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Concluding Comments Regional Symposium on Gender Mainstreaming 
in the Asia-Pacific Region 
Bangkok 10-13 December 2001

Presented by Carolyn Hannan Director, Division for the Advancement of Women

Madame Chairperson Ms. Keiko Okaido, Deputy Executive Secretary Distinguished participants and colleagues

We have now reached the conclusion of four very full and interesting days of discussion on gender mainstreaming in the Asia-Pacific region. It could be useful to remind ourselves of the objectives of the objectives of the symposium. These were to stimulate dialogue and exchange of experience and good practice on gender mainstreaming between different actors in the region, particularly between Governments; to provide inputs into the work of the Commission on the Status of Women on gender mainstreaming; and - as one of five regional symposia to be held over the coming five years - to provide an input into the ten year review of the Beijing Platform for Action in 2005.

I believe that the symposium has provided an important forum for facilitating dialogue and exchange of experience, as well as for identifying constraints and remaining challenges and some of the possible means of overcoming these. It is clear, however, at the end of these four days that, in this region as in others, there are different levels of understanding of gender mainstreaming and thus also of implementation and identification of good practice.

The communiqué has highlighted some of the key findings and many more will be included in the report. I would like in this short concluding comment to raise some that I believe are particularly important.

Some important insights have emerged from the discussions which will help us move forward:

· The importance of taking a broad focus on gender mainstreaming was emphasized, including not only the government but also the private sector, academia, religious institutions, media; and within government, not only the executive branch but other branches such as the judicial branch.

· The need to incorporate gender perspectives in the overall macroeconomic framework for development was highlighted. The importance of moving beyond individual sectors to the larger economic development framework; and to situate discussions of micro-credit and the work on gender mainstreaming in national budgets in the broad macroeconomic context, was emphasized.

· Issues of good governance - in particular participation, transparency and accountability - were identified as critical for gender mainstreaming.

· The importance of a rights-based approach was highlighted in many discussions and the value of CEDAW, as a framework for promoting gender mainstreaming, was emphasized by many presenters.

· There is need for new examples of how and why incorporating gender perspectives into policies and programmes supports the achievement of goals in all areas of development.

· Organizational change in support of gender equality can only be successful if grounded in the broader goals of development, peace and equality, as expressed through women's mobilization on the ground. Organizations cannot promote gender mainstreaming effectively in isolation from the women's movement at national level.

· Gender mainstreaming was seen to be very much about identifying and challenging existing gender biases, for example in relation to values and norms within organizations and in macroeconomic frameworks.

· Gender mainstreaming cannot be seen simply as a technical issue - involving the development of strategies, methodologies and skills. There are important political dimensions to be taken into account. Specific capabilities need to be developed to address both the political and technical dimensions.

A number of key constraints to gender mainstreaming were also highlighted in the discussions:

· There still remain huge gaps between policy commitments and resource allocations within many organizations, and this negatively affects implementation of gender mainstreaming on the ground.

· Many organizations still have cultures which are not supportive of the promotion of gender equality; and even where policy commitments are in place adherence to these is not mandatory and there are no sanctions for non-compliance. Neglect of gender perspectives in policies and programmes is not questioned by senior managers.

· Gender analysis and incorporating of gender perspectives in policies and programmes is not yet done as a matter of course within organizations.

· There are still serious and unacceptable gaps in the availability of sex-disaggregated data.

In the area of institutional development some progress could be reported:

· Efforts have been made to move the responsibility for gender mainstreaming out of gender units and into line ministries and other bodies.

· National machineries and gender units within organizations are increasingly working in a catalytic manner - promoting and facilitating rather than doing it themselves.

· A broad range of mechanisms have been adopted in support of gender mainstreaming. These include use of gender focal points, taskforces, high-level advisory groups; training - including for top management; development of analysis methodologies and strategies for making use of analysis mandatory; development of action plans; carrying out audits; and establishing strategic reporting mechanisms - such as to Parliaments.

· In developing strategies and methodologies for gender mainstreaming it is important to focus clearly on the goals and outcomes and not become narrowly focused on the process.

