France - Gender equality

France spends one third of its bilateral allocable ODA on gender equality

In 2020, France spent US$3.4 billion (35%) of its bilateral allocable official development assistance (ODA) on development activities focused on gender equality, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC’s) gender equality policy marker. This represents a substantial increase (89%) compared to 2019, with France’s spending on gender equality reaching its highest level ever. Nevertheless, spending continues to remain below the DAC average of 45%. In 2020, France was the sixth-largest provider of gender-focused funding in absolute terms. Strikingly, and despite the substantial increase compared with 2019, it falls to 20th when analyzing gender-focused ODA as a share of total bilateral allocable ODA spending. French spending on gender equality may continue to approach the DAC average, with the French Development Agency’s (AFD’s) 2021 annual report indicating that 50% of its projects were gender focused.


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.

France places a strong political focus on gender equality

Gender equality is a key objective of French President Emmanuel Macron’s term, according to the 2021 development law and the Interministerial Committee for International Development Cooperation (CICID) conclusions. The 2021 development law establishes gender equality as a cross-cutting objective of French development policy overall, stipulating that by 2025, 75% of programs financed by French ODA should include gender equality as either a principal or significant objective, and at least 20% as a principal objective.

In 2018, France adopted its third international strategy on gender equality for 2018 - 2022. The strategy focuses on five areas to mainstream gender equality in the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs’ work, including development cooperation and economic, soft, cultural, and academic diplomacy. This includes:

  1. Lead by example: Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE) and AFD will lead by example by increasing the number of women in management and ambassador positions, raise awareness on gender equality, provide training on gender issues, and systematically include gender equality in its strategies and actions;
  2. Bolster political support: France will step up support for gender issues by increasing political advocacy for gender equality;
  3. Step up finance: By 2022, 50% of the financing provided by AFD will be dedicated to projects which include an objective to reduce gender inequality. By 2025, 75% of ODA overall should have gender equality as a principal or significant objective pursuant to the 2021 development law.
  4. Increase visibility: the use of feminine and masculine terminology in ministry and agency messaging will be promoted to give balanced social representation; and
  5. Support civil society and share results: engagement with French women’s rights and gender equality through various platforms will be enhanced.

The strategy is currently under revision, with the new strategy likely to come out in late August 2022. This new strategy is likely to maintain current priorities but add a stronger rights-based angle and a focus on women's sexual and reproductive health.

As host of the 2019 G7 Summit, France committed to adopting a ‘feminist diplomacy’ to promote women's rights globally, and outlined the creation of a dedicated fund to be hosted by AFD to support gender equality projects and feminist organizations in partner countries. An initial €120 million (US$134 million) was provided to this fund between 2019 - 2022, an effort which will likely renewed.  At the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) in June 2021, co-hosted by France in Paris, the country made €100 million (US$114 million) in new commitments for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), pledging an additional €90 million (US$102 million) to UNFPA Supplies, €5 million (US$6 million) to the Shaping Equitable Market Access for Reproductive Health (SEMA) program, €5 million (US$6 million) to the Organization for Safe Abortion Dialogue, along with an intention to channel €250 million (US$285 million) to SRHR via the AFD over five years. This funding is complemented by a new commitment of €50 million (US$57 million) to the French Muskoka Fund between 2021 - 2026, as well as €333 million (US$379 million) to GPE for the next five years, earmarking half for the promotion of girls’ education.

France’s bilateral ODA to gender equality focuses on social services, education, and agriculture

France’s ODA for gender equality focuses on its sectoral priorities (see ‘Policy priorities’). In 2020, the largest spending item was ‘other social services’ at US$595 million, including both principal and significant funding; see textbox on the gender equality marker for more details) of gender-focused ODA. ‘Education’ received the second most gender-related funding (US$402 million in 2020), followed by ‘agriculture’ (US$374 million) and ‘infrastructure’ (US$341 million).

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

Of its overall bilateral allocable ODA in 2020, France channelled 3% (US$313 million) toward projects and programs that targeted gender equality as a principal goal. This represents a 43% increase from 2019 when it stood at US$218 million. This makes France the eighth-largest provider of principal funding amongst DAC donors. France falls to 20th place in relative terms.

In 2020, France spent 32% (US$3.1 billion) of its bilateral allocable ODA on projects that included gender as a significant objective, close to the DAC average of 38%. France’s financing of initiatives with gender as a significant objective has increased significantly as a share of total gender ODA from 2019 when it stood at 23%.

US$5.8 billion (60%) of France’s bilateral allocable ODA was spent on projects that did not target gender, well above the DAC average of 48%. US$561 million (6%) of funding was not screened against the gender marker in 2020 (DAC average: 7%). In July 2020, France launched the Support Fund for Feminist Organizations (FSOP) co-hosted by AFD and French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MAE), providing 120 million (US$134 million) for 2020-2022 to feminist organizations operating in partner countries.

MAE defines strategic priorities for gender equality

The MAE oversees France’s policies on gender equality. The most relevant department is the Sub-directorate for Human Development (HUMA) within the Directorate-General for Globalization, Culture, Education, and International Development (DGM). Within French development policy, gender equality is placed at the heart of all work carried out and supported by the MAE.