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G20 Gender Policy Accountability

Julia Kulik, G20 Research Group
November 13, 2015

For its presidency of the G20 in 2015, Turkey proclaimed the theme of its summit would be the three Is of inclusiveness, implementation and investment. Part of reaching a consensus on these themes for the Antalya Summit means incorporating action on gender equality. Without increasing the role and participation of women in the economy, it is impossible to achieve the full inclusiveness that these priorities imply. Furthermore, if implementation is a priority, there should be accountability for implementing the G20's 2014 commitment to reduce the gap in labour force participation by 25% by 2025.

The year 2015 is an important one for gender equality. It saw the first ever Women's 20 Summit in Istanbul last month, the launch of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with Goal 5 dedicated solely to achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls, as well as commitments to ensure gender equality from the financing for development conference in Addis Ababa. The political will for making these commitments is evident. Implementation and accountability are now needed over the next few years to ensure their success.

Historically, the G20 has done very little on the issue of gender equality. Gender issues were absent completely in 2008 at Washington. At the London Summit in April 2009, G20 leaders made a brief reference to building a fair and family-friendly labour market for both men and women. The issue was absent again at the subsequent summits in Pittsburgh in September 2009 and Toronto in June 2010.

At its summit in Seoul in November 2010, G20 leaders noted that their Multi-Year Action Plan, developed that year, helped to promote gender equality as well as "identify the links between education, health problems, gender gaps and life-long skills development." At the Cannes Summit in 2011, G20 leaders made a reference in one paragraph encouraging the participation of women in the labour market in order to strengthen medium-term growth. In 2012 at Los Cabos, attention to gender equality focused on expanding economic opportunities for women, advancing gender equality in all areas and increasing access to financial services. At St. Petersburg in 2013, attention to gender equality peaked. It focused on improving employment opportunities for women and endorsing financial education for women and girls. G20 leaders also outlined country-specific action plans with structural reforms to increase the participation of women in the workforce. At the 2014 Brisbane Summit, despite the prioritization of leaders to increasing female participation in the labour market, attention to gender equality decreased in the communiqué, with references limited to the commitment to reduce the gap in participation between men and women by 25% by 2025.

Apart from the purely the deliberative statements, G20 leaders have made very few collective, future-oriented commitments that include specific targets and timelines.

Between the first summit in 2008 and the most recent in 2014, the G20 has made 10 commitments on or related to gender equality. These include commitments with the intended outcome of improving gender equality as well as commitments with intended outcomes in different issue areas such as labour and employment and development but have an indirect impact on gender equality.

In terms of compliance with these commitments, the amount of data is limited but there is information for two commitments. First is the 2012 Los Cabos commitment to take concrete actions to overcome the barriers hindering women's full economic and social participation and to expand economic opportunities for women in G20 economies. G20 leaders complied with this commitment at a level of 78%. The G20 Research Group has also chosen the 2014 Brisbane 25 by 25 commitment to be measured in its annual report. This year's annual report found that G20 leaders have thus far complied with this commitment at a level of 66%, as countries have already implemented policies that work toward meeting this long-term goal.

Based on this information, numerous recommendations were made to the W20 for inclusion in its communiqué aimed at encouraging G20 leaders not only to deal with gender equality in a more comprehensive way but also to be accountable for commitments already made.

The first recommendation is to encourage the G20 to undertake gender issues in a more sustained way. This means embracing the new Sustainable Development Agenda set out and adopted by all members of the UN as its new gender equality strategy. It is more comprehensive than the selective, issue-specific and often sporadic approach that the G20 has taken and contains the specific elements that the G20 has previously addressed.

General compliance tends to increase when a commitment contains a specific reference to the international organization responsible for that issue area. For example, commitments containing references to the World Health Organization tend to have higher compliance on health issues. Thus, the second recommendation is to encourage the G20 to harness the power of UN Women by mobilizing resources for its programing as well as encouraging its participation in the G20 dialogue and process.

Next, compliance tends to increase when the commitment is reinforced by the relevant ministerial meetings that take place in the lead-up to the summit. Thus, the third recommendation to the W20 is to engage in the G20 process not only at the leaders' level but push for gender issues to be included at the relevant ministerial meetings such as the labour and employment ministers' meeting as well encourage the creation of a meeting of those ministers responsible for the status of women in their respective countries. This will also encourage the G20 to integrate the W20 into the formal G20 process in years to come and increase its influence.

Next, commitments are more likely to be complied with when they contain not only a long-term target but also short- and medium-term ones as well. Thus, the fourth recommendation was for the W20 to recommend establishing a midterm 2020 target for their 25 by 25 commitment that can refocus their attention as well as encourage the timely reporting of data.

Lastly, the W20 should take on the role of an independent accountability monitor that can be informed by the work of the G20 Research Group, UN Women and the International Labour Organization to ensure that gender issues not only make it onto the G20 agenda but that the commitments made are met.

Several important phrases were included in the W20 communiqué based on these recommendations including, a commitment to work with UN Women to monitor gender equality related commitments, as well as an encouragement for G20 sherpas to meet with their W20 country representatives in the lead-up to the summit.

For this year's G20 summit to be successful in terms of gender policy accountability I would expect to see in its communiqué a midterm target for the 25 by 25 commitment, which was left out of the W20 communiqué, a reference to the work of UN Women as well as a commitment to work with them in the future, a commitment to a G20 ministerial meeting with ministers for the status of women, and a reference to the work done by the W20 Summit, as well a commitment to support summits in the future.

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