3. Programme implementation

Implementing programmes requires ensuring that what is planned at the design stage is actually put into practice. It implies tracking and adjusting during implementation when initiatives get off track or when circumstances change, in order to ensure that expected outcomes are achieved, with sufficient staff to assess, appraise and advise.

The four principles of effective development co-operation – country ownership, focus on results, inclusive partnerships, and transparency and mutual accountability – provide a framework for more equal and empowered partnerships and more sustainable development outcomes (Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, 2021[1]).

Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members – including ministries and agencies – partner with a range of actors to implement their gender equality policies and strategies.1 DAC members need to consider how different types of partners can respond to, and are suited to, their priorities and the contexts in which they want to deliver results. Most DAC members aim to mainstream considerations for gender equality throughout their programming and, in addition, many have programmes dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Partnering is an essential means of implementation. Implementing programmes means selecting and supporting the right partner. In terms of funding, most DAC members channel the majority of their aid for gender equality through multilateral organisations and/or established civil society organisations based in DAC member countries. Support for local civil society organisations (CSOs) and women’s rights organisations based in partner countries is limited. Support for gender equality through the private sector, while limited, is increasing (OECD, 2020[2]). A couple of DAC members provide large amounts of aid to partner governments’ programmes integrating gender equality, including through budget support, but financial support for gender equality directly to partner governments, including women’s ministries, is limited.

In selecting an implementing partner, it is important to consider each actor’s strengths and weaknesses in the given country and context, depending on the overall gender equality policy and programme objectives. Some overarching questions to consider include, but are not limited to, whether:

  • the implementing partner has a commitment to gender equality and has teams with dedicated expertise (both at headquarters and in country offices, if relevant)

  • gender equality objectives are integrated into procurement documents, processes, scoring and bid assessment

  • the partner is engaging in policy dialogue and advocacy on gender equality with other partners (e.g. the government and the private sector)

  • gender equality is addressed throughout progress reports and the annual review.2

In addition, safeguards need to be applied to all programmes, including prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (Chapter 6).

DAC members can also support and incentivise partners to strengthen their focus on gender equality, including by setting aside a portion of the budget for gender equality expertise, requiring gender equality to be made visible in regular project reporting, or rewarding diversity in the contracted organisation and its downstream partners. DAC members can encourage pooled funds, including humanitarian funds, to engage with and support local women’s movements. This might include identifying criteria in joint funds, to facilitate access for women’s rights organisations and movements.

It is good practice for DAC members to consider each actor’s strengths and weaknesses in the given country and context depending on the overall gender equality policy and programme objectives, and to make adjustments where necessary.

Country ownership of the development process is a core principle for effective development co-operation. While broad-based country ownership requires inclusive and equitable participation from all sectors of society, governments have a unique responsibility to lead development efforts (GPEDC, 2019[3]).

Development co-operation is inherently political and interlinked with diplomacy. DAC members engage in dialogue on gender equality with partner country governments, at the central level, with sector ministries and/or at the local level.3 This indicates an opportunity to increase engagement with planning and finance ministries on gender equality. It is also important to include actors such as women’s rights organisations in sectoral discussions with other ministries. Many countries have also set up development partner co-ordination groups on gender equality, which include government representatives and other development partners.

Financial support directly to partner governments (budget support) for gender equality, however, is rare. It is mainly limited to a few DAC members for which budget support is the overall business model, to provide relatively large amounts of aid integrating gender equality in programmes implemented by partner countries.

It is good practice for DAC members to consider when and how to strengthen their engagement with and financial support for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls through partner government actors.

It is possible that working on gender equality may cause a cultural, societal or religious backlash. It is important to keep in mind that gender equality is an integral part of Agenda 2030 and its Goals, and that equal rights for women are enshrined in United Nations (UN) and regional conventions that most countries have signed on to. It is also important, though, to consider the risk of backlash and to pre-emptively identify strategies to mitigate this. DAC members can listen to the local women’s rights organisations that are often already fighting for these rights to learn how external support can help mitigate such risks, and/or it may be helpful to engage with high-profile and/or male leaders (DfID & FCO, 2019[4]).

