Photo source: UN-Women/Joe Saade

Why is it essential to gather data on gender budgeting?

We know that strong policies and laws establish a framework for addressing gender inequalities in society. However, evidence points to a massive disconnect between gender responsive policies and legislation and their full implementation. One reason for this is insufficient allocation and spending of public resources. Gender budgeting aims to strengthen the link between commitment and action by supporting governments to target budgets to achieve gender equality objectives.

Indicator 8 of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation monitoring framework assesses government efforts to put in place gender-focused policies, gender responsive public finance management systems and budget transparency. It points to what is working well and where gaps exist with the aim of supporting countries to improve budget tracking and monitoring systems. It homes in on the need for public scrutiny of public budget decisions as central to strengthening government accountability. Indicator 8 of the GPEDC is embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), fully aligned with SDG Indicator 5.c.1 which underlines the critical nature of budgets to the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

Results & Analysis of the GPEDC 2018 Monitoring

Sixty-nine countries reported on Indicator 8 in 2018. This included countries from across the world, at different levels of socio-economic development and with different types of budget systems. The indicator methodology enabled comparability of the data even in light of the country diversity. This is a major step towards a global repository of quantitative and qualitative information on gender budgeting which can be mined for promising practices, cross-country learning and comparative analyses to identify areas that require more intensive work.

Results from the sixty-nine countries provide further evidence of the policy-practice gap that persists in the implementation of gender policies and laws.  Ninety percent of reporting countries indicated having well-defined policies or programmes that address gender equality goals and these are often integrated into national development and sector plans. However, less than half of these same countries reported adequate resource allocations to meet their gender policy objectives.

The 2018 data analysis finds only nineteen percent of reporting countries fully met requirements, but 59 percent approached the requirements. This larger segment of countries reported having certain aspects of gender budgeting in place but an absence of other features which would make their PFM systems fully gender responsive. More than half of reporting countries issue directives or guidelines on gender budgeting and use sex-disaggregated data to inform budget decisions which are crucial to the implementation of gender budgeting. However, dimensions that support stronger connections between resource allocation decisions and the assessment of impact are less common. To illustrate, fewer than 35 percent indicated the use of gender impact assessments at policy formulation stage (ex-ante) and only 18 percent reported implementing gender audits of the budget. The absence of these reduces the availability of analytical evidence of gender impacts of policy decisions, constraining strategic planning decisions on gender allocations to ensure policies have intended impacts. 

Gaps point to where we need to target future efforts

Evaluation and audit data should be used to inform a government’s planning and budgeting process. When governments conduct ex-ante impact assessments and gender audits of the budget, they can gain insight into how and to what extent gender policies and allocations and expenditures for their implementation contribute to the achievement of meaningful outputs and outcomes. Audits of the budget need to incorporate an assessment of spend on gender equality to determine whether public resource investments are contributing to progress towards gender equality and women’s rights. This information can enable governments to make corrections/changes in the next budget cycle to improve the achievement of intended results.

Indicator 8 data shows the less than optimal level at which countries are currently implementing these steps.  Reasons for the gaps include capacity constraints in gender analysis, disconnects between strategic planning and budgeting, and a perception that audit is outside the function of the central government. Also, gaps in available data – in particular robust sex-disaggregated data on men and women’s access to and use of services – can constrain these actions.

However, it is possible for government to include gender assessments as part of their policy formulation process and request/implement gender-focused audits. When done well, the information and analysis from these actions can inform the strategic allocation of budgets – opening space for more and better targeted gender budget allocations in budget formulation and execution.  The data collected through Indicator 8 can help identify countries which are implementing effective approaches in these domains – information that can support other countries to improve their systems.

UN-Women is increasing its focus on the assessment of impact – both at the formulation and evaluation stages – of gender budget allocations and expenditures. Through its on-going technical support and capacity strengthening support to countries, UN Women works closely with ministries of finance and sector ministries to strengthen knowledge and skills to implement these steps in the gender–budgeting cycle, and to continue to improve their systems to track gender budget allocations. The aim is to improve gender responsive budgeting practices through continuous learning, boosting accountability for gender equality, and moving all of us closer to achieving SDG 5 and the 2030 Agenda.