OSAGI Home Gender Mainstreaming Focal Point

Expert Meeting on Mainstreaming Gender in Order to Promote Opportunities 
UNCTAD, Geneva, 14-16 November 2001

"Gender mainstreaming: Ensuring effective development outcomes"

Carolyn Hannan Principal Officer for Gender Mainstreaming 
Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues 
United Nations, New York

Secretary-General, Mr Ricupero 
Madame Chairperson, 
Distinguished Experts and Resource Persons, 

I am honoured to speak at the opening of this important Expert Meeting today. I would like to begin by forwarding a strong message of support from the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Ms. Angela King. Ms. King congratulates UNCTAD on organizing this first gender-related meeting in its intergovernmental machinery and looks forward to a successful outcome of the deliberations.

Gender mainstreaming involves bringing the contributions, perspectives and priorities of both women and men to the centre of attention in all areas of societal development. Governments and the United Nations made commitments in the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) to implement gender mainstreaming, that is, to consider the realities of women and men and the potential impact of planned activities on women and men before any decisions on goals, strategies, actions and resource allocations are made. Implementing the mainstreaming strategy within the United Nations system itself, and supporting the implementation of the strategy by Member States, is one of the most important means for the United Nations to further the advancement of women and promote gender equality throughout the world.

Although gender mainstreaming is now well established as a global strategy for promoting gender equality, we still have considerable work to do to ensure a clear understanding of the practical implications of the strategy in all areas of development.

There is today considerable clarity on certain important aspects of gender mainstreaming. We know, for example, that there are very strong and explicit intergovernmental mandates. We can point to the Beijing Platform for Action from 1995, the ECOSOC agreed conclusions of 1997, the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly in 2000, and even more recently in the ECOSOC resolution 2001/41, which calls for attention to gender perspectives in the work of ECOSOC and all its functional commissions, as well as in the integrated and coordinated follow-up to global conferences.

While we know today that gender mainstreaming is a critical strategy for gender equality, at the same time we acknowledge that gender mainstreaming does not eliminate the need for targetted activities to promote gender equality. Such gender-specific activities are still required to address serious gaps which must be urgently tackled; to support women's empowerment and develop women's leadership capacities; and to test ideas and approaches which may then be applied to the mainstream development process.

We also know that while representation of women is an essential element in gender mainstreaming, increasing the numbers of women is not enough. The mainstream agenda can only be transformed when the perspectives of both women and men inform the design, implementation and outcomes of policies and programmes. This requires analysing the gender perspectives in each and every area of development. It further requires examining the institutional mechanisms through which development is done, so that necessary changes can be made to structures, processes and procedures within organizations.

Most importantly, there is also increased awareness that bringing gender perspectives to the centre of attention not only supports the promotion of gender equality but also contributes effectively to the achievement of other development goals. Some warnings have, however, been raised about the risks of using gender mainstreaming simply as a strategy to achieve other goals, while neglecting the promotion of gender equality. Gender equality is a development goal in its own right. Gender mainstreaming must be seen as a process for promoting equality between women and men, which in turn can facilitate the achievement of other developmental goals, including economic goals.

Mr Secretary-General,

Throughout the United Nations system concerted efforts are being made to implement gender mainstreaming. Many organizations have established institutional arrangements, such as gender units and gender focal point systems. Initiatives are undertaken across the system to develop the capacity to identify and address relevant gender perspectives in all areas of work, at both normative/policy and operational/programme levels. Gender perspectives are being incorporated into planning, budgetting and reporting processes, and guidelines and other materials to support staff are being developed to ensure gender perspectives are taken into consideration in data collection and research, analysis, support to legislative change, policy and programme development and monitoring and evaluation.

