EU - Gender equality



The EUI are gradually increasing the share of ODA disbursed for gender-equality focused projects

Using the OECD gender policy marker, the European Union Institutions (EUI; which indicates financing from both the European Commission (EC) and the European Investment Bank (EIB))  reported that 39% of their ODA activities in 2020 supported ‘gender-related projects. This includes investments in programs that named gender equality as either one significant goal or the principal goal of the investment (DAC average: 45%). This share has gradually increased since 2016, when only 27% of the EUI’s overall ODA targeted gender equality, but is below the EU’s outlined target of 85% (see below). 

The EU has been increasing its policy emphasis on gender equality. In 2019, EC President von der Leyen announced in her political guidelines that building a ‘Union of Equality’ was one of the EC’s major priorities. In March 2020, the European Commission (EC) presented its new European Gender Equality Strategy for 2020-2025. While the strategy is mostly focused on gender equality in the EU, it includes targeted measures to achieve gender equality through development cooperation, EU trade policy, and advocacy in international fora. 
In November 2020, the EC and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy put forward the EU's new Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in External Action 2021–2025 (GAP III). GAP III will be based on five pillars:  

  • Ensuring 85% of all new actions related to external relations contribute to gender equality and women's empowerment by 2025; 
  • Implementing a shared strategic vision and close cooperation with Member States and partners at multilateral, regional, and country-levels;
  • Accelerating progress by focusing on the key thematic areas of engagement (1) Ending gender-based violence (GBV), 2) sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR); 3) Economic and social rights and empowerment; 4) Equal participation and leadership; 5) Women, peace and security; and 6) Green and digital transformations); 
  • Having the EU lead by example by establishing gender-responsive and gender-balanced leadership at top political and management levels; and
  • Setting up a quantitative, qualitative, and inclusive monitoring system to increase public accountability, ensure transparency and access to information on its assistance to gender equality worldwide. 

In NDICI, the development instrument for 2021-2027, gender will be addressed in several ways through the Global Challenges thematic budget line, including through support to SRHR and child protection systems, and through provisions for protection against GBV, particularly in situations of instability. Additionally, gender equality is mainstreamed as a priority for geographic programming. 

Most recently, at the Paris-held Generation Equality Forum, the UN Women-convened summit to accelerate gender equality investment which was held in July 2021, the EU committed at least €4 billion (US$4.6 billion) in the EU’s 2021-2027 long-term budget to women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment. 

Gender policy marker: Projects which “advance gender equality and women’s empowerment or reduce discrimination and inequalities based on sex” are tagged in the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database.

Recent research by Oxfam found that around 25% of projects self-reported by donors using the gender equality marker were mismarked. This has implications for the validity of funding figures.

The marker rates projects based on three possible scores:

  1. Principal, meaning that gender equality is the main objective of the project or program;
  2. Significant, for projects in which gender equality is an important and deliberate goal but not the main objective; or
  3. Not targeted, used in cases where programs do not target gender equality.

Not all projects are screened against the gender marker; this funding falls into the ‘not screened’ category.


Funding for projects with a significant gender focus is increasing; screening of ODA against the gender marker has fluctuated

In 2020, only 4% (US$744 million) of the EUI’s bilateral allocable ODA was directed toward projects and programs that targeted gender equality as a principal goal, far below the DAC average of 7%. In absolute terms, the EUI ranks third among donors when considering absolute spending on principal gender funding. The EUI’s funding for projects with a principal gender focus increased slightly from 2018 and 2019 when it sat at 3% of bilateral allocable ODA. 

In addition, the EUI spent US$7.1 billion (35%) of its bilateral allocable ODA on projects that included gender as a significant objective (DAC average: 38%). The EUI’s financing of projects and programs with gender as a significant objective has consistently increased since 2015 when it stood at US$4.8 billion or 25% of bilateral allocable ODA.

The remainder of the EUI’s bilateral allocable ODA (US$7.3 billion or 36%) was spent on projects that did not target gender at all, while US$5.0 billion (25%) was not screened against the gender marker in 2020.

The EUI’s consistency in using the OECD gender policy marker has fluctuated in recent years: although all bilateral allocable ODA was screened against the marker in 2016 and 2017, around 21% was not screened in 2019 and 25% was not screened in 2020

DG INTPA’s Directorate on Human Development, Migration, Governance and Peace leads policy development on gender in external action

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA; formerly the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, or DG DEVCO) leads the European Commission’s policies on gender equality in EU external action. DG INTPA is led by the Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, its Director-General Koen Doens, and its two Deputy Director-Generals, Marjeta Jager and Martin Seychell. Gender equality policy falls under DDG Jager’s remit under Directorate G ‘Human Development, Migration, Governance and Peace’, which is led by Henriette Geiger. Its Unit is G.1: ‘Gender Equality, Human Rights, and Democratic Governance’.

DG INTPA’s gender equality work is guided by the ‘European Consensus on Development’ and the ‘EU Global Strategy’, which identify equality and wome’s empowerment as a cross-cutting issue for all EU policies. Priorities include empowering women and girls, ending violence against women and girls, and ending harmful practices.