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Fragility and conflict
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Gender Mainstreaming in Development Cooperation – Supporting Gender Equality in Post-conflict Contexts

Good strategies to support gender equality and peacebuilding are available, but not implemented consistenly enough, as a DEval evaluation of the topic shows.

Eine Frau spricht während einer Versammlung
© Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

Bonn, 6. December 2021 – Gender equality and peacebuilding are key aspects of sustainable development. Inclusive and sustainable peace is more likely if gender-specific effects of a conflict are considered and women and men are equally involved in dealing with them. Good strategies are available here, but German development cooperation projects do not implement them consistently enough, as an evaluation by the German Institute for Development Evaluation (DEval) shows.

Conflicts affect women and men in different ways. Whereas men are more often involved in fighting as active combatants, women are more likely to suffer from the indirect effects of the conflict such as poorer health care. As a result, their life expectancy during armed conflicts decreases to an even greater extent than that of men. In the context of armