Innovative Financing and Gender Responsive Budgeting

Achieving SDG 5 is a fundamental cornerstone to realizing the 2030 Agenda. Yet despite significant growth in financing for development overall, financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment remains woefully inadequate. Through the SDGs, through the Beijing Platform for Action, and underpinning all of this, through the normative framework provided by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, UN Member States have shaped a robust and inclusive vision of equality for all women and girls, men and boys.

Yet globally, these commitments continue to face enormous resource constraints, and these constraints have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sparked a global economic downturn and which has disproportionately impacted women’s livelihoods. Globally, the pandemic has widened the gender poverty gap and is expected to drive 47 million more women and girls into extreme poverty in 2021 alone. Further, lockdown and shutdown policies, including closure of schools and nurseries, have increased unpaid care and domestic work and heightened the risk of domestic violence.

Some countries, like Egypt, have weathered the storm, and this in part due to the important mitigation measures the Government put in place as part of their COVID-19 response strategy which protect the gender equality gains made in recent years.

While positive outcomes for women have stagnated or declined, there has been a sizable increase in thematic investments. Worldwide, 2020 was a record-breaking year for the green, social, sustainability and sustainability-linked (GSSS) bond market with total issuances exceeding $600 billion – nearly double the $326 billion issued in 2019, and nearly triple the size of the 2018 bond issuance which were $214 billion. However, than 1% of this GSSS market has been aligned with SDG 5.  The number of gender bonds issued by the private sector and DFIs is steadily growing. 34 Gender bonds have been issued as of August 2021, but no Sovereign has issued a Gender Bond yet. 

To ensure that a post covid recovery is both sustainable and inclusive, UN Women’s is leveraging its triple mandate of normative support, programme implementation and co-ordination, UN Women is working with Member States in advancing the following:

  • Developing innovative gender financing instruments in sovereign, public and private finance;
  • Implementing gender lens investing principles, standards, and guidelines, to promote the growth of a credible gender lens asset class
  • Further, globally and in Egypt, UN Women is supporting alignment efforts between key frameworks such as the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPS), the OECD Gender Equality Policy Marker and 2X Criteria.

In partnership with UN Women, Egypt is playing a key role in creating global standards to guide gender lens investing and in shaping the nature of innovative financing instruments which would advance women’s empowerment in the country. This work is supported in part by the Government of Canada. Egypt’s landmark 2020, $750million, Green Bond issuance provides the nation and the Region with valuable lessons learned and opportunities which could inform the country’s future innovative financing on women’s empowerment.

Under the UN Joint Programme on Financing the SDGs titled “Egypt SDGs financing strategy” (funded by the UN Joint SDG Fund and implemented by UNDP, UN Women, ILO, UNICEF and UNCTAD), which aims to produce Egypt-specific knowledge products and develop relevant Government capacities to answer three questions: a) How much does it cost to achieve the SDGs in Egypt? b) What are the current flows financing the SDGs and how are they allocated? and c) What opportunities are there to increase and better allocate financing flows towards the SDGs? UN Women’s key interventions under the programme include support to the Ministry of Finance to advance the implementation of gender-responsive program-based budgeting. Results achieved to date include a) technical guidance on gender-responsive budget allocations integrated in budget call circular 2022/2023, b) technical assistance provided to the Ministry of Finance for gender review of budget templates to ensure alignment with budget circular, c) strengthening capacities of the Ministry of Finance and selected sectoral ministries on gender-responsive program-based budgeting.