Global Resources

Gender Equality, the New Aid Environment and Civil Society Organisations: a Research Project of the UK Gender and Development Network

Author: H. Collinson, H. Derbyshire, B. Fern ndez Schmidt
Publisher: BRIDGE
Publication Date: Jan 2008
This report provides a response to a growing concern among Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) about the fast changing aid structures, such as direct budget support, pooled funding schemes for supporting civil society and other forms of donor alignment. It highlights some of the key questions emerging from civil society around the way the new aid systems promote, marginalise or exclude gender equality and women's rights issues, as well as developing themes for future targeted research. The report reflects the voices of organisations from around the world and conveys the diversity and complexity of the issues around the new aid modalities and how these differ across countries and continents. African and some Asian respondents indicated that funding levels were expected to continue or even slightly increase, whereas those in Latin America reported that donors were pulling out of their region, in favour of Africa. In terms of activities funding is moving away from service delivery and community development and towards governance, democracy and HIV / AIDS focused initiatives. Above all, it reveals that many women's organisations and those focused on challenging gender inequality feel threatened as the focus of funding moves in the direction of larger grants, tighter, short-term targets, demonstrable and 'scaled up' results, and intensive administration.

The report includes a review of the limited literature available, from which it emerges that the potential of the new aid environment to significantly advance gender equality has largely not been realised. Gender issues are not well addressed in policy documents, and where included are often not backed up with indicators, targets and budgets. The report then goes on to look at the perspectives from International NGO staff in the UK on the current aid environment, on research findings on the state of funding for gender equality and efforts of CSOs to influence change. These include that:

:- The new aid modalities include a growing role for contracting and the private sector, but there is a lack of dialogue between donors, the private sector and women's organisations.
:- The Paris Declaration (PD) is part of a process of the depoliticisation of aid, focusing on short-term results rather than the more difficult and long term structural changes required to address the gendered issues of power, access and control over resources.
:- Decentralisation is resulting in international organisations based in the UK having less of an influencing role on the expenditure of aid and less of an opportunity to support CSOs working on women's rights to access the funds.
:- There is a focus on more aid rather than on the quality of aid.
:- Donor harmonisation and alignment policies rarely include gender as a criterion for accessing pooled funding, and there are fewer alternative sources of funding to turn to now donors are working together on joint funding mechanisms.
:- No specific women's rights funds have been put in place and no careful tracking is occurring of what funds go to support women's rights or to help women out of poverty.

Overall, the report concludes that Governments and donors should
:- Include CSOs meaningfully in the debates and disbursal of aid.
:- Honour international commitments to key agreements on women's rights and development such as the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Millennium Development Goals.
:- Commit adequate financial resources to implementing the above mentioned agreements. Governments also need to commit financial resources to gender commitments in documents such as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs).

Lastly, it focuses on two areas for future action and research: the need to monitor the new aid environment, its tools and the impact they are having on actors involved and affected; and on the diversification of the current approach to aid, both in terms of the activities and areas that are being funded as well as the type of organisations that are being funded.