Documents considered by the Committee on 18 March 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


27 Gender equality and women's empowerment in development 2010-15

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the International Development Committee
Document detailsCommission Staff Working Document on implementation of the EU Plan of Action on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development 2010-2015
Legal base
DepartmentInternational Development
Document numbers(36645), 5732/15, SWD(15) 11

Summary and Committee's conclusions

27.1 The antecedents of this report go back to a 2007 Commission Communication, the overarching aim of which was to promote progress in achieving: equal rights (political, civil, economic, employment, social and cultural) for women and men, girls and boys; equal access to, and control over, resources for women and men; and equal opportunities to achieve political and economic influence for women and men. The strategy envisaged a twin-tracked approach: increasing the efficiency of gender mainstreaming and specific actions for women's empowerment in partner countries. Priorities included ensuring that gender equality issues formed part of the regular political dialogue with partner countries; integrating gender equality analysis and objectives into country strategies and indicators for measuring performance and impact; and building institutional capacity both within the EU and partner countries. The strategy also noted the need to ensure that gender equality issues were adequately addressed in budget support arrangements.

27.2 This was followed by the EU 2010-2015 Plan of Action on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development (GAP). The GAP contains nine objectives, 37 actions and 53 indicators which the European Commission, the European External Action Services (EEAS) and the 117 EU Delegations that have external cooperation activities EU Delegations, and EU Member States, are committed to implement and to report upon annually, to the deadlines agreed for each indicator for which they are responsible.

27.3 The GAP annual report covers the period July 2013-June 2014 and finds that "overall, this report shows some progress in areas such as political dialogue, coordination, partnerships and on the post-2015 agenda. Disappointingly progress remains very slow on issues such as gender analysis, monitoring (indicators) and financial tracking". The authors say that reports from EU Delegations "clarify that where change is really occurring, it's because of management and political leadership at the level of Delegation and Headquarters' middle- and top-management". The EU has "clear and strong commitments on GEWE[65]"; however slow progress on the GAP in some countries, sectors or Member States "may reflect a lack of ownership and commitment at the middle management level, combined with a lack of understanding about its implications and know-how on its implementation". Thus, the Commission says:

"Setting out a clear vision for GEWE and what is sought to be achieved concretely (e.g. through the results framework, post 2015 agenda, sector programmes, political dialogue) might help improve the incentives, understanding and leadership needed for institutional change in the longer term. The new GAP may wish to consider a narrative that clearly states this and consider high level leadership to raise its profile."

27.4 The Minister (Baroness Northover) underlines the Government's commitment to putting girls and women at the centre of international development, it being one of the six priorities specified in the 2011-2015 Department for International Development's (DFID) Business Plan. The UK has been a key member of the EU Gender Experts Core Group since its inception, and is a member of the Task Force to guide the drafting of a new "robust and ambitious" successor to the GAP.

27.5 In the meantime, the Minister says that meeting the targets set out in the current GAP and in its successor will require "stronger, more visible support from EU senior management, improved technical capacity, systematic use of robust gender analysis and gender-disaggregated data, a stronger focus on results, and greater and more consistent engagement with women and girls (beneficiaries) at all stages of the programming cycle". Action needs to be taken "both in Brussels and in EU Delegations to improve coordination and commitment to delivering results on gender". The Minister wants to see "faster and deeper progress than has been evident so far" and has "made this clear to the Commission including through Ministerial and senior DFID staff visits to Brussels over the last three months, as well as through active participation in the drafting of the successor to the GAP".

27.6 The Minister is accordingly pleased that:

"both the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President (HRVP) of the European Commission (Federica Mogherini) and the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development (Neven Mimica) have indicated that they will make gender a top priority for their terms in office. This top level leadership is something the UK pushed hard for in our early interactions with the new Commission. We will continue to build on this through further Ministerial engagement, as well as technical inputs via the Task Force and bilateral engagement with Commission officials" (see paragraphs 27.26 below for the Minister's detailed comments).

27.7 As we recall in the "Background" section of our Report, the general thrust of the report is all too familiar: slow progress in some countries, sectors or Member States, which reflects a lack of ownership and commitment at the middle management level, combined with a lack of understanding about its implications and know-how on its implementation. That is why we recommended a European Committee debate when we received the 2013 GAP report.

27.8 This 2014 GAP report assumes a particular importance because the position of the Union on the post-2015 agenda — which we consider elsewhere in this Report[66] — gives a strong emphasis to gender equality as an objective in itself and as a crosscutting issue. This is recognised in the Council Conclusions of last May on the 2013 GAP report, which called upon the EU and its Member States to "develop an ambitious and robust successor to the current GAP, focused on results and taking into account the post 2015 agenda".