In fragile contexts, power dynamics between DAC members and partner country governments are stark. Addressing the root causes of fragility, including gender inequalities, is often politically sensitive. One way around this is to mainstream politically sensitive topics throughout programming, ensuring that such topics are not overlooked or disregarded. Another is to cluster these topics into thematic focus areas for dialogue, allowing development partners to target specific “controversial” topics delinked from their programming (Schreiber and Loudon, 2020[6]). Some DAC members also use decentralised co-operation to address sensitive issues at the local level. Regardless of modality, it is critical to build linkages between development and diplomacy actors throughout the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus, in co-operation with partner governments.

Security actors, including the police,4 are potential agents of change and important in helping shift discriminatory norms and eradicate harmful behaviour (Equality and Justice Alliance, 2020[7]). Such engagement is necessary even when certain actors are a source of intimidation for some marginalised communities, and can include providing training and capacity development on gender equality (International Civil Society Action Network, 2017[8]).

There is broad consensus that the multilateral development system has a crucial role to play and to offer economies of scale in addressing global public challenges. DAC members are the major shareholders and funders of the multilateral development system (OECD, 2020[9]). They are able to absorb high volumes of funding and are one of the most common channels for funding gender equality programmes.

In addition to DAC members’ financial engagement with multilateral organisations, interactions are also focused on multilaterals such as the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the UN General Assembly, which uphold global norms and standards on gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights.

Multilateral organisations often have credibility in partner countries with political legitimacy and neutrality. They also frequently have good working relations with the government, which is their direct counterpart, and which can help to bring gender equality issues to the political level. At the same time, they act at grassroots level through their partnerships with local organisations. They also generally have the reporting and accountability systems in place that are requested and agreed to by DAC members sitting on governing bodies. In addition, multilateral organisations and banks are important partners in leveraging development finance beyond aid (see Chapter 4). The multilateral system may, however, suffer in some cases from lack of co-ordination between institutions, leading to duplication of efforts and fragmentation of resources, and may in some cases lack capacity and expertise on gender equality in country offices.

Several multidonor initiatives focused on gender equality are managed or housed by multilateral organisations or banks. They provide important opportunities for supporting gender equality, although multidonor funds may also involve some risks and unintended consequences. Studies show that these can lead to a limitation of alternative funding opportunities and limiting civil society’s access to interaction with DAC members. There is a possibility that such funds may generate competition rather than collaboration among CSOs (OECD, 2020[10]).

Amongst multilateral organisations, UN entities are the most commonly used channel of delivery for aid for gender equality. The overall trend is towards earmarked project funding and a declining ratio of core contributions provided to the multilateral development system (OECD, 2020[9]). This can partly be explained by the fact that the more detailed reporting desired by some DAC members is often easier to obtain in case of project funding. Core funding is critical, however, for organisations with a mandate to uphold norms.

It is important to consider whether core or earmarked contributions, or joint initiatives (with multidonor funds or inter-agency collaboration), are the best option in a given situation, and to ensure that DAC members’ financial contributions provide multilateral organisations with the independence and flexibility to carry out their activities, while maintaining longer-term gender equality objectives (OECD, 2020[9]).

Civil society organisations, including women’s rights organisations, are essential partners in championing the promotion of gender equality and in upholding accountability for progress.5 CSOs based in DAC member countries often have a role to play as informal drivers of DAC members’ diplomacy, and can rally political pressure domestically (OECD, 2020[10]).

DAC members tend to support CSOs they are most familiar with – that is, well-established international organisations. Two-thirds of aid for gender equality is channelled through CSOs based in DAC member countries rather than locally based (OECD, 2020[10]). There are several related reasons for this. One relates to DAC members’ legal, regulatory and administrative requirements and to their capacity to administer and monitor CSO support. Supporting fewer but larger and often more experienced DAC member country or international CSOs is a way for DAC members to manage the administrative burden and potential financial risk, which comes with direct support for a greater number of smaller partner country CSOs. A second rationale for members to favour member country and international CSOs is the experience and expertise that these CSOs have acquired over decades of development co-operation, aided by DAC members’ financial support. A third rationale for members’ preference for working with their member country CSOs stems from the value they place on public awareness-raising and citizen engagement and the important role they consider that member country CSOs play. For many members, support for CSOs is the main vehicle for increasing public awareness, support and engagement in development co-operation and global issues (OECD, 2020[10]). Keeping these reasons in mind, it is important that DAC members also aim to support local civil society based on partner countries. This could, for example, be done by requiring partnering with such local organisations (OECD, 2020[10]).

