Rebeca Grynspan: Oral Report on Gender

31 Jan 2011

Oral report by Ms. Rebeca Grynspan UNDP Associate Administrator
Agenda item 2 - Gender in UNDP
Meeting of the Executive Board
New York, 31 January 3-5pm


Madam President,
Distinguished members of the Executive Board,


Dear Colleagues and Friends,

It is a pleasure to be here today and to report to you on the implementation of UNDP’s Gender Equality Strategy for the years 2008 to 2013.

The aim of today’s oral report is to give you an overview of the actions taken over the past year aimed at promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in UNDP’s work. This is an area of great importance for us and on which we have made considerable strides.

This briefing takes place at a time where the work on the mid-term review of UNDP’s strategic plan is underway. The contents of this Oral report as well as the ongoing mid-term review of the Gender Equality Strategy will provide an important input into that exercise.

I will begin by providing a summary of some of the corporate measures we have taken to make the organization deliver on the Gender Equality Strategy. Thereafter I will proceed to go through the four thematic goals of the strategy and give you an insight into some of the initiatives which have been taken under each goal. I will conclude by reporting on gender parity within the organization itself.

All of this while acknowledging the creation of UN Women, with whom together with UNICEF and UNFPA we are collaborating to ensure full consistency and coherent programming, based on a division of labour and the recognition of the new coordination role of UN Women in the context of the RC system.

Institutional Measures
Several initiatives were conducted in 2010 to ensure accountability in implementing the Gender Equality Strategy.

As the Administrator mentioned, in 2010, the UNDP Gender Marker was finally rolled out across the whole of UNDP. It has provided an important mechanism for measuring the extent to which each unit and practice area is addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment in its work.

While the gender marker results for 2010 are not yet analyzed, the results for projects scored in 2009 have yielded indicative findings:

Overall, the gender marker results for 2009 showed that 36 percent of UNDPs expenditure is making a significant contribution to gender equality, and only 23 percent is making no noticeable gender equality contribution .  All unit directors have been requested to review the gender marker data and set targets to ensure increased investments on gender equality. They will be held accountable for meeting these targets.

Last fall, we completed the Gender Steering and Implementation Committee agenda for 2009-2010.  Each bureau director reported on progress in achieving gender equality results by thematic area and region, as well as on the mechanisms they have put in place internally to achieve gender equality results. Concrete recommendations were presented to UNDP’s Management Group for implementation this year.

Finally, in 2010 UNDP conducted a Mid-Term Review of the Gender Equality Strategy. The results of the Review will feed into the mid-term review of the Strategic Plan and will be presented to the Executive Board in June. However, I am pleased to share with you a few of the preliminary findings.

Overall, the Review found that UNDP has become a more gender-aware organization and it shows that we are now recognized for our work in:
  • Promoting women’s political participation;
  • Integrating the gender dimensions of climate change;
  • Ensuring gender-responsive macro-planning;
  • Promoting  the rule of law and access to justice for women and girls, in particular in crisis settings; and,
  • Ensuring accountability for gender equality results.

The Review also underscored the importance of translating “gender awareness” into “meaningful action.”

It identified several factors required to ensure systematic integration of gender equality throughout all of UNDP’s work.  These include enhanced capacities, expertise, and investments for gender equality. We will make every effort to address these challenges in the coming years.

When it comes to maintaining and improving staff capacity on gender issues, UNDP has been making considerable efforts. The gender team has grown from a skeletal staff to a group of seventeen people with staff possessing technical specialized skills in all UNDP thematic areas.  There is also at least one senior advisor post based in each of the Regional Centres and - as the Administrator mentioned - there are senior gender advisors with specialized skills in a number of field offices, including in at least ten post conflict countries.  We have senior experts on gender and elections, and are now recruiting experts and building rosters on gender and climate change.

The Background Paper to the Oral Report:
The Background paper to the Oral report, available in the back of the room, provides highlights from UNDP’s work and presents some of the challenges we face in this third year of implementing the Gender Equality Strategy.  As you see, it is organized in line with the four thematic areas set forward in the Strategy and I would now like to proceed and give you an overview of some of the work we are doing under each one:

On Goal One, Reducing Poverty and Achieving the MDGs:
The Outcome Document of the MDG Summit clearly emphasised gender equality as being instrumental for achieving the MDGs.