Organizations in the United Nations system also support Governments to develop gender-sensitive policies and strategies and to take gender perspectives into consideration in planning, implementing and monitoring development interventions in all areas of collaboration. Considerable support is given to capacity development. Non-governmental organizations and groups and networks in civil society are also supported to play critical advocacy roles in relation to gender mainstreaming and monitor the adherence to all commitments made by Governments. Efforts are also being taken to involve more men in promoting gender equality through gender mainstreaming.

UNCTAD has been no exception. This can be seen in the leadership role played by UNCTAD in working to ensure that gender perspectives were included in the LDC conference in Brussels, 14-20 May 2001, including through the organization of the Pre-LDCIII Workshop on LDCs Building Capacities for Mainstreaming Gender in Development, in Cape Town, from 21-23 March 2001. Serious efforts were also made to bring attention to gender perspectives in UNCTAD X in Bangkok, from 12-19 February 2000, including through the publication of the report: Trade, Sustainable Development and Gender. In addition, UNCTAD has worked to enhance the participation of women in LDC economies - particularly through enterprise development, and was a pioneer in placing the issue of women, science and technology on the international agenda. The organization of this Expert Meeting can be seen as a continuation of these important efforts by UNCTAD to identify and address the gender perspectives which are relevant to their particular areas of work - including trade, enterpreneurship development and science and technology.

Mr Secretary-General, 
I would now like to focus on some of the main challenges in gender mainstreaming in macro-economics and trade

The importance of moving beyond addressing gender perspectives in socio-economic areas where the role of women has long been recognized, to identifying relevant gender factors in macro-economic policies and programmes, including in relation to financial and trade policies, debt and ODA, was recognized in the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly in June 2000. In some areas of economic development, for example domestic resource mobilization and allocation, there is already considerable awareness of the negative impact of gender inequalities. Constraints to the economic empowerment of women and the elimination of poverty which have been highlighted include: imbalances in economic power-sharing; inequalities in distribution of unremunerated work between women and men; lack of adequate support for women's entrepreneurship; unequal access to and control over capital and resources such as land; and inequalities in access to labour markets, as well as in conditions of employment.

There has been much less recognition of the importance of gender perspectives in other areas of macro-economic policies, institutions and programmes. An increasing number of economists have also begun to highlight that macro-economic policies and institutions which do not take gender perspectives into account not only often impact negatively on women relative to men, but through the perpetuation and exacerbation of gender inequality can also impact negatively on the achievement of the macro-economic goals set. There has been an important shift from focusing on how economic policies have affected welfare in a gender-specific manner, to illustrating how gender biases negatively affect the outcome of these same economic policies. Human capital rationales for investing in women and developing their economic capacity are also increasingly utilized by economists.

As recent World Bank documents have made clear, giving attention to gender perspectives in economic decision-making simply makes good economic sense. Existing gender inequalities can, for example, undermine the effectiveness of trade policies or policies on foreign direct investment by affecting the factors that are critical to the successful implementation of these policies. Because of existing inequalities women may, for example, face difficulties in responding to incentives and opportunities. As a result of gender inequality in the ownership of economic resources, women may lack the necessary property rights to qualify for credit to take advantage of new investment opportunities in the export or domestic sector. Women workers may have particular constraints, such as lack of childcare and sole responsibility for other reproductive activities, which can affect their ability to respond appropriately to price signals. The barriers women farmers and entrepreneurs face in accessing credit, technical assistance and training may also negatively affect their ability to expand production and take advantage of new opportunities.

The gender perspectives on trade and foreign direct investment are still not sufficiently well established to have the necessary impact on policies and programmes. Trade policies clearly affect people - women and men - through impacts on employment, markets, the environment, distribution and consumption patterns, cultural values and social relations. Trade policies can have significant gender impacts when various sectors of the economy, where women or men may predominate, are affected in different ways by cutbacks and expansion associated with membership in the WTO.

