Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality, IANWGE
As delivered

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

16 October 2001

Distinguished Co-Chairs,
Members of the Preparatory Committee,
Colleagues and Friends

I am honoured to address the Preparatory Committee of the International Conference on Financing for Development on the gender aspects in the financing for development agenda at this session, particularly as there seems to be an increasing awareness among delegations of the links between financing for development and gender since we last met.

May I congratulate the distinguished members of the High-Level Panel on Financing for Development and the Facilitator, Mr. Mauricio Escanero, for their commitment to the inclusion of gender perspectives in their work. Since the beginning of the preparatory process, individual Member States, the Financing for Development Secretariat, a United Nations Interagency Task Force on Gender and Financing for Development, individual agencies and numerous NGOs have made concerted efforts to identify and address relevant gender perspectives. Two key documents: the Zedillo Report and the Facilitator's Outcome Document have proven these efforts to be effective.

The overall objectives and framework of this initiative, outlined in the draft Outcome Document are conducive to integrating the gender dimension. I cite some examples:

  • The international conference entails a global commitment "to work together to ensure that the global systems of finance and trade fully support economic growth and social justice for all peoples of the world";
  • Its objective is "to achieve a fully inclusive and equitable globalization" (para 1);
  • The need to reverse the increasing polarization between the haves and have-nots (para 2), and to emphasize people-centred development (para 3);
  • The importance of governance and the rule of law (para 8);
  • The seven principles of economic and social governance: equity, solidarity, co-responsibility, foresight, participation, ownership and partnership (para 4);
  • The need for gender-sensitive development and the empowerment of women (e.g. gender-sensitive investment in social sectors and social security, gender analysis of budgets and the incorporation of gender perspectives into economic and development policies).

Before we can take it for granted that the outcomes of the Conference will take gender perspectives into full consideration, there are other areas where gender impacts need to be more fully addressed. These include poverty eradication, vulnerable social groups, access to and conditions of employment, trade, debt and micro-credit, savings, social security and taxation.

Co-Chairs, Members of the Preparatory Committee,

In the area of domestic financial resources, particularly in relation to micro-finance much experience has been gained. That gender-based discrimination exists in the credit market can be illustrated by the fact that:

  • Interest rates charged to women, not only overestimate the cost of lending to women but also underestimate the returns of lending to enterprises run by women;
  • While women in some urban enterprises may receive more bank loans than men, the average size of these loans is smaller than those provided to men;
  • In some instances, formal lending services are not geared to administer small loans, thus hindering women's access to credit;
  • While micro-credit is important for many women, particularly in rural areas, access to other financial services is often neglected thereby running the risk of ghettoizing women into micro-credit;

Another area of domestic resource mobilization where considerable attention has been given to gender equality is national budgets. [National budgets are a mechanism for ensuring the allocation of adequate resources for established development goals, and need to be assessed for social, financial and monetary goals and targets. In identifying priorities and needs, increasing attention to and consultation with women's groups and networks, can contribute to greater transparency and accountability and the long-term legitimacy of governments.] Since the mid 1980s, over 40 Member States, mainly in developing world, have integrated gender perspectives in national budget processes. This topic, emphasized in the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (Beijing+5, June 2000), will be the focus of a panel during the final PrepCom in January 2002, to be organized by the Interagency Task Force on Gender and Financing for Development.

Formal programmes to promote savings and entrepreneurship development which are vital to national economic development, have tended to neglect women. This is due in no small part to the perception that women are dependent on men, and their income is supplementary and of less importance for household survival than that of men. [Studies have shown, on the contrary, that women's income is critical for family wellbeing, as women tend to allocate a greater share of their income to health, education and nutrition-related expenditures. The existence of many different forms of informal savings clubs and networks run by women around the world is an indication of the strong interest and capacity among poor women to mobilize savings as a means of improving the welfare of their families and contributing to economic development.]

