Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality, IANWGE
Statement to the Meeting
of the Preparatory Committee for the International Conference
on Financing for Development

presented by

Ms. Angela E.V. King, Assistant Secretary General
Special Adviser to the Secretary General
on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women

8 May 2001

Over the past decade increasing recognition has been given to the importance of equality between women and men for effective and sustainable development. Initiatives that improve gender equality ultimately contribute to economic development. This is recognized in the Millennium Declaration objective which promises "to promote gender equality and empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to stimulate development that is truly sustainable" (para 20). Economic development policies and strategies would benefit from more explicit attention to the policies and strategies on the promotion of gender equality, as part of efforts to improve achievement of overall economic goals.

Gender equality should be seen as a precondition for, and indicator of sustainable people-centered development. Both women and men are actors, stakeholders and agents of change in their households and communities and contribute to national development. Bringing the perceptions, knowledge, experience, needs and priorities of both women and men to the center of attention enriches development efforts - and in fact, is just good business sense. Women are, however, often constrained from contributing to their fullest potential by inequalities and subordination. Promoting women's active involvement in all areas of societal development and ensuring that development is based on the contributions and concerns of women as well as men often requires explicit and concerted efforts.

The links between gender equality and effective and sustainable development are clear in some areas, especially areas where both women's and men's roles are very visible, for example in health, education and agriculture. In other areas the interlinkages between gender equality and achievement of goals are not as clear. However, even when the broader development impacts of gender equality are increasingly understood, the direct and indirect interconnections with economic development are not always explicitly drawn out. There are many examples of why and how gender equality is critical for sustainable people-centred development, with links to economic development and economic efficiency.

  • Research on agricultural productivity in Africa shows that reducing gender inequality could significantly increase agricultural yields. Studies have shown that giving women farmers in Kenya the same level of agricultural inputs and education as men farmers could increase yields of farmers by more than 20 per cent.
  • Research on economic growth and education shows that failing to invest in education can lower the gross national product (GNP). All other things being equal, countries in which the ratio of female-to-male enrolment in primary or secondary education is less than .75 can expect levels of GNP that are roughly 25 per cent lower than countries in which there is less gender disparity in education.
  • Research on gender inequality in the labour market shows that eliminating gender discrimination in relation to occupation and pay could both increase the income of women, and contribute to national income. Estimates reveal, for instance, that if gender inequality in the labour market in Latin America were to be eliminated, not only would women's wages rise by about 50 per cent, but national output would rise by 5 per cent.
  • Gender inequality also reduces the productivity of the next generation - the World Bank reports mounting evidence that increases in women's well-being yield productivity gains in the future. The probability of children being enrolled in school increases with their mother's educational level and in some circumstances extra income going to mothers has more positive impact on household nutrition, health and education of children than extra income going to fathers.
  • Data also shows that gender inequality hampers a positive supply response to structural adjustment measures by reducing women's incentives to produce tradeable goods by increasing women's time burdens.
  • Women's time burdens are an important constraint on growth and development - women are a much over-utilized resource, not an under-utilized resource. The benefits of reducing this gender-based constraint can be considerable. A study in Tanzania shows, for example, that reducing such constraints in a community of smallholder coffee and banana growers increases household cash incomes by 10 per cent, labour productivity by 15 per cent, and capital productivity by 44 per cent. (Based on a report published by the Commonwealth Secretariat, 2000).

Most empirical evidence on the positive correlation between gender equality and economic growth is still found at the microeconomic level. The recent World Bank report: Engendering Development (January 2001), highlighted that the promotion of gender equality makes good economic sense as gender equality leads to economic development. In some sectors there is considerable awareness of the negative impact of gender inequalities, particularly in terms of hindrances to the economic empowerment of women and the elimination of poverty (Platform for Action, 1995, paras 47 and 48; Twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, 2000, para 101e). The gender inequalities which hinder sustainable people-centred economic development include imbalances in economic power-sharing; unequal distribution of unremunerated work between women and men; lack of adequate support for women's entrepreneurship; unequal access to and control over capital and resources such as land and credit; and inequalities in access to labour markets (Twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, para 8). In addition, there is recognition of the need to reconcile employment and family responsibilities if women's economic potential is to be released (Twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, para 20).