· Institutional development is a critical element of gender mainstreaming - related to establishing a core set of values which should inform a body of policies and strategies, in which gender perspectives are incorporated as an integral dimension.

· Accountability mechanisms will be critical to successful implementation of gender mainstreaming, but as yet there are few examples of good practice in this area to share. This must be a priority for the future.

· Indicators of progress in gender mainstreaming, with emphasis on outcomes, need to be developed to facilitate effective monitoring.

Although these were not specifically addressed in the symposium, I would like to raise some risks which need to be kept in mind.

· There is a risk that the means become the end; or in other words, that the focus on the process takes over from the critical focus on goals and outcomes. This was made clear in discussions with macroeconomists on gender mainstreaming in national budgets in the context of discussions on financing for development. The interest of the economists was in what the exercise was expected to achieve and what difference this work made to outcomes on the ground. While the goals of many gender mainstreaming initiatives in relation to budgets are clear, to date there is little information to provide on the concrete outcomes. Much of the focus in discussions of gender mainstreaming in budgets has been on the process rather than the outcomes. We need to ensure that the necessary attention to the process does not become the main focus of gender mainstreaming in budgets or other areas.

· It is also important to take care that the processes, procedures and methodologies we put in place to support gender mainstreaming are not too complicated. Otherwise there is a risk that professional staff in organizations feel that gender mainstreaming requires such high levels of gender knowledge and skills that it can only be done by specialists. In fact, gender mainstreaming should be an integral part of what professionals are already doing. They often do not have to do so many new things, but to do the things they normally do differently, taking into account gender perspectives. Gender mainstreaming is often very much a matter of common sense. It requires identifying relevant gender issues; identifying entrypoints in work programmes; and establishing means of addressing the gender issues in these entrypoints.

Using the symposium to promote change

I would like to conclude by briefly describing how the results of the symposium will be utilized. The communiqué just adopted is available to all participants to use immediately in any way which will support the implementation of gender mainstreaming in their organizations. This could be to initiate a discussion on gender mainstreaming within organizations; to brief senior management on the outcomes and the implications for their organizations; or to disseminate information more broadly to the general public through the media.

A short report will be prepared for submission to the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2002. A supplementary report containing copies of all the presentations will also be made available. In addition, ESCAP will prepare a short document outlining some of the good practice in the region, which can be expanded over the coming five years in preparation for the 10 year review of the Beijing Platform for Action. All of the documents prepared will be available on both the ESCAP website and WomenWatch.

At the Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March 2002, ESCAP will be given a time slot to present the outcome of the symposium. To ensure that there is adequate discussion of the importance of gender mainstreaming and the concrete experience in the region, delegates from Member States in the region could also include reference to the symposium and their work on gender mainstreaming in their national statements to the plenary. Copies of all the documents arising from the symposium will also be made available to delegates at Commission. It should also be possible to bring the symposium and its outcomes to the attention on the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly later in 2002.

The Office of the Special Adviser, the Division for the Advancement of Women and ESCAP will collaborate to find ways to effectively follow-up the symposium and support the implementation of gender mainstreaming in the region.

Conclusion

Finally, I would like to thank ESCAP - in particular the Executive Secretary, Mr. Kim Hak Su - for hosting and organizing the symposium. A warm thanks also goes to Thelma Kay and her team for their efforts. We all know the amount of hard, usually thankless, work that goes into the organization of such a meeting.

I would also like to offer my congratulations and thanks to the Chair of the Symposium, Ms. Shanti Basnyat; the Vice-Chair, Mr. H. Yousef Supiandi, and the Rapporteur, Ms. Gayle Tatsi-Misionyaki. I thank all participants for their engagement over the past four days; the presenters for willingness to share their national experiences, including constraints and challenges; and the moderators for their expertise and skills so generously shared.

The Asia-Pacific symposium was the first in a series of five regional symposia on gender mainstreaming. It is not always easy to be first. We have learned a number of important lessons which will be of value in planning the remaining symposia. I sincerely hope that you all have found the symposium a learning experience. I wish you all great success in your implementation of the gender mainstreaming strategy in your countries and in the region as a whole.

Thank youa  

 
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