27.9 The Council Conclusions on this 2014 GAP report that will be adopted later this year, presumably at the late-May "development" Foreign Affairs Council, likewise assume a particular importance. The story thus far is of the Commission/European External Action Service (EEAS) "talking the talk", but failing to "walk the walk". It would be surprising if the new HR and Development Commissioner did not make gender a top priority; it was no doubt such with their predecessors. A successor GAP should indeed focus on results. But before then the Commission and EEAS need to focus on implementation of what has been agreed thus far. We agree that top level leadership is vital. We expect to see this sine qua non reflected in the Council Conclusions. We accordingly ask the Minister to provide the Committee with a copy of them in due course, and her (or her successor's) assessment of how they take the vital issue of GEWE forward in the right way and with genuine commitment.

27.10 In the meantime, we now clear this report from scrutiny.

27.11 We also draw this chapter of our Report to the attention of the International Development Committee.

Full details of the documents: Commission Staff Working Document: 2014 Report on the Implementation of the EU Plan of Action on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development 2010-2015: (36645), 5732/15, SWD(15) 11.

Background

27.12 Gender equality is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that, in 2000, the UN set itself to achieve, most by 2015 — the others being to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; develop a partnership for development — each with associated targets and benchmarks to measure progress.[67]

27.13 Adopted by the Council in 2010, the GAP contains nine objectives, 37 actions and 53 indicators. All are time bound. European Commission services and the European External Action Services (EEAS) at Headquarters and Delegations level, as well as EU Member States, are all committed to its implementation and to report progress annually. Indicators are selected each year for reporting, their selection depends on factors such as their target date for completion. The indicators are all expected to track actions that in turn feed into the 9 objectives deemed necessary to strengthen the capacity of the European Union and EU Member States to improve gender equality mainstreaming in and contribute to women's empowerment through development cooperation. The indicators deal with those areas considered essential ingredients of effective mainstreaming, including: political dialogue, programme and project design and implementation, measurement, peace and security etc.

27.14 A year ago, when submitting the third of these GAP annual reports for scrutiny, the then Minister (Lynne Featherstone) was pleased that, as in previous years, the report highlighted not only the achievements made in promoting gender equality through development cooperation, but also the persisting challenges and areas where more work needed to be done. She described the report's conclusion that, overall, progress was "extremely slow" between July 2012 and June 2013 as very disappointing. Only nine of 45 EU Delegations achieved the target of 75% of all new project proposals scoring G-1 or G-2 on the OECD Gender Equality Policy Marker scale (which are assigned to projects that include gender equality as a "principal" or "significant" objective, respectively). The main tools for achieving and monitoring gender mainstreaming were not universally implemented by staff in EU Delegations, despite being compulsory; this largely stemmed from a lack of understanding of gender issues amongst EU Delegation staff. On the positive side, the report noted that gender equality were becoming a more established issue for dialogue with host governments and civil society. Twelve EU Delegations had produced Gender Country Profiles, which assessed the status of gender equality in a partner country as a baseline to inform programming, and 13 others planned to do so. Gender equality was being included in the assessment and monitoring of programmes in an increasing number of sectors. The Minister also noted that the EU institutions and a number of Member States remained highly committed to prioritising gender equality in global negotiations, including as part of the post 2015 development agenda: but also said that to "ensure the credibility of the EU's position in these negotiations", it was "very important that the EU delivers on its own commitments to integrate gender equality in its development programmes".

27.15 The Minister went on to underline the Government's commitment to putting girls and women at the centre of international development (one of the six priorities in the DFID Business Plan 2011-2015) and noted that the UK had lobbied hard for the Commission to create its GAP and been a key member of the EU Gender Experts Core Group. Nonetheless, DFID's 2011Multilateral Aid Review (MAR) identified the need to "strengthen gender mainstreaming in practice and measurement of impact of gender work" as a reform priority for the European Commission. She then said:

"Our recent update to the MAR, published in December 2013,[68] finds that, while around 50% of the GAP targets have been met, 'more attention is needed, particularly by senior management'. In our follow-up to this assessment, we will continue to press the EU to step up to the mark and meet the targets set in the GAP. This will require stronger, more visible support from EU senior management, and improved technical capacity at a working level, particularly producing and using gender-disaggregated data. Action needs to be taken both in Brussels and in EU Delegations to improve coordination and commitment to delivering results on gender. We want to see faster and deeper progress than has been evident so far, and we have made this clear to the Commission including through senior DFID staff visits to Brussels over the last three months. In particular, we will work with the EU institutions to strengthen action on the issue of violence against women and girls, an area in which the UK is a key player, including through my role as International Violence Against Women Champion."