In the lead up to the Summit, UNDP prepared an International Assessment of what it will take to reach the MDGs. We also prepared the MDG Acceleration Framework, a tool aimed at helping countries to analyse off-track MDG targets, identify key obstacles, and implement effective strategies to overcome them. The International Assessment makes it clear that investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity and economic growth and will accelerate progress toward all the MDGs.

Prioritizing the investment in women and girls as a critical way to help countries accelerate progress towards the MDGs, is one of the pillars of UNDP's MDG Breakthrough Strategy, which I know will be discussed further at the lunch time session tomorrow.

In our poverty reduction work, UNDP has made great strides to offer programme countries a range of tools and services to carry out gender-responsive economic policies.  

In 2010, we launched the Gender and Economic Policy Management Initiative, a capacity development programme aimed at making poverty reduction and economic policies deliver equally for women and men, boys and girls. In both Africa and Asia, we have provided support to government officials and civil society organizations, helping them develop the skills they need to address gender issues in economic policy management.

Under the same initiative, we developed the first ever Master of Arts in Gender-Aware Economics, which enrolled its first class last year and are also offering short courses for policy makers in both Africa and Asia.  

The 2010 Asia Pacific Human Development Report was devoted to gender equality and women’s empowerment. It provided a compelling case for policy makers to correct gender imbalances by supporting women’s economic empowerment and political participation, and by advancing women’s legal rights.

UNDP’s poverty reduction work also focused on ensuring that public services and both public and private organizations equally meet the needs women and men.  For example,

  • In Turkmenistan, UNDP supported the pension reform processes. The new processes are enabling more women, particularly in the rural areas to benefit from social services.
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean, UNDP, in partnership with UN Women, continued to promote the Gender Equality Seal in order to establish gender equality standards for public and private sector organizations and gender-sensitive business management systems.  By the end of 2010, eleven countries had signed on to facilitate the process and define a regional seal.  

Now, on Goal Two, Fostering Democratic Governance:
Helping to ensure that women can exercise their civil and political rights has been a critical contribution of UNDP’s governance work over the past five years.

In 2010, UNDP launched a global Programme on Electoral Cycle Support to help countries improve their electoral laws and processes and embrace the participation of women.  In a number of countries – for example Kyrgyzstan, Nepal and Niger - we are now bringing gender expertise to UN-supported electoral programmes.  

UNDP’s work to advance women’s political participation is yielding notable results particularly in post conflict countries, where opportunities often exist to affect constitutional, electoral, and legal reform. For example:

  • In Burundi, UNDP supported the government to encourage women to register, vote and run for elected office in the 2010 elections. The elections, in which women comprised 51 per cent of voters, resulted in the country exceeding its existing 30 per cent gender quota for women in public office. The percentage of women in the Senate is currently the highest in Africa and the second highest in the world.  
  • In Nepal, UNDPs support has been instrumental in encouraging women to play a leadership role in the constitution-building process.
We also completed in 2010 the first global study to examine best practices within political parties to promote women’s leadership.  This is the beginning of what we hope will be a productive non-partisan engagement with political parties with the goal of accelerating progress on MDG3.  

UNDP is also examining customary and informal laws as part of our support to countries which wish to strengthen women’s legal rights and access to justice.  This area of governance is critical to poverty reduction and gender equality, and one on which we intend to deepen our focus in the future.

As the Executive Board is aware of, the recent evaluation of UNDP’s contribution to supporting local governance noted several successes in this area.  However, it also found the need for a more strategic and systematic effort to mainstream gender concerns. We are committed to taking immediate actions to address this.

On Goal 3, Supporting Crisis Prevention and Recovery:
As I stated previously, in countries emerging from conflict, UNDP’s work to advance women’s political participation is yielding noteworthy results.

UNDP has also supported conflict prevention and informal peace processes. In Timor-Leste for example, UNDP is supporting local conflict resolution processes and has trained both men and women as mediators.

UNDP has also devoted significant attention to the safety and security of women and girls through its Global Programme on Strengthening the Rule of Law in conflict and Post Conflict Settings. This programme focuses on increasing access to justice for survivors of sexual and gender based violence. We are for example working with partners in Eastern DRC, to improve the response of local police and justice institutions to sexual based violence and to increase public´s awareness of their rights and the services available to survivors.

