4. A whole-of-government approach to promote gender equality policy in Colombia

Gender equality is a complex, cross-cutting and multidimensional public policy issue which requires the participation and co-ordination of all government actors, as well as of relevant non-governmental stakeholders. The 2015 OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Public Life (hereinafter the 2015 OECD Gender Recommendation) promotes the adoption of a whole-of-government approach as the most effective strategy for making progress in the area of gender equality (OECD, 2016[1]). Building on evidence and good practices, it emphasises that this approach requires committed leadership, sound institutional design, efficient co-ordination mechanisms and adequate capacities and capabilities for gender mainstreaming at appropriate levels of government. Co-ordinated whole-of-government approaches have become especially relevant in the last 20 years, with the increase in transversal and multifaceted policy challenges, and in the number and size of state agencies and autonomous bodies (OECD, 2021[2]).

Institutional design for the promotion of gender equality includes the roles and mandates assigned to central gender equality institutions as “bodies primarily responsible for supporting the government’s agenda to advance society-wide gender equality goals”. It also involves the Centre of Government (e.g. the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Finance), data-producing bodies such as national statistics offices, line ministries and public administrations at various levels of government (including in areas not traditionally associated with gender, such as environment, transportation, procurement, planning and economic development), and other delivery partners specific to each country’s context (OECD, 2021[2]). Accountability and oversight mechanisms – such as independent commissions, audit institutions and parliamentary committees – also play a key role, as they help identify needs, gaps and challenges in meeting gender equality goals, and encourage compliance with gender equality policies.

The following Sections assess the robustness of the institutional design and whole-of-government approaches for promoting gender equality outcomes in Colombia, highlighting good practices and proposing next steps to strengthen the institutional set-up, with a view to making progress towards national gender equality objectives.

In recent years, Colombia has made an effort to reinforce its whole-of-government institutional framework to promote gender equality, including through gender mainstreaming at both national and subnational levels. As illustrated in Figure 4.1, this framework refers to:

  • a central gender equality institution (the Presidential Council for Women’s Equality, or CPEM), located at the Centre of Government, with consultative and advisory functions;

  • the Colombian Observatory for Women (OCM) attached to the CPEM, as a tool for collecting, analysing and disseminating both information on Colombian women and relevant indicators on gender equality in the country;

  • a Centre of Government, made up of: the Presidency of the Republic, which has the highest responsibility for the promotion of gender equality; the National Planning Department (DNP), which supports the incorporation of a gender approach into sectoral policies, plans, programmes and projects; the Ministry of Finance, which supervises and advises on the use of the budget tracer for women, to identify public funds used to support women’s equality in Colombia;

  • the National Council for Economic and Social Policy (CONPES), Colombia’s most important policy co-ordination and policy-integration institution in the government, which acts as an advisory body on all policies related to national economic and social development, including gender equality;

  • line ministries that implement gender policies within their areas of responsibility;

  • departmental governments that lead their local gender equality agendas in line with the objectives of the National Development Plan;

  • municipal governments that promote gender equality objectives at the local level;

  • the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), Colombia’s main source of data disaggregated by gender and by other identity factors;

  • accountability from the Congress.

Central gender institutions are key pillars for the promotion of the government’s gender equality agenda (OECD, 2019[3]). Delivering specific programmes for the empowerment of women has historically been one of the main responsibilities of central gender equality institutions across the OECD. However, given the cross-cutting nature of gender equality policy, momentum has been growing in recent years to expand their mandate and allow them to play a more significant role in ensuring co-ordination with governmental stakeholders and civil society. In several OECD countries, central gender equality institutions assist line ministries in integrating gender considerations into policy analysis by developing specific tools and guidelines, as well as into sectoral strategic planning, by highlighting the relevance of gender issues. For example, the Division for Gender Equality in Sweden works closely with other government agencies and provides them with support and knowledge to achieve national gender equality goals. As part of their mandate, central gender equality institutions can also lead the implementation of gender equality policies and programmes, make policy recommendations and give advice to other government bodies, conduct policy research on gender issues, and monitor the implementation of governmental gender initiatives. In some instances, other responsibilities include supporting capacity building in line ministries for gender mainstreaming, guiding the development of gender-disaggregated data, and reviewing the quality of gender analysis for draft legislation, regulations, policies and programmes (OECD, 2019[3]). More recently, OECD analysis has highlighted the role played by the central gender equality institutions in bringing a gender perspective to the decision-making table after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic (OECD, 2021[4]). Central gender equality institutions can also play a key role in supporting the strategic use of some government tools, such as gender impact assessments, gender budgeting, infrastructure and public procurement, by providing expertise and guidance to responsible line ministries and agencies. For example, Women and Gender Equality (WAGE) Canada, the Canadian institution leading key policy initiatives on issues affecting women and girls, is tasked with guiding the government’s implementation of its tool for gender and intersectional analysis (GBA+) through capacity and advice (OECD, 2018[5]). Similarly, as explained in Chapter 5, in Belgium, the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men released a manual and checklist in 2018 on gender-sensitive public procurement for federal staff managing public procurement contracts (OECD, 2021[6]).

