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Which countries support gender equality in their Official Development Assistance?

Published 10 February 2020 in Facts and figures , Updated 24 May 2023

In 2015, all countries in the world committed to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Among these goals, SDG 5 aims to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls worldwide. However, achieving gender equality requires sufficient investment, especially in the poorest countries.

Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) is an important source of funding in this regard. To what extent do DAC member countries take into account the promotion of gender equality in their ODA? What trend has been observed in recent years? Analysis.

Gender equality, an issue that remains underfunded by donors

Monitoring of ODA for gender equality is carried out by the OECD DAC, using the aid policy marker in support of gender equality (see box).

Significant objective, principal objective: definitions

As part of the annual reporting of their aid to the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), DAC members are required to indicate for each project/programme whether it targets gender equality as a policy objective according to a three-point scoring system:

  • Principal (score 2): gender equality is the main objective of the project/programme and is fundamental in its design and expected results. The project/programme would not have been undertaken without this gender equality objective.
  • Significant (score 1): gender equality is an important and deliberate objective, but not the principal reason for undertaking the project/ programme.
  • Not targeted (score 0): the project/programme has been screened against the marker but has not been found to target gender equality.

Source : OECD (2016).

In 2020 and 2021, OECD-DAC donor countries directed US$57.4 billion per year, or 44% of their bilateral ODA, towards gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls on average per year. Of this amount, US$5.7 billion was directed towards gender equality as a principal objective (4% of bilateral ODA), and US$51.6 billion as a significant goal (40% of bilateral ODA).

Of the $5.7 billion to promote equality as a primary objective, more than $2 billion went to reproductive health programmes (20%) and to government or civil society organisations (20%). More than $500 million also went to organisations working to defend women’s rights or to women’s movements (10%).

In terms of volume, the largest ODA donors to gender equality are also the largest donors of total ODA (Germany, Japan, USA, France).

However, only one country has reached the international target of directing at least 85% of its ODA to gender equality (Canada), and only one has devoted at least 20% of its ODA to the direct promotion of equality (the Netherlands).

A significant slowdown in promoting gender equality in official development assistance

Between 2020 and 2021, ODA with gender equality as a significant objective (markers 1) decreased by 7%, and ODA for the direct promotion of gender equality (marker 2) decreased by 10%. Six of the top eight donors of total ODA have seen their share of ODA devoted to gender equality decline (Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, UK, USA). This decline came in the context of the 2021 Generation Equality Forum, organized by UN Women, where the international community pledged to invest $40 billion in gender equality by 2026.

France, a future champion for the promotion of gender equality in the world?

France ranks 13th, having allocated 47% of its bilateral aid to gender equality on average in 2020-2021. 5% of the amounts allocated targeted the pursuit of gender equality as a primary objective ($0.5 billion), and 42% as a significant objective ($5 billion).

On 4 August 2021, France enacted a new law to frame its development aid policy: the Programming Law on Inclusive Development and the Fight against Global Inequalities. This law establishes gender equality as a cross-cutting objective of French ODA. It provides that 75% of projects financed by French ODA should have gender equality (according to the OECD gender marker) as their principal or significant objective by 2025, of which 20% should have it as their principal objective. This commitment could result in €3.3 billion being allocated to the direct promotion of equality in 2025, four times the amount dedicated in 2021.

Further reading

Oxfam Report: "Are there really gender equality projects?", February 2020

Documents to download

Development finance for gender equality and women’s empowerment: A snapshot Oxfam Report: "Are there really gender equality projects?", February 2020