At the policy level, special attention is being given to how we can bring more women into peace-making and constitution-building processes. This year, we contributed to the preparation of the Secretary General’s Report on Women’s Participation in Peace building. We also launched a report, “The Price of Peace: Financing for Gender Equality in Post-Conflict Recovery and Reconstruction,” which examines the allocation of resources for recovery and reconstruction and how they can be better used to achieve gender equality and to hold decision-makers accountable.

Looking forward, disaster prevention and recovery is an area which requires more attention. As the 2010 evaluation noted, we need to enhance our efforts in systematically integrating gender in all disaster risk reduction policies and programmes – we are committed to do this.

On Goal 4, Managing Environment and Energy for Sustainable Development:
UNDP’s efforts to promote women’s role in building a climate-resilient and sustainable future, are now paying off. We saw this clearly last December when unprecedented gains were made in integrating gender equality principles in climate change policy at COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico.  

UNDP and partners of the Global Gender and Climate Alliance trained women delegates from developing countries and conducted sessions on the gender dimensions of climate change. As a result of these efforts, more women delegates now are being heard in climate change policy debates.

Strong inroads have also been made in integrating gender into the operational frameworks of the Climate Investment Funds and the Adaptation Fund.  UNDP will continue to engage and advocate for gender equity in climate financing and in particular in relation to the new Green Climate Fund.

On adaptation, we have provided technical support for national adaption programmes in twenty countries under the Africa Adaptation Programme. Seven countries have highlighted gender as a national adaptation priority.    To continue and upscale this work, we are training a core group of experts in each region to help countries bring a gender dimension into climate change planning and programming on adaptation as well as on mitigation and disaster risk reduction.    

The demand from countries for this kind of knowledge and expertise has grown exponentially. We hope that the resources necessary to meet this demand will emanate from a gender-equitable financial architecture for climate change.

Gender parity in UNDP
Let me now turn to the important issue of gender parity within UNDP itself.

The Background Paper also provides a snapshot of gender distribution of UNDP staff at all levels. We are making some important progress – and of course for the first time we have a woman Administrator.

Currently, the entire UNDP workforce consists of 52 percent female and 48 percent male. Women account for 45 percent of the international professional category, which is an improvement from women accounting for 42 percent in 2008 and 35 percent 2005. UNDP overall performance amongst the UN agency partners has also risen to 7th place in 2010 from 14th in 2008.  

However, while the data shows that we have reached parity overall, we have very important challenges to address, particularly at mid- and senior levels, where women continue to be underrepresented.  

Some concrete actions we have put in place to address this issue include:  
  • Screening candidate pools for gender parity;
  • Greater application of work/life policies;
  • Greater monitoring by OHR who produces annual statistics which are reported to the Administrator and discussed with Senior Management and;
  • Undertaking of exit interviews to better understand why women leave the organisation.
We have also requested the Office of Human Resources (OHR) urgently undertake a diagnostic analysis of the gender gaps in middle and senior management positions. The findings will be reviewed by UNDP’s senior management and we are committed to develop an action plan to address this important issue.

The way forward
I speak before you today with great pride and confidence in UNDP. In every region, UNDP programmes have contributed to strengthened women’s economic status, enhanced realization of political rights, increased participation in post-conflict recovery, and improved protection from gender-based violence.  

We have made some major advances, but we cannot afford to stop here.  We must continue our efforts to provide professionalized gender expertise, especially at the country level, and through the gender marker continue to mainstream in a significant way gender equality and women’s empowerment in our programming.  

In 2010, Member States also took an historic step towards prioritizing gender equality and the empowerment of women with the creation of UN Women.  

UN Women will provide a much-needed and powerful global voice for women and gender issues. With the largest UN network of development specialists on the ground, UNDP looks forward to a strong partnership with UNW.

Allow me to conclude by thanking you, Members of the Board, for your continued support and oversight of our efforts. Over the years, you have closely monitored our progress and challenged us to account for gender equality results. Your oversight and commitment has helped us improve our delivery to our partners -we count on your continued support.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Helen Clark for her leadership and Olav Kjorven, Winnie Byanyima and her team, Cihan Sultanoglu, and all the UNDP staff who continue to be strong champions for gender equality in UNDP.

I now welcome your comments and questions.

Thank you