The UN must deliver global leadership on financing for gender equality by first improving its own processes, systems and operations.
The UN Secretary-General has made gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls (GEWE) a top priority of his tenure. The need to accelerate progress has been prompted, in part, by a 2017 external review estimating that only 2.03% of the UN Development System expenditures are allocated to GEWE, while only 2.6% of UN personnel work on the issue.
At its meeting on the gender priorities for the UN System in June 2017, the Executive Committee of the Secretary-General recommended that the UN consider establishing a light and time-bound High-Level Task Force (HLTF) on Financing for Gender Equality to review UN budgets/expenditures across the System and make recommendations on how to strengthen the financing for gender equality.
Co-chaired by the Executive Director of UN Women and the Secretary-General’s Senior Advisor on Policy, the HLTF analyzed the scope of investment for gender equality across the UN System for both human resources and budget allocations on GEWE. It reviewed what the UN System had already achieved in establishing financial targets/benchmarks and implementing financial tracking systems for GEWE. It also considered how existing UN guidance, tracking systems and technical capacities could be enhanced to increase uptake, consistency and comparability of data on financing for GEWE across the System. The HLTF also explored innovative approaches and mechanisms for increasing resources for GEWE outcomes.
The HLTF endorsed a series of recommendations for the UN System to improve its own structures, systems and processes to better support financing for gender equality. The recommendations complement the Secretary-General’s Strategy for Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and recognizes the work of the Digital Financing Task Force for the SDGs in full integration of GEWE in these efforts.
Recommendation 1: Strategic Planning
All UN entities and UN field operations should integrate GEWE objectives into strategic plans, establish costs and allocate required budgets for implementation.
This will enable entities to reach a more accurate estimate of the financial requirements to deliver on their GEWE objectives. It requires an assessment of the entity-specific financial and human resource costs and/or funding gaps to implement actions to achieve these objectives. Each UN entity will consider the following:
1a. Develop and/or update Strategic Planning Guidance and other policy documents to include gender equality results at impact level.
1c. Develop operational plan with required budget allocations to achieve the identified GEWE objectives, as well as indicators to track and report progress.
1d. Include in all senior management compacts with the Secretary-General a set of performance indicators on financing GEWE strategic plan objectives.
Recommendation 2: Gender Equality Architecture
All UN entities to: 1) establish the baseline investment in human resources for achieving GEWE objectives; 2) determine the existing human resources within the gender architecture; 3) provide budget allocations to meet no less than the established baseline; and 4) monitor gender architecture requirements and performance regularly.
A fully realized gender equality architecture would include gender experts with: a) decision-making power; b) roles within institutional decision-making and programmatic delivery; c) associated budget allocations under gender experts’ responsibility; d) a mechanism for entities to report performance on gender equality objectives; and e) capacity to influence entities’ policies and decision-making. Each UN entity will consider the following:
2a. Establish standard definitions of core elements of the optimal UN gender architecture and define a common methodology that each entity can use to measure and cost current capacities/architecture.
2b. Map the cost of the current UN System gender architecture, with the levels and responsibilities for employees in each UN entity, and the extent to which gender expertise is integrated into all relevant human resource and substantive areas of its work.
2c. Establish a baseline and assess the costs of an effective and resource-efficient gender architecture, based on the definition and methodologies established above, according to each entity’s mission, scope and size.
2d. Earmark budgets for the gender architecture required to fully implement GEWE objectives.
Recommendation 3: Financial Targets
All UN entities to establish meaningful baselines for financial budget allocations for GEWE, using a common methodology, and then establish or refine and meet its minimum financial targets for GEWE programmatic and non-programmatic outputs and activities with incremental reviews every two years.
A UN entity’s current baseline of financial budget allocations for GEWE should be used as the basis for establishing a financial benchmark that is both realistic and ambitious. This benchmark should be a percent of a UN entity’s total financial budget, including both regular and voluntary funding. The Entity should then achieve its financial target across its budget allocations, programmatic and non-programmatic. Each UN entity will consider the following:
3a. Establish existing financial budget allocation baselines for GEWE – by tracking expenditure across the entity that addresses GEWE. The methodology for establishing the baseline needs for budget allocations to GEWE may include contributions to either significant or primary goals, as both mainstream and target spend is necessary to achieve GEWE.
3b. Establish entity-specific financial benchmarks as minimum floor to achieve GEWE commitments, and it will be subject to review, adjustment and incremental increase every two years. Benchmarks will need to be linked to financial tracking.
3c. Implement an accountability system across each UN entity with Department Heads responsible for ensuring progress towards meeting the financial benchmarks for budget allocation and expenditure/delivery. This will require the development of assessment criteria and regular monitoring at all levels.
Recommendation 4: Gender Equality Marker (GEM)
All UN entities to develop a policy on GEWE financial tracking (allocations and expenditures) mechanisms and implement an automated GEM system.
Building on existing guidance and practice, the consistent system-wide implementation of GEM systems will strengthen comparability and transparency on financing for gender equality across the system. Each UN entity will consider the following:
4a. Map all customized GEM scales to a 4-point scale by harmonizing coding recommendations to allow for a mapping of equivalences among different GEM systems to ensure comparability .