Across the OECD, there is no standardised blueprint for the institutional design of central gender equality institutions. Given the varied nature of governmental set-ups, administrative culture and specific contexts, OECD countries have experimented with different structures to implement and co-ordinate strategic objectives for gender equality and gender mainstreaming. Although the positioning of these institutions in government structures can send a strong signal of political commitment to the gender equality agenda, no single template can be suggested, as the effectiveness and robustness of the institutional set-up depend both on the high-level profile of central gender institutions and on adequate capacities to carry out their mandate. Certain elements are necessary, though, to ensure they function effectively.

Central gender equality institutions may be a separate ministry, paired with other portfolios in a single ministry or located in the office of the head of government or state. Figure 4.2 shows institutional arrangements commonly used in OECD countries. Since data was first gathered on this topic in 2011, units in the Centre of Government (CoG) have become more common (10 countries) in the OECD area, while units on gender equality in ministries of social affairs (or equivalent) continue to be among the more common arrangements (7 countries).

In Colombia, the central institution with responsibility for the government’s gender equality policy is the Presidential Council for Women’s Equality (Consejeria Presidencial para la Equidad de la Mujer, CPEM). Initially created in 1999 to support the development of approaches to address gender-based violence (GBV), the CPEM has progressively expanded its areas of work, covering aspects related to economic empowerment, health, peace and security, and institutional strengthening. Currently, as established by Decree 1784 of 2019, its main functions include: providing advice on the design of policies, plans, programmes and projects for the promotion of gender equality; ensuring co-ordination and policy coherence; and establishing follow-up mechanisms to comply with domestic legislation and international treaties and conventions related to women’s equity and gender mainstreaming. As the main governing body for the gender equality policy, the Council provides the government with advice on how to promote women’s equality and progress in closing the existing gender gaps.

Since its establishment in 1999, the CPEM has been located under the Vice Presidency or the Presidency of the Republic. Created to replace and expand the mandate of the National Direction for Women’s Equality, the CPEM was placed under the co-ordination of the Office of the Director of the Administrative Department of the Presidency (DAPRE) between 1999 and 2019. Since then, following Decree 1784 of 2019, it has been attached to the Vice Presidency. Similar institutional structures across the OECD countries are illustrated in Box 4.1.

The strategic choice of having the CPEM directly attached to the Vice Presidency of the Republic indicates the government’s recognition of the gender equality and women’s empowerment agenda as a cross-cutting priority. Placing the CPEM at the Centre of Government has helped ensure it has a steering role, as well as the mandate to engage line ministries, departmental governments and municipalities in mainstreaming gender considerations in their work.

In its current configuration, the CPEM is formally led by a Presidential Counsellor, as are Colombia’s other High Commissioner’s Offices and Presidential Councils. The Presidential Counsellors work on advancing government initiatives under the National Development Plan’s priority policy pillars in their areas of responsibility, as well as the President’s own programming priorities. Presidential Counsellors are part of the Presidency of the Republic, and their budget depends on the Administrative Department of the Presidency. Their status thus differs from that of a minister, who is a member of the executive, sits in the Council of Ministers, and has resources guaranteed by the annual national budget. Under Decree 823 of 2012, however, the President of the Republic can summon the directors of administrative departments and other officials to participate in the Council of Ministers. This is the case for the Presidential Counsellor for Women’s Equality, who attends all meetings of the Council of Ministers (currently led by the President, and including the Vice President and 18 ministers), usually without decision-making powers except on gender equality-related issues.

As noted above, the CPEM is essentially an advisory institution. The OECD finds that there is scope to increase the CPEM’s ability to support the effective implementation of the Law 823 of 2003 across the public administration. According to this Law, the national government shall apply “gender criteria in policies, decisions, and actions in national and decentralised public agencies’’, as well as adopt all the administrative measures and instruments required for its implementation. The CPEM has limited resources to facilitate and monitor implementation of this requirement, with six full-time positions, funded by the state budget. Other positions or activities are funded by international co-operation or ensured through service contracts, where possible. The CPEM does not have a dedicated budget to invest in projects, facilitate gender mainstreaming, and act as knowledge broker across the public administration. Only recently has a trust (Patrimonio) been created to allow the CPEM to develop projects aimed at promoting women’s entrepreneurship as part of the efforts to mitigate the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women. The OECD baseline assessment (2016-18) found that a limited resources and limited authority often restrict the central gender institutions’ ability to facilitate gender mainstreaming across the government (OECD, 2019[3]). These challenges, which came to the fore during the COVID-19 crisis (OECD, 2020[7]), have prompted some governments to allocate increased resources to gender equality institutions.

