1. Assessment and recommendations for improving gender equality in Colombia

This report assesses four key pillars of Colombia’s governance for gender equality, by analysing strengths and identifying areas for further improvement. It examines strategic planning for gender equality policy, a whole-of-government approach to promote the gender equality policy, using government tools to achieve gender equality objectives, and an inclusive and gender-sensitive emergency preparedness framework. Based on OECD standards, such as the 2015 OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Public Life (OECD, 2016[1]), and on the experience of other OECD Member countries, this Chapter summarises key policy recommendations to support ongoing efforts in the country to ensure gender-sensitive policy and decision making through gender mainstreaming.

The government of Colombia in recent years has made efforts to anchor a medium-term, whole-of-government vision for gender equality in key strategic documents and to raise awareness of the importance of gender mainstreaming across the public administration at both national and subnational levels. Sound legal requirements mandate that the national government adopt gender criteria in policies, decisions and actions and to ensure that governmental institutions have adequate instruments to implement them. The renewed National Public Policy on Gender Equality sets a vision and medium-term general objectives for gender equality in Colombia that are aligned with the policy lines expressed in the cross-cutting chapter on Women’s Equality included in the National Development Plan 2018-2022. However, scope remains for promoting a standard approach to the implementation of gender mainstreaming, and challenges arise in translating whole-of-government objectives into ministerial and departmental strategic plans that risk limiting progress on gender equality on the ground. Gaps also remain in monitoring and evaluating policy outcomes over time. To improve its strategic planning for gender equality, the government of Colombia could:

  • With the support of the National Planning Department (DNP) and the CPEM, develop protocols/processes, standard methodologies and guidance for the law-making, regulatory and policy cycle. Such guidance would clarify the expectations for the national and subnational governments on adopting gender mainstreaming as a strategy to achieve national gender equality objectives and to encourage analysis of all public policies from a gender perspective.

  • Ensure adequate mandates and capacities for the stakeholders (DNP, line ministries and subnational governments) tasked with monitoring whole-of-government compliance with Law 823 of 2003, mandate the adoption of gender criteria in policies, decisions and actions and ensure that the institutions responsible have adequate instruments to implement them.

  • Identify high-level and result-oriented goals to guide the development of future policies on gender equality. Outline clear objectives and targets in relation to those high-level priorities and clarify roles, responsibilities, resources and lines of accountability.

  • Establish requirements for line ministries to develop gender mainstreaming action plans and to regularly report on progress. Scale up the Ministry of Energy’s good practice in conducting sectoral studies to build ministerial plans with a gender focus.

  • Enhance the use of statistical data in designing, planning, implementing and delivering public policies and services, including in areas not explicitly linked to gender equality.

  • Develop a homogeneous set of indicators across government institutions to monitor and evaluate progress in closing gender gaps, as identified through high-level goals.

  • Encourage co-ordination between central, departmental and municipal levels of government on strategic planning. Assess the use of information portals to determine the demand from central entities and their use in strategic planning and decision making at the local level.

  • Support departmental governments in the planning process through capacity building and knowledge sharing.

  • Increase the resources of the CPEM to work on a strategy to follow up the implementation and impact of gender policies at the subnational level.

The Centre of Government (Presidency and Vice-Presidency; National Planning Department, NDP; Ministry of Finance; Administrative Department of the Public Service, DAFP) plays a foundational role in the promotion of the gender equality policy, with the DNP tasked with helping to incorporate a gender approach in sectoral policies, plans and programmes. The CPEM, as the main central governing body for the gender equality policy, has advisory and consultative functions. Still, there is room to reinforce Colombia’s whole-of-government institutional framework and capacities to promote gender equality and to seize opportunities to improve implementation of related objectives. At the ministerial level, there is scope to strengthen and standardise the internal structure for gender mainstreaming and to enhance capacity. Similarly, at the subnational level, it could be beneficial to promote standard institutional set-ups and reinforce the organisational structures and capacities provided for gender equality objectives. Whole-of-government co-ordination could also be enhanced, to create synergies and policy coherence and improve information sharing. Moving forward, the government of Colombia could consider the following recommendations:

  • Strengthen the capacities of the CPEM to a) promote the gender equality agenda and lead implementation of gender mainstreaming in public administration both at the national and subnational level, in co-ordination with other CoG bodies; b) provide expertise and support to line ministries and subnational entities, in co-ordination with the DNP, for implementation of the gender equality policy and the integration of the gender perspective into 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.

  • Formalise the mandate of 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 into the design of policies, programmes, initiatives and budgets as appropriate.

  • Further clarify the expectations for line ministries, departmental governments and municipalities in applying gender mainstreaming. On this basis, adopt the most appropriate institutional set-up (e.g., gender units, champions or task forces) accompanied by adequate capacity to allow for the integration of gender perspectives in sectoral and local policies and programmes.