Our assessment

27.16 Three years on, this was, we felt, an unimpressive picture: unsurprisingly, a mid-term review was nowhere to be seen. We therefore recommended that, in order for the Minister's hand to be strengthened, the Commission/EEAS performance thus far should be debated in European Committee.[69] That debate took place on 6 March 2014, at the conclusion of which the European Committee resolved thus:

"That the Committee takes note of European Union Document No. 17432/13, Commission Staff Working Paper: 2013 Report on the Implementation of the EU Plan of Action on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development 2010-2015; welcomes the document as a frank assessment of the EU's implementation of its Action Plan; and supports the Government's efforts in encouraging the European Commission to address the weaknesses identified in the Report in order to ensure further integration of gender equality in EU development assistance."[70]

The 2014 GAP implementation report

27.17 This report covers the period July 2013 to June 2014, and assesses progress against those indicators due to be achieved in this period and/or whose progress was slow in previous periods. It is informed by 78 EU Delegation Reports, representing 82 countries, by 20 Member States Headquarter level reports and by contributions from Commission services and the EEAS.

27.18 The Commission says:

"Overall, this report shows some progress in areas such political dialogue, coordination, partnerships and on the post 2015 agenda. Disappointingly progress remains very slow on issues such as gender analysis, monitoring (indicators) and financial tracking."

27.19 The report summarises what the Commission sees as 2013-14's achievements and challenges, and then looks at the prospects for a successor thus:

"Acknowledging its limitations, the GAP remains an important tool to promote and track gender mainstreaming. A successor to the GAP has been requested by the Foreign Affairs Council in its Conclusions on the 2013 Report on the Implementation of the EU Plan of Action on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment 2010-15 (adopted in May 2014).[71] The Council calls upon the EU and its Member States to 'develop an ambitious and robust successor to the current GAP, focused on results and taking into account the post 2015 agenda'."

27.20 This fourth report, the Commission says, "comes at an important time in the process of developing a new instrument to improve gender equality and mainstreaming across EU development cooperation". Its findings, combined with previous ones and the ongoing evaluation, "have raised a number of interesting and important issues to be considered in designing a new instrument". The GAP successor could "potentially start on a sounder and more robust footing than its predecessor". Reports from EU Delegations "clarify that where change is really occurring, it's because of management and political leadership at the level of Delegation and Headquarters' middle- and top-management". The EU has "clear and strong commitments on GEWE"; however slow progress on the GAP in some countries, sectors or Member States "may reflect a lack of ownership and commitment at the middle management level, combined with a lack of understanding about its implications and know-how on its implementation". Thus, the Commission says:

"Setting out a clear vision for GEWE and what is sought to be achieved concretely (e.g. through the results framework, post 2015 agenda, sector programmes, political dialogue) might help improve the incentives, understanding and leadership needed for institutional change in the longer term. The new GAP may wish to consider a narrative that clearly states this and consider high level leadership to raise its profile."

27.21 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 25 February 2015, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development (Baroness Northover) welcomes the publication of this fourth report and professes herself pleased that, as in previous years, the report highlights not only the achievements made in promoting gender equality through development cooperation, but also the areas where more work needs to be done.

The Government's view

27.22 The Minister comments as follows:

"It is clear from the fourth report that there needs to be significant improvement in the rate of implementation of GAP priorities and more consistent performance across all of the EU institutions. There are a number of areas where the UK would like to see progress: firstly, EU Delegations must ensure that 80% of all annual reviews[72] include gender analysis — a target under the GAP; secondly, while the number of EU Delegations with a gender country profile has increased from 12 in 2013 to 22, it is imperative that all EU Delegations complete a gender country profile — a requirement under the current GAP."

27.23 She goes on to say that the Government believes that the challenges faced by women and girls should be addressed in all specific programming, including the new National Indicative Programmes and Multiannual Indicative Programmes, and that they should be underpinned by systematic and robust gender analysis:

"We believe that the EU must meet the targets it has set itself, including ensuring that 75% of all new project proposals scoring G-2 or G-1 on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Gender Equality Policy Marker (G-Marker) scale (which are assigned to projects that include gender equality as a 'principal' or 'significant' objective, respectively); this will require an improvement on current performance.[73] To this end, staff in EU Delegations should ensure that the main tools for achieving gender mainstreaming (the Gender Screening Checklist for appraising the gender-sensitivity of projects; and gender equality assessments in Results Oriented Monitoring (ROM)) are universally implemented."

27.24 The Minister also highlights the fact that the report notes that the position of the Union on the post-2015 agenda gives a strong emphasis to gender equality as an objective in itself and as a crosscutting issue:

"This is welcome given the United Kingdom's strong pressure for gender equality to be at the heart of the post-2015 framework. To ensure the credibility of the EU's position in these negotiations, it is very important that the EU delivers on its own commitments to integrate gender equality across all of its instruments, programmes and projects."

