Documents considered by the Committee on 21 July 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


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

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny; further information provided and requested; drawn to the attention of the International Development and Women and Equalities Committees
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

47.1 Gender equality is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that, in 2000, the UN set itself to achieve, most by 2015.[ 351]

47.2 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: gender equality issues in 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.

47.3 This was followed by the EU 2010-2015 GAP (Plan of Action on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development). 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 annually, to the deadlines agreed for each indicator for which they are responsible.

47.4 In March, the previous Committee found that the general thrust of this report — the third thus far on the key issue of implementation — was all too familiar: slow progress in some countries, sectors or Member States, which reflected 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. The story was thus of the Commission/European External Action Service (EEAS) "talking the talk", but failing to "walk the walk". Looking ahead to the post-2015 development agenda, a successor GAP should indeed focus on results. But, before then, the Commission and EEAS needed to focus on implementation of what had been agreed thus far. Given the timing, the Council Conclusions on this report would assume a particular importance. The then Minister was accordingly asked to provide a copy in due course, and her (or her successor's) assessment of how they took the vital issue of GEWE (Gender Equality and Women Empowerment) forward in the right way, and with genuine commitment.

47.5 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development's (Baroness Verma) assessment is set out below (see "Background"). Overall, she says that they reflect all of the UK's broad priorities for the EU's work on Gender Equality. Development Commissioner Mimica has stressed his personal commitment to the fight against gender-based violence, and the promotion of human rights, and committed to produce an "institutional shift" in the Commission's approach to gender.

47.6 The Minister professes herself pleased that the Conclusions note the concern of Member States on the slow progress in the implementation of the current GAP, and characterises "the strong emphasis on results" as "a useful impetus", as well as "the need for sufficient resources to support implementation of the next GAP".

47.7 We reproduce the key paragraphs of the (eight pages of) Council Conclusions at the Annex to this chapter of our Report. We note in particular that the Council "urges the Commission to implement the report's recommendations" and "looks forward to a final report on the implementation of the current GAP". So do we, and expect a full assessment from the Minister of the extent to which the Council's exhortations have been taken on board, and what further action she then judges to be necessary.

47.8 The Council Conclusions also refer to a report on the Evaluation of the EU Support to Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Partner Countries for the period 2007-2013, with regard to which the Council "urges the Commission and the EEAS to implement its main recommendations, notably in the successor to the current GAP, starting with a fully-fledged management response", and expresses its concern "with the performance of most EU Delegations which are not sufficiently taking gender equality into consideration". We are not aware of this Report, and ask the Minister to clarify whether or not it should have been submitted for scrutiny, and to let us know what those recommendations are.

47.9 The Minister says that she will continue to press for the commitments in the Council Conclusions to be reflected in the successor to the current GAP, which she says will be "presented" to the October "Development" Foreign Affairs Council. We presume that this implies some form of preliminary consideration, and not that concrete proposals are to be adopted prior to any form of parliamentary scrutiny. If we are mistaken, then we ask the Minister to write to us immediately to explain why and how this has come to pass.

47.10 In the meantime, we are drawing the Minister's response to the attention of the House because of the importance of the subject matter.

47.11 For the same reasons, we also draw these developments to the attention of the International Development and Women and Equalities Committees.

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

47.12 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 nine 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.

47.13 In January 2014, 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. However, the report's conclusion that, overall, progress was "extremely slow" between July 2012 and June 2013, was very disappointing. Though 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, 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".

The 2014 GAP implementation annual report

47.14 The report covers the period July 2013-June 2014. It found that "overall, this report shows some progress in areas such as political dialogue, coordination, partnerships and on the post-2015 agenda". But, disappointingly, "progress remained very slow on issues such as gender analysis, monitoring (indicators) and financial tracking". The authors said 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 had "clear and strong commitments on GEWE[ 352]"; 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 said:

"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."

