Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Further memorandum submitted by One World Action


  1.  One World Action wishes to concentrate this submission on the impact of the Department for International Development's work on promoting gender equality and equity and respect for women's human rights. The British Government is committed to the elimination of poverty (White Papers 1997 and 2000). Over 70 per cent of the world's poor are women. To be effective in eliminating poverty, every development co-operation activity needs to start from an awareness of the causes and nature of women's poverty and tackle the inequality women experience on the grounds of gender. Sustainable and equitable development, and poverty eradication will remain elusive unless discrimination against women is eliminated and gender-based inequality and inequity removed.

  2.  DFID has made achieved gains in promoting gender equality and equity through its policies and practice. Target Strategy Papers have been published which elaborate DFID's commitment to gender equality, and some Country Strategy Papers also mainstream gender. The UK Government has signed a number of international agreements, such as the Beijing Platform for Action, which contain strong statements about gender equality and equity. In its projects, programmes, and co-operation with developing countries, DFID has also succeeded in putting gender on the agenda. The UK Government has played a lead role in achieving progressive policies on gender, within the European Union, the OECD Development Assistance Committee, the United Nations, and the Bretton Woods institutions.

  3.  However, policy commitments in both the national and international arena have not achieved their potential because they have not been implemented fully or comprehensively. Much more must be done for DFID to achieve its goals of promoting gender equality, eradicating poverty, and realising human rights for all.

  4.  One World Action believes that a gap between policy and practice hampers the success of UK Government initiatives to promote gender equality in development co-operation. DFID's strong policies and commitments on gender mainstreaming fail to be put into practice in ways which make a real difference to the lives of the poorest women and men. One World Action believes there are three main areas that hamper effective policy implementation:

    —  lack of effective gender mainstreaming within DFID;

    —  presence of competing and contradictory policy agendas; and

    —  insufficient commitment in political will, resources, and awareness raising and training for gender mainstreaming.


  5.  As Sir John Vereker explained during the 1998 Inquiry, DFID has adopted an organisational strategy that mainstreams gender throughout the department's work, while continuing to focus some activities particularly on the issues and needs of women. This twin-track approach to gender mainstreaming has been advocated in other donor agencies and non-governmental organisations as the most effective strategy to integrate gender throughout an organisation. DFID's policy states that, "The purpose of DFID's strategy is to ensure that women's empowerment and gender equality are actively pursued in mainstream of all development activities" ("Target Strategy Paper: Poverty elimination and the empowerment of women," p. 28).

  6.  Making gender a cross-cutting theme carries the risk that gender concerns will become invisible, rather than integrated. In One World Action's evidence to the 1998 Inquiry, we argued that women's rights and gender equality were not high priority outside of the Social Development Department within DFID. Today, the evidence of effective gender mainstreaming in policy and practice outside of strict Social Development concerns is disappointing. DFID has strengthened the "gender-specific" part of its gender mainstreaming strategy, but has not made enough progress in mainstreaming gender throughout the organisation.


  Looking at a few DFID policies reveals a lack of gender mainstreaming in areas and policies that are not traditional "gender issues."


  7.  The White Paper on International Development, "Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor," makes only a cursory attempt at integrating gender and an analysis of inequality. A growing body of academic evidence and experience from NGOs indicates that the benefits of globalisation are not distributed equally between women and men. Trade liberalisation and macro-economic policies designed to secure the gains of globalisation do not benefit women and men equally because gender inequality is a cornerstone of these policies.

  8.  Women in some countries may indeed have greater access to jobs in factories due to foreign investment, and these jobs may create opportunities for women's empowerment in their families and communities. However, these jobs are often insecure, unskilled, badly paid, and unsafe. It is precisely because women are seen as second-class workers only good for these kinds of jobs that they have these opportunities. The White Paper presents globalisation as a process which empowers women, without recognising the foundations of gender inequality upon which it is based or the often ambiguous effects of globalisation on the lives of women.


  9.  Despite the statement in TSP: "Poverty eradication the empowerment of women" that over 70 per cent of the world's poor are women, the TSP: "Halving world poverty" makes little effort to integrate a gender perspective. The paper states that gender has been dealt with in the TSP on women's empowerment. This strategy creates precisely the conceptual problem that a twin-track gender mainstreaming approach seeks to avoid—of seeing gender as an isolated issue rather than a cross-cutting theme.

  10.  The paper states that, "It is only by understanding the characteristics of poor people, and the patterns of growth within the economy, that that an effective poverty reduction strategy can be developed" (p. 10). Yet throughout the paper, the poor are treated largely as an undifferentiated group. The paper mentions that race, caste, and social exclusion are determinants in poverty, but there is no real awareness that gender discrimination, discrimination on the basis of race or caste, and poverty go hand in hand.

  11.  The paper acknowledges that there may be some "adjustment costs" as governments implement programmes aimed at macro-economic stability. There is no analysis of the gender impact of such programmes, and no recognition that adjustment costs due to economic growth policies are often borne disproportionately by women.

  12.  Poor people often face constraints to participating in a growing economy, and the paper suggests that "Public policy should prepare poor people, and provide physical infrastructure, to enable them to meet new challenges and seize new opportunities" (p. 21). These recommendations do not recognise that for many women, gender inequality and discrimination prevent them from formal economic participation, rather than a lack of preparation or infrastructure. A meaningful gender perspective was not integrated into the Target Strategy Paper on "Halving world poverty by 2015." This is disturbing, given the proportion of women among the world's poor and DFID's commitment to mainstream a gender perspective in all its work.

