Issue Deep Dive: US/Gender Equality

Last updated: January 10, 2023

ODA Spending

ODA In Context

The US ranked fourth out of DAC donors in terms of its overall spending toward projects related to gender equality, and 27th in terms of relative spending.

The US disbursed 24% of bilateral allocable ODA in support of gender equality in 2020 (:abbrDAC average: 45%).

ODA for gender equality decreased by 11% between 2019 – 2020.

The US spends far more on projects with gender equality as a significant objective (US$6.1 billion) rather than on those with gender equality as a principal focus (where gender equality is the main objective of the project or program; US$851 million). The US is the largest absolute donor to principal gender equality projects, but this is a small share (3%) relative to the size of it its bilateral allocable ODA. It spends less than half the average (7%) and ranks 18th among DAC donors in relative terms.

Overall, increases in gender-related funding have been largely driven by funding for projects targeting gender equality as a ‘significant’ objective. This funding stood at US$1.1 billion in 2020 (37% of total bilateral ODA), which was up from around US$816 million in 2019, when it made up 30% of bilateral ODA.

ODA Breakdown

Bilateral Spending

In 2020, the sectors which received the most gender-focused funding were ‘health and populations’ and ‘government and civil society’ (with US$3.1 billion and US$858 million, respectively). Gender-focused funding for education, another priority area, remains low at US$506 million.

Mutlilateral spending and commitments

The US channels a portion of its contributions to gender equality through multilateral organizations. The table below summarizes the US’ more recent commitments to multilaterals working on issues related to gender equality. Some of these commitments are considered core funding to multilaterals while others will be earmarked (bilateral) funding from the US.

Funding and Policy outlook

The Biden Administration has made the largest-ever US investment in gender equality programs: Biden has proposed US$2.6 billion for gender programs in FY2023, the largest-ever investment in programs that advance gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. This includes support for the implementation of the WEEE Act (passed in 2018), the Women, Peace, and Security Act, and other gender initiatives. It will also provide US$200 million for the GEEA Fund.

Current US efforts focus on WEE: In 2018, the US launched the '2X Women’s Initiative,' which has mobilized US$13.5 billion in investments in projects owned by, led by, and/or empowering women so far, with the aim to catalyze an additional US$12 billion by 2025. In addition, the initiative has inspired peer development finance institutions around the globe to collaborate through the ‘2X Challenge,’ setting a US$15 billion target for gender-lens investment.

Biden has reversed previous policies on SRHR, but still faces pushback: Since assuming the presidency in January 2020, Biden has overturned the Mexico City Policy, which was reinstated by the Former President Donald Trump’s Administration to block US funding for both non- US NGOs directly involved in abortion services or abortion rights advocacy or for those who fund or support other groups which provide or discuss abortion. Biden’s State Department also lifted the ‘Kemp Kasten Amendment’ after four years, reinstating funding to UNFPA for SRHR projects, funding for which had been eliminated under the Trump Administration. Despite the Biden Administration’s repeal, the overturning of ‘Roe v. Wade,’ the landmark 1973 decision by the US Supreme Court that ruled that the US Constitution conferred the right to an abortion, on June 20, 2022, impacts the effectiveness of the removal of the Mexico City Policy, as it could hurt local-level efforts to expand SRHR, limit funding, and increase stigma around SRHR and related care.

New gender equality council and strategy have been instituted: Following the creation of a White House Gender Policy Council in spring 2021, Biden released the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality with relevant applications both domestically and globally. The strategy, which takes a ‘whole-of-government approach,’ identified 10 interconnected priorities and set forth a comprehensive agenda and vision to achieve gender equity across sectors, including improved economic security; enhanced prevention and response to gender-based violence; increased access to health care; and advanced participation of women and girls in social, economic, civic, and political life.

Key Bodies

Adam Jennison

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