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Gender mainstreaming in the work of the World Bank -
identifying the potentials and challenges

Presentation at a panel organized by the World Bank as a side-event during the 46th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 4-15 March 2002

Carolyn Hannan
Director, Division for the Advancement of Women
United Nations

5 March 2002

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to comment on the World Bank document: Integrating Gender Into The World Bank's Work. A Strategy for Action. I would like to begin by congratulating the Bank on this very important initiative. In my presentation I will highlight some of the very positive elements in the strategy, as well as point to some challenges for its implementation in the future.

The World Bank has in the past made significant, timely contributions to the development of commitment to more effective promotion of equality between women and men. I recall in particular the contribution of the World Bank to the discussion on the value-added of incorporating gender perspectives into different sector areas in the 1980s and early 1990s. The rationale being proposed was that gender mainstreaming was not only important for promoting gender equality as a matter of human rights or social justice, but that it was also essential for achievement of other overall development goals, as well as very specific sector goals. The World Bank made an important input by providing data on the critical development impacts of girls' education. The point was made in many different contexts that girls' education was not only good for girls but was one of the most cost-effective development investments in poor countries.

Similarly last year the World Bank made an important contribution to maintaining the momentum on gender mainstraeaming with its report: Engendering Development. Through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources and Voice. While many of the findings were not new, the report nevertheless made a significant input because of the rigorous analytical work, backed up by strong statistical data, and the endorsement at high level in the Bank.

The World Bank has now taken another critical step through the development of a concrete strategy for gender mainstreaming, which will have implications for the Bank itself and for all its partners, including Member States. Those of you who have worked with promoting gender equality from within organizations will appreciate the importance of this step. While the development of explicit policy statements on gender equality is an essential precondition for changes in policies, procedures and interventions, it is by no means sufficient in and of itself. There is a wealth of experience - both in national contexts as well as in international organizations - which shows very clearly that good policies can be sidelined very easily within organizations unless clear strategies and procedures, including inputs to develop the required institutional environment and accountability mechanisms, are put in place. Far too often top management in organizations have assumed that policy development will automatically lead to changes on the ground, only to find when monitoring and evaluation is undertaken that little real change results. A critical factor is bringing middle-level management on board in terms of commitment to the goals and objectives and recognition of the implications of gender perspectives in their areas of work and the need to address them explicitly. The fact that the Bank is now focusing its attention on developing the necessary institutional change, including specification of responsibilities of all categories and levels of staff and the development of accountability mechanisms, is a very positive development.

Before giving attention to the strategy, let me say a few words on the particular constraints that face gender mainstreaming in the World Bank. Many of the areas in which the Bank works, particularly those related to macro-economics, are ones where there is still a problematic lack of awareness and consensus on the importance of gender perspectives. Much work remains to be done in terms of developing the arguments, collecting the data and supporting the development of awareness, commitment and capacity of staff working in these areas.

Positive elements in the strategy

I would like to highlight a number of very positive elements in the strategy. These include:

  • The underlying principle that gender equality is an issue of development effectiveness and that gender is central to the Bank's business;
  • The understanding that processes of gender mainstreaming need to be country-specific and country-led, with the Bank's role being "proactively" supportive;
  • The focus on partnerships, working with Governments, civil society, donors and other actors;
  • The starting point in gender diagnosis and appropriate actions to build on the results of the diagnosis;
  • The recognition that there is a need for processes at country-level in collaboration with partners, as well as institutional development inputs within the Bank itself.

At country-level the strategy is clear and relatively simple:

  • Country Gender Analyses,
  • Identification of policy and operational interventions,
  • Monitoring of the implementation and results.

Within the Bank itself four steps are envisioned to ensure a conducive institutional environment for gender mainstreaming:

  •  Incorporating gender perspectives into analytical work;
  • Supporting this work with training and capacity-building and tools;
  • Considering the resources needed - both financial and human; and
  • Monitoring and evaluation, including of results on the ground.

