International: New report on advocacy for development cooperation and gender
The report is based on national reports on Official Development Aid (ODA) issued by IGPN member organisations. It assesses the situation in each respective country and gives recommendations for stakeholders. The report looks atthe specific situation for the four ´regions´:Central Asia, Eastern and Southeastern Europe and the Caucasus, new EU Member States and pre-accession states. But it also stresses common problems, which, according to IGPN coordinator Kristina Kosatíková, are a result of " ... the existing gap between the formal political and legal commitments to gender equality and its implementation. There are scarcely any concrete examples in this region where gender equality is, in practice, well embedded in development cooperation. To advocate for a change for gender equality and women's empowerment as crucial prerequisites to development IGPN provides concrete recommendations to the national governments and to the European institutions."
In Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Tajikistanand Uzbekistan) IGPN researched the Regional Strategy Paper (RSP), the EC´s main cooperation tool in this area, and the way it is translated into concrete projects. Discussions with the EC Delegations in Kazakhstanand Tajikistanrevealed that gender equality exists within the EU´s assistance agenda, but no detailed information could be provided concerning the implementation or the review of the general policies in the RSP. The commitment to gender equality declared by EU officials and national governments seems to lack specific measures for implementation. CSOs do not have financial support or opportunities for active involvement. The situation is even more alarming when acknowledging the serious gender inequality problems these countries are facing: women´s vulnerability to poverty, especially in the context of political and economical transition; discrimination in the labour market; revival of traditional stereotypes; domestic violence; and humiliating and dangerous practices as part of the re-Islamisation process (particularly in Uzbekistan, where polygamy, arranged marriages and virginity controls are still practised).
Eastern and Southeastern Europe and the Caucasus
IGPN evaluated the specific Country Strategy Papers (CSP), the EC´s main programming tools for development cooperation, for the Eastern and Southeastern European countries and the Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russiaand Ukraine). The evaluation revealed that, although gender equality is mentioned as a cross-cutting issue, the documents prove to be rather blind in terms of gender concerns. This is reflected in concrete measures for gender mainstreaming and women´s empowerment. NGOs working on gender equality in Armeniaare rather dissociated from the EC´s support and have no information on the EC Delegation´s commitment to gender equality. In Azerbaijan, where women´s rights are brusquely violated but lack a specific governmental institution to deal with gender concerns, NGOs are beginning to take advantage of the EC´s call for proposals, though in a context that requires more transparency and fairness. Lack of political will is the main impediment to gender justice implementation in Georgia.
EC Pre-accession Assistance
The EU candidate and potential candidate countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Serbia) are currently undergoing political and socioeconomic transitions in their advancement towards EU standards and prerequisites. An analysis revealed that significant attention has recently been given to developing legal and institutional frameworks for gender equality. Yet EU pre-accession assistance is largely focused on promoting human rights in general, lacking specific instruments for advancing gender mainstreaming and women´s empowerment in particular. The situation in Montenegro, as described by Maja Kovacevic, is not unique: "Although foreign support, including the EC´s pre-accession assistance, has been flowing into the country to help with political and socioeconomic reconstruction, gender equality has been overshadowed by other priorities." This describes a reality experienced by a majority of the countries. Failure to prioritise gender equality can be added to all the other factors hindering gender mainstreaming and women´s empowerment projects: lack of experience in employing EU assistance instruments, lack of expertise in gender equality projects, ineffective communication between EU representatives and women´s organisations, and difficulties in assessing the real impact of the projects that are implemented.
´New´ EU Member States
The IGPN report also focused on the new EU Member States (Bulgaria, CzechRepublic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia) as newly emerging donors, by analysing the extent to which their ODA strategies include gender equality. Until recently these countries were aid recipients themselves and at the moment they are still defining and continuously adjusting their development cooperation strategies. Consequently, they are facing many problems along the bumpy road: lack of capacity and expertise within governmental institutions, lack of gender concerns explicitly mentioned in the official documents, no gender equality strategy etc. In general, there are no specific measures focused on gender mainstreaming and women´s empowerment and no specific funding allocations. And since the ODA strategies of the new EU Member States do not have specific gender indicators, gender impact assessments are difficult and do not lead to improvements in the strategies.
Following the findings of the report, IGPN put forward key recommendations:
• The EU institutions should explicitly integrate gender concerns in policies and in their implementation, in calls for proposals, and in other stages of the project cycle. They should also strengthen the capacity of EC administrations to help ensure the financial sustainability of women´s NGOs.
• National governmentsshould comply with the EU´s cooperation agreements, improve their institutional and legal frameworks for gender equality, increase communication and transparency with CSOs and the EU, and undertake effective gender impact assessments.
• CSOsshould lobby national governments and the EU institutions for the achievement of gender equality; monitor and provide shadow reports on the actual implementation of women´s empowerment and gender equality projects; and strengthen networking among women´s organisations."
By Irina Savin
19 August 2009
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