France - Gender equality

France spends a quarter of its bilateral allocable ODA on gender equality

n 2019, France spent US$1.6 billion (26%) 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 is far below the DAC average of 47%. Although France’s spending on gender equality reached its highest level ever in 2019, it only increased by 1% compared to 2018. In 2019, France ranked as the ninth-largest provider of gender-focused funding in absolute terms. Strikingly, it falls to the 28th-largest when analyzing gender-focused ODA as a share of total bilateral allocable ODA spending. This may change as the French Development Agency’s (AFD’s) 2020 annual report indicates 67% of its projects were reportedly gender-focused.

 

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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 presidency, according to the Interministerial Committee for International Development Cooperation (CICID). Gender equality was also a focus area of France’s 2019 G7 presidency. Along with Mexico, France is co-hosting the Generation Equality Forum in the summer of 2021, a global event marking the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 for the empowerment of women and girls.

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

  1. Leading 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 and provide training on gender issues, and systematically include gender equality in its strategies and actions;
  2. Bolstering political support for gender issues by stepping up political advocacy for gender equality;
  3. Better financing actions for equality: 50% of the financing provided by AFD will be dedicated to projects which include an objective to reduce gender inequality;
  4. Making action for equality more visible: the use of feminine and masculine terminology in ministry and agency messaging will be promoted to give balanced social representation; and
  5. Supporting civil society and sharing results: the engagement with French NGOs in the fields of women’s rights and gender through various sharing platforms will be enhanced.

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 the recipient countries. An initial €120 million (US$134 million) will be provided to this fund. 

France’s bilateral ODA to gender equality focuses on its education, agriculture, and health

France’s ODA for gender equality focuses on its sectoral priorities (see ‘Policy priorities’). In 2019, education received the largest share (US$342 million, including both principal and significant funding; see textbox on the gender equality marker for more details) of gender-focused ODA. Water and sanitation received the second most gender-related funding (US$259 million in 2019), followed by environmental protection (US$178 million) and health and populations (US$159 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 2019, France channeled 3% (US$209 million) towards projects and programs that targeted gender equality as a principal goal. This is a 30% decrease from 2018 when it stood at US$299 million or, 5%, putting at half of the DAC average. This makes France the seventh-largest provider of principal funding amongst DAC donors. France falls to 20th place in relative terms.

In 2019, France spent 22% (US$1.5 billion) of its bilateral allocable ODA on projects that included gender as a significant objective, just over half of the DAC average of 41%. France’s financing of initiatives with gender as a significant objective has increased as a share of total gender ODA from 2018 when it stood at 16%.

US$4.8 billion (74%) of France’s bilateral allocable ODA was spent on projects that did not target gender, well above the DAC average of 46%. US$50 million (1%) of funding was not screened against the gender marker in 2019 (DAC average: 7%). In July of 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.