Challenges in implementation

Let me now highlight some of the challenges I see emerging in the implementation process, based on experience from implementation of gender mainstreaming in other organizational contexts, including the United Nations.

Country Gender Analyses or Profiles have been prepared by many bilateral donor organizations, and some multilateral organizations, over the past two decades. The preparation of these analyses is relatively easy; finding ways and means of making sure that they have an impact on policies and programmes has proven more difficult. Various constraints have been identified. At times the analyses were too donor-driven and there was little country ownership. Analyses were also often developed as separate exercises by gender specialists and there was little ownership by other parts of organizations, with the results that the analyses were marginalized and under-utilized. In many cases the analyses were not adequately linked to the overall goals of the different sectors they were covering. It appears from the strategy document prepared by the Bank that these constraints have already been identified and efforts made to address them. Nevertheless, ensuring that the Country Gender Analyses become an integrated part of the country-level work within the Bank, and that they are effectively utilized to bring about the required changes in policies and interventions, will be a challenge.

A related problem with many early gender analyses at country level was the fact that they focused on individual sectors - health, education, agriculture, forestry, etc - without providing analysis of the overall frameworks in which these sectoral policies and programmes operate, i.e. the political, legal, and economic frameworks. Similarly, the overall context of poverty-eradication and sustainable development was often missing from the analysis which resulted in somewhat disjointed analyses of individual sectors (often providing excellent analyses) without a holistic framework. The outline of key questions to be included in the Country Gender Analyses to be prepared by the Bank does include the legal framework and it touches on markets and institutions, but only as related to employment and participation in governance. A key challenge will be for the Bank to provide a holistic framework for the analysis which includes, for example, the whole array of issues raised in the preparations for the International Conference on Financing for Development.

This is related to one key challenge which is raised in the strategy document itself, the need to move the attention to gender perspectives out of the human development areas of the work of the Bank, i.e. health, education, agriculture, to all sectors and all projects, including in areas where gender perspectives are not normally considered, for example in investment projects. More work needs to be done to illustrate the value of including gender perspectives in these areas, i.e. further developing the effective development rationales for gender mainstreaming. Leadership by the Bank in these areas could have a huge positive impact in the future.

The focus in the strategy in monitoring impacts on the ground is very commendable. The lack of assessment of impacts on the situation of women and men, gender relations and achievement of gender equality (as opposed to monitoring of processes and outcomes of programmes which is normally carried out) has been one of the weak points of a lot of the gender mainstreaming work in the past. The development of adequate indicators, and the incorporation of monitoring of the gender equality aspects into overall monitoring processes and mechanisms, will be a huge and extremely critical challenge for the Bank.

The discussion of accountability in the strategy indicates that considerable thought has been given to this important aspect. The initial outline of organizational responsibilities, from highest management level, is very positive. The challenge will be finding ways of holding all categories and all levels of staff accountable to the goals and to the implementation of the strategy. Some indicators of success are required as well as processes for monitoring progress. Links to performance appraisal systems might be useful, whereby promotion of gender equality through gender mainstreaming could be included in the "work contracts" negotiated between management and staff.

In conclusion

I would like to end by sharing with you a new "instrument" developed by the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues to support gender mainstreaming in the United Nations Secretariat. This is the short document: Gender Mainstreaming. An Overview which aims to promote greater understanding of the gender mainstreaming strategy - its origins, basic principles and implications for different kinds of work undertaken in the United Nations. It provides some brief guidance on incorporating gender perspectives in policy analysis and development, research, technical cooperation, servicing intergovernmental bodies, and data collection, analysis and dissemination. Although it has been prepared to address the specific needs of the United Nations Secretariat, it may also be of some use in the World Bank context.

Although I have highlighted a number of important challenges related to the implementation of the strategy on gender mainstreaming, I do believe that the development of the strategy by the World Bank is a very important move forward, and I wish the Bank great success in its implementation. There are many organizations and individuals who will be following the implementation process very closely in the future and wanting to learn from the good practices I am sure will result.

Thank you.



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