NIRAS and a partner organisation developed research products and tools that are now helping to centre gender equality within the EU’s budgetary policy agenda
The first step: assessing where we are today
In collaboration with the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) and the Austrian Institute for Regional Studies (ÖIR), a team of NIRAS staff undertook a gender assessment of the European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) in 11 EU Member States (for more information on the ESIF, see sidebar). This assessment was instrumental in the subsequent writing of a report entitled Gender budgeting. Mainstreaming gender into the EU budget and macroeconomic policy framework. Furthermore, the results generated discussion and interest in the EU Court of Auditors, ministries in charge of employment in EU member states, the EU High-level group on gender mainstreaming, and the Inter-ministerial Gender Mainstreaming Steering Committee.
Gender equality is a fundamental value of the European Union and its advancement coded into the EU’s legislative framework. The EU’s investment programmes are the most direct way for EU resources to reach those who need them and to impact individual lives and wellbeing.
Operationalising gender mainstreaming across Europe
Beyond contributing to the report, NIRAS and ÖIR developed a toolkit for EIGE focussing on mainstreaming gender in the full budget cycle of the ESIF. The toolkit is extensive and contains modules covering many aspects of gender mainstreaming and budgeting. By utilising it, institutions and organisations will be able to – among other things – better connect major EU gender policy objectives with their own planning, conduct in-depth analyses on the gender-related needs of the relevant stakeholders, define specific indicators which can be used to determine if gender equality is being advanced, and evaluate programmes during and after completion to improve quality and inform following phases.
This toolkit is currently being translated into 22 languages, meaning that once it is released, it can be applied in most EU member states. To ensure effectiveness, the toolkit is being tested by key national financial and gender-related institutions across ten member states. Testing is expected to conclude by the end of the year and the toolkit will be ready for use by early 2020.
Constant improvement is key
In the longer-term, the team has proposed and outlined a system which tracks budget allocations and expenditures which contribute to gender equality within the ESIF. Existing systems for tracking climate change and biodiversity spending have met significant successes, and by adopting a gender-related system, policymakers will be able to more closely measure what proportion of their expenditures are actually connected to key policy objectives. This informs the evaluation of these policies and contributes to formulating even more effective policies in the future. It is expected that the tracking system will be discussed by the European Commission, which will consider adopting it as early as 2024.