Local women’s rights organisations and movements are critical actors in addressing the structural drivers of gender inequality. Groups and movements that are rooted in their local communities, have contextual expertise and speak local languages, and act on the basis of lived experience, are best positioned to deliver change that is transformative and lasting (AWID and MamaCash, 2020[11]). Investing in community facilitators at the local level has been shown to influence the successful outcome of violence prevention projects (UN Women, 2020[12]). Women’s rights organisations and movements have the intention and the orientation to deliver transformative change for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls (Rao and Sandler, 2021[13]). They are also likely to deliver change for additional sustainable development issues. It is important to recognise organisational development as a tangible outcome to support the establishment of solid and sustainable feminist organisations (The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, 2021[14]). While such organisations play an essential role in the promotion and protection of human rights and gender equality, there is a trend towards introducing and using laws to interfere with the right to freedom of association and to hamper the work of these organisations. This can include the imposition of strict registration requirements, along with other complicated and onerous requirements at all stages of the life of an association (Amnesty International, 2019[15]).

DAC members should identify ways of supporting grassroots women’s rights organisations, including through women’s funds. They should aim to reshape their engagement with these organisations and movements and to consult with and listen to them when setting the agenda.

Beyond issues such as lack of awareness and political priority for local women’s rights organisations, managing small grants to a number of organisations with limited capacity can be labour intensive (AWID and MamaCash, 2020[11]). DAC members can better structure their reporting and accountability requirements to meet the needs of local organisations and movements and minimise administrative burdens. The pressure on such organisations not only to demonstrate impact but also report their results against requirements determined by the development partner is difficult to adhere to for some organisations, particularly those that are small and community-based.

Women’s funds whose primary purpose is to mobilise resources to distribute to women’s rights organisations and movements are essential actors in this context. Women’s funds have increased in number in recent years and exist at the international, regional and national level.6 These funds are able to reach and provide structural support to local women’s organisations and movements through small grants, and they are often familiar with the local context (OECD, 2020[16]). Other types of multidonor pooled funding can help members increase their direct support for partner country organisations and potentially broaden their reach to a greater diversity of civil society actors7 (OECD, 2020[16]).

The Global Alliance for Sustainable Feminist Movements is an emerging multi-stakeholder initiative focused on increasing, sustaining and improving financial and political support for women’s rights and feminist organisations and movements.8

As a result of their work, women human rights defenders regularly face threats and attacks on their well-being and safety. These acts of repression are often gender-specific and take the form of verbal abuse, sexual harassment and sexual violence, discrimination, criminalisation, intimidation and assassination, all of which can extend to the families and networks of the persecuted (OHCHR, 2020[17]). Furthermore, women human rights defenders who work on certain areas, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights, often suffer additional and more severe threats (OHCHR, 2020[17]).

Specific measures must be taken to consider risks and ensure the safety and dignity of women human rights defenders. DAC members need to avoid passing on the potential risks of working for women’s rights to these organisations.

Feminist and social justice activism cannot thrive without an open Internet. Technology allows grassroots organisers to build communities, amplify their voices and reach their audiences. However, the same methodologies and tools that open up new possibilities for social change also reproduce inequalities in access, increase the digital gender gap and expose activists to surveillance, abuse and harm (Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, 2019[18]). DAC members need to be conscious of this and work with feminist tech companies and local grassroots women’s rights organisations to develop evidence-based measures and identify both short- and long-term solutions to address online violence (UN Women, 2020[19]).

Fragile contexts offer a unique challenge for civil society engagement, as nearly two-thirds of the contexts categorised as fragile are also categorised as authoritarian as of 2020 (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2020[20]). In these contexts, DAC member engagement with civil society actors – and women’s rights organisations in particular – is a political act in and of itself, or highly likely to be seen as one. Multidonor funds can demonstrate greater solidarity for civil society groups compared to individually funded programmes. If such funds take on an identity separate from the funding sources, this independent image can also help strengthen the fund’s legitimacy.

