Executive Summary

In recent decades, Colombia has made considerable efforts to encourage gender equality as an important enabler of inclusive growth and national well-being and to promote gender mainstreaming through institutions, policies and tools. However, despite progress, persistent gender gaps still limit greater equality and stronger economic growth. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing inequalities, with differential effects on certain population groups, and economic and social impacts falling disproportionately on women and girls.

To address these gaps, in recent years Colombia has adopted a normative framework protecting women’s rights, legislation enabling greater representation of women in public administration and in politics, and measures to combat gender-based violence. Colombia also became the first country in the world to formally acknowledge the economic contribution of unpaid care work with a specific law. In February 2022, the Constitutional Court decriminalised abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. The country recently adopted a new national public policy on gender equality for women under CONPES (National Council on Economic and Social Policy) document 4080 of 2022, aiming to co-ordinate efforts across the whole of government and establishing a vision to guarantee women’s equality and non-discrimination. A stand-alone section on women’s rights was also included for the first time in the National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2022. Furthermore, recent institutional reforms include the establishment of the Legal Commission for Women’s Equity in the Congress and the commitment to strengthen the Presidential Council for Women’s Equality (CPEM). Aiming to further reinforce its institutional framework for gender equality, in January 2023 the government approved a law for the creation of a Ministry for Equality and Equity. At the subnational level, the government has promoted both the inclusion of gender provisions in Departmental and Local Development Plans as well as the creation of a secretariat (or at least a division, programme or liaison with the Office of the Presidential Counsellor for Women’s Equality) in charge of gender issues in departments and municipalities across the country. Colombia has also taken steps to encourage the adoption of an intersectional approach in the production of data for gender-sensitive policy making.

Still, there is scope to further strengthen institutional capacities and capabilities to promote a more coherent and co-ordinated approach to gender mainstreaming in Colombia, encourage gender-sensitive policy making, and make the country more resilient to future shocks and crises. With the CPEM guiding the implementation of gender equality policy across the government, Colombia could enhance the integration of gender perspectives into policy making, promote a strategic use of government tools, and foster results-oriented strategic planning. As observed across OECD Member countries, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown light on long-standing and deeply rooted gender inequalities and the difficulties of integrating a gender perspective in emergency management processes. It has also highlighted the importance of gender equality and gender-sensitive policy making for an inclusive and sustainable recovery. Since it is facing growing economic, environmental and geopolitical pressure, closing existing gender gaps would also allow Colombia to achieve more inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

This report assesses four key pillars of governance for gender equality, by analysing strengths and areas for further improvement:

  • strategic planning for gender equality policy;

  • a whole-of-government approach to promoting gender equality;

  • use of public governance tools to achieve gender equality objectives; and

  • an inclusive and gender-sensitive emergency preparedness framework.

In particular, the review highlights some areas where further efforts could underpin greater gender equality outcomes.

First, building on legal requirements and the vision set by the National Public Policy on Gender Equality, a standard approach to the implementation of gender mainstreaming could be further developed. Such an approach could clarify expectations for national and subnational governments in terms of integrating a gender perspective in ministerial and departmental strategic policy planning. In preparing any future gender equality-related policy, government institutions could identify a set of high-level and results-oriented goals as the frame of reference for policy action, prioritisation of resources and accountability. Developing a homogenous set of indicators to follow progress in closing gender gaps, as identified through high-level goals, could facilitate monitoring and evaluation of policy outcomes over time.

Second, consideration could be given to strengthening the capacities of the CPEM to lead the adoption of gender mainstreaming, as well as to provide expertise and support to line ministries and subnational entities for implementing the gender equality policy and developing sectoral and departmental strategies. In parallel, the mandate of the centre of government could be formalised to provide advice and challenge the public administration to incorporate gender considerations into the design of policies, programmes, initiatives and budgets. At the ministerial and subnational levels, to reinforce Colombia’s whole-of-government institutional framework, there may be scope to strengthen and standardise the internal structure for gender mainstreaming and to enhance capacity, while improving horizontal and vertical co-ordination.

Third, the government could consider adopting a staged approach to promote the systematic use of gender impact assessments (GIAs), an underused tool in Colombia in absence of legal or policy requirements to implement it. To this effect, the collection, use and exchange of data disaggregated by gender and other characteristics should be increased. Similarly, a gradual approach could be followed to further develop gender budgeting by encouraging wider use of the budget tracer, Colombia’s core gender budgeting tool, developing the methodology to identify policies that have a positive, negative, or neutral/unknown impact on women’s equality, and taking mitigating budget allocation measures as needed. The existing regulatory and strategic framework on public procurement could be reviewed to amplify the mechanisms and tools used to incorporate gender considerations, and their implementation could be reinforced. Additional actions could also be taken to strengthen the institutional framework for gender-sensitive infrastructure to promote consistency and policy coherence across the whole of government.

Finally, legal provisions or measures could be introduced to incorporate gender sensitivity and inclusiveness within Colombia’s disaster risk management (DRM) system. Using the existing legislative DRM set-up and commitments stemming from ratification of international frameworks on disaster risk reduction, the government could integrate gender considerations into DRM and continue raising awareness across public institutions, while making progress towards achieving its gender equality objectives.

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