Given the growing responsibilities assigned to the CPEM, the government of Colombia could consider strengthening the entity by assigning it a broader mandate as well as adequate capacities, capabilities, and resources. In the medium term, a dedicated public entity/or department on gender equality could support the CPEM in carrying out its mandate. Box 4.2 provides examples of good practices across the OECD in this respect.

At the time of the publication of this review, the government of Colombia just approved a law (Law 2281 of 2023) for the creation of a Ministry of Equality and Equity, which is expected to assume the functions of the CPEM in the medium term and reinforce the country’s institutional architecture and capacities for gender equality and mainstreaming.

Supporting the CPEM, the Colombian Observatory of Women (Observatorio Colombiano de las Mujeres, OCM) gathers, analyses and disseminates information on the situation of women living in Colombia. Created by Law 1009 of 2006, at a time when such data and statistics were not collected, the Observatory now provides information on women in Colombia, divided into seven main clusters: demography, economic autonomy, health and reproductive rights, gender-based violence, decision making, education and information and communications technology (ICT), and peace building. It also produces regular publications on gender-related topics. To gain access to gender-disaggregated data needed to inform indicators and publications, the OCM has agreements with both the National Planning Department (DNP) and the National Department of Statistics (DANE). The OECD finds that its limited resources represent the main challenge to the sustainability and impact of the Observatory. The OCM currently has four full-time professionals: a statistician, a gender analyst and a platform engineer, as well as a co-ordinator relying on international funds. In light of its supporting role to Colombia’s central gender equality institution, the OCM could benefit from greater resources to carry out its activities. Box 4.3 provides details on similar initiatives to promote the dissemination of statistics on gender equality in OECD countries.

Created in 2021 by the Ministry of Interior and the Colombian Institute of Technical Standards and Certification (ICONTEC), the Observatory ‘Everyone’s Colombia’ (Colombia de Todos) aims to monitor and follow up on acts of discrimination in the country, with the goal of reducing them. The Observatory’s activity is thus not limited to racial discrimination, since it also monitors and follows up on acts of discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, opinion or political participation, and disability. Funded by the Ministry of the Interior, it is intended to help the government of Colombia meet its 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 5 (on gender equality and empowerment of women and girls) and SDG 10 (on social, economic, and political inclusion for all). Officially launched by the national Government in May 2022, the Observatory advises the Ministry of Interior on those matters, proposing actions to tackle various forms of discrimination, helping formulate public policies and working to reduce cases of discrimination in Colombia by issuing a seal of non-discrimination. Human resources assigned to the Observatory as well as its related work plan were due to be determined in the second semester of 2022.

The Centre of Government (CoG) bodies play a key role in leading and steering the implementation of cross-cutting goals (OECD, 2019[3]) (OECD, 2019[3]). The CoG is also a key actor in realising society-wide gender equality objectives. OECD evidence shows that the involvement of the CoG in gender equality governance is one of the key success factors to embed gender mainstreaming initiatives in the public administration. In particular, the CoG could play a pivotal role by providing strategic guidance and oversight on the implementation of gender equality objectives, while empowering central gender institutions to work with all public sector entities to drive change. In addition, the CoG can clarify what line ministries are expected to do to improve gender equality, develop clear and simple measurement and evaluation of executive performance, and remove barriers to implementation. The CoG can also encourage the strategic use of government tools (such as gender impact assessments, gender budgeting, infrastructure and public procurement) by providing oversight, establishing rules, and challenging line ministries to comply with them. Finally, engaging CoG can highlight the importance of gender equality as a national goal and policy practice, while encouraging accountability and facilitating buy-in. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, CoGs across the OECD also played an important role in co-ordination and strategic planning, the use of evidence to inform decision making, and the communication of decisions to the public (OECD, 2020[12]) The Canadian institutional set-up represents a good practice of CoG commitment in promoting the gender equality agenda (Box 4.4).

In Colombia, the CoG has a foundational role in the area of the promotion of the gender equality policy. It includes the Presidency and the Vice Presidency of the Republic, the National Planning Department (DNP), the Ministry of Finance and, to a limited extent, the Administrative Department responsible for the public service (DAFP). The following Sections analyse their role and responsibilities on the promotion of gender equality in Colombia. The role of the Ministry of Finance is discussed in Chapter 5.