  • Strengthen horizontal and vertical co-ordination mechanisms and help to operationalise them by assigning a steering role to the CPEM that, with adequate resources, could co-ordinate, guide and monitor the implementation of gender equality activities and measures.

  • Continue raising awareness and developing gender competence and skills in staff of line ministries with the support of the DAFP and in close co-operation with the CPEM and the other CoG institutions.

Operational tools to promote gender equality, ex ante and/or ex post gender impact assessments (GIAs) are rarely undertaken in Colombia, since there is no legal or policy requirement to implement them. Nevertheless, various mechanisms exist for consulting citizens in the early stages of policy making, and line ministries are formally required to consult with stakeholders in the preparation of regulations. Legal foundations and institutional arrangements underpin the operationalisation of gender budgeting and provide a strong basis for ensuring its sustainability in the long term. The budget tracer is the core gender budgeting tool for activities that support women’s equality. Scope remains, however, to implement it more systematically in different sectors and levels of government, and its information, although it improves transparency around the amount of money invested for women’s equality, does not influence decisions on resource allocation to progress on gender-related objectives. Colombia also employs some basic measures to encourage gender-sensitive public procurement. Still, 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. More efforts could also be made to strengthen the institutional framework for gender-sensitive infrastructure to promote consistency and policy coherence across the whole-of-government. In general, the absence of data and evidence, the lack of co-ordination, and the limited accuracy of existing data are the main challenges to the strategic use of all government tools for gender-related purposes. To address these gaps, the government of Colombia could:

  • Adopt a staged approach to promote the systematic use of GIAs, including: 1) engaging communities and gender experts in public consultations, developing sector-specific needs assessment and analysis in line ministries, identifying major laws with potential for high impact on gender equality, and the planning of audits of data sources and publications; 2) developing a guiding framework for GIA implementation; 3) introducing a binding legal requirement to conduct GIAs for all policies, programmes and regulations.

  • Promote the collection and dissemination of data disaggregated by gender and other characteristics on a systematic basis and enhance their use in designing, planning, implementing and delivering gender-related public policies and services. Improve the exchange of data between national entities and promote characterisation by gender of statistical exercises.

  • Invest in cross-cutting training to improve the collection and use of gender-disaggregated data across the government. Set up systems to facilitate the conversion of administrative records in statistical records.

  • Adopt a staged approach to further developing gender budgeting, including by: 1) encouraging wider use of the budget tracer, reinforcing institutional capacity, supporting selection of gender performance indicators and increasing the availability of gender-disaggregated data; and 2) developing the methodology for the budget tracer to help identify policies that have a positive, negative, or neutral/unknown impact on women’s equality, introducing programme budgeting and creating an inter-agency group to ensure regular co-ordination.

  • Strengthen leadership commitment to promote gender-sensitive public procurement.

  • Expand the scope of the regulatory and strategic framework for gender-inclusive public procurement, beyond simply encouraging suppliers to add women to their staff.

  • Facilitate use of tools and mechanisms to incorporate gender considerations in public procurement through stakeholder engagement and support activities.

  • Monitor the impact of recent reforms and support gender-responsive infrastructure. Adopt formal methodologies to integrate gender considerations in infrastructure project planning and appraisal.

  • Enhance the use of data to increase awareness of and promote political consensus on the benefits of gender-responsive infrastructure. Anticipate data needed to evaluate the progress of implementation. Develop strategies to ensure that data can be reused for planning and investment decision making. Promote whole-of-government co-operation.

Colombia has worked in recent years on developing a national disaster risk management (DRM) structure to improve the country’s resilience to disasters and interconnected risks. The national government has introduced programmes to strengthen the role of women in DRM, but legal provisions or measures could be introduced to support an inclusive, gender-sensitive DRM system. Leveraging the existing legislative DRM set-up and commitments stemming from ratification of international frameworks on disaster risk reduction, Colombia could integrate gender considerations into DRM, while making progress towards achieving its gender equality objectives. The following recommendations might be considered:

  • Strengthen the mechanisms for monitoring enforcement of existing legal provisions on gender-sensitive disaster risk management (DRM), including laws on DRM and global frameworks on inclusive and gender-sensitive DRM.

  • Make changes to existing DRM legislation as appropriate, to make it more inclusive and gender-sensitive.

  • Raise awareness of the importance of adopting an inclusive, gender-sensitive DRM across the whole of government, as well as in NGOs, civil society and local communities.

  • Continue mainstreaming gender considerations in the work of both national and subnational entities, acknowledging the importance of gender equality as a multi-dimensional and cross-cutting policy issue.

  • Increase women’s empowerment through capacity-building activities, such as special training on DRM for women and women-led organisations in local communities, encouraging them to participate in all stages of the DRM cycle.

  • Explore mechanisms to ensure stable financial support for DRM, especially at the local level, and channel resources to departments and municipalities that report funding limitations, to help them strengthen their DRM systems and integrate a gender equality perspective.


[1] OECD (2016), 2015 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Gender Equality in Public Life, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264252820-en.

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