Take Five: “MPs play a crucial role in making gender-responsive budgeting a priority”

Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Dr. Helmut Berger
Dr. Helmut Berger. Photo: UN Women / Gjergji Hamiti

Dr.  Helmut Berger, Head of Austrian Parliamentary Budget Office, recently briefed Albanian Members of Parliament (MPs) on how his office operates and measures gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) performance. In Albania, GRB principles are part of the medium term and annual budget programming processes. A next step would be to create a link to the annual budget giving detailed financial and performance information for the budget year. With financial support from the Austrian Development Agency, UN Women offers the Government of Albania technical GRB assistance.

How can Albanian MPs make gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) a priority?

MPs play a crucial role in making gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) a priority. MPs can create the necessary legal framework to introduce GRB in budget laws and related legal documents. MPs’ constant vigilance on gender issues and in ensuring equal treatment makes them important drivers of GRB implementation. MPs can request from government meaningful, understandable explanations of GRB proposals and regular reports on their implementation throughout the budget cycle. Discussing these reports in Parliament and regular critical scrutiny of GRB proposals create the political pressure necessary so the government takes up GRB and to pursues it efficiently. 

What is your impression of Albania’s work on GRB?

In Albania's government, parliament and civil society very committed people are pushing ahead with implementing GRB. A very important step was integrating GRB principles in the medium term and annual budget programming processes. Another was to Incorporate gender equality as a key principle in Albania’s Public Financial Management principles. However, there is room for improvement in the practical implementation of GRB, in exchanging information and in greater cooperation on GRB between the various budget actors.

How can UN Women assist Albanian MPs on GRB? Who is most important to drive GRB forward?

MPs need clear, well-structured documents and information to help them understand the basics of GRB and to support their political work. It is first of all the government's task to provide these documents to MPs in a useful, easily accessible manner so they can work efficiently. UN Women’s essential support includes providing information and technical assistance, serving as a competent, easily accessible contact and pointing out international best practices. All relevant actors – the Government, UN Women, but also any institution that has budget oversight or control -- play an important role in driving GRB forward. 

How has Austria’s GRB implementation helped advance gender equality? 

Starting with the implementation of GRB in our organic budget law of 2013, we set in all budget structure levels gender objectives, detailed measures to implement them and outcome indicators. The government assesses gender impacts in every new piece of draft legislation and must regularly report on GRB implementation to Parliament. MPs question these reports. As a result, gender issues are an essential part of the budget debate – which is at the heart of Parliament's work. This has led to a higher awareness of gender equality and intensive discussions of gender objectives in the budget committee and in plenary sessions. This has established a robust system that naturally includes GRB in all budget management levels and is thereby a lever for gender equality.

How can Albania make GRB an important part of annual budgets and in the whole budget cycle? 

GRB principles are already part of Albania’s medium term and annual budget programming processes. A next step would be a link in the annual budget that provides more detailed financial and performance information for that budget year. Then, a financial management information or reporting system should be implemented to trace GRB results. This is important not only in reporting results to Parliament but also for the State Auditor’s audit activities, as these play an important role in the GRB process. The State Auditor must assess GRB results and report to Parliament its observations along with recommendations to improve the process.