Academic and research-based institutions as well as consultancy firms are important sources of emerging ideas and new knowledge.9 Research institutions also play an important role in providing statistics and gender analyses in various policy areas that can form the basis for policy making. In some countries, they are key allies of the women’s rights movement. The structure of these institutions permits them to use their knowledge of contextual settings to determine which gender-related research and analytical priorities they will undertake, to strengthen capacity and expand current approaches and ways of thinking (IDRC, 2019[22]). Engaging nonpartisan, objective, evidence-based institutions and expert-led analysis and research can support effective policy dialogue, help formulate productive networks, and generate new ideas.

DAC members should consider working with research institutes, academic institutions and think thanks to champion and support relevant evidence-based research and seek the input of gender equality experts in policy development and at the outset of programme design.

Support in the form of core funding allows these institutions to set priorities that are independent of the political climates. DAC members can also encourage, and facilitate, peer learning and collaboration between like-minded academic and research-based actors and women’s organisations, to unify existing and emerging information and co-create mechanisms to achieve gender equality (IDRC, 2019[22]).

Many familial structures and entire communities are shaped by religious teachings. Some entrenched factors that reinforce gender inequality are upheld by religious institutions. In some countries, the centrality of religion has a profound effect on the perpetuation of gender norms and belief systems. Faith-based organisations and traditional and religious leaders are often well-established and trusted in communities and thus possess extensive reach, channels for engagement and influence (CARE Norway, 2017[23]). Working with faith-based organisations offers DAC members an avenue to establish an environment that can facilitate long-term and transformative change for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls and a small number of GENDERNET members already engaged with such leaders and organisations, as an approach to creating change and advancing gender equality (OECD, 2022[24]).

DAC members can aim to partner with religious leaders and faith-based communities. They can engage in participatory methodologies with religious leaders and locally led, faith-based communities to promote dialogue, awareness-raising interventions and change-oriented actions that seek to eliminate discriminatory and harmful gender norms and behaviour.

These initiatives, however, need to employ approaches that are context-specific (Finland, 2018[25]). In some circumstances, members of religious and faith-based communities and their related belief systems are responsible for the harm experienced by women and girls. In others, these communities and their members provide a place of refuge from harm, but they may not know how to respond appropriately towards women and girls who have experienced violence (Spotlight Initiative, n.d.[26]). The purpose and method of engagement in both circumstances will therefore differ. To minimise the potential for backlash, DAC members may purposefully engage leaders and organisations that have previously undertaken advocacy for social change (regardless of their views on gender). These actors are often not at the very top of religious and faith-based hierarchies, but as an entry point, they offer a strong foundation for efforts to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls (Voices 4 Change, 2017[27]). While most religious leaders are men, DAC members can consider specific approaches to engage key women leaders.

Many DAC members are engaging in partnerships with private sector actors to leverage both private capital and influence, accelerate funding and mobilise resources in the pursuit of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls (OECD, 2020[16]). The benefits of engaging in partnerships with private sector actors extend beyond their potential for financial contributions, as their capacity for establishing efforts that support women-owned businesses and the empowerment of women is significant (OECD, 2020[16]). The private sector can also play an important role in modelling good gender equality practices in the workplace.

Private philanthropy is a large and growing source of funding for many efforts to address global issues. Although it is free from the constraints of political cycles, it is often driven by the visions and intentions of a relatively small group of individuals (Chiu, 2020[28]). This flexibility makes it uniquely positioned to fill gaps in funding by harnessing innovative opportunities and directing money towards areas that are most in need. Private philanthropy can also demonstrate impact and gather information, with fewer strings attached to the funding. Overall, financial support from private philanthropy to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, however, is relatively limited. (OECD, 2021[29]) (Chapter 4).

DAC members can encourage the involvement of different types of private sector actors, starting in the early stages of programme design and implementation, to help identify innovative approaches and additional support, throughout funding and implementation, as well as in results monitoring and follow-up.

South-South Co-operation (SSC) and Triangular Co-operation (TRC) have been instrumental in exchanging knowledge and know-how between partner countries and in designing solutions that are tailored to the local context. SSC and TRC can make important contributions to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls (Wang, 2021[61]). This was highlighted in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and was also taken up in the outcome document of the second high-level United Nations Conference on South-South Co-operation (BAPA+40) (UN General Assembly, 2019[61]).

DAC members support SSC and TRC through direct assistance for projects and to partner countries, funds for triangular co-operation, or providing funding to multilateral agencies that manage these forms of co-operation. Such forms of co-operation will become increasingly important with calls for the localisation of aid and the rise of diverse development partners. COVID-19 has also provided an impetus for partner countries to exchange innovative solutions for development, including on addressing gender inequality.