The office of the President of the Republic (Presidencia de la República) in Colombia represents the CoG, which oversees and co-ordinates the implementation of the President’s agenda. Its main functions include providing guidance and oversight to formulate and execute the government’s policy priorities, in particular as they relate to the NDP, which is issued every four years and outlines the national objectives, programmes, goals, as well as planned investments for the government’s term of office. As highlighted in Chapter 3, a strong political commitment to gender equality has been expressed in the formulation of Colombia’s National Development Plan 2018-2022: Pact for Colombia, Pact for Equity (Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2018-2022: Pacto por Colombia, Pacto por la equidad), which for the first time includes an entire chapter dedicated to women’s equity.

As established in Decree 1714 of 2018, the Vice Presidency of the Republic is responsible for certain missions and special assignments delegated by the President and grouped into thematic blocks along the three axes of the NDP: legality, entrepreneurship and equity. In this framework, the Vice Presidency is in charge of issues of women’s equity and provides support to the President of the Republic, who has the highest responsibility for the promotion of gender equality.

The National Planning Department (Departamento Nacional de Planeación, DNP) is Colombia’s CoG institution, which develops, co-ordinates and supports short-, medium- and long-term planning in Colombia, while guiding the public policy cycle and managing allocation of public investment. The DNP co-ordinates the formulation, execution, monitoring and evaluation of the National Development Plan and other policies, including those concerning gender.

Since 2013, the DNP has had a specific subdirection for gender located under the Directorate for Social Development, which is in charge of guiding the design of public policies that promote gender equality, diversity and gender mainstreaming, non-discrimination and respect for sexual diversity, and for carrying out follow-up and evaluation. The establishment of a subdirection for gender is a critical step signalling political commitment to the gender equality agenda, and highlighting the government’s intent to mainstream gender considerations in public investment and other policy areas.

In co-ordination with the CPEM and the Ministry of Finance, the subdirection also supports the incorporation of a gender approach into sectoral policies, plans, programmes and projects, with specific guidelines for each sector. However, like the CPEM, it has limited resources (only three full-time employees) to carry out its mandate, restricting the scope of its action and impact on gender mainstreaming. OECD interviews have established that in many instances, success in mainstreaming gender considerations across line ministries has depended on the political will of each institution. DNP’s subdirection has organised sectoral workshops to raise awareness and encourage entities to adopt a gender approach in formulating their policies and programmes, although this remains limited, as noted below.

The Administrative Department of the Public Service (Departamento Administrativo de la Función Pública, DAFP) is the technical, strategic and transversal entity of Colombia’s national government in charge of managing civil servants and human resources, public management and evaluation, internal control, risk management, as well as organisational development, institutional strengthening and transparency. The 2015 OECD Gender Recommendation notes the importance of government capabilities for gender mainstreaming at all levels of government, for example, through training, engaging experts and disseminating relevant data and information. The National Plan for Training and Capacity Building 2020-2030 (Plan Nacional de Formación y Capacitación 2020-2030) provides guidelines for building and improving skills and performance of Colombian human talent in the public sector. However, there is no framework at present that identifies skills and capacities for public officials relevant for gender mainstreaming. As part of its mandate to improve the performance of civil servants, the DAFP could increase its key role in support of capacity building and managerial accountability for gender equality and mainstreaming, in co-ordination with the CPEM and other CoG institutions.

Promoting gender equality is a whole-of-government effort, requiring the involvement of all government institutions. Line ministries have a key role in mainstreaming gender considerations, in integrating them into their routine functioning, decision-making processes and management structures. To ensure effective implementation, co-ordination and sustainability of a gender equality and mainstreaming strategy, adequate institutional mechanisms should be established in all public institutions, including ministries and public agencies. As noted in the OECD 2015 Gender Recommendation, it is important to “ensure the capacities and resources of public institutions to integrate gender equality perspectives in their activities”. Governments could consider, for example, identifying gender equality focal points across public bodies; investing resources in training and promoting collaborative approaches with knowledge centres to produce gender-sensitive knowledge, leadership and communication; ensuring the collection of gender-disaggregated statistics in their areas of responsibility; and providing clear guidelines, tools, communication and expectations to public institutions in this area (OECD, 2016[1]).

As noted in Chapter 3, Colombia’s Law 823 of 2003 mandates that all national public institutions, including line ministries, incorporate gender considerations into their policies, decisions and actions. Reinforcing the institutional framework for gender mainstreaming has been a major priority of the Colombian government in recent years. This has been reflected in a co-ordinated effort to create specialised offices or units across key public entities at the national level.

However, no standard practice is in place in the ministries’ internal structure for gender mainstreaming, and capacity remains uneven. In 2019, a strategy adopted by the CPEM called for the creation of gender groups at entity level, to accelerate the pace of sectoral reforms. OECD interviews revealed, however, that in some cases, these groups remained symbolic. A strong leadership at the ministerial level has been an important factor for the success of these initiatives. For example, the DANE has reported that it has benefited from the strong engagement of its leadership to help incorporate a gender perspective in its work. As explained below, the DANE has made significant efforts to improve the collection and use of gender-disaggregated data at national level, supported by its leadership’s interest and commitment.