47.15 When the report was submitted for scrutiny in February, the then Minister (Baroness Northover) underlined 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 had been a key member of the EU Gender Experts Core Group since its inception, and was a member of the Task Force to guide the drafting of a new "robust and ambitious" successor to the GAP.

47.16 In the meantime, the then Minister said that meeting the targets set out in the current GAP and in its successor would 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 needed to be taken "both in Brussels and in EU Delegations to improve coordination and commitment to delivering results on gender". The Minister wanted to see "faster and deeper progress than has been evident so far" and had "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".

47.17 The then Minister was 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 46.24-46.27 below for the Minister's detailed comments).

The previous Committee's assessment

47.18 Our predecessors recalled that the general thrust of the report was all too familiar: slow progress in some countries, sectors or Member States, which reflected 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 — reasons why they had recommended a European Committee debate on the 2013 report.[ 353]

47.19 This 2014 GAP report assumed a particular importance because, on the post-2015 agenda — which they consider elsewhere in their previous Report[ 354] — the position of the Union gives a strong emphasis to gender equality, both as an objective in itself and as a crosscutting issue; as was 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".

47.20 The Council Conclusions on this 2014 GAP report would likewise assume a particular importance. The story thus far was 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 needed to focus on implementation of what had been agreed thus far. Top level leadership was vital. This essential element should be reflected in the Council Conclusions. The then Minister was accordingly to provide a copy in due course, and her (or her successor's) assessment of how they took the vital issue of GEWE forward in the right way, and with genuine commitment.

47.21 In the meantime, the report was cleared from scrutiny.

47.22 These developments were also drawn to the attention of the International Development Committee.[ 355]

The Minister's letter of 11 June 2015

47.23 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development (Baroness Verma) encloses a copy of the Council Conclusions,[ 356] whose content (she says) the UK influenced "through both official and Ministerial channels". As a result, the Conclusions reflect "all of the UK's broad priorities for the EU's work on Gender Equality, including more concrete commitments regarding effective implementation of the next GAP".

47.24 In particular, the Minister says, the UK managed to insert language on the following into the Conclusions:

·  "Women's and girls' rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will be at the core of the post-2015 agenda, both as a stand-alone goal and as a cross-cutting issue, as well as a target and indicator of all the Sustainable Development Goals.

·  "Women's and girls' rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as a policy priority for all EU's external action as well as its development cooperation, should be strengthened and coherent in all areas without exception.

·  "The importance of strategic monitoring, evaluation and follow-up and the need to clarify and strengthen reporting, including statistics, accountability arrangements and management responses to achieve results. In particular, defining clear targets and meaningful indicators, measured by data disaggregated by sex, age and other factors, as well as to improve tracking of budgetary allocations and expenditures and results measurement are priorities to ensure the Gender Action Plan is properly implemented.

·  "The importance of securing sufficient financial and human resources in order to fully deliver on the EU's commitments."

47.25 The Minister also says:

"The Council Conclusions reaffirm the commitment of the EU and its Member States to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls. During a discussion at the Development Foreign Affairs Council in May, Development Commissioner Mimica stressed his personal commitment to the fight against gender-based violence, and the promotion of human rights, and committed to produce an 'institutional shift' in the Commission's approach to gender. The Conclusions also reflect UK work with other Member States, including France, to secure impetus on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, Female Genital Mutilation and Child and Early Forced Marriage."

47.26 On the question of Implementation, the Minister says:

"We are pleased that the Conclusions note the concern of Member States on the slow progress in the implementation of the current GAP, including on issues such as gender analysis, statistics, monitoring, financial tracking, delivery and impact. We believe that the strong emphasis on results is a useful impetus as well as the need for sufficient resources to support implementation of the next GAP."

47.27 Looking ahead, the Minister says:

"We shall continue to press for these commitments to be reflected in the successor to the current GAP, which we now expect will be presented to the Development Foreign Affairs Council in October."

