Concluding Comments Regional Symposium on Gender Mainstreaming
in the Asia-Pacific Region
Bangkok 10-13 December 2001
by Carolyn Hannan Director, Division for the Advancement of
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
· 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
· 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
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
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
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.
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.