Published by the Faculty of Business, Government and Law, University of Canberra

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Gender equality made central to development policy

Aug 10, 2023 | Politics, Commentary, Equality, Gender, Foreign Policy, Feature

Written by Jane Alver

This week the Australian government released its long awaited new international development policy, the first rethink in ten years. The policy places gender equality at the heart of development:

Placing gender equality at the centre of development creates opportunities for people to thrive, making our countries stronger, more secure and more inclusive. Australia is developing a new international gender equality strategy to guide the breadth of Australia’s engagement, including how we integrate gender equality throughout our development partnerships and programs.

We will continue to support specific gender equality initiatives and ensure all development programs contribute to gender equality. We have reinstated a target for 80 per cent of all development investments to address gender equality effectively and the new requirement for new investments of more than $3 million to include gender equality objectives.

Importantly, a Civil Society Partnerships Fund has been created. This fund has been described as part of a commitment to locally-led development and is a welcome development in the recognition, continuation and growth of support and resources for spaces for organising and connecting civil society. The Civil Society Partnerships Fund can counteract the situation of shrinking civil society spaces and will sustain spaces for mobilising and advocating for change.

Civil society organisations and diverse alliances hold dialogue with the intention of all voices contributing to the ultimate outcome, and with space to hear different positions. The sharing of ideas and lessons transparently and building capacity can aid the growth of a larger supportive cohort to amplify voices for gender equality at the regional and global level.

This tangible action provides resources but the design detail is yet to come. Investment in supporting a diversity of civil society is still required to ensure that all feel included and heard and that the spaces makes room for intersectional activism and difference. It will also be important that access to this Fund manages the risks and perceptions of co-optation and a reluctance to be critical of the hand that feeds it.

Giving resources and time to hear the voices of the full diversity of civil society will help organise and amplify organisations’ and individuals’ engagement. Spaces must be created to be heard directly; not spoken about by donors, governments and regional organisations but rather being able to tell their own stories.

The best pathway to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and delivering on gender equality is through broad-based and inclusive regional fora and discussions that provide space for inclusive civil society. Only then will there be a full leveraging of the ‘leave no one behind principle’ from the SDGs.

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Dr Jane Alver is a Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Business Government and Law at the University of Canberra. Her research area is civil society activism for gender equality.

 

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