Some line ministries in the public administration now have their own gender committees (such as the Ministry of Transport) or units (such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; the Ministry of Labour; and the Ministry of Justice) tasked with implementing specific projects related to gender equality. Others (such as the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, ICT) have no dedicated units or offices, but report developing their programmes with a gender perspective.

In accordance with stakeholder discussions, line ministries’ capacities could be strengthened to allow for a more effective integration of gender perspectives in their sectoral policies and programmes. Line ministries could adopt the most appropriate institutional set-up, with well-defined roles and responsibilities, as well as adequate knowledge and resources to carry out their mandates. Box 4.5 shares good practices from Canada, Czech Republic and Sweden.

Gender equality work spans a wide range of policy areas, and sound co-ordination mechanisms must be put in place to foster policy coherence across governmental bodies and levels of government. Meanwhile, the involvement of relevant non-governmental stakeholders should be encouraged to promote an inclusive, comprehensive coverage of gender equality issues (OECD, 2018[13]). The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of strengthening whole-of-government co-ordination to address complex emergencies, given the time-sensitive and cross-cutting nature of crises (OECD, 2021[2]).

In recent years, Colombia has made progress in creating structures for horizontal co-ordination in order to implement policies and laws, notably the National Gender Equality Policy and the National Development Plan. Most entities at national level reported having a formal co-ordination mechanism and/or established formalised practices to co-ordinate policies and programmes related to gender equity.

Under Decree 1930 of 2013, representatives of all ministries, the CPEM and other national entities (the DNP; Presidential Department of Social Prosperity; Colombian Institute of Family Welfare; Administrative Department of Public Function; and presidential counsellor for human rights and international affairs) have a seat in the Inter-sectoral Coordination Commission for the Implementation of the National Gender Equality Public Policy, which aims to co-ordinate, harmonise and promote the Gender Equality Public Policy and Action Plan.

However, as seen in the 2017 Evaluation Report on the implementation of the CONPES 161 of 2013, the commission is a space for accountability in sharing the progress made on gender equality, rather than a forum for strategic co-ordination to guarantee implementation of the CONPES Action Plan. As the report shows, this is mainly due to the limited decision-making power of the participants, who are appointed by the participating entities, and to the CPEM’s inability to convene the highest-level representatives of each entity in the Commission (Proyectamos Colombia, 2017[14]). Additionally, according to the stakeholders interviewed in the fact-finding mission, the Commission, which in principle should meet every three months, has not held sessions for more than four years.

The Commission is due to be replaced by the National Women’s System (Sistema Nacional de Mujeres), set up in the National Development Plan 2018-2022, although, in the absence of a decree to regulate it, it is not yet in operation. It is intended to become the participatory mechanism co-ordinating implementation of the gender policy in Colombia and will aim to strengthen the channels of articulation and dialogue between the different public and private entities to guarantee women’s rights. It would also aim to include issues of women’s equality in the agendas of public and private entities (Presidency of Colombia, 2021[15]). A similar system also exists in Mexico, as shown in Box 4.6.

The National Economic and Social Policy Council (Consejo Nacional de Política Económica y Social, CONPES) is Colombia’s highest national planning authority, providing advice to the government and the President of the Republic on policies concerning national, economic and social development. Created by Law 19 of 1958, it co-ordinates and guides the governmental entities in charge of the economic and social policy, studying and approving documents on general policy development. The CONPES is responsible in particular for reviewing the National Development Plan (NDP) before it is linked to the national budget statement and presented to the Congress for approval by the Ministry of Finance. The DNP acts as its executive Secretariat. As established by Decree 2148 of 2009, the CONPES is chaired by the president and has as permanent members the vice president, all ministers, the director of the Administrative Department of the Presidency of the Republic, the director of the National Planning Department and the director of the Administrative Department of Science, Technology and Innovation.

As explained in Chapter 3, in 2013, the CONPES co-ordinated the drafting of the CONPES Social 161, the most recent public policy document on gender equality in Colombia.

Led by the CPEM, the Inter-institutional Committee of the Gender Affairs Observatory aims to guide the OCM to “identify and select a system of gender indicators, categories of analysis and monitoring mechanisms to make critical reflections on policies, plans, programmes, regulations, jurisprudence for the improvement of the situation of women and gender equality in Colombia”. Recently reactivated by the CPEM and the DNP, this mechanism is considered key for gender mainstreaming and consolidating gender-based indicators.

