OSAGI Home Gender Mainstreaming Focal Point


UNITED NATIONS/ESCAP, Bangkok, 10-13 December 200

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 levels&".

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 goals:

  • 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 social justice.
  • 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 and accountability.
  • 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.

Focal Point for Women.

Gender Mainstreaming IANWGE Contact
Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI)
United Nations, Two United Nations Plaza,
44th St. 12th Floor, NY ,NY 10017
URL: http://www.un.org/osagi