Failure to recognize and measure in quantitative terms the unrenumerated work of women, which is most often not valued in national accounts, has meant that women's full contribution to social and economic development remains underestimated and undervalued, and a country's real worth unknown. Human capital rationales are, however, increasingly utilized by economists and within this framework there has been recognition of the need to invest both in women and men and develop and utilize their economic capacity, to ensure effective and sustainable achievement of development goals.

There has been much less recognition of the importance of gender perspectives in other macroeconomic policies and institutions, including those areas covered by the preparations for the International Conference on Financing for Development. An increasing number of economists have, however, begun to highlight that macroeconomic policies and institutions which do not take gender perspectives into account impact negatively on women relative to men. Moreover, the perpetuation and exacerbation of gender inequality through these policies and institutions can have a direct negative impact on the achievement of the macroeconomic goals set. There has been an important shift from focusing on how economic policies have affected welfare in a gender-specific manner, to illustrating how gender biases negatively affect the outcome of these same economic policies. Efforts are being made to show how gender is relevant to macroeconomic policies and institutions because of the impact of gender inequalities on the major concerns of policy makers. Gender perspectives need to be given more attention in, for example, fiscal policy, financial sector reform, financial architecture, trade and debt.

The mandate for incorporating gender perspectives into macroeconomics was strengthened considerably in the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (Beijing +5) when governments were explicitly requested to incorporate gender perspectives into key macroeconomic policies (para 73a). The special session re-emphasized the need to continue to review, modify and implement macroeconomic policies related to structural adjustment and external debt problems, in a manner which gives consideration to gender perspectives (para 54). This should provide impetus for a stronger focus on gender perspectives in all areas of macroeconomics in the future. Particular emphasis is also given in the outcome document from the special session to the importance of gender perspectives in relation to budgets and resource allocation. Governments are requested to incorporate gender perspectives into the design, development, adoption and execution of all budgetary processes (para 73b).

A key challenge in financing for development is to ensure that both resource mobilization - whether through mobilization of domestic or international resources, including FDI and ODA, through the development of trade or through loans - and the allocation of these resources, are in line with the overall development goals, including social development goals and gender equality. The issue is complex, particularly because contradictions can arise between the policy goals of poverty reduction, good governance, human rights, environmentally sustainable development and gender equality in national and international development strategies and the conditions imposed in financial liberalization and trade liberalization processes.

Social development criteria need to be utilized, and questions of equity/equality kept high on the agenda, in the identification of different options for financing for development. Key issues include the potential of all groups in society, including both women and men, to influence, participate and benefit from economic development. Access to and control over resources is a critical element.

The linking of social and economic factors in the preparation for the International Conference on Financing for Development is weakened by the fact that there is often an institutional separation of these issues, with different ministries dealing with social and economic development at national level, and different departments working on these issues in international organizations. Successful incorporation of gender perspectives in the International Conference on Financing for Development will require increased dialogue between all actors involved in the process, in particular between Ministries for Foreign Affairs, Ministries of Finance, ministries working with social development and poverty eradication and those dealing with gender equality at national level. It also will require increased collaboration between departments dealing with social and economic development within international organizations.

There are potentials and constraints from a gender perspective relating to each of the issues covered in the International Conference on Financing for Development. To support the incorporation of gender perspectives in the preparations for the International Conference on Financing for Development, the ACC Inter-Agency Meeting on Women and Gender Equality has established a task force to work on identifying the gender perspectives on financing for development. The task force, which is managed by my office, is comprised of representatives of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs, including the Division for the Advancement of Women, the Development Policy Analysis Division, ILO, UNDP, UNEP, UNFPA, UNCTAD, UNIFEM, which had a panel on Friday and NGLS. The task force has prepared an inventory of intergovernmental mandates on incorporating gender perspectives into the six areas covered by Secretary General's report, which is available to members of the Committee. The task force has also prepared an initial analysis of the gender perspectives in each of the six areas. This paper can also be made available to interested delegates.

In addition, the task force is preparing a Day of Dialogue later in the year, to provide an opportunity for representatives of Member States, United Nations organizations, NGOs and civil society groups and the private sector and to come together to discuss the relevant gender perspectives in all areas of financing for development and the relevant means of addressing them.

Mr. Co-Chair, Members of the Preparatory Committee, I hope that the awareness you already have and continue to develop on gender equality issues and their links to sustainable people-centred development, will be brought to bear in a practical action-oriented sense in your deliberations and decision in this forum.

My best wishes for your success.

Thank you.

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