In line with the Voluntary Guidelines put out by the Global Partnership Initiative (GPI) on Effective Triangular Co-operation (OECD, 2021[30]), DAC members can make sure that the SSC and TRC projects that they support mainstream gender equality and/or have a specific focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. DAC members could also envisage increasing their support for gender-sensitive SSC and TRC projects, as well as enhancing their relations with the institutions in partner countries that manage and implement such projects.

Most DAC members have adopted a twin-track approach of mainstreaming gender equality throughout policies, strategies and programmes, while also implementing dedicated projects or programmes targeted specifically at achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Both of these approaches are needed and complementary – a fact reflected in the 2030 Agenda and its Goals, with Goal 5 dedicated to gender equality and gender mainstreamed throughout other goals.

Policy and/or political dialogue on gender equality is identified as a third track by some DAC members. Others – including this Guidance – consider such dialogue an integral part of gender mainstreaming. Either way, policy dialogue and advocacy is strengthened by programming, and vice versa.

It is important not to assume that activities that do not take gender into account will lead to gender-neutral results. A failure to consider gender equality can exacerbate existing gender inequalities and limit the success of the programme or initiative.

Gender mainstreaming was the approach agreed on at the Fourth World Conference for Women in Beijing in 1995, aimed at changing processes at their core and placing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in “the mainstream”.10 This was described at the time as “nothing short of a revolution” (McDougall et al., 2020[32]).

Mainstreaming has allowed gender equality to be institutionalised in development policy and programming, and has increased attention to gender equality in a range of development areas.11 It allows for gender equality to be included as an objective in a range of programmes (San Miguel Abad, 2018[33]). Well-designed programmes that mainstream gender have been shown to produce positive structural changes for gender equality. Such transformative results can be achieved when programmes consider and mainstream gender dimensions throughout the programme cycle, starting with the design phase (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), 2018[34]).12 Such programmes may include strengthening political and legal frameworks, or training individuals in leadership and decision-making positions (BMZ, n.d.[35]; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, n.d.[36]).

However, the approach has also come in for criticism. It has been argued that there was a lack of real clarity or directive as to what gender mainstreaming meant in practice (Moser, 2005[37]). Some note that gender mainstreaming was separated from its roots in feminist analysis and its intended focus on an unequal distribution of power. Others highlight the low status and lack of funding and leadership that development agencies give gender equality initiatives and staff. Some argue that attention to the process of gender mainstreaming internally led to organisations losing sight of results and of the change achieved on the ground (Milward, 2015[38]).

Many DAC members recognise that mainstreaming in their institution could improve. Some report on challenges in specific sectors – infrastructure, production, environment, climate change – and in some regions and/or challenging environments, often due to a lack of capacity and/or understanding of gender equality. In some smaller DAC agencies, gender mainstreaming and connections between policy areas are facilitated by the fact that the same person or team is responsible for gender equality and, for example, climate change.

Some members take a joined-up approach and provide internal guidance for different cross-cutting policy issues, such as gender equality, climate, rights, poverty and governance. This can help avoid the impression of competition between gender equality and cross-cutting policy areas.

Recognition is increasing that a holistic approach to mainstreaming is needed, implying that mainstreaming gender equality needs to take a development partner’s entire system into account (Finland, 2018[25]; Rao and Sandler, 2021[13]; Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), 2017[39]). Mainstreaming can be understood as an organisational change process helping to create a functioning bureaucracy. It should be led by management, supported by gender equality advisers, and implemented by everyone. There is scope to establish or improve connections across sectors and levels of implementation: from programmes to strategic policies to internal structures (Enabel, 2018[40]). This is addressed in more detail in Chapter 6.

DAC members should take a holistic approach to gender mainstreaming, addressing it in their policy and political dialogue and development co-operation policies and programmes, as well as within their institutions and human resources.

Development partners are making a political choice when they choose whether or not to address gender equality in their policy and political dialogue with partner countries and other development stakeholders. A holistic approach to gender mainstreaming includes political and policy dialogue on gender equality with different types of partners (see Chapter 3.1) at the programming and policy/strategic levels, as well as in international partnerships or negotiations around global or regional commitments.

