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WIDE UK Platform GADN 2008


By Brita Fernandez Schmidt, WIDE newsletter February 2008

The Gender & Development Network (GADN, the WIDE UK Platform) recently published its report on "women´s rights and gender equality: the new aid environment and civil society organisations". Its publication is timely in that it comes at a moment where the international community is reviewing the Paris Declaration in the forthcoming High Level Forum in Accra in September and it contributes to the financing for development debate.

Background to the research

14 months ago the GADN decided to work with its members to consult its partners in the global South to see what the impact of the new aid environment is on their ability to do their work on gender equality and women´s rights. The GADN wanted to test the assumption that the new aid modalities and the Paris Declaration could be beneficial for women´s rights and gender equality and see what was happening "on the ground".

Over 30 Southern organisations responded to the research questionnaire and just under 10 Northern organisations participated in in-depth interviews. Both the research questionnaire and the interviews formed the basis for the GADN analysis presented in the report.

Key questions that the research asked were:

The research was incredibly ambitious from the outset. Respondents came from a cross-section of NGOs/CSOs. The impacts and effects of the new aid landscape varied according to the focus of the NGO, its size, where it works (advocacy community, feminist, mainstream etc), its focus and the relationship it is able to build with the donor community, the aid environment.


Looking at the responses of those who the GADN consulted, the following are some of the trends that were observed:

Northern agencies

Six key findings emerged from in-depth interviews with staff from Northern NGOs. Firstly the growing role of donors contracting out important "gender work" was observed as a key feature of the new aid environment with serious implications around institutional learning. Secondly, the Paris Declaration was seen as contributing to the de-politicisation of aid. Furthermore, the decentralisation of aid has implications for North-based agencies and their relationships with South-based agencies as well as for funding accessibility for local women´s organisations. Fourthly, a focus on more aid not quality of aid was raised as a concern. Fifthly, donor harmonisation and alignment was seen as leading to exclusionary behaviour and making it more difficult for NGOs to engage with donors and influence their policies. And finally, all respondents commented on the lack of sufficient financial commitment to women´s rights and adequate tracking of "gender spent".

Global South

The picture that emerged from the questionnaires from the Global South was a very diverse one, but also showed clear regional differences. Whereas in Africa and in Latin America all respondents were able to talk about and identify elements of the new aid environment and their modalities, the picture in Asia was very different in terms of how widespread the application of such modalities are.

It was also interesting to see that in all countries and regions there were some organisations whose funding had increased and some where it had decreased. Many expressed a fear that it would eventually decrease. A lot of attention also went to how aid is currently given and the conditions attached to it. Many organisations commented about the impossible reporting frameworks and timetables. The report throughout has direct quotes from respondents that illustrate this well.

In terms of the advocacy work that the organisations engage in, the picture is an interesting one. All respondents, irrespective of their size and outreach etc., were engaged in some form of advocacy work and many were able to pinpoint concrete gains and successes of their advocacy work. However, all were also quick to point to the ongoing challenges linked to the policy-practice gap, problems of implementation, and lack of political will.

In relation to receiving funding from the governments, however, with the exception of India, all respondents felt that it would compromise their work.

In relation to how able respondents felt to influence donors, again the picture was a diverse one, depending on what relationship they had with donors, but some expressed concern that it was more difficult now with the pooled funding mechanism under the donor harmonisation agenda to influence donors and many felt that donors have predetermined their agendas and you had to "either fit in it" or not get any funding.


Looking at the literature review and the findings above, the key overall findings of the report are:

1. Whilst overall it is too early to see a significant impact of the new aid environment, there are however:
2. Strong fears around the potential impact.
3. Changes in the new aid environment have a different effect depending on the context etc.
4. Changes do not simply relate to new aid modalities but to wider development patterns, which makes the analysis more complex.
5. Overall there is not enough monitoring of the changes in the environment and their impact.

It was very difficult to reach any clear conclusions and the key finding actually was that the picture is a very complex and diverse one, requiring careful unpacking and engaging in order to be understood. And that is exactly what is not happening.


As a result of the research the GADN comes up with three key areas of recommendations in its report:

1. Implement­ The GADN calls for a joined-up approach to development that looks at development outcomes, principles and tools in a coherent and consistent manner and most importantly links any debate around aid effectiveness and the new aid environment with already existing agreements and commitments to gender equality, women´s rights and development as established in CEDAW, BPFA, MDGs (in particular MDG3).

2. Monitor­ The GADN urges for increased monitoring of: funds that support women´s rights; changing funding mechanisms; funding to CSOs by government; implementation of PRSPs and SWAPs; Performance Assessment Frameworks; the impact of the Paris Declaration and DBS on social development and rights and CSOs. The one thing the GADN research has thrown up very clearly is that there is an urgent need to understand how change is affecting all actors and this goes for governments, other institutions and civil society.

3. Diversify­ The GADN recommends the diversification of funding and funding mechanisms and conditions. More specifically it recommends setting up special funds for gender equality in each country. Moreover, it urges a commitment to long-term funding which is particularly important for gender equality and women´s rights work where change takes a long time and requires a long-term commitment. Given the trend to pool funding, which has had some positive results, the GADN is calling for a meaningful inclusion of gender into such funds. The GADN also recommends a broadening of the types of work and organisations that receive funding to ensure the diversity of activities and civil society actors needed to effectively address the complex issues of gender equality and women´s rights. The GADN also points to the importance of providing adequate resources for national women´s machineries.

To download the report: http://www.gadnetwork.org.uk/resources.html

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