European Commission’s new Framework for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in External EU policies leaves a large GAP in Political Will.

(Brussels, 23/09/2015) Yesterday the European Commission published jointly with the European External Action Service a new Framework for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment 2016-2020 which they detailed in a Joint Staff Working Paper.

We are extremely disappointed that the Commission only views this most important of topics worthy of a joint staff working paper rather than a formal Communication from the Commission.

“President Juncker has promised to be big on the big things and small on the small things and so only presenting a staff working paper on this sends the message that this European Commission believes gender is a small thing” stated Seamus Jefferson, Director of Concord Europe. “We now call on the Council of Ministers to send a strong message back to the Commission on the priority Gender Equality and Women’s empowerment truly rep-resents for our collective external policies” he added.

Concord Europe had written to Commissioner Timmermans and President Junker calling on the revision of the Gender Action Plan (GAP) to be a Communication. Making the GAP an official Communication would have allowed for necessary inter-institutional dialogues and sent a strong message to all relevant stakeholders, particularly to EU delegations. It would also have carried more weight, facilitating its implementation by the EU Delegations.

The Commission’s own evaluation of the GAP’s implementation was that it was weak and required a higher political priority and will to secure improved implementation. In May 2015, the Council of Ministers called for revitalised leadership from the EC and the European External Action Service (EEAS) on gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment, including a robust successor to the current GAP. In addition, several Members of the European Parliament co signed an open letter calling for a strong GAP in a form of a communication;

Moreover, the day that the Commission presented its Joint Staff Working Paper, the European Parliament’s Development Committee adopted a resolution specifically calling for a Communication it had been developing since the start of the summer. This was also communicated directly by the Chair of the Committee, Linda McAvan, to Development Commissioner Neven Mimica when he was in the committee only the previous day.

Ignoring the calls by the Council, the Parliament and civil society to invest the political will necessary to secure progress on this issue is particularly disappointing in a week when the EU should be seen as a champion for its values within the new Global Sustainable Development Goals and when First Vice-President of the European Commission Timmermans will be speaking at the High Level event of UN Women in New York, expressing the EU’s commitment to gender equality.

It will now be important for Member States in the Council of Ministers to reiterate the political priority for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and for all political actors involved and to agree on increased financing to ensure that this Framework is implemented with sufficient rigour.

A briefing outlining more detailed analysis of the framework proposed and its various elements – including practicalities of implementation and reporting – follows.


Notes to Editors

1. European Commission published jointly with the European External Action Service a new Framework for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment 2016-2020 here
2. Joint Staff Working Paper here
3. CONCORD letter to First VP Timmermans on the new Gender Action Plan (GAP) here
4. CONCORD/European Women Lobby’s letter to President Juncker on the new Gender Ac-tion Plan (GAP) here
5. MEPs letter to President Juncker on gender action plan II here
6. CONCORD is the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs. It represents NGOs from all 28 EU member states, as well as 20 international networks and 3 associate members.

For more information please contact: CONCORD Policy Coordinator Dorota Sienkiewicz +32 2 743 87 70