Western Balkans discuss transformative financing for gender equality at regional conference
Representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia met at the regional conference “Transformative Financing as an Accelerator for Gender Equality" held in Istanbul on November 2022 to discuss key achievements and policy makers’ perspectives on gender responsive budgeting (GRB) as well as strategies to further advance this practice.
Organized by UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (ECA RO) the two-day conference brought together high-level government officials and practitioners from Ministries of Finances, line ministries, national gender mechanisms, local government representatives, Supreme Audit Institutions, civil society organizations and the media.
Transformative financing is an accelerator for gender equality and has the power and capacity to bring significant change in the area. The event facilitated exchange of knowledge and experiences in the implementation of GRB as well as an opportunity to learn from regional and global best practices and discuss financing for gender equality.
Speaking at the conference, Ms. Alia El-Yassir, Regional Director for UN Women Europe and Central Asia noted “gender responsive budgeting is an essential tool to meet the 2030 Agenda. It is indeed Sustainable Development Goals financing, because it is built on the principle of Leaving No One Behind, and gender equality is a key accelerator across all SDGs.”
In her opening speech, Ms. Ulrika Holmstrom, Senior Advisor, Gender Equality, Peace and Security at the Department for Europe and Latin Amerika at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) said “GRB has the potential for transformative financing for accelerating gender equality and bridging the gap between legislation and implementation to address today's challenges. Sida will continue to support these efforts in the future.”
At the high-level ministerial panel taking place during the conference, Ms. Jovanka Trenchevska, North Macedonia's Minister of Labor and Social Policy Republic stressed: “I’m proud to be a promoter of strategic policies on gender equality and GRB. Since GRB was introduced in 2009, North Macedonia recorded many success stories and achievements. As a result of the partnership with UN Women, today, 14 ministries and 3 government agencies carry out GRB.”
“GRB implementation will remain a priority on the agenda of the Ministry of Finance of Albania. Currently, GRB is systematically integrated in Public Finance Management Reform, and an integral part of Program and Performance Budgeting at all levels of Government,“ said Ms. Delina Ibrahimaj, Minister of Finance and Economy of Albania.
“Political support to GRB is often not present in political life, not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in other countries as well. The current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is very complicated so as Canton Sarajevo we decided to go ahead, not to wait for other government levels, and to try to improve GRB. This year, as we signed the memorandum of understanding with UN Women, we are entering a long process with many projects that will ultimately lead to an improvement in GRB, not only in Canton Sarajevo,” said Mr. Davor Cicic, Minister of Finance of Canton Sarajevo of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The conference stressed the critical role of Public Finance Management (PFM) reform in achieving gender equality, with country specific examples on how public financial management systems incorporate the principle of gender equality and how the allocation of public resources for advancing gender equality are tracked. The conference also discussed sectoral policy applications of GRB for changing the lives of women and men by focusing on the results achieved, sharing examples, best practices and challenges as well as the plans for future GRB interventions.
“We appreciate very much the organization of the conference by UN Women which brings together all countries in the region in order to present our way of implementation in gender responsive budgeting in our respective countries,” said Ms. Edi Gusia, Chief Executive of the Agency for Gender Equality in Kosovo.
During the conference, participants were introduced to two new initiatives rolled out by UN Women ECA RO. Firstly, the SDG 5.c.1 Regional Dashboard which will contribute to monitor progress on the implementation of SDG 5.c.1 indicator (Proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment) in the region. Introduced by UN Women ECA RO, Regional GRB Programme Specialist, Ms. Ermira Lubani, the dashboard provides a visual display of already existing SDG 5.c.1 reports, indicating where governments stand compared to other countries in the region. The dashboard provides a comprehensive overview of country performance in a user-friendly format and is also a communication tool to track progress towards goals and spot areas for improvement.
Secondly, Mr. Johann Seiwald, UN Women’s Senior Public Finance Management (PFM) expert, presented the “GRB index” which will enable governments to identify progress and entry points for future interventions on GRB: “UN Women’s GRB Index is an analytical tool for assessing status, monitor & document progress of GRB implementation over time. It also allows us to compare with peers and identify priorities," he said.
The conference also discussed the role of public oversight institutions in advancing gender equality which can contribute to improving the lives of diverse groups of people. “Having a framework and guidelines for auditing activities that take into account gender equality is important. Auditors need to have criteria for the activities they are conducting. The adopted guidelines specify that, in essence, gender aspects need to be always present in auditing activities, both in compliance and financial audits,” noted Mr. Maksim Acevski, Auditor General at the State Audit Office of North Macedonia.
Ms. Aleksandra Vladisavljevic, independent PFM and GRB expert from Serbia stated: “It is important that the process of GRB introduction is gradual. For the Supreme Audit Institution in Serbia, it was good that the activities started with a legal obligation. Being obliged by law, all institutions had to contribute to gender equality. It takes time to build capacities. The speed and quality of implementation highly depends on the resources allocated for these activities. Finally, commitment by key actors is critical.”
“This conference was a big motivation for me, as I had a chance to see how other Supreme Audit Institutions in the region have made progress in gender auditing. And I commit myself to implement the strategies about the gender auditing to ensure that budget is spent equally for women and men in Kosovo,” said Ms. Vlora Spanca, Auditor General of the Republic of Kosovo.
The conference highlighted local milestones and the role of civil society and media in promoting GRB to transform the lives of women and men. Local practitioners presented best practices and benefits of GRB implementation, emphasizing the importance of local institutions in achieving gender equality. Media and CSOs can contribute to accountability and financing for gender equality through dissemination of information and gender-responsive planning. The panel discussion will focus on successful regional examples of media reporting and CSO initiatives to monitor public spending from a gender equality perspective.
The conference was organized under the regional programme “Transformative Financing for Gender Equality towards more Transparent, Inclusive and Accountable Governance in the Western Balkans” supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
For more information on the conference, click here.
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