Netherlands - Gender equality

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

In 2020, the Netherlands spent US$2 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: 45%). This made the Netherlands the ninth-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$1.5 billion in 2017 to US$1.9 billion in 2018. Gender-focused spending has steadily risen in absolute terms since, arriving at almost US$2 billion in 2020.  

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

  1. Improving the economic environment for women; 

  1. Stopping violence against women and girls; and 

  1. 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 €75 million (US$85 million) from 2021 - 2025; and   

  • Leading from the South, a feminist philanthropic fund that supports women’s rights activism at grassroots levels in the ‘Global South,’ funded with €80 million (US$91 million) for its 2021-2025 cycle. 

 

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 peace and security. The Dutch National Action Plan (NAP) 1325-IV, for the 2021-2025 period, involves cooperation between the Dutch government and over 60 domestic civil society organizations (CSOs) to help “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 ‘government and civil society’ (26%, or US$506 million), followed by ‘health and populations’ (16%, or US$316 million). The Netherlands has increasingly shifted the focus of its gender programming to support grassroots organizations in partner countries and 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$581 million) to feminist organizations and gender equality movements for the 2021 – 2025 period. 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 – 2025. 

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

Of the US$2 billion spent on gender equality in 2020, US$501 million (18%) went toward projects and programs that targeted gender equality as a principal goal, placing the Netherlands in sixth place behind the US, Canada, EU institutions, the UK, and Sweden in terms of volume of principal flows. Total principal spending accounted for 18% of Dutch overall bilateral allocable ODA, making the Netherlands the third-largest donor of principal funding relative to overall ODA. The Netherlands’ funding for projects with a principal gender focus has remained relatively stable, around US$450 million, since 2016. Principal gender funding saw a 14% increase between 2019 (US$ 429 million) and 2020 (US$501 million).  

The Netherlands also spent US$1.5 billion (52%) of its bilateral allocable ODA on projects that included gender as a significant objective in 2020 (DAC average: 38%). 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. However, funding with gender as a significant goal slightly decreased in 2020, by 52%.  

The remainder of Dutch bilateral ODA (30%, or US$853 million) was spent on projects that did not target gender at all. The Netherlands has consistently screened against the gender policy marker; 100% of ODA funding has been screened against the marker since 2014.  

Ministry of Foreign Affairs sets policy and budget; Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Minister leads on international messaging 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is responsible for all development policy matters, including budgets, programs, and program delivery (see: ‘Main actors’), including gender equality policies. The Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation leads on international messaging and positioning on gender. An evaluation of MFA by the Dutch Policy and Operations Evaluation Department (IOB) determined that the Ministry inadequately mainstreamed gender in its policies and operations during the 2015-2020 period. As a result, MFA committed to implementing recommendations from IOB on ‘Gender Mainstreaming in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.’ The recommendations include an increase in internal gender expertise, employee training on gender, and the improvement of gender mainstreaming instruments.