ODA Spending

How much ODA does the UK allocate to gender and equality?

According to the OECD gender policy marker, the UK spent US$4.4 billion, or 58%, of its bilateral allocable ODA on development activities that targeted gender equality in a principal or significant way in 2021, above the DAC average of 42%.

In absolute terms, the UK was the fifth-largest provider of gender-related ODA in 2021, and the ninth-largest in relative terms.

How is UK gender and equality ODA changing?

Of the US$4.4 billion spent on gender equality in 2021 only 7%, or US$518 million, went toward projects and programs that targeted gender equality as a principal goal, in line with the DAC average of 6%. The UK’s funding for projects with a principal gender focus has remained relatively consistent since 2017, when total funding was US$610 million, or 5%, of bilateral ODA.

In 2021, 51% of the UK’s bilateral ODA went to projects that significantly target gender equality, down from 58% in 2020, but above the 2021 DAC average of 36%. 39% of the UK’s bilateral projects in 2021 were screened and found to not have a gender focus. 3% of bilateral projects were not screened against the gender marker.

FCDO's FY2022/23 report laid out funding plans for education, gender, and equality (calculated in the same funding line). Funding stood at GBP179 million ( US$221 million) in FY2021/22 and fell by 17% in FY2022/23 to GBP147 million ( US$181 million). The report indicated the thematic funding would fall again in FY2023/24 to GBP139 million ( US$171 million) (5%) and then to rise by 153% to GBP354 million ( US$436 million) in FY2024/25.

How does the UK allocate gender and equality ODA?

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 2021 went to ‘humanitarian aid’ (18% of total gender funding), ‘financial service and business support’ (15%), ‘health and populations’ (13%), ‘education’ (11%), and ‘government and civil society’ (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 GBP1.6 billion ( US$2 billion) between 2019 and 2021, a reversal of gender-focused ODA to pre-2020 levels.

Funding and Policy Outlook

What is the current UK government's outlook on gender and equality?

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 development strategy, which commits to restoring UK funding to gender equality.

On March 8, 2023, the UK launched its new International Women and Girls Strategy 2020-2030. One major component of the strategy is a commitment by the FCDO to ensure that 80% of bilateral ODA targets gender by 2030. The strategy recommits to the UK’s three gender priorities, often called the '3 E’s': Educating girls; empowering women and girls' rights and health, including SRH, economic, and political rights; and ending gender-based violence.

The strategy, which provided no financing commitments, also identifies three new goals for the FCDO:

  1. Deliver a major global campaign on women and girls. Under this heading, the FCDO prioritizes amplifying grassroots women’s and girls’ voices by supporting women’s rights organizations and proposes a new global Coalition for Learning to raise awareness of the learning crisis that disproportionately affects girls;
  2. Put women and girls at the center of its operations and investments; and
  3. Provide a new Evidence and Research Officer.

Despite gender focus, concerns arise around reported ODA: 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 DFID 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 GBP13 million ( US$18 million) in 2020 to GBP5 million ( US$7 million) in 2021. In addition, the UK cut funding to the UNFPA Supplies program, its flagship program for family planning, by 85% from GBP154 million ( US$197 million) in 2020 to around GBP23 million ( US$32 million) in 2021.

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