Italy - Gender equality

Italy's bilateral ODA for gender equality

For further details on methodology, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

Italy's bilateral ODA for gender equality by sector

For further details on methodology, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

Italy shows leadership on gender equality, but contributions are moderate

In 2018, Italy spent US$447 million (43%) of its bilateral allocable 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: 44%). In 2018, Italy’s spending on gender equality remained stable compared to 2017 (US$443 billion) but the overall percentage of bilateral allocable ODA increased (from 37% in 2017) due to an overall decrease of 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 fourteenth-largest donor to gender equality in 2018 in absolute terms and the fifteenth-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 and UNFPA collaborate on ending female genital mutilation, preventing or responding to gender-based violence, including in humanitarian contexts.

In 2018, Italy mainly gave gender-focused funding in the area of humanitarian aid (US$108 million) and agriculture (US$78 million) as well as government and civil society (US$57 million). These are also Italy’s focus areas of overall bilateral ODA.

Under Italian law, gender equality and 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 and Policy Guidelines but rather a cross-cutting theme. A 2019 OECD Peer Review recognized Italy’s work on gender equality: the Italian Development Agency is managing 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 further mentions that Italy has recently also piloted a gender marker for projects undertaken by non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Italy shows political leadership on the issue. 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’. In May 2020, Italian Ambassador Pietro Benassi, Prime Minister Conte’s diplomatic advisor, announced that gender equality — next to the overall theme of population, planet, and prosperity — will be at the center of the Italian G20 agenda.

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 6% (US$65 million) of the US$447 million it spent on gender equality in 2018, was channeled toward projects that targeted gender equality as a principal goal. This corresponds to 6% of Italy’s overall bilateral allocable ODA (DAC average: 6%). Italy’s funding for projects with a principal gender focus has increased since 2016 (US$18 million or 2% of bilateral ODA) and doubled between 2017 (US$31 million or 3%) and 2018 (US$65 or 6%).

In addition, Italy spent US$382 million (36%) of its bilateral allocable ODA on projects that included gender as a significant objective (DAC average: 38%). Italy’s financing of projects and programs with gender as a significant objective has doubled between 2016 (US$229 million or 32%) and 2017 (US$417 million or 43%) and then remained stable in 2018 compared to the previous year.

The remainder of Italy’s bilateral allocable ODA (US$338 million or 32%) in 2018 was spent on projects that did not target gender at all, while a high number of projects were not screened against the gender marker (US$267 million or 25% in 2018) compared to the DAC average of 11%. OECD data reveals that Italy’s screening of projects has decreased in recent years. In 2016, only 14% of bilateral allocable ODA was not screened. This rose to 25% of projects not being screened in 2018.

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), is in charge of program implementation. The department of human development at the AICS is leading the work on gender equality.