There are important gender perspectives in relation to foreign direct investment at different levels. Comparative advantage in low labour costs has led to the relocation of labour intensive industries to developing countries, assisted by policies including trade liberalisation, investment incentives and subsidies and deregulation of labour markets. This has significantly increased the demand for non-skilled labour, and often young, female labour, in the formal sector (in Export Processing Zones, for example) and in the informal sectors (via subcontracting and homeworking links). The positive gains for women's employment may, however, be negated by the lack of compliance with adequate standards for working conditions, leading to exploitation of workers. This is particularly problematic where there are weak or non-existent rights of worker organisations, lack of opportunities for long-term skill development and lack of sustainability of employment.

In relation to promoting entrepreneurship, there are issues of unequal transaction costs, inequitable access to information, asymmetric property rights and gender segregation in markets. The expansion of investment opportunities as a result of the infusion of foreign investment may not be equitably available to women entrepreneurs, due to gender bias that locks women into, or out of, particular markets. In addition, credit conditions are generally more favourable to men. As a result of gender inequality in the ownership of economic resources, women may lack the necessary property rights to qualify for credit to take advantage of new investment opportunities in the export or domestic sector. Women's responsibility for household work may also constrain their ability to take advantage of employment opportunities or to participate in higher-valued business activities. Furthermore, gender differentiated patterns of demand will influence the purchase of particular types of goods and services.

Ultimately, the differing patterns of control over assets and income, and the position and bargaining power of women and men, will influence the investment and spending decisions related to the opportunities presented in trade and foreign investment liberalisation.

Finally, Mr Secretary-General, Let me conclude by pointing to some promising signs of positive change.

In the preparations for the International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Monterrey in Mexico in 2002, increasing attention has been given to gender perspectives in relation to all areas of the financing for development agenda: domestic resource mobilization, including credit and savings, national budgets and expenditure reviews, taxation and social security systems; foreign direct investment; trade; debt; ODA; and systemic issues. These positive steps are due to the commitment of Member States, as well as to the efforts of the United Nations Interagency Taskforce on Gender and Financing for Development which 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). Critical inputs are also being made by NGOs, working individually or in coalition, to raise awareness and promote the incorporation of gender perspectives into the preparatory process.

I would particularly like to highlight the importance of the fact that the overall objectives and framework for the work on financing for development, as outlined in the Draft Outcome prepared by the Facilitator (A/AC.257/25), provide a positive environment for working with gender perspectives. These positive elements include recognition that: 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"; The objective is "to achieve a fully inclusive and equitable globalization" (para 1); There is a need to reverse the increasing polarization between the haves and have-nots (para 2) and to emphasize people-centred development approaches (para 3); Ensuring governance and the rule of law is critical (para 8); and Seven basic principles of economic and social goverance must be in place: equity, solidarity, co-responsibility, foresight, participation, ownership and partnership (para 4). Without this vision, which is completely in the spirit of the Millennium Declaration, it would not be possible to incorporate gender perspectives into the financing for development agenda.

While there are still serious challenges to address to ensure that the process and outcomes of the International Conference on Financing for Development take all relevant gender perspectives into consideration, this is a positive first step since one of the major constraints in working to incorporate gender perspectives in macroeconomic development is the false separation of economic and social development. Unless the links between micro- and macro-levels are clearly made, and the important institutional or meso-linkages established, effective, sustainable and people-centred development is not possible.

In conclusion, I would like to re-emphasize that gender mainstreaming in macro-economics and trade should be promoted both because it is a matter of equality and human rights and because it provides an important means of ensuring that the goals of macro-economic and trade policies and programmes are achieved in an effective, sustainable and people-centred manner. Leaving out 50% of the population - ignoring their contributions and neglecting their needs - can never be considered an effective strategy for sustainable development in any area.

The efforts of UNCTAD to implement gender mainstreaming are very encouraging. The bringing together of Member States, Experts and Resource Persons at this Expert Meeting is particularly positive. I am certain that with the wealth of knowledge and experience gathered here we will have a very productive meeting and a successful outcome.

Thank You.


Focal Point for Women.

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