Italy - Gender equality


Italy shows leadership on gender equality, but contributions are moderate

In 2019, Italy spent US$390 million (44%) of its bilateral allocable official development assistance (ODA) on development activities that targeted gender equality in a principal or significant way, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) gender equality policy marker (DAC average: 47%). In 2019, Italy’s spending on gender equality decreased compared to US$426 billion in 2018, but the overall percentage of bilateral allocable ODA remained stable at 43% due to an overall decrease in bilateral ODA.


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.


Italy’s ODA to gender equality remains relatively low; Italy was the 15th-largest donor to gender equality in 2019 in absolute terms and the 16th largest donor in relative terms, compared to other members of the OECD DAC.

Multilaterally, Italy provides funding to the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA). It gave US$12 million to UNFPA in 2019, making Italy the 17th-largest donor in overall contributions to the organization in 2019. Italy has collaborated with UNFPA on projects seeking to end forced genital cutting and preventing or responding to gender-based violence, including in humanitarian contexts.

In 2019, Italy mainly gave gender-focused funding in the areas of humanitarian assistance and health and population (both US$61 million), agriculture (US$49 million) as well as government and civil society (US$44 million). These are in line with Italy’s overall bilateral ODA focus areas.

Under Italian law, gender equality and the promotion of equal opportunity are enshrined as goals of Italian development cooperation. AICS, the Italian development agency, aims to integrate gender-mainstreaming in all its programs. Gender equality is not mentioned as a main objective in the latest available ‘Programming Guidelines’ for 2019-2021 but is rather a cross-cutting theme. A 2019 OECD Peer Review recognized Italy’s work on gender equality; the Italian Development Agency manages gender-focused projects and has set up a network of gender focal points that work to mainstream gender in project designs, monitoring, and performance evaluations. The Peer Review notes that Italy has recently piloted a gender marker for NGO projects.

In 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI), in cooperation with the Italo-Latin American Institute (IILA), hosted the Italy–Latin America Forum, dedicated to the ‘Italy-Latin American Alliance for the Promotion of Gender Equality’. Gender equality will be at the center of the Italian G20 agenda within the framework of the “3Ps”: population, planet, and prosperity. The presidency will emphasize women's economic empowerment, with a focus on compensating unpaid labor. Italy mainstream the topic across all G20 issues.

Only a small proportion of Italian bilateral allocable ODA spending has gender as a principal goal

Despite Italy’s work toward gender equality through development, only 7% (US$64 million) of the US$390 million it spent on gender equality in 2019 was channeled toward projects that targeted gender equality as a principal goal (slightly above the DAC average of 6%). Italy’s funding for projects with a principal gender focus has steadily increased since 2016 when it spent just US$17 million (or 2% of bilateral ODA).

Italy spent US$327 million (37%) of its bilateral allocable ODA on projects that included gender as a significant objective, below the DAC average of 41%. Italy’s financing of projects and programs with gender as a significant objective has also steadily increased since 2016 when it spent US$218 million (or 32% of bilateral ODA).

US$379 million (or 42%) in 2019 was spent on projects that did not target gender and a total of US$124 million (or 14% of bilateral ODA in 2019) in project funding was not screened against the gender marker at all, double the DAC average of 7% but an improvement over 2018 when 25% of projects had not been screened.

Within the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, the Department of Human Development is concerned with gender equality

Priorities are set by the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (DGCS), within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (MAECI). The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) oversees program implementation. The department of human development at the AICS leads the work on gender equality.