Netherlands - Gender equality


The Netherlands views gender equality as a prerequisite to all other development goals

In 2019, the Netherlands spent US$1.8 billion (71%) of its bilateral allocable official development assistance (ODA) on projects targeting gender equality as a principal or significant goal, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) gender equality policy marker (DAC average: 44%). This made the Netherlands the eighth-largest absolute spender on gender equality and the fifth-largest spender relative to its total ODA. 2018 saw the most significant increase in gender-focused spending in recent years, with levels rising by nearly 30%, from US$1.4 billion in 2017 to US$1.8 billion where they stayed in 2019.

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.

The Netherlands is a global champion for gender equality, particularly in the field of sexual and reproductive rights (SRHR). ‘Equal rights and opportunities for women and girls’ and ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ are two of the Netherlands’ eight overarching development priorities.

In service of realizing equal rights and opportunities for women and girls, Dutch development policy has four main sub-goals:

  1. Increasing women’s leadership and participation in political decision making;
  2. Improving the economic environment for women;
  3. Stopping violence against women and girls; and
  4. Strengthening women’s role in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

The Netherlands supports two main policy frameworks aimed at promoting women’s safety, political influence, and economic stability:

  • The Power of Women, which provides grants to women-led organizations, funded with €74 million (US$82 million) for the period of 2021-2025; and
  • Leading from the South, a feminist philanthropic fund which supports women’s rights activism at grassroots levels in the Global South, funded at €80 million (US$90 million) for its second cycle 2021-2025.

In 2017, the Netherlands co-launched ‘She Decides’ an international organization galvanizing political support for women’s social and political rights to make informed decisions around sexuality and reproduction. The Netherlands also partners with United Nations (UN) Women to support women in the field of peace and security. The Dutch National Action Plan (NAP) 1325-IV, for the period 2021-2025, is a cooperation between the Dutch government and over 60 domestic civil society organizations (CSOs) with the goal of helping “break down harmful gender norms, enhance protection, and give men and women equal leverage in conflict prevention, resolution, peacebuilding, relief, and recovery”.

Dutch gender-focused ODA mirrors the policy priorities and sector allocations for the country’s bilateral ODA overall (see ‘ODA breakdown’); the Netherlands spent the greatest proportion of its gender-focused spending on the sub-sectors of government and civil society (28% or US$514 million), followed by health and populations (16% or US$286 million). The Netherlands has increasingly shifted the focus of its gender programming to supporting grassroots organizations in partner countries, to empower and build networks among local women’s and girls’ rights groups, particularly in Bangladesh, Mozambique, Yemen, South Sudan, and Uganda.

At the 2021 Generation Equality Forum, (GEF) the Netherlands co-led the Action Coalition (AC) on Feminist Movements and Leadership, pledging €510 million (US$570 million) to feminist organizations and gender equality movements. The Dutch delegation also made commitments to support other ACs, including Economic Justice and Rights, Bodily Autonomy and SRHR, and Climate Justice. The Netherlands also signed the Compact on Women, Peace and Security, and Humanitarian Action, a movement for action on women and security and gender equality in humanitarian action.

Shortly after the GEF, the Netherlands released a list of its current strategic partnerships for development as of January 1, 2021, as part of the government’s policy framework, 'Strengthening Civil Society. The Dutch government selected 42 partnerships that are funded through the four funds of the policy framework: 'Power of Voices', 'Power of Women', 'SRHR Partnership Fund', and 'Women, Peace, and Security'. The total budget made available for the four funds is €1.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) between 2021 and 2025.

The Netherlands is one of the top providers of principal gender funding

Of the US$1.8 billion spent on gender equality in 2019, US$421 million (23%) went towards projects and programs that targeted gender equality as a principal goal, placing the Netherlands in fifth place behind the US, UK, EU institutions, and Sweden in terms of volume of principal flows. Total principal spending accounted for 16% of Dutch overall bilateral allocable ODA, making the Netherlands the fourth-largest donor of principal funding, relative to overall ODA. The Netherlands’ funding for projects with a principal gender focus has hovered in the low US$400 millions since 2016, fluctuating yearly.

The Netherlands also spent US$1.4 billion (55%) of its bilateral allocable ODA on projects that included gender as a significant objective in 2019 (DAC average: 41%). The proportion of bilateral allocable ODA spent on significant funding has climbed more quickly than principal funding, increasing from 41% to 49% between 2017 and 2018 and again to 55% in 2019.

The remainder of Dutch bilateral ODA (29%, US$734 million) was spent on projects that did not target gender at all. The Netherlands has been consistently accountable to the gender policy marker screening process; screening 100% of funds against the marker since 2014.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs sets policy and budget; Sigrid Kaag leads internationally on messaging

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for all matters of development policy, budgets, programs, and program delivery (see: ‘Main actors’), including gender equality policies. An evaluation of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Dutch Policy and Operations Evaluation Department (IOB)  determined the Ministry inadequately mainstreamed gender in its policies and operations during the 2015-2020 period. Now the Ministry has committed to implementing the IOB's recommendations to increase internal gender expertise, train its employees on gender, and improve its own gender mainstreaming instruments.