ASIA-PACIFIC REGIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON GENDER MAINSTREAMING
UNITED NATIONS/ESCAP, Bangkok, 10-13 December 2001
Gender mainstreaming was recognized as a global
strategy for the promotion of gender equality in the Platform
for Action from the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing,
1995). The ECOSOC agreed conclusions (1997/2) provide a clear
definition of gender mainstreaming as the "process of assessing
the implications for men and women of any planned action, including
legislation, policies and programmes in all areas and at all
A regional symposium on gender mainstreaming
in the Asia-Pacific region was organized by ESCAP in collaboration
with the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Gender
Issues and Advancement of Women and the Division for the Advancement
of Women, from 10 to 13 December 2001. The meeting brought together
80 representatives of Governments, regional-level intergovernmental
organizations, NGOs and civil society groups, the private sector
and academia, and United Nations personnel for a constructive
dialogue on gender mainstreaming in the region. The discussions
focused on identifying entry points, approaches, methodologies
and tools to support gender mainstreaming at the local, national,
subregional and regional levels. Potentials, good practice and
remaining challenges were also identified.
The participants first discussed the issue of
gender mainstreaming in the context of efforts to reduce poverty
in a globalizing world, one of the two themes of the forty-sixth
session of the Commission on the Status of Women (March 2002).
There is increasing evidence that the ongoing processes of economic
and political restructuring in the region have heightened women's
vulnerabilities and led to an expansion and intensification
of poverty among women. National Governments have responded
through women-specific poverty programmes and interventions
for the empowerment of women. However, some of these programmes
usually address income poverty in isolation and do not recognize
the fact that poor women face human poverty through multiple
deprivations and violations of their equal rights and entitlements.
This approach may have hindered the incorporation of gender
perspectives into mainstream sectors which are critical for
gender-responsive poverty eradication strategies, such as agriculture
and manufacturing. While acknowledging income as one of the
means to reduce poverty, there was also recognition that it
does not always lead to gender equality. A human poverty perspective
should be incorporated into the design and implementation of
all mainstream programmes for poverty reduction.
The participants expressed concern at the continuing
gaps between macroeconomic policies focused on economic growth
and social policies focused on the larger goals of gender equality
and social justice. Advocates of gender equality need to engage
with and influence processes of macroeconomic policy-making.
Women's groups and gender-responsive NGOs and development agencies
in countries of the region have evolved alternative approaches
which can provide valuable lessons for policy-makers.
In many cases, there are wide gaps between policy
commitments to women's empowerment and gender equality and resource
allocations to meet the goals set. Budgets are one of the most
powerful instruments for bridging this gap, promoting women's
equitable access to public resources and mainstreaming a gender
perspective into national development. Experiences of incorporating
gender perspectives into budgeting also demonstrate the need
for clarity in the responsibilities and accountabilities of
the organizations and individuals involved. The involvement
of economic and planning bodies, finance and budget departments
and the legislature, and oversight by an informed and committed
group of gender advocates, both inside and outside government,
are critical to the process of making budgeting processes gender-responsive.
To be effective and sustainable, gender mainstreaming in budgets
has to be supported by an active constituency for gender equality,
both within government and in civil society. The role of the
national machinery is important in ensuring political and technical
support in terms of gender auditing and budgeting.
Challenges in institutionalizing gender mainstreaming
approaches within organizations were discussed. Gender-biased
institutional norms often operate below the level of awareness
but are embedded in the hierarchies, work practices and beliefs
of organizations and constrain efforts to implement gender mainstreaming.
While there has been progress in setting up the infrastructure
to support gender mainstreaming, there is a need for strategic
action to combat deeply-embedded organizational values and institutional
structures that discriminate against women in subtle and insidious
ways. Experiences shared at the meeting included the need for
an informed and vocal constituency that could demand change
and hold public agencies and authorities accountable for addressing
the interests of women as well as men. The importance of developing
accountability mechanisms, including sanctions for behaviours
which perpetuate discrimination against women, was highlighted.
The responsibilities of government machineries
in gender mainstreaming should be clearly spelt out and supported
by relevant policies. Accountability at the highest levels,
while difficult to build, is critical for activating similar
mechanisms down to the grass-roots level. Policy-making bodies
and institutions that control resources have their respective
roles to play in strengthening accountability mechanisms. International
donors can help to strengthen accountability mechanisms by incorporating
a gender perspective into the framework for their assistance
and the component programmes and projects which they support.
The meeting urged national Governments, regional intergovernmental
bodies and civil society actors, with the support of international
bodies and donors as appropriate, to work towards the following
- Ensuring that the principles of gender equality
and a rights-based framework, as embodied in CEDAW and other
relevant international instruments, are mainstreamed into
the policies, programmes and activities of all actors in development.
- Incorporating gender perspectives into the
conceptual frameworks and processes of macroeconomic planning
and decision-making, in order to address the multiple dimensions
of poverty among women and the adverse impact of globalization
on women's lives.
- Helping gender equality advocates to gain
an understanding of macroeconomics, including the planning
and budgeting processes, to better enable them to engage in
informed dialogue at all levels on economic issues and national
policies from a gender perspective.
- Supporting gender-responsive budgeting by
mainstreaming gender into the processes of formulating budgets
through developing skills and disseminating methods and tools
that build on existing experience and good practices.
- Promoting people-centred analysis of government
policies and programmes that make visible their economic and
social impacts and outcomes, particularly in terms of their
congruence with larger national goals of gender equality and
- Ensuring that the principles of gender equality
and non-discrimination, as embodied in Security Council resolution
1325 (2000), are mainstreamed into United Nations peace support
operations, including conflict prevention, peace-building
and post-conflict reconstruction.
Paying particular attention to the capacity- and strategy-building
of the national machineries in States affected by armed conflict
- Strengthening linkages between women's movements
and other civil society movements to incorporate gender perspectives
into governance, through promoting participation, transparency
- Developing capacities to address the political
dimensions of promoting and sustaining gender mainstreaming
and providing the necessary technical support to initiate
and expand gender mainstreaming in strategic sectors and issues.
- Enhancing and strengthening the range of
mechanisms for supporting and implementing gender mainstreaming,
including high-level advisory groups, gender focal points
and task forces; training -including for top management; strategies
for making gender analysis mandatory; action plans; accountability
mechanisms and monitoring and reporting mechanisms.
- Building new constituencies to deepen and
sustain gender mainstreaming, including men and youth.
- Continuing to mainstream gender concerns
in multilateral agencies including the United Nations, World
Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural
Development and regional forums, as well as to strengthen
cooperation between agencies.