In partner countries, policy and political dialogue helps create a shared understanding of perspectives and approaches to the effective promotion of gender equality. The importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls can be more readily established if there is a clear linkage to policies and commitments the partner country has already made on gender equality. A majority of countries have signed on to global and regional commitments on gender equality, including the Sustainable Development Goals. Other tools to draw on include invoking the experience of countries in the same sub-region, relying on statistical evidence, using clear language and making the issues concrete.

Policy and political dialogue on gender equality can take place in both formal and informal settings. Ensuring that policies and programmes address gender equality will require the identification or creation of opportunities for discussion. Key entry points for dialogue include:

  • the preparation of the country strategy/joint assistance strategy

  • new funding opportunities

  • sector reviews and mid-term reviews

  • just before and after elections

  • new and revised legislation

  • the launch of key statistics and reports (either specifically on gender equality or with relevant data)

  • informal opportunities (e.g. dinners, receptions, gatherings)

  • high-level visits

  • discussions ahead of and at key international and regional fora such as the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

  • the country reporting cycle and follow-up to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (OECD DAC GENDERNET, 2013[42]).

Programmes by DAC members dedicated to gender equality are mainly focused on governance and civil society, including ending gender-based violence, as well as on maternal and reproductive health (OECD, 2020[2]). Overall, scope remains to increase dedicated funding for gender equality from DAC members (Chapter 4).13

Programmes dedicated to gender equality are suited to action that leads to long-term transformative change, and those with lived experiences to challenge the structures that have resulted in gender inequalities (Rao and Sandler, 2021[13]). Some studies have shown that structural changes have been more successful when managed by programmes dedicated to gender equality than by mainstreamed programmes (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), 2018[34]).

Dedicated programmes can provide unique insight into the opportunities and obstacles to gender mainstreaming and have a positive effect on gender mainstreaming, including facilitating integration of gender equality in policy dialogue in other sectors or thematic areas (European Commission, 2020[43]).

DAC members should aim to increase programmes dedicated to gender equality and, in designing these programmes, consider their comparative advantage on the topic in the given country and context.

The thematic focus of support dedicated to gender equality will vary, depending on the local context (e.g. new opportunities or heightened risks or gaps) and on the existing efforts of other development actors. In general, to maximise utility and achieve transformative change for gender equality, dedicated programmes can target the following areas and approaches:

Encouraging an enabling environment where all stakeholders work together is an essential component for achieving gender equality. Change must be made at an individual level (working on beliefs and behaviour) and at the structural level (on laws and policies, and their implementation), since neither is capable without the other of creating an environment where transformation can occur (Kagesten and Chandra-Mouli, 2019[44]). Successful actions require the participation of governments and local stakeholders (Chapter 2).

Supporting local women’s rights organisations and movements. Local and grassroots women’s rights organisations play a critical role in advocacy and social awareness, in addition to the groundwork that goes into changing legislation, stigmas, norms and practices (Htun and Weldon, 2012[45]). Feminist activism can help women and girls demand societal and policy changes that respond to the needs and realities of their lives (Weldon et al., 2020[46]).

Because shifting and redistributing power dynamics is central to gender equality, engaging men and boys is a pivotal part of achieving this goal (Munive, 2019[47]). Men’s relationships with women may significantly improve, or hinder, movement towards women’s safety and gender equality. Research shows that engaging boys and men in the discussion and promoting gender equality is exponentially more effective (UNFPA, 2013[48]). DAC members’ current policies show that this approach has gained momentum.14

Also crucial in achieving of gender equality is engaging young people – adolescent girls and other young people – as drivers of change. Although young people engage less in institutionalised forms of participation, such as voting and party membership, they are using digital technologies to discuss social and political issues and to mobilise others. For example, concerns about intergenerational fairness have mobilised thousands of young people around the globe to call for bold government action against climate change (OECD, 2021[49]). DAC members can pursue methods of engagement and support specific to young people that address their unique realities. They can also tackle entrenched and harmful behaviour; reinforce behaviour that increases gender equality; and help empower them to facilitate change.


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[11] AWID and MamaCash (2020), Moving More Money to the Drivers of Change: How Bilateral and Multilateral Funders Can Resource Feminist Movements, Association of Women’s Rights in Development and MamaCash, https://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/movingmoremoney_finalfinalfinal.pdf.