Previous Committee Reports

Thirty-seventh Report HC 219-xxxvi (2014-15), chapter 27 (18 March 2015); also see (35635), 17432/13: Twenty-ninth Report HC 83-xxvi (2013-14), chapter 1 (8 January 2014).

Annex: extract from the 20 May 2015 Council Conclusions on Gender in Development

"21. The Council takes note of the fourth report on the implementation of the EU Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development 2010-2015, covering the period from July 2013 to June 2014. The Council welcomes the progress being made in areas such as political dialogue, coordination, partnerships and the strong EU position on the post- 2015 agenda. However, the Council expresses concern with regard to the very slow and incomplete implementation of the Action Plan and lack of progress on issues such as gender analysis, statistics, monitoring, financial tracking, delivery and impact. The Council urges the Commission to implement the report's recommendations and looks forward to a final report on the implementation of the current GAP.

"22. The Council also welcomes the report on the Evaluation of the EU Support to Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Partner Countries for the period 2007-2013. The Council takes note of the findings and conclusions of the report and urges the Commission and the EEAS to implement its main recommendations, notably in the successor to the current GAP, starting with a fully-fledged management response. The Council is concerned with the performance of most EU Delegations which are not sufficiently taking gender equality into consideration, for example by not implementing compulsory gender equality assessments in Results Oriented Monitoring.

"23. The Council calls for revitalised commitment and leadership from the Commission and the EEAS on the EU's ambition for achieving gender equality and women's and girls' empowerment. The Council underlines the need to make gender a priority, encourage best practices, strengthen accountability and transparency, and ensure all programming decisions are evidence based and linked to results. In particular, the Council calls on the Commission and EEAS to take more significant action to strengthen the role and responsibility of EU Delegations and to prioritise and invest in high quality gender analysis as the basis for country level strategies, programming and policy and political dialogue.

"24. The Council underlines the importance of strategic monitoring, evaluation and follow-up and the need to clarify and strengthen reporting, including statistics, accountability arrangements and management responses to achieve results. In particular, the Council stresses the need to define clear targets and meaningful indicators, measured by data disaggregated by sex, age and other factors, as well as to improve tracking of budgetary allocations and expenditures and results measurement. In doing so, close and consistent linkages should be sought with the post-2015 agenda and the new EU International Cooperation and Development Results Framework. The Council stresses that more emphasis must be given to gender in the EU Results Framework and calls on the Commission to report against sex and age disaggregated indicators.

"25. The Council calls for an enhanced and more strategic and human rights based approach, containing key transformative priorities for tackling gender inequality and addressing existing gaps for gender equality and the empowerment and full realisation of fundamental freedoms and human rights of all women and girls. The Council looks forward to an ambitious and robust successor to the current GAP, covering the period from 2016 to 2020. The Council stresses the need to build upon the progress of the current GAP, while keeping its three-pronged approach, apply lessons learned and fully address remaining shortfalls and challenges, as well as to focus on results. The Council calls on the Commission to ensure that the successor to the current GAP reflects all of the EU's external action. The Council welcomes and further encourages the inclusive approach being adopted by the EU and its Member States, and looks forward to the ongoing work being carried out by the Taskforce in view of preparing the new GAP.

"26. The Council calls on the Commission to secure sufficient financial and human resources in order to fully deliver on the EU's commitments on women's rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The Council further reiterates the need to transform institutional cultures and to strengthen political leadership and increase capacity, coordination, coherence, complementarity and accountability in order for the EU and its Member States to lead by example."


351   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 Women. Back

352   Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment. Back

353   For the full record of the debate, see Gen Co Deb, European Committee B, 6 March 2014, cols. 3-24. Back

354   See (36070), 10412/14: Commission Communication: A Global Partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015, at chapter 27 of that Report. Now also see our further Report on this Commission Communication at chapter 2 of this Report. Back

355   Thirty-seventh Report HC 219-xxxvi (2014-15), chapter 27 (18 March 2015). Back

356   See Council Conclusions dated 20 May 2015 on Gender in Development. Back


 
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