Colombia has three special Committees in the sectors of Commerce, Industry and Tourism; Transportation; and Mines and Energy. In stakeholder discussions, the institutions reported that the Committees, which meet periodically and are composed of high-level representatives in the sectors, express the political will of these sectors on gender affairs and constitute a good practice for the co-ordination and implementation of gender issues in strategic sectoral commitments. In this sense, they also help integrate a gender lens in sectoral strategies and specific programmes. For example, the Committee for Gender and Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Commerce, Industry and Tourism sector has established strategic lines for 2021-2022 aiming to strengthen female entrepreneurship and enhance women’s managerial skills, to increase their participation and leadership at the corporate level in the sector.

As noted in Chapter 3, the National Planning Council is a space for social dialogue by representatives of civil society, which can thus intervene in formulating planning policies and especially the NDP. However, stakeholder discussions have revealed that co-ordination between governmental institutions and civil society is still limited, potentially weakening implementation of the gender equality strategy. Still, there seems to be increasing awareness of the importance of creating mechanisms to consult citizens throughout the policy cycle. Bogotá’s Administration has created a participatory mechanism of governmental institutions, social partners and civil society (Box 4.7).

In assessing the effectiveness of the overall co-ordination efforts across the government for gender equality, OECD finds that despite past efforts and willingness to operationalise existing mechanisms, whole-of-government co-ordination remains very limited. According to the responses provided to the OECD 2021 Survey on Gender Mainstreaming and Governance by Colombia (hereinafter, the 2021 GMG Survey), the main challenges in co-ordinating gender-related policies and or/programmes horizontally across government entities include the limited impact of past co-ordination efforts and the lack of appropriate structures for co-ordination, as well as a lack of structures or arrangements to exchange data and information between public institutions. As noted by several stakeholders, Colombia would benefit from strengthening the existing co-ordination mechanisms for gender equality and mainstreaming among line ministries by assigning a clear leading role to the CPEM. In addition, Management and Performance Institutional Committees (Comités de Gestión y Desempeño Institucional), included in all ministries by law, could be a useful mechanism for improving this co-ordination, but only if committed to discussing gender issues. In the OECD area, several countries have set up mechanisms for co-ordination across the central/federal governments. Box 4.8 highlights some examples. Their experience could also inspire Colombia to reinforce its horizontal co-ordination mechanisms.

Data is a strategic asset for policy makers to identify gender biases and inequalities and proactively make inclusive policy choices. The availability of high-quality, easily accessible and understandable evidence and data is of utmost importance for governments willing to achieve their gender equality objectives and outcomes. As stressed in the 2015 OECD Gender Recommendation, countries should strengthen their evidence base, actively promote data dissemination and increase co-ordination among bodies that collect and produce data and collaborate with relevant stakeholders. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of quality data for policy making and for reacting in a timely way to unexpected crises (OECD, 2021[2]). National statistics offices and bureaus play a key role in this respect, since they ensure the production and dissemination of relevant data and statistics disaggregated by gender and by other identity factors as a basis for supporting informed policy decisions.

DANE is Colombia’s national institution charged with ensuring the availability and quality of strategic statistic information, as well as of leading, planning, executing, co-ordinating, regulating and evaluating the production and dissemination of official information. In particular, as established by Decree 262 of 2004, its main functions include: defining and producing the strategic statistic information needed at national, sectoral and local levels to support planning and decision making; establishing technical norms for the production, processing and dissemination of data; drafting the National Statistical Plan and co-ordinating its implementation; and encouraging the use of statistics.

Currently, the DANE supports line ministries in their gender mainstreaming efforts by providing them with relevant data and statistics. As noted in Chapter 5, the DANE in recent years has made significant efforts to improve the collection and use of gender-disaggregated data at the national level. The establishment of a new “differential and intersectional group” at the managerial level is intended to encourage the collection of statistics with intersectional and differential approaches.

The DANE could enhance its role producing data to support assessment of gender impacts across sectors as Colombia carries out systematic gender analyses of policies, programmes, regulations and budgets. Greater co-ordination should be ensured between the DANE, line ministries and departmental and municipal entities to encourage the exchange of data and information. These recommendations are discussed in more detail in Chapter 5.

Sound accountability and oversight mechanisms can support governments in making gender mainstreaming initiatives successful and sustainable and in ensuring that gender equality remains a legislative priority. In OECD countries, various levels of accountability are enabled by independent institutions such as parliaments, or independent oversight institutions such as independent commissions, equality bodies, Ombudsman’s offices, and supreme audit institutions (SAIs).

These mechanisms can play both a pre-emptive and a recourse role. They can encourage compliance with gender equality policies, pinpoint deficiencies and challenges in fulfilling gender equality goals, and help provide neutral and objective evaluations on the impact of the efforts of government actors. Oversight and accountability institutions can also play a significant role in communicating to citizens about gender equality outcomes, gender mainstreaming strategies and gender equality concerns, such as violence against women and the gender pay gap. In Sweden, for example, an audit by the supreme audit institution has revealed the existence of barriers to gender mainstreaming and helped to remove them, resulting in a reform of its gender mainstreaming structures. Box 4.9 provides further details.