Taxation systems are another important area. Systems where direct taxation provides a major portion of public revenue, tend to benefit the poor, including women, more directly. Women's entry into the labour market, and the conditions of their involvement, can also be directly affected by taxation structures. For example, employment disincentives still exist for women where joint income-tax structures disadvantage whichever spouse earns less, usually the woman, and the absence of tax rebates (e.g. to cover child care) are a further disadvantage to women entering the labour market.

Gender perspectives are not only relevant for domestic resource mobilization, but are also critical to all other issues raised in the discussions of financing for development, including foreign direct investment, ODA, debt and systemic issues.

Trade is another area where differential impacts on women and men need to be further explored. Low labour costs, influenced by trade liberalization policies, investment incentives and deregulation of labour markets have led to the relocation of labour intensive-industries in developing countries. An increasing demand for non-skilled labour, often young, female labour, has followed both in the formal (Export Processing Zones, for example) and the informal sectors (subcontracting and home-working links). Positive gains for women's employment may, however, be negated by the lack of compliance with adequate working standards, leading to exploitation of workers.

An increasing number of economists have begun to demonstrate that macro-economic policies and institutions which do not take gender perspectives into account do not make sound economic sense. Such policies have in fact further exacerbated gender inequality which in turn impedes the achievement of macro-economic goals.

For example, where existing inequalities in the ownership of, or access to, economic resources exist, (say the lack of title to property required to qualify for credit), these bar women including women farmers and entrepreneurs from taking advantage of new or expanded investment opportunities in the export or domestic sectors.

The United Nations Interagency Task Force on Gender and Financing for Development, with representatives from (DESA including NGLS, ILO, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNEP, UNFPA and UNIFEM) has prepared and disseminated an initial analysis of gender perspectives in relation to each of the key issues selected by the preparatory process, and an overview of the existing intergovernmental mandates for incorporating gender perspectives in macro-economics and trade. These documents can be found on the United Nations Womenwatch website (www.un.org/womenwatch).

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the critical inputs of NGOs, working individually or in coalition - in raising awareness and in promoting the incorporation of gender perspectives into the preparatory process. The NGO Women's Caucus, convened by WEDO (Women's Environment and Development Organization), and an Ad Hoc NGO Working Group worked effectively both in the civil society hearings convened in November 2000 and during the three PrepComs held so far. [Panels on gender perspectives on financing for development have been organized and an advocacy document prepared. Regional-level dialogue has been facilitated and a large network of interested regional groups has been developed. Organizations involved include: Women's Eyes on the Multilaterals, Gender and Trade Network, Third World Network, Gender and Economic Reform in Africa (GERA), and the Association of African Women's Economic Policy Network. The Interagency Task Force on Gender and Financing for Development has established positive collaboration with these groups. We welcome the fact that these NGOs are able to participate actively in this PrepCom and can continue to make their important contribution.]

Future activities planned by the Interagency Task Force in collaboration with the Conference secretariat and other actors, as an input to Conference preparations include a Day of Dialogue on Gender and Financing for Development in December 2001. The Day will bring together around 65 participants from Member States, the United Nations, NGOs and civil society groups, the private sector and research institutes. It will focus on the six key issues: [domestic financial resources, foreign direct investment, trade, ODA, debt and systemic issues] and on other essential issues such as taxation, corruption, innovative sources of financing and codes of conduct in multilateral and bilateral investment agreements and practices.

Distinguished Co-Chairs, Members of the Preparatory Committee,

It is my hope that in the remaining months of the preparatory process we can deepen our knowledge and strengthen our capacity to address unequivocally the gender perspectives in all integral issues of the financing for development agenda. Identifying and addressing these relevant gender perspectives will not only ensure gender equality, but will provide the framework for the achievement of the goals of the Millennium Declaration and of the International Conference on Financing for Development itself.

I wish you a very productive meeting and a successful outcome in Monterrey and you can be assured of any support needed by my office or by the Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.



Back
E-Mail IANWGE Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Issues, 2 UN Plaza, 12th floor, New York, NY, 10017, USA Copyright (c) United Nations