was said to be “everywhere and nowhere”. Gender mainstreaming was something that everyone believed was taking place, but very little of it was actually under way in concrete terms. Most developing countries had now adopted gender mainstreaming as their main strategy for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. She stressed that effective gender mainstreaming required capacity not only in the national gender focal point agencies, but in other key ministries and line agencies as well.
With that in mind, she said that the Asia Development Bank began to target sectors -- “generally where all the money is” -- and build the capacity of project implementation staff at the sector level. The evolution and progression from national focus to sector agencies was a result of experience, lessons learned, adoption of a more strategic approach and institutional imperatives. In the context of a development financing institution, a more strategic approach required aligning more closely with the core business of lending operations. “In short, we followed the money,” she said, stressing that the shift to sector agencies had also encouraged those agencies to take ownership of gender mainstreaming by adopting relevant policies, strategies and action plans. In many instances, that had resulted in the reassessment of sector priorities and, ultimately, a reallocation of resources.
In the ensuing discussion, a participant asked whether national machinery should oversee gender mainstreaming activities at the national level or if gender equality policy groups at international organizations should be responsible for overseeing those activities. Should there be specific banks just for women? Should policy units of Government ministries focus on capacity-building once mechanisms for gender equality were put in place? Another participant asked for reliable statistics to back up claims of improvements to the evaluation of gender-equality programmes. How did the Asian Development Bank enforce national action plans on education, in the context of gender equality?
In response, Ms. THIAM said national machinery should be shared, because all sectors must be involved in gender-equity programmes. It was good to have a bank for women, but its work should be cross-cutting. Microfinance was important, but the overall goal was to advance women’s empowerment through women’s entrepreneurship. This year, Senegal’s Government had strengthened funding for women’s entrepreneurship, including through microfinance. But, it was also important to have an integrated policy. Statistics were necessary to identify weaknesses and progress in achieving gender equality. Senegal had recently created a national agency for statistics and was now creating a database for women entrepreneurs.
Ms. MANE said the role of national machinery was to define norms and standards, provide capacity-building for ministries and monitor results. A country’s highest political official, the prime minister or president, should hold ministries accountable for implementing policies and programmes, but gender mainstreaming was everyone’s responsibility. The Ministry of Finance played a critical role. Capacity-building was central to that process. The United Nations could also lend a hand in several contexts and civil society played a role in keeping an eye on the allocation of money. She stressed the importance of evaluating gender-equality costing.
Ms. LATEEF said that, in an ideal world, the national machinery should be a country’s oversight, policymaking, advocacy and monitoring agency. But, in reality, most women’s ministries were the least funded of all Government ministries. Limited funds also constrained the ability of women’s ministries to build capacity. Instead, women’s ministries relied on donor-financed projects to carry out their objectives. A large part of the resources in the Asian Development Bank came from agencies in various sectors. It was important to work with those agencies to implement more gender-responsive programmes and to come up with new ways to access funds for women’s empowerment.
When the floor was opened for further comments and questions, a speaker from Africa suggested that increased investments in social sectors could be a way to develop, rather than “build” women’s capacity in areas such as employment and entrepreneurship. By example, she said that, if efforts were made to ensure that women’s household duties were more equitably shared, the option of taking a better paying job outside the home might be more inviting. Another speaker from Africa said that it was perhaps necessary to clarify which United Nations agency was really in the lead on gender-related issues. Several wondered about capacity-building in policymaking areas.
Responding, Ms. THIAM agreed that efforts should focus on capacity-building, as well as capacity development. It was sadly true that women often participated in work for which they were not adequately remunerated. Often they worked at jobs for which they were paid nothing. That was something that needed to be addressed.
Ms. FILIPPOVA said that it was important to enhance the potential of all parties involved in the budgetary processes by, among other ways, improving analysis of gender budgeting, drawing on the expertise of civil society and enhancing training for policymakers. Ms. MANE added that Governments should work to ensure that all ministries had gender-targeted budget lines. At the same time, she said that gender statistics and data were sadly lacking and, in cases where they were available, were often ignored anyway. So, while it was necessary to build capacities to promote gender-sensitive budgeting, it was also important to improve data collection mechanisms.
Also on the subject of gender-responsive budgeting, Ms. LATEEF said that if gender advocates showed their respective finance ministries the economic returns from investing in women, “believe me, they will notice”. At the same time, those ministers were shown the costs of under-investing in women, they would also notice.
* *** *
* The 3rd Meeting was covered in Press Release WOM/1664.For information media • not an official record