CONCORD Europe welcomes the European Commission’s communication “A Union of Equality: Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025,” which was launched on 5 March 2020. While there are many positive aspects of the strategy, such as the renewed commitment to women’s and girls’ rights and the integration of intersectionality as an important feature of the strategy, there are still issues that are left unaddressed.
In our latest analysis, we evaluate the Gender Equality Strategy with a focus on the external dimensions of the EU’s work on gender equality ahead of the Gender Action Plan III, which is expected in October 2020. We reaffirm the importance of targeted actions to achieve gender equality and look forward to engaging in a dialogue with relevant stakeholder to ensure that the forthcoming Gender Action Plan will be as impactful and transformative as possible.
Among the positive aspects of the Gender Equality Strategy is the reference to the Sustainable Development Goals and in particular to SDG 5 as a key framework for the strategy. We especially look forward to the establishment of the new Equality Task Force, which must ensure gender mainstreaming by bringing together all the Directorate Generals and the European External Action Service. This will be an important tool for coherence.
Although an entire section of the Gender Equality Strategy is dedicated to intersectionality, it should have been backed up by further guidance on how to apply an intersectional approach to gender equality. This is crucial to ensure that the efforts to achieve gender equality take into account every form of discrimination and increase linkages between gender inequality and other EU efforts to fight inequalities. The commitment to consider the gender impact in trade initiatives is most welcome, but it needs to be translated into action by carrying out participatory human rights impact assessments of trade deals.
Room for improvement
There is still room for improvement in the new Gender Equality Strategy. For example, CONCORD would have welcomed concrete actions for making gender mainstreaming standard practice across all new and existing initiatives, especially with regards to major policy processes currently being negotiated, including the EU’s Strategy with Africa and the European Green Deal, both of which are completely gender-blind.
Although we welcome the strong focus on gender stereotypes, we would have liked to see this reflected in the section on external policies. We believe it is crucial to prioritise gender-transformative action, including by addressing harmful gender norms and stereotypes, as well as discriminatory laws and practices.
The commitment to use the External Investment Plan to promote women’s entrepreneurship and labour market participation is positive, but there is no attention paid to the risks that the more prominent role of private companies may entail for women’s rights.
What is missing
Although we are happy to see a commitment to support women’s rights defenders, we think there could have been a stronger focus on the role that civil society organisations and women’s rights organisations play as advocates, service providers or watchdogs. They deserve to be recognised and empowered as important actors at all levels, especially at the local level in partner countries.
There is not a single reference to the need to support progressive gender-sensitive taxation in partner countries. In addition, while the EU is taking steps to address women’s unpaid care work and domestic work, the EU should also recognise this as a major obstacle to women’s access to decent work and to political participation in partner countries.
It also does not include references to climate change, even though it has deep implications for women’s and girls’ rights.
Finally, there are no clear objectives and targets nor monitoring mechanisms in the strategy, which are important to monitor progress, and allow stakeholders to hold the EU accountable for the commitments made.