UN Women in Action: Gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) at a glance in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) has been in the legislative framework in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) since 2009. UN Women work to integrate gender equality (GE) considerations into the budget planning process in this country began in 2011 and was connected closely to the public finance reform. In using the budget reform process as an instrument to advance GE, GRB was initiated as part of the regular budget planning and distribution practice, hence its mainstreaming and use as an analysis and control tool. In 2012, the Budget Management Information System (BMIS) was upgraded to include a specific GRB module and the mandatory requirement to include specific gender indicators in all line ministry programmes prior to their submission to the Ministry of Finance (MoF). Continued efforts have also resulted in GRB being completely embedded within the legislative framework.
Since 2017, the gender responsiveness of programmes has been reported in line with the Law on Budget Execution. BiH also provides online GRB courses, which have reached more than 17 thousand civil servants. Having GRB as a key principle in the BiH Gender Action Plan 2018–2022 was a major achievement. In 2020, the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) issued a detailed declaration on the development of GRB, which was included in the FBiH Budget Framework Paper (2021–2023).
GRB legislative framework in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Law on Gender Equality of BiH is the key gender mainstreaming law in the country. Article 24 of the Law defines the basic obligations of each institution in relation to gender mainstreaming and in particular for adopting measures for gender equality, harmonisation of legislation, budgeting for activities defined by the BiH Gender Action Plan and sex-disaggregated data collection.
GRB is integrated as a key principle into the BiH Gender Action Plan 2018–2022 and Budget circular No. 1 (BiH, FBiH and Republika Srpska (RS)), while Budget circular No. 2 (FBiH) has detailed instructions on GRB indicators, results and measures. It is also integrated under Article 37 into the FBiH Law on Budget Execution, and the FBiH Budget Framework Document 2021–2023.
Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) assessment and Public Finance Management (PFM) performance results
The 2014 PEFA Assessment for BiH identified several issues relevant to the work of UN Women on GRB.
Budget preparation - Budget planning procedures and calendars are broadly similar at all four levels: Medium-term expenditure frameworks (MTEFs) are prepared each year and adopted in early summer, serving as a pre-draft of annual budgets that are prepared in the autumn and adopted by the parliaments by year’s end. At all levels, budgets include economic and organisational classifications and budget requests also include programme formats. Only at the state level is programme budgeting information, including programme performance measures, a part of the budget documentation that accompanies the annual budget law through the adoption procedure.
Cross-cutting issues - The PEFA ratings and elated justifications institutions across BiH, FBiH, RS and Brčko District (BD) point to a number of issues that emerge as common themes across all four levels. While each of the four levels of central government were assessed as having weaknesses in their PFM system, the process of preparing the budget and public investment programme at all four levels was deemed not well integrated with the medium-term macroeconomic outlook and overall/sectoral strategic documents (which in many cases were missing or not properly costed). Credible and comprehensive medium-term macro fiscal strategies were lacking at all levels.
In budget reporting, the fact that the charts of accounts at the four main levels of government were not harmonised hampered access to consolidated data. Within the entities (primarily FBiH), consolidation of data for all general levels of government (entity, cantons, local self-governance units and EBFs) was deemed complex and the data was generally not used to inform policy decisions. In the context of budget scrutiny, despite recent improvements, better follow-up on external audit findings and recommendations were missing. Furthermore, the coverage of internal audits and performance audits performed by the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) were not deemed comprehensive.
Implementation of Public Finance Management reforms
The country’s complex administrative structure means that a comprehensive assessment of the level of integration of GRB has not been conducted at all levels of government. A review of budget programmes in selected institutions was conducted at the level of state institutions, and the FBiH and RS entities in 2020 and 2021. Overall, there has been an increase in allocations that are gender sensitive (around 2% to 5% of expenditure). Yet this does not necessarily indicate higher allocations for gender equality, but rather the need for a more in-depth assessment of the budget programmes.
A very good example is the cooperation with the state institutions, namely the Ministry of Finance and Treasury (MoFT), three of the line ministries and the Civil Service Agency (CSA), where consultations were held during 2021 on the preparation of budget requests and documentation in programme format. UN Women provided advice on how to present gender sensitive components of the programmes and develop gender sensitive Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which was reflected in the final documentation.
Types of budgeting systems used for GRB in BiH
Budgets at all levels of government are prepared and adopted in a line-item format, while budget requests also include programme formats. Only institutions at the state level incorporate programme budgeting information, including programme performance measures, as part of the budget documentation that accompanies the annual budget law through the adoption procedure. A countrywide project financed by the EU and aimed at formally introducing programme-based budgeting was initiated in 2020.
The Gender Equality Index and the Global Gender Gap Index
The Gender Inequality Index (GII) for BiH was 0.149 in 2021, while the Global Gender Gap Index for 2021 ranks BiH 76th out of 156 countries, signifying a rank change of -7 compared to 2020. The score 0.713 indicates a change of +0.001 since 2020.
The figures below show the trends in the Gender Development Index and the GII for BiH over the period 2005–2019. The Gender Development Index shows sizable gaps in the earlier years but steady improvement since 2014.
The GII on the other hand shows consistent improvement, namely a reduction of the gender gaps since 2010.
GDP and Gender Equality
While there are no relevant studies on the relationship between GDP growth and gender in BiH, some insight into the impact that the shrinking fiscal space has had on gender equality is presented in the country report ‘Budget choices in a time of pandemic: Advancing gender equality or holding it back?’ produced by UN Women – Europe and Central Asia. The report indicates that the impact of the pandemic was more severe for women. More women than men lost their jobs during the first six months of the pandemic. In addition, the government response via job retention schemes, overall, benefited men more. Moreover, the supplementary budgets adopted by governments in BiH to curb the impact of the pandemic on the economy included budget cuts in gender-sensitive sectors and the abolishment of programmes where gender-sensitive measures existed.
Recommendations on implementation of CEDAW
In its Concluding Observations on the sixth periodic report of BiH from 2019, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) recommended in 2019 that the State Party should “intensify its efforts to pursue gender-responsive budgeting in all government departments”.
 ‘Official Gazette of Bosnia and Herzegovina’, No. 32/10.