Issue Deep Dive: UK/Gender Equality

Last updated: December 21, 2022

ODA Spending

ODA In Context

According to the OECD gender policy marker, the UK spent US$6.6 billion (74%) of its bilateral allocable ODA on development activities that targeted gender equality in a principal or significant way in 2020, considerably above the DAC average of 45%.

In absolute terms, the UK was the third-largest provider of gender-related ODA in 2020, and the seventh-largest in relative terms.

Of the US$6.6 billion spent on gender equality in 2020 only 6% (US$648 million) went toward projects and programs that targeted gender equality as a principal goal. This corresponds to 6% of the UK’s overall bilateral allocable ODA, in line with the DAC average (7%). The UK’s funding for projects with a principal gender focus has remained relatively consistent since 2016 (when total funding was US$642 million, or 6%, of bilateral ODA).

Growth in gender-related funding has mostly come from projects that include gender as a significant objective. 58% of the UK’s bilateral ODA went to projects that significantly target gender equality in 2020, up from 45% in 2015 and above the 2020 DAC average of 38%. 32% of the UK’s bilateral projects in 2020 were screened and found to not have a gender focus. 4% of bilateral projects were not screened.

ODA Breakdown

Bilateral Spending

The UK’s gender-focused ODA mirrors the sector and regional allocations for the country’s bilateral ODA overall.

The largest share of ODA to gender equality in 2020 went to ‘humanitarian assistance’ (23%), ‘health and populations’ (19%), ‘financial service and business support’ (11%), ‘government and civil society’ (9%), and ‘education’ (8%).

Mutlilateral spending and commitments

In 2021, the FCDO cut some key gender equality programs in response to its reduced overall ODA budget - particularly those working on SRHR. According to research by CARE International and Development Initiatives, the estimated volume of FCDO’s funding that has a significant or principal gender focus as measured by the OECD, fell by £1.6 billion (US$2.1 billion) between 2019 and 2021), a reversal of gender-focused ODA to pre-2020 levels.

Funding & Policy Outlook

Gender equality has been a long-standing focus: The UK has a long history of championing gender equality within its development co-operation. It was the first DAC donor to establish the International Development (Gender Equality) Act which created a legal requirement for the UK to provide development assistance that delivers poverty reduction in a way that also contributes to reducing gender inequality. Gender equality is a core priority of the UK’s new international development strategy, which commits to restoring UK funding to gender equality. The strategy also commits the UK to publishing a new UK ‘Women and Girls Strategy’ by 2022.

Despite gender focus, concerns around reported ODA have arisen: Analysis by the NAO in 2018 suggested that a considerable portion of the UK’s spending was incorrectly classified against the OECD marker, implying that growth in gender-related funding may actually be smaller. The NAO also reviewed the DFID ‘2018 Strategic Vison’ in early 2020 and concluded that it was “ambitious and wide-ranging” but not designed in a way that would have enabled abbrDFID to assess its progress or value for money. The NAO also questioned the accuracy of the UK’s reported spending on gender equality.

In 2021, the FCDO cut some key gender equality programs in response to its reduced overall ODA budget - particularly those working on SRHR. Core funding to UN Women was reduced by approximately 60% from £13 million (US$17 million) in 2020 to £5 million (US$6 million) in 2021. In addition, the UK cut funding to the UNFPA Supplies program, its flagship program for family planning, by 85% from £154 million (US$198 million) in 2020 to around £23 million (US$30 million) in 2021.

Key Bodies

Adam Jennison

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