Note No 140
27 April 2001


VIENNA, 27 April (UN Information Service) – The United Nations Office in Vienna hosted a Workshop on Governance, Poverty Reduction and Gender Equality between 23 and 25 April 2001. The workshop was jointly organized by the United Nations Inter-agency Committee on Women and Gender Equality (IAMWGE) and the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Working Party on Gender Equality.

The meeting brought together participants from a broad range of organizations from the UN system and DAC member countries. It built on the three previous joint workshops – addressing Gender Mainstreaming (Geneva 1997), the Rights-based Approach to Gender Equality (Rome 1998), and Women’s Empowerment in the context of Human Security (Bangkok, 1999). It also formed part of the follow-up to the Twenty-third Special Session of the General Assembly, Beijing +5. The discussions focused on concrete actions to promote stronger inter-linkages between governance, poverty reduction and gender equality at both policy and operational levels.

At the conclusion of the Workshop the participants issued the following Communique:

"Gender Reponsive Governance and Poverty Reduction

Good governance, gender equality and women’s empowerment are necessary conditions for the reduction of poverty. The importance of these factors is affirmed by numerous international instruments on human rights and social justice. There is also a large body of evidence showing that gender equality enhances good government and poverty reduction. Sustainable poverty reduction requires the full involvement of women as central actors in the processes of governance.

Good governance has been defined as the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority to manage a nation’s affairs, and the complex mechanisms, processes, relationship and institutions through which citizens’ groups articulate their interests, exercise their rights and obligations and mediate their differences. Accountability, transparency, participation and legitimacy are core elements. Gender responsiveness is essential to all of these, and is a measure of good governance. Analysis and action on gender issues, the participation of women as well as men in governance processes at all levels, and the recognition by institutions of women’s rights and needs, are as central to good governance as to poverty reduction.

A number of entry points exist for bringing gender issues to bear on the linkages between good governance and poverty reduction. These include, among others:

  • National Action Plans based on the Beijing Platform for Action
  • Poverty reduction strategies, including Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers
  • National development frameworks, including Common Country Assessments, UN Develop-ment Assistance Frameworks, country assistance strategies, and sector action plans
  • Examinations of resource allocation, in particular gender responsive budgets
  • States parties’ reports under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
  • National and international legal and judicial frameworks.

Gender analysis should be integral to all of these instruments and processes. Progress to date has been inconsistent and often weak. Much needs to be done to build commitment and develop good practice. Examples include the importance of strengthening country gender theme groups within UN country teams and offices to bring together governments, donors, and civil society to achieve these goals.

Looking Ahead

Gender responsive pro-poor governance depends on dynamic and active partnerships in the social and political fora that elaborate and redefine public policy. Together, these strategic partnerships can uphold the right of citizens to participation, information and accountability. They need to include civil society and especially women’s networks at grass-roots, local, national and global levels. Other key factors in building alliances include:

  • A strengthened role of women’s groups in negotiating processes at different levels
  • Identification of new allies and partners, especially men
  • Enhanced donor and development agency coordination
  • Improved access to public information through mass media and new information and communication technologies
  • Increased national capacities, in particular that of national mechanisms for promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, to participate in policy analysis and dialogue
  • Enhanced accountability and participation at the local level, by giving greater importance to decentralization processes and decentralized development cooperation
  • Strengthened capacity for gender analysis and governance in UN peace building operations.

Addressing governance and poverty reduction from a gender perspective presents a challenge to earlier development paradigms and brings broad-based benefits for all. Gender responsive budgets, for example, provide a new and potentially effective mechanism for ensuring greater transparency and accountability in the allocation of public funds.

The workshop recognized the importance of informed and constructive dialogue among all partners and identified a number of priority actions for future work:

  • More data and better analysis are needed, addressing both quantitative and qualitative dimensions and making full use of participatory action research
  • More robust indicators and measures of progress
  • Strengthened capabilities at both technical and political levels in multilateral and bilateral institutions, partner governments, and civil society
  • Bringing a gender perspective to bear on the new forms of international governance linked to globalization, and capturing and sharing examples of good practice.

The links between gender equality, good governance and poverty reduction need to be addressed in forthcoming global events, including the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in May 2001, the UN General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS in June 2001, and the International Conference on Financing for Development in early 2002. The UN Secretary General’s forthcoming road map for the implementation of the Millennium Declaration also provides a key opportunity to underline these links."

* *** *