Global Resources

Budgeting for women’s rights: monitoring government budgets for compliance with CEDAW

Author: D. Elson
Publisher: United Nations Development Fund for Women
Publication Date: Jan 2006
This report adds a landmark to the discourse on the link between human rights standards and government budgets. It elaborates on how budgets and budget policy making processes can be monitored for compliance with human rights standards, in particular with the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The report is based on the premise that accountability to women’s rights needs to be translated into mobilising the necessary resources to meet the commitments made by the ratification of CEDAW.

Combining substantive analysis with country examples, it provides a framework for applying a rights-approach to budgets from a gender perspective that defines the requirements of good budget performance in the planning, formulation and execution stages. It also details the elements that require a critical assessment of budget policy making processes, the appropriateness of budget allocations, and the standard principles for non-discriminatory economic and budgets policies.

The report is divided into nine sections:

  • section 1 sets out some general features of budgetary processes and human rights processes
  • section 2 discusses some examples of analysis of public expenditure from a human rights perspective
  • section 3 discusses the engagement of the CEDAW reporting mechanism with government budgets
  • section 4 provides a brief guide to BIOS, emphasising their variety in aims and forms of organization.
  • section 5 draws upon examples of gender budget analysis to consider how public expenditure might be monitored for compliance with CEDAW
  • Section 6 draws upon examples of gender budget analysis to consider how public revenue might be monitored for compliance with CEDAW
  • section 7 draws upon examples of gender budget analysis to consider how the macroeconomics of the budget might be monitored for compliance with CEDAW
  • section 8 draws upon examples of gender budget analysis to consider how budget decision-making might be monitored for compliance with CEDAW

Some of the conclusions and recommendations are:

  • a step-by-step approach needs to be taken, examining particular dimensions of the budget separately, taking into account their interactions where appropriate and possible
  • in order for Gender Budget Initiatives to be effective, it is important to ask questions about the type of GOBI planned, women's role in budget decision-making, and ways in which impacts will be measured, etc
  • many programmes not specifically targeted to women and girls have benefits for women and girls
  • it is possible to monitor the extent to which a State Party has met its obligations of conduct by looking at the allocation of expenditure. But to monitor how far obligations of result have been met requires an investigation of the impact of public expenditure
  • while VAT does not explicitly discriminate against women, it tends to implicitly discriminate against women. This is because the incidence of the tax on consumers is higher for poor consumers than for rich ones and since women’s incomes tend to be lower than men’s, the incidence will tend to be higher on average on female consumers than on male consumers