27.25 On the question of the call in the May 2014 Council Conclusions for the EU and its Member States to "develop an ambitious and robust successor to the current GAP, focused on results and taking into account the post-2015 agenda", the Minister says:

"It identifies the need for greater political leadership, potentially including a focus around sectors where the EC is well placed to implement programmes that can have transformational effects on gender, such as violence against women and girls, female genital mutilation, and/or girls' education. The report emphasises the need for 'strong and robust' analysis as a prerequisite for good programming that can really deliver results. EU Delegations have reiterated that whilst compliance at design stage is important, it is not enough and must go alongside good monitoring and evaluation. Therefore the GAP must not be seen in isolation, but be completed alongside other instruments such as the EC results framework, National Indicative Programmes (NIPs) and Multiannual Indicative Programmes (MIPs)".

27.26 The Minister continues her comments as follows:

"The UK Government is committed to putting girls and women at the centre of international development, and has made this one of the six priorities specified in the Department for International Development's (DFID) Business Plan 2011-2015. We believe that investing in girls and women has a transformative impact on growth, poverty reduction and the MDGs. The UK lobbied hard for the Commission to create its GAP in 2010 and DFID has been a key member of the EU Gender Experts Core Group since its inception. Moreover the UK has successfully lobbied for the creation of a Task Force, including member states, to guide the drafting of a new 'robust and ambitious' successor to the GAP. The UK sits on this Task Force, and plays an active role in influencing its direction.

"The update to the Multilateral Aid Review (MAR), published in December 2013, found that, while around 50% of the GAP targets have been met, 'more attention is needed, particularly by [Commission and EEAS] senior management'. In our follow-up to this assessment, we will continue to press the EU to ensure that it meets the targets set out in the current GAP and in its successor. This will require stronger, more visible support from EU senior management, improved technical capacity, systematic use of robust gender analysis and gender-disaggregated data, a stronger focus on results, and greater and more consistent engagement with women and girls (beneficiaries) at all stages of the programming cycle. Action needs to be taken both in Brussels and in EU Delegations to improve coordination and commitment to delivering results on gender.

"We want to see faster and deeper progress than has been evident so far, and we have made this clear to the Commission including through Ministerial and senior DFID staff visits to Brussels over the last three months, as well as through active participation in the drafting of the successor to the GAP. We are pleased that both the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President (HRVP) of the European Commission (Federica Mogherini) and the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development (Neven Mimica) have indicated that they will make gender a top priority for their terms in office. This top level leadership is something the UK pushed hard for in our early interactions with the new Commission. We will continue to build on this through further Ministerial engagement, as well as technical inputs via the Task Force and bilateral engagement with Commission officials.

"GAP reporting covers progress by Member States as well as in the EU institutions. 20 Member States provided information for the current report, including the UK. DFID's Strategic Vision for Girls and Women aims to unlock the potential of girls and women, to stop poverty before it starts. It empowers girls and women, enabling them to have voice, choice and control. Achieving this requires an enabling environment of strong, open and inclusive economies, societies and political institutions. This includes addressing the social norms and relationships that underpin how girls and women are valued in society, and which influence the opportunities they can seize. Progress against four interlinked 'game-changing' outcomes is critical: (i) girls' completion of primary and secondary education; (ii) economic empowerment; (iii) ability to live free from violence; and (iv) universal sexual and reproductive health and rights".

27.27 Finally, the Minister says that discussions on the report in the Council working group on development (CODEV) are on-going, and that Council Conclusions will likely be drafted in March 2015, for subsequent adoption by the Council.

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see (35635), 17432/13, SWD(13) 509: Twenty-ninth Report HC 83-xxvi (2013-14), chapter 1 (8 January 2014).


65   Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment. Back

66   See (36644), 5902/15: Commission Communication: A Global Partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015, at chapter 12 of this Report. Back

67   For a full discussion of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, see the April 2003 UN Millennium Project Background Paper of the Task Force on Education and Gender Equality Promises to Keep: Achieving Gender Equality and the Empowerment of WomenBack

68   Multilateral Aid Review Update 2013  Back

69   See (35635), 17432/13: Twenty-ninth Report HC 83-xxvi (2013-14), chapter 1 (8 January 2014). Back

70   Gen Co Deb, European Committee B, 6 March 2015, cols. 3-24. Back

71   See full Council Conclusions. Back

72   The review of gender is to be included in the annual reviews carried out by EU Delegations, including, but not limited to, the Joint Annual Report, in the European Neighbourhood Policy Progress Reports, in the Human Rights report, in Mid-Term reviews, evaluations of cooperation, sectorial reviews (the Minister's footnote). Back

73   According to the 2014 OECD DAC statistics, only 28% of new project proposals have at least G-1 (the Minister's footnote). Back


 
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