On Tuesday June 24th, the CONCORD Gender Working group was invited to speak at a hearing organized by the European Parliament Development Committee on gender equality and development – and in particular the upcoming EU Gender Action Plan (GAP) and respective alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Dagmar Schumacher, the head of UN Women in Brussels, stressed the need for commitments to gender equality and gender-sensitive finance during the upcoming Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa. Federica Petrucci and Jean-Louis Ville, both from the European Commission, presented lessons learned from the first GAP launched in 2010 and explained that its successor will be focused on physical violence, economic empowerment and the voicing of women’s political and economic representativeness.

On behalf of the CONCORD Gender Working Group, Cécile Vernant, head of EU advocacy at DSW, stressed the need to ground the new GAP on a three-pronged approach that includes gender mainstreaming, targeted actions and political dialogue. Moreover, CONCORD asked the Commission for concrete commitments to dedicated resources, including funding for targeted actions and mainstreaming of gender.

The discussions centred around three major upcoming opportunities for the EU to put gender at the core of its external policies, in the framework of the negotiations in Addis on Financing for Development and the major UN General Assembly in New York on the SDGs in September, but also at the landmark UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris.

EU Gender Action Plan: what do we need?

The EU’s new Gender Action Plan (GAP 2), will be the flagship instrument for the EU to implement all its commitments relating to achieving gender equality, and will therefore have to be translated into all EU funding instruments and apply to all EU delegations worldwide. For this to be feasible, however, as the colleagues from the European Commission highlighted in their contribution, lessons need to be drawn from the weak implementation of the current action plan, caused, inter alia, by a lack of firm political and operational commitment from senior management, too little financial resources, and missing expertise among EU delegation staff members on gender mainstreaming, gender responsive budgeting, or even the application of the gender marker for reporting.

Additionally, the commitments that will be put forward will have to be adequately translated into all other EU programmes, so that the shortcomings we have experienced since 2010 are not repeated.

This means:
– Enlarged scope & enhanced coherence
– Increased capacity and expertise on gender equality
– In-depth Institutional and Cultural shift
– Sufficient financial resources for targeted actions & support to gender-responsive financing
– Support to key Transformative actions
– Increased accountability

Recommendations for a stronger GAP are definitely not missing but political commitment and respective fulfilment will be the key to any future action plan.

EU Gender Action Plan: where are we now?

The first step towards a strengthened GAP would have been to adopt a robust plan with concrete financial commitments, issued as an official European Commission “Communication” to give it the necessary political weight to engage all EU institutions in an inter-institutional dialogue and making it more politically relevant. Unfortunately, it seems that the European Commission has decided to frame the GAP as an internal staff working document which will commit only the Commission’s services responsible for development cooperation.

By downscaling the nature of the GAP, the Commission not only ignored its own alleged commitment to gender equality but also disregarded the call for an official Communication from several Members of the European Parliament DEVE Committee during the discussion, as well as the recent and strong commitments on gender put forward by EU ministers.

With a view to this disappointing decision – to say the least – the CONCORD Gender Working Group is now eager to see how this much-anticipated GAP will be realised.

To hear the debate on gender in Development, please see: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ep-live/en/committees/video?event=20150623-1500-COMMITTEE-DEVE