CED Documentation is for your personal reference and
“Political Power Is Still Very Masculine”
Interview with Cecilia Alemany,
Association for Women’s Rights in Development
VANCOUVER, Canada, Jul 30 (IPS) - For women’s rights and women’s
empowerment groups, the 3rd High Level Conference on Aid Effectiveness
in Accra, in September, and the U.N. Conference on Financing for
Development in Doha, in December, are opportunities to advance
financing for gender equality issues.
They will be there to pressure their governments to make sure that
national representatives in these summits are accountable and making
the needed connections to develop a holistic development approach, from
the local to the global.
On their wish-list is the integration of gender dimensions not just
between trade, development, foreign direct investment, debt, and
international cooperation, but also governance, human rights and gender
equality, says Cecilia Alemany of the Association for Women’s Rights in
Development, a Canada-based international women’s rights NGO.
IPS correspondent Am Johal interviewed Alemany, the manager of
influencing development actors and practices at AWID.
IPS: What are the gaps and barriers that exist today in establishing
women’s rights around the world?
CA: The national and international political power is still very
masculine, and the negotiators at the OECD [Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development], or the World Trade Organisation are not
really sensitive to how the arrangements for liberalisation or trade
quotas will affect populations and particularly women.
This is only one part of the problem. Policy-makers and negotiations at
the national and international level are most of the time more
influenced by corporate interests than by their societies in general.
Those groups and women that will be affected by the decisions usually
are not considered, and sadly they are never invited to the table.
The Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development organised
recently a consultation in New York (in June) and part of the analysis
of the final statement is that “trade is not an end in itself – it must
serve pro-people and inclusive development, the realisation of human
rights and the right to development for all, and the achievement of a
caring economy and environmental sustainability. A gender perspective
of trade is a holistic one, supportive of the broader framework of
international conventions and multilateral commitment for the common
IPS: Is there a link being made between capacity development and actual
public policy changes being enacted by those at the forefront of
pushing for women’s equality?
CA: Yes, of course. Policy-makers at all levels are not always
integrating the gender dimension in their decisions. Internationally,
it is flagrant how the current agendas on international cooperation for
instance are not integrating clear development goals such as gender
equality, human rights and environmental sustainability. Several
developed countries that are supposed to be more progressive to women’s
rights are quite ignorant on how to integrate development, human rights
and gender equality. So, there is a lot of technical advance in these
discussions but not real results on the ground.
The “donors community” is leading an international debate and process
on “aid effectiveness” that is based on the fact that international
cooperation has not been effective and is not delivering development
results on the ground. However, women’s voices in this debate are not
considered, and human rights and gender equality are seen by these
policy-makers (mostly negotiating under the OECD) as “cross-cutting
issues", what in practical terms means “non-issues".
IPS: What are the main concerns related to the Accra Agenda for Action,
in terms of civil society and particularly from women’s groups?
CA: The current AAA draft contains very few concrete and time-bound
commitments which could be monitored in the run-up to 2010. The AAA
must ensure that the implementation of the Paris Declaration and the
improvement of aid quality do not undermine, but contribute to the
achievement of internationally agreed development goals, human rights
obligations, the achievement of commitments on gender equality, decent
work for all, and the protection of environmental sustainability.
IPS: What about the relationship between donors and developing country
governments? Will there be more transparency about aid?
CA: The AAA and all the Aid Effectiveness agenda has to be conceived in
a broader framework of development effectiveness, and recognise that
the main space and forum for norm-setting and policy design ensure
equal participation for all the countries is the United Nations,
particularly through the Development Cooperation Forum and the
Financing for Development process towards Doha (December 2008).
The understanding of transparency in the draft AAA seems rather narrow.
It is essential that donors share more information with developing
country governments to facilitate effective and accountable budget
processes, but citizens also have a right to be well-informed about aid
in their country.
Transparency is about more than “disclosure", it should also be about
participation in decision-making.
It is imperative that the AAA agrees to a new way to measure ownership,
which recognises that ownership must be driven by countries’ own
citizens, not by donors or the World Bank. Indicators of ownership must
measure the participation of citizens, civil society and parliaments in
deciding, planning, implementing and assessing national plans,
policies, programmes and budgets. (END/2008)