Parliaments and parliamentary committees can provide checks on various government entities and support the sustainability of gender equality reforms during phases of political change, while independent monitoring mechanisms, such as dedicated commissions, can support recourse for complaints related to gender-based discrimination or other forms of injustice, and oversee implementation of the government’s gender equality commitments.

In Colombia, the Legal Commission for Women’s Equity (Comisión Legal para la Equidad de la Mujer), established by Law 1434 of 2011 and made up of members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, encourages and promotes the adoption of national policies to improve the situation of women in Colombian society and eliminating all forms of discrimination. Among its main functions, the Commission has the mandate to elaborate legislative proposals to ensure the realisation of human, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of Colombian women, with the support of women’s associations and groups, think tanks and other human rights organisations. In doing so, the commission also exercises political oversight on state entities in relation to the formulation and development of gender equality plans, programmes and policies. In addition, it contributes to disseminating information on the current legislation and on the strengthening women’s rights through public hearings, meetings, symposia, working groups and seminars.

Moreover, as described comprehensively in Chapter 5, the government is mandated to submit a consolidated report on expenditures targeted towards women’s equity to the Congress every year, to promote accountability on the use of public resources for gender-related objectives.

A whole-of-government approach to gender mainstreaming calls for effective co-ordination mechanisms at all levels of government, including at the subnational level. Local entities provide a wide range of services that have the potential to close or widen gender gaps, and their proximity to citizens allows them to gain a deeper understanding of the population’s needs.

As established in the country’s Political Constitution, the territory of Colombia is divided into 32 departments (departamentos) and a capital district (distrito capital), the city of Bogotá. Each department is led by a governor (gobernador) and by a departmental assembly (asamblea departamental). Departments are further divided into municipalities (municipio), led by a mayor (alcalde) and a popularly elected municipal council (concejo municipal). The governing bodies of departments and municipalities are elected for a four-year term.

Departments in Colombia have a mandate to pursue gender equality objectives in line with the national gender equality policy and the National Development Plan. However, as already observed across the national government in Colombia, the subnational level has no standard institutional set-up for gender mainstreaming. Departments in Colombia may have a specific secretariat, a subsecretariat, a gender office or no dedicated unit at all, relying sometimes only on a single employee in charge of gender equality issues.

This Section provides details on the design and structure of the gender machineries of two of Colombia’s departments, Boyacá and Huila, which were indicated and selected by the CPEM for the purposes of this review.

The department of Boyacá organises leadership, co-ordination and articulation of its gender equality agenda through the Directorate for Women and Social Inclusion, located under the Secretariat for Social Integration, which addresses all vulnerable groups and minorities. In particular, the Directorate promotes the inclusion of all women of the department and, to this effect, works on strategies and projects designed to increase women’s economic autonomy and political participation, close the digital gender gap, fight stereotypes, prevent gender-based violence and provide technical assistance to rural women.

With a significant share of the population of Boyacá made up of women living in small rural villages, the Secretariat for Social Integration devotes special attention to gender-related issues and co-ordinates with the other Secretariats in the department to promote gender mainstreaming. For instance, it collaborates closely with the Secretariat for Planning to manage the budget tracer for women, and runs initiatives with the Secretariat for Agriculture benefiting rural women. To ensure that the gender topics are mainstreamed in the work of all the secretariats, an advisor on women, inequality and poverty issues works as a liaison and provides guidance and targeted training to officials, including to the Government Council where the Secretaries and the governor sit together. Exchanges have revealed that having a Secretariat for Women with its own budget could increase the impact of the local projects for Boyacá’s women; however, given the lack of local resources, the creation of such a body is not anticipated for the time being.

At municipal level, the Secretariat for Social Integration ensures support and advice on gender-related issues to all the 123 municipalities of Boyacá on an ongoing basis, while also helping them in the implementation of policies and actions addressing women. In particular, it provides trainings and technical assistance for gender mainstreaming and ensures co-ordination thanks to liaison officers appointed locally. The Secretariat for Social Integration has strived to create liaison offices in each local municipality, despite of their budgeting difficulties. As underlined at the bilateral meetings, this has represented a noteworthy achievement that has encouraged mainstreaming of gender issues at municipal level as well.

