Evaluations recognize the potential of UNDP to strengthen gender equality

Statement delivered by Marcos Neto, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP's Bureau for Policy and Programme Support at the 2024 Evaluation Session of the Executive Board at UN HQ, New York

June 7, 2024
MN2 - EB session 2024
Photo: UNDP

Mr. President, members of the Executive Board, colleagues, and friends, thank you for joining us today for this session. 

I will open by flagging a few highlights of our Mid Term Review - based on a careful review of 29 independent countries and thematic evaluations and will continue with the 2023 Annual Report. 

First and foremost, and as Haoliang said, UNDP is on track in its delivery of the Gender Equality Strategy 2022-2025.  

I am proud to say that UNDP in 2023 maintained its outstanding performance score by exceeding or meeting 94% of targets on the System- Wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN SWAP) indicators.   

One of the most powerful and unique initiatives that have driven our progress is the Gender Equality Seal. I will elaborate more later.  

Excellencies, our capacities have also evolved. UNDP moved beyond basic parity and labor market inclusion approaches, to integrate gender equality in social protection, through the work on unpaid care and supporting women in the informal economy.  

Yet, our support is too limited to enable transformative national practices, as Country Offices struggle to ensure stable resources and sustained engagement with national partners. 

In our Strategic Plan, UNDP set an ambitious, but reachable Moonshot goal of aligning $1 trillion with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2025, of which we want at least $100 billion to align with gender equality objectives. According to our estimates, we have so far aligned at least around 24 billion dollars towards gender equality through public financing. This is a great start, and now is the time to accelerate in order to reach the target.  

One of the most promising new areas of work is advancing fiscal policies for gender equality. We launched EQUANOMICS, an initiative supporting gender-responsive fiscal policies and tax reforms in over 20 countries, and the expansion of care systems in 13 countries. 

For instance, in Mongolia, public finance institutions and the Parliament have already included in their Fiscal Policy gender equality to increase women’s participation in the economy. 

We see new horizons to explore and expand- like the 33 million women we reached with justice services in 2023, including in crisis contexts, and we can scale our work on women’s rights to land, natural resources, and inheritance.  

The main challenge flagged by many evaluations is how to transform norms and power structures. We are addressing this through initiatives such as Equanomics Global Learning on Inclusive Economies designed to boost UNDP capacities to drive structural changes.  

A total of 60 economists participated in the Lab, and 17 countries are already taking this work forward - implementing concrete proposals such as in El Salvador where our office is advising on the implementation of a National Care Policy; or in India, where we are helping to build an urban care ecosystem to help expand women’s labor force participation.    

Evaluations recognize that the potential for UNDP to strengthen gender equality remains underutilized. ODA for programmes with gender equality as the principal objective stands at 4%; and the Gender Equality Strategy needs firm commitments from bilateral partners to invest seed funding. 

Finally, I want to share with you that the 29 UNDP evaluations related to gender equality we reviewed from the past 2 years, have a total of37 recommendations. At this time, 70% of these recommendations have been initiated or completed (27% completed, 43% initiated). I want to assure you that we carefully consider each recommendation we receive, and consistently follow up with course-correcting action.   

Development Results 

Now let’s turn to development results. I will not cover every signature solution but will highlight some of the major milestones. 

With UNDP support, 91.9 million women accessed essential services. While services are key, ending poverty requires a major shift in economic thinking. That is why, with our support, 44 countries worked on financing for gender equality. 

Amongst the 85 countries that drafted integrated national financing frameworks, 54% identified gender equality as a priority. 

On resilience, UNDP helped 28 countries in using data and gender analysis to inform recovery plans and supported 5 million women in crisis settings to access jobs. 

For instance, in Burundi, over 200,000 women accessed microcredit and financial skills training, but also land certificates, breaking longstanding cultural barriers. 

On environment, we keep our ambitions high. We launched our Nature Pledge in 2023 and included a target to ensure at least 100 countries promote women's leadership in natural resource management.  

In preparation for the “super year of elections” – a pivotal moment for global democracy, we supported voter registration for 133 million women. 

We cannot realize gender equality alone. UNDP forged hundreds of new and deepened existing ones. UN-Women remains our closest UN partner for gender equality, and we increased collaborations with women’s organizations for climate advocacy.  

In Africa, UNDP supported 120 women’s rights defenders in drafting and reviewing Laws to safeguard civic space and rights. 

I would like to draw the attention that those are highlights in the development part of UNDP’s work. It is proof of the nature of multidisciplinary work, the integrated work that we are trying to do. I’ve described to you the relationship between our gender work and our finance work. Between our gender work and our governance work. Between our gender work and our environment work. It is absolutely that those multidisciplinary pieces are taking forward as a way to scale up.

Institutional Results 

Let me turn now to our Institutional Results: Excellencies, UNDP’s institutional performance continues to be strong.  

The Seal has been fully implemented in 116 country offices since 2011, representing 90% of our offices worldwide. 

This year, we did a deep dive into the Seal for our country offices, and we learned for instance that the Seal has been especially useful in crisis countries. It helped 100 per cent of crisis country offices enrolled in the programme – 12 in total- to appoint a gender specialist, a significant improvement from a baseline of 36 per cent. 

Most importantly, offices are achieving concrete results in advancing gender equality and, as an example, UNDP helped establish a 30 per cent quota for women in Somalia’s recent elections for the Upper House. 

We continued delivering the world-class Leadership for Gender Equality Course for 30 resident representatives.  

We organized a global dialogue involving 39 country offices on mobilizing men for gender equality. As a result, in 2024, we will launch "Men and Gender Equality in the Workplace" guidance note.  

Mr. President, Excellencies, UNDP found inspiration and renewed its strength during the first two years of implementing the Gender Equality Strategy.  

Our way forward is to continue learning, innovating, and adjusting in areas where we face challenges, such as energy or changing social norms. 

The Gender Equality Seal will also go through some re-thinking to continue responding to the current context. 

Core resources will determine how well we can deliver on the profound changes that gender equality requires.  

Mr. President, Excellencies, we thank you for your continued support in this work. Now, we look forward to deepening our efforts to transform power structures towards gender equality.