  13.  The policy statements on "Making Globalisation Work of the poor" and "Halving world poverty" are key to DFID's work, but neither makes a real attempt to mainstream a gender analysis. The result is the marginalisation of gender issues. Policies that do not mainstream a gender perspective do not see the whole picture and, consequently, face huge challenges for successful implementation.


  14.  DFID's policy commitments on gender equality show their real value in the extent to which they are put into practice. There has been no comprehensive review of DFID's progress in carrying forward the recommendations of the 1998 Inquiry on Women and Development. DFID is achieving progress in its programmes on gender equality, but these successes are often in isolated, women-specific projects, rather than in mainstream development activities. Projects focused on Social Development priorities, such as health and education, tend to mainstream gender effectively, whereas as other DFID departments, such as Infrastructure, Rural Livelihoods, Economics, and Engineering show less progress in mainstreaming gender. The challenge for DFID is to scale-up from isolated successes in gender mainstreaming to achieving greater awareness of gender in its large-scale development co-operation activities. From conversations with some DFID staff in some delegations, this awareness-raising work may need to start with informing staff of DFID's policy statements on gender equality.

Competing and contradictory policy agendas

  DFID's ability to implement its own policies on gender is hampered by competing and contradictory policy agendas, both within the UK government and internationally.

UK Government

  15.  Despite statements that DFID is improving co-operation with other ministries, there is little evidence that government policy and practice in such areas as trade, finance, foreign policy, agriculture and environment are actively supporting the objectives of development co-operation. Other Departments' agendas usually take precedence over the goals of eliminating poverty and promoting gender equality and human rights.

  16.  The World Conference against Racism (WCAR), held in Durban in 2001, provides one example of competing agendas. The WCAR could have been a significant opportunity for governments to take a strong stand against racism and related intolerance. The UK government, through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, argued strongly at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2001 that it was essential to recognise the connections between gender inequality and racism, and that an analysis of multiple forms of discrimination was key. Despite this apparent political commitment to a strong statement from the WCAR, the UK obstructed language on the connections between slavery, colonialism, and racism and did not mount significant pressure to prevent the USA from leaving the Conference. The FCO's position at WCAR undermines the commitment of the UK government to human rights and equality.

International Arena

  17.  Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) have become the focus of donor and developing country attention over the last year. From a gender perspective, the PRSP agenda presents two key opportunities—one, that the policies of structural adjustment may change, for example, in ways that put increased emphasis on investing in basic services and sustainable economic development, and, two, that poor people would have the opportunity to voice their views on policies that affect their lives.

  18.  Although the PRSP process is quite new, the evidence so far suggests that neither of these opportunities has materialised. The macro-economic policies proposed by the national governments tend to look quite similar to the World Bank's macro-economic policy recommendations, and few civil society organisations have effectively participated in the policy-making process.

  19.  The unrealised potential of the PRSP agenda particularly affects women. Given the structural adjustment programmes have been strongly demonstrated to negatively affect women, it is worrying that "new" national policies seem to be very similar. Secondly, the consultation process usually excludes the poorest communities, and, almost always excludes poor women because they lack training to participate in economic discussions, they lack time to go to meetings on national economic policy, they may lack confidence to engage with the debate, and their voices may drowned out by more dominant views. So far, PRSPs do not appear to be promoting gender equality and equity.

  20.  PRSPs marginalise women's needs and interests, yet DFID has been asked to integrated its work into the PRSP framework. So, despite DFID's policy statements on gender, it is being asked to work in a framework that does not promote gender equality and women's human rights. Thus, the international arena creates contradictions for DFID in terms of its own policy commitments on gender equality and human rights.


  21.  Accountability and political will:

    —  High-level commitment and responsibility is essential to an effective gender mainstreaming strategy, as stated in the OECD-DAC Guidelines: "Management and staff must be held accountable for policy implementation. When gender equality and women's empowerment is taken seriously at the management level significant progress can be made" (DAC Guidelines for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development Co-operation, 1998).

    —  DFID should consider the use of incentives to encourage staff to mainstream gender in their work, for example, by including gender-sensitivity in recruitment and recognising achievement in mainstreaming gender in staff appraisal procedures.

  22.  Financial resources:

    —  A clear timetable for achieving 0.7 per cent GPD for development co-operation is essential.

    —  It is vital to increase spending in gender-sensitive mainstream development activities, particularly in the areas of basic social services, sustainable economic development, and strengthening local and national democracy, alongside the smaller innovative women-specific projects.

    —  An annual gender budgeting exercise of DFID's development co-operation spending would provide useful information and encourage policy-making that promotes gender equality and equity.

  23.  Human resources:

    —  It is vital that each delegation has sufficient staffing with gender expertise.

  24.  Capacity building:

    —  There is evidence that DFID staff require practical advice and training on what mainstreaming gender means in practice. Such training should include gender awareness training (about attitudes and sensitivities regarding gender relations) and gender planning training (the more technical gender analysis of programme design and implementation). Training should be compulsory, periodic, and aimed at staff at all levels, especially management and senior officials. It should be appropriate to the responsibilities of the individuals being trained.

  25.  International Development Committee—follow-up inquiry:

    —  A follow-up Inquiry by the International Development Committee on Women and Development to assess progress on the Recommendations of its 1998 Inquiry would be timely and valuable.

One World Action

June 2002

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