The Department of Huila promotes its gender equality agenda through the Office for Women, Children, Adolescence and Social Affairs, which is in charge of implementing strategies and actions to encourage women’s empowerment and to address GBV. Gender mainstreaming is encouraged through to the Inter-institutional Committee to co-ordinate implementation of the public policy for gender equality (CICIPEG), made up of representatives of the departmental government, as well as of three representatives of Huila’s women, who give voice to the needs and views of the local female population. The committee meets every four months and follows up on the actions and policies included in the department’s Development Plan 2020-2023 called “Huila grows” (Huila crece), to keep track of the gender equality achievements. This also helps identify and evaluate the contributions of each project to closing gender gaps. As noted in interviews with relevant stakeholders, in 2022, a specific request to create a Secretariat devoted to gender issues was to be submitted to the General Assembly of the State of Huila. This is likely to increase the capacity of the department for advancing its gender equality agenda.

At the local level, the Governor’s Office has communicated with the 37 municipalities of the Department through a unit that gives the mayors’ offices with advice on gender issues. In December 2021, the Office for Women, Children, Adolescence and Social Affairs established a new departmental Council for Women with consultative functions, involving women of Huila and representatives of the municipalities, to encourage co-ordination and monitoring of local gender public policy.

At subnational level, co-ordination with the CPEM depends on whether the local entity has a secretariat, a subsecretariat, a gender office or no dedicated unit at all.

For example, the CPEM is the main strategic counterpart of the Secretariat for Social Integration and the Directorate for Women and Social Inclusion of Boyacá’s Department, as it accompanies them in the process of closing gender gaps and helps them look for alliances with the private sector and other entities.

Exchanges have shown that the lack of resources across the full spectrum of the institutional set-up in Colombia is also true of subnational entities, as they rely on the resources from the national government. This makes it important to conclude agreements with private organisations to achieve the departments’ gender-related objectives.

As the 2021 GMG Survey showed, barriers due to different administrative cultures, the lack of appropriate structures for co-ordination, and the lack of political will/leadership at the subnational level are the main challenges reported in co-ordinating gender-related policies and/or programmes between the central government and the subnational entities. Box 4.10 highlights some examples of structures for vertical co-ordination in OECD countries.

  • Consider strengthening the capacities of the CPEM to a) promote the gender equality agenda and lead the implementation of gender mainstreaming across the public administration at both national and subnational levels – in co-ordination with other CoG bodies; b) provide expertise and support to line ministries and local entities (in co-ordination with the DNP) in relation to the gender equality policy and to integrating the gender perspective in sectoral plans and strategies. At the time of the publication of this report, the government of Colombia approved a law for the creation of a Ministry of Equality and Equity, with the aim to reinforce the country’s institutional architecture and capacities for gender equality and mainstreaming in the medium term.

  • Consider formalising the mandate for the Centre of Government (especially the National Planning Department and the Ministry of Finance), in close co-ordination with the CPEM, to provide advice and challenge the public administration to incorporate gender considerations, as appropriate, into the design of policies, programmes, initiatives and budgets.

  • Given the finite resources of the public sector, consider further clarifying the expectations for the line ministries in applying gender mainstreaming to implement Law 823 of 2003 and high-level priority goals for gender equality (see Chapter 3). These expectations could, for example, include:

    • developing a result-oriented strategic plan, setting a clear rationale, priorities, timelines, objectives, targeted actions and expected outcomes in each ministry;

    • undertaking gender analysis;

    • ensuring access to qualitative and quantitative data and information;

    • engaging in consultations with relevant governmental and non-governmental stakeholders to promote inclusive, comprehensive coverage of gender equality issues on a systematic basis;

    • ensuring effective co-ordination with the CoG, with other line ministries and with the data-collecting and data-producing bodies.

  • On this basis, and as appropriate, line ministries could consider the most appropriate institutional set-up (e.g. gender units, champions or task forces) and identify adequate capacities to allow for the integration of gender perspectives in their sectoral policies and programmes. The OECD has identified certain elements to enhance the effectiveness of those mechanisms, such as:

  • ensuring that specialised gender expertise is available in public institutions;

  • demarcating roles, mandates and responsibilities clearly;

  • providing line ministries with sufficient capacity (training and knowledge) and resources (budget and staff) to implement gender initiatives and analyse the gender impacts of their work.

Similar approaches, as noted above, could be introduced in departmental governments and municipalities as appropriate.

  • Consider strengthening various co-ordination mechanisms (inter-ministerial and vertical co-ordination with the territorial entities) to encourage synergies and policy coherence, as well as to improve information sharing. The CPEM could be assigned the leading role for operationalising these mechanisms, along with the necessary resources to co-ordinate, guide and monitor the implementation of gender equality activities and measures.

  • Continue developing gender competence and skills in the staff of line ministries, with training and awareness campaigns to promote knowledge of gender-related issues and adequate skill sets. As part of its mandate to improve the performance of public servants, the DAFP, in close co-ordination with the CPEM and other CoG institutions, could undertake a key role to support building capacity and managerial accountability.


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