4b. Embed GEM in the entity’s ERP system, including the UN Secretariat’s ERP UMOJA, previously defining a common methodological approach to be communicated internally for implementation.
4c. Apply to budget allocations and expenditure at activity and output levels, allowing for consistency in application and comparability of data across the UN System.
4d. Harmonize reporting on Financing for Gender Equality in individual UN entities on an annual basis to Senior Management, Donors and Governing Bodies.
4e. Adopt Quality Assurance Guidance to guarantee reliability, accuracy and consistency of GEMs. Ensure that scores are applied correctly and monitored transparently within broader accountability processes Also adopt the Gender Marker Guidance for UNCTs to track resources allocated by the collective UN System under the UNDAF/UNSDCF cycle to capture globally comparable data on the UN System’s investment at the country level in achieving the GEWE objectives as outlined in the SDGs.
4f. Include GEM in the portfolio of each entity’s programme managers for oversight. UN entities should have a GEM implementation strategy in place that includes internal oversight mechanisms through which progress can be monitored.
4g. Entities implementing financial tracking mechanisms that differ from the standard GEM to develop mapping crosswalks and equivalences to ensure comparability: Comparability is the cornerstone of system-wide reporting and therefore a balance between entity/sector needs and harmonization needs to be addressed.
Recommendation 5: Harmonized Reporting
All UN entities to present harmonized, consolidated reporting of data on GEWE in the Secretary-General’s report on “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the UN System”.
This will be implemented through a centralized unit within UN Women for UN coordination on financing for GEWE. The consolidated information will be presented in one, streamlined SG report and address the implementation of GEM systems, SDG 5 financing from UN Data Cube, UNCT gender markers from UN Info and the UNCT-SWAP Scorecard, and UN entity’s baselines and targets for GEWE from the UN-SWAP 2.0.
The centralized unit will provide helpdesk support, guidance, capacity-building, monitoring, analysis and reporting on financing for gender equality in the United Nations System. Each UN entity will consider the following:
5a. Develop guidelines to facilitate consistent data reporting and use of GEM data with an emphasis on planning, evaluation and advocacy purposes. In addition to analyzing compliance, the UN-SWAP could introduce systematic data collection of information on mapping and costing of the gender architecture of the UN System and on programmatic and non-programmatic budget allocations and expenditure for gender equality.
5b. Provide helpdesk support and more consistent vetting of data reporting. Capacity building for harmonized implementation of the GEM could be delivered through better use of existing UN System-wide expertise. A process of inter-agency coordination based on existing UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), FBN, Strategic Planning Network (SPN), and Human Resources (HR) networks and peer review processes can support alignment and harmonization, quality assurance and capacity development.
5c. Establish mandatory implementation and reporting of GEM at UNCT level through UN Info. Fully roll-out of UN Info in all UNCTs as reflected in the forthcoming UNSDCF Guidance, tasking UN Info with providing an overview of how the UN development system in each country is channeling resources towards national priorities, thematic sectors (including cross-cutting gender, human rights and humanitarian markers) and the SDGs.
Recommendation 6: Pooled funds for gender equality
The UN system to 1) integrate GEWE criteria into the design, selection, implementation and monitoring of pooled funds, including those managed by the MPTF Office and standalone (pass-through and pooled) Joint Programmes; 2) establish a GEWE minimum financial target across all pooled funds; 3) mainstream gender equality, including performance indicators into the Joint SDG Fund; and 4) explore the use of innovative financing mechanisms, including modification of UN rules and regulations to diversify funding modalities and partners.
Gender mainstreaming in pooled funds can open avenues to target significant resources to gender-responsive interventions across thematic areas. However, high-level gender expertise and performance indicators on GEWE will need to be included in the call for proposals and the corresponding review process. Further, restrictive policies and regulations in many UN entities will need to be reviewed and modified to allow for more diversity in funding modalities and partnerships. Each UN entity will consider the following:
6a. Conduct a systematic review of all pooled funds managed by the MPTF Office to assess the extent of gender responsiveness in guiding frameworks, assessment criteria of proposals, monitoring and evaluation systems, and reporting.
6b. Develop strategic guidance to integrate gender analysis and performance indicators into the design of new pooled funds and into the operations, procedures and assessment of existing funds.
6c. Drawing on the experience of the Peace Building Fund, develop a set of criteria for establishing minimum financial targets on GEWE in all pooled funds and methods for incremental increases to these financial targets over time.
6d. Prepare guidance and a proposed set of gender performance indicators for the leadership of the Joint SDG Fund. This would be presented for inclusion in the next round of proposals for funding.
6e. Explore innovative financing approaches, in line with their mandate, to assess their potential to increase available resources for GEWE results and share evidence/promising practices with the aim of mainstreaming GEWE into innovative financing mechanisms, including the Joint SDG Fund.
6f. Explore modifications to existing rules and regulations to allow for different partnerships modalities with full regard for the UN Development System (UNDS) due diligence approach.