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See more about effective development co-operation and the implementation of the principles: https://www.oecd.org/development/effectiveness/.

See the OECD’s analysis on multilateral development finance: https://www.oecd.org/dac/multilateral-development-finance-2020-e61fdf00-en.htm.

For guidance on good partnership practices that promote strong relationships between civil society organisations and government representatives on engaging men and boys in gender equality, see “Strengthening Civil Society Organizations and Government Partnerships to Scale Up Approaches: Engaging Men and Boys for Gender Equality and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights”, a tool developed by the UNFPA, MenEngage Alliance and Promundo: https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/50694_-_Scaling_up_Men_and_Boys_-_revised.pdf.

For more information on innovative support to women’s civil society organisations, see the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality report, “Women’s Civil Society Organizations of the Future: A Design-Led Exploration With Women’s CSOs of Possible Responses to Current and Future Challenges”: https://www.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/Headquarters/Attachments/Sections/Trust%20Funds/FundGenderEquality/FGE%20Brochure%20Womens%20CSOs%20of%20the%20Future_2020_web.pdf.

The UNDP and Civil Society Organizations’ “A Toolkit for Strengthening Partnerships” aims to provide practitioners and partners with practical guidance and information for engaging in partnerships with CSOs: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?page=view&type=400&nr=2141&menu=1515.

For more on the theory of gender mainstreaming, see “Gender and Development” Vol. 20/3, November 2012: https://www.genderanddevelopment.org/issues/20-3-beyond-gender-mainstreaming.

For examples of practical mainstreaming tools see:


← 1. Twenty-two DAC members noted that they have an explicit approach to working on gender equality with multilateral organisations, ranging from earmarked project funding, contributions to existing multilateral trust funds and funding of gender equality positions, to advocacy and strategic steering, including through policy and board meeting discussions.

← 2. List adapted from (DfID & FCO, 2019[4]).

← 3. Ten DAC members noted that they engaged with partner country governments on gender equality. At the sector level, DAC members state that they engage mainly with the ministries of health, education and gender equality.

← 4. For an overview of security actors in the context of the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus, see Forsberg, E. (2020[50]). “Security actors in fragile contexts”, OECD Development Co-operation Working Papers, No. 75, OECD Publishing, Paris, p. 13.

← 5. Twelve DAC members identified CSOs as the main or one of the main modalities for funding gender equality programming. Only two DAC members mentioned local women’s rights organisations as a main modality for funding gender equality programmes. Some DAC members indicated having worked with CSOs on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, through framework and flagship programmes, strategic partnerships, dialogues and consultations, as well as dedicated funding mechanisms.

← 6. For example, the Global Fund for Women, AmplifyChange, Flexibility Resources Inclusivity Diversity Action (FRIDA): the Young Feminist Fund, Mama Cash, Equality Fund, Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, Fondo Semillas, the African Women’s Development Fund and the Fiji Women’s Fund.

← 7. Such as the UN Fund for Gender Equality (FGE), the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) and the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

← 8. The Alliance is being co-developed by Canada, the Netherlands, the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, Philanthropy Advancing Women’s Human Rights, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development and the Count Me In! Consortium, the Global Fund for Women, the Equality Fund and Prospera.

← 9. Thirteen DAC members noted that they engaged with academia and other external technical experts.

← 10. The 1997 agreed conclusions of ECOSOC defined gender mainstreaming as: “The process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetrated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.” https://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/GMS.PDF.

← 11. Of 24 DAC members, 21 note in the survey that they have an explicit intention to “mainstream” or “integrate” gender equality and women’s empowerment in their development co-operation.

← 12. For example, a project promoting the participation in economic co-operatives, by training and awareness-raising for men and women, led both to women taking on leadership positions in the co-operative and to increased overall production.

← 13. In the survey, 22 out of 24 DAC members reported that they have programmes specifically dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Only seven, however, say the gender equality team has a discretionary programme budget for gender equality at headquarters level. Some DAC members have set up dedicated funds and others have gender equality budget lines for partnerships, or thematically earmarked budgets relating to specific gender topics. Only two members indicate that they have discretionary programme budgets for gender equality at the country level.

← 14. Fourteen members in the survey identified “working with men and boys” as an approach for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls more broadly.

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