UN Women in action: Gender responsive budgeting (GRB) at a glance in Serbia
Serbia was one of the countries that pioneered gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) in the Western Balkans, starting with the first initiatives at the local and provincial level in 2008. In the period from 2008 to 2015, the women’s organisations and local self-governments initiated inclusion of gender perspective in line budgets, thus developing skills and creating a GRB support base.
In 2015, gender equality became one of the objectives of the Budget System Law, marking the beginning of systematic GRB implementation at all governmental levels. The process was further strengthened with the amendments to the Budget System Law in 2016, introducing GRB reporting as an obligation for all budget users. As part of the reform, GRB has been integrated into Budget Planning Software at both national and provincial level. Furthermore, the National Strategy for Gender Equality 2021–2030 recognises GRB as a measure to establish a comprehensive and functional system for development and implementation of gender responsive public policies and budgets.
As a result of established partnership between the Ministry of Finance, the Provincial Secretariat of Finance, the Coordination Body for Gender Equality and UN Women, 71 line- ministries and institutions at national and provincial level (83% of all direct budget users) budgeted measures and activities focused on achievement of gender equality in their 2022 budgets. The gradual progress and yearly improvements of the GRB implementation since 2015 are reflected in the GRB Progress and Impact reports produced jointly by the Ministry of Finance, Coordination Body for Gender Equality and UN Women, as well as in the first SDG 5c1 report issued by the Ministry of Finance in 2021.
More than a decade of GRB implementation has embedded GRB in the Public Finance Management reform process, with the Ministry of Finance as one of the key institutions leading the initiative in the country. The process is further institutionalized through the work of the State Audit Institution that is monitoring GRB implementation through their financial audits, and the National Academy for Public Administration that is providing GRB training as part of Annual Training Programme.
GRB legislative framework in Serbia
The Government of Serbia formally introduced GRB in 2015 through the adoption of the new Budget System Law, where the promotion of gender equality was identified under Article 4 as one of the budget goals. GRB was introduced as an obligation for the planning and execution of budgets at all governmental levels, implying its gradual introduction from 2016 to 2024. Since 2016, the Minister of Finance, Provincial Secretary of Finance and Heads of finance departments in local self-government units are obliged to issue Annual Plan for GRB Introduction in line with the Budget System Law, specifying budget users and budget programmes that will include gender component and containing GRB Budget Instructions. Additional amendments to the Law from 2016 further enhanced GRB implementation through the introduction of obligatory reporting on the impact of the budget on gender equality as part of the Annual Budget Statement (Article 79).
In line with Article 5 of the Law on Gender Equality adopted in 2021, public authorities are required to conduct gender budget analysis and plan expenditure and revenue with the aim of promoting gender equality.
Implementation of Public Finance Management reforms
The gradual introduction of GRB is governed by the Ministry of Finance, the Provincial Secretariat of Finance and Heads of finance departments at the local level, with the support of the Coordination Body for Gender Equality of the Republic of Serbia, and provincial and local gender equality mechanisms (GEMs). UN Women provides technical assistance and expertise to all target institutions. As a result of this partnership, 71 line ministries and other direct budget users at the national and provincial level (out of 86 in total) are contributing towards gender equality through inclusion of gender perspective in their 2022 budgets. Therefore, at national and provincial level, gender equality will be supported through financing of 104 budget programmes (62% of all programmes), 216 programme activities and projects, 369 budget objectives and 710 gender sensitive indicators.
Types of budget systems used for GRB in Serbia
The introduction of programme budgeting coincided with the start of GRB implementation in the Republic of Serbia in 2015. It is being improved on a yearly basis through instructions and capacity development opportunities provided by the Ministry of Finance, supported by UN Women.
Gender Equality Index and the Global Gender Gap Index The 2021 Gender Equality Index for Serbia is 58, which represents an improvement compared to 2018 when the Index was 55.8 although it is still 12.1 points below the European Union average. Observing trends have shown that compared to the previous Gender Equality Index, two domains (power and work) of six show signs of continuous progress, while other domains show either inconsistent trends (money and knowledge) or no change (time - due to a lack of data, and health - due to the factual trends). GRB can be used as a tool to further progress on gender equality in all domains by securing adequate financing for programmes and measures aimed at tackling detected inequalities.
Serbia ranks 19th out of 156 countries, with a Global Gender Gap Index score of 0.780 for 2021, which represents a significant achievement.
GDP and gender equality
According to the World Bank, the GDP of Serbia increased from USD 39.88 billion in 2015 to USD 51.48 billion in 2019. The COVID19 pandemic brought new challenges for the government in 2020. The government was forced to react quickly and implement measures to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic, without necessarily implementing a gender responsive approach. The pandemic highlighted, among other problems, the need to recognise the problem of unequal distribution of unpaid care work. In order to highlight the economic aspect of unpaid care work, UN Women published ‘Gender Analysis of the Economic Value of Unpaid Care Work’, which estimates the total value of unpaid care work at 21.5 per cent of Serbian GDP (14.9% of GDP resulting from women’s and 6.6% of GDP from men’s unpaid care work).
Recommendations for the implementation of CEDAW
In 2019, in its Concluding Observations on the fourth periodic report of Serbia, the CEDAW Committee welcomed the progress achieved in undertaking legislative reforms and in particular the adoption of the Budget System Law that introduced gender responsive budgeting in 2015. Yet despite the progress made in the implementation of GRB, the Committee was concerned about its uneven implementation at all governmental levels and recommended that it should be pursued in order to meet Serbia’s commitment to achieve its implementation countrywide.