CAR: Women sewing in Central African Republic

During the sixty-second session of the General Assembly, the Second Committee organized a series of expert panel discussions on the issue of financing for development. Member States were urged to integrate a gender perspective into the Monterrey follow-up process, particularly during the follow-up international conference on financing for development, to be held from 29 November to 2 December 2008 in Doha, Qatar. The Assembly also adopted a resolution on women in development [resolution on poverty and other development issues (document A/62/423)], in which the Assembly urged all Member States, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations system to increase the number of women in decision-making and empower women to participate effectively in the creation and implementation of poverty eradication policies and programmes. Speaking to the UN Chronicle, the Committee Chair, Ambassador Kirsti Lintonen of Finland, pointed out that the issue on financing for gender equality was "still part of the discussion for the system-wide coherence".

In March 2002, the United Nations held its first International Conference on Financing for Development that led to the Monterrey Consensus, which highlighted the importance of a holistic approach to financing for development, including gender-sensitive development, and mainstreaming a gender perspective into development policies at all levels and in all sectors. However, some experts think that the lack of coherence between economic policies, emphasizing low inflation and mobility of capital on one hand, and social commitments to poverty reduction, human rights and gender equality on the other hand, is a key shortfall of the Consensus in terms of financing for gender equality.

Ms. Bakker said the Consensus made several references to women's empowerment; yet women were not directly integrated throughout the leading action areas. While calling for gender sensitivity in applying policies and programmes, she pointed out that the document did not give a clear framework or propose institutional arrangements for implementing gender mainstreaming objectives in the context of other developments goals. In March 2005, over 100 donor and developing countries signed the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness-an international agreement which aimed to lay down a practical and action-oriented road map to improve the quality of assistance and its impact on development, and is a further opportunity to effectively embed gender equality and women's empowerment into aid delivery. "The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness acknowledged that harmonization efforts are also needed on cross-cutting issues, such as gender equality and other thematic issues, including those financed by dedicated funds", said Ms. Bakker.

In September 2007 in Oslo, Norway, the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) held its Expert Group meeting on financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women. Participants urged Governments to integrate a gender perspective into their public finance systems and increase the share of official development assistance (ODA) devoted to women's empowerment and gender equality to 10 per cent by 2010 and 20 per cent by 2015. "Particular attention should also be given to the resource needs of national machineries for the advancement of women, which are often hampered by a lack of political support", noted Carolyn Hannan, Director of DAW.

The financing gap for implementing the targets of Millennium Development Goal 3-promote gender equality and empower women-and gender mainstreaming activities in low-income countries ranges from $8.6 billion in 2006 to an estimated $23.8 billion in 2015, according to a World Bank working paper, The Financial Requirements of Achieving Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment. While mainstreaming gender in budget planning is not yet at the top of the agenda for some countries, Morocco has taken the lead to ensure that gender-sensitive budgeting is no longer an abstract concept. For the first time in its history, Morocco has developed a gender report to evaluate public policies and a road map to address poverty eradication and gender, and to budget accordingly.

Mohamed Chafiki, Director of Studies and Financial Forecasts at the Ministry of Finance and Privatization of Morocco, told the Second Committee that his country had published a set of gender statistics and established indicators to determine women's access to health care, education and energy, making it possible for the Government to address gender inequality. Those efforts led to expenditure on girls' education in rural areas, where opportunities for education tended to be restricted. As a result, school attendance in Morocco had increased from 79 per cent in 1999/ 2000 to 93 per cent in 2005/2006. The issue of non-compensation of work by women, however, remained a key issue and needed to be addressed, Mr. Chafiki emphasized.

Employment-related commitments from Governments are critical to improving women's lives. "Women should stop being treated as 'starter' workers, being brought into export production to break into a world market and replaced by men when industries move into higher productivity activities", noted Manuel Montes, Chief of Policy Analysis and Development Office at DESA. Stressing the importance of reliable social services and protection for women, he noted that improving the work conditions of temporary migrant workers would also finance gender equality.

The "magic of the market" came from social reproduction, noted Mariama Williams, Research Associate of the International Gender and Trade Network during a panel discussion. The market was efficient because of women's unpaid work, she explained, adding that more resources should be allocated to improve social infrastructures that affected women, such as transportation, water and sanitation. Ms. Williams also voiced her view that the question of gender equality was placed in between "two scissor blades": economic liberalization and a "war on terror agenda". This resulted in a return to a highly militarized State and a "one-size-fits-all" economic policy, which could possibly lead to a failure of effectively addressing financing for gender equality. The current economic liberalization process, she said, should focus on economic democracy, not on "a pecuniary notion of competition and deregulation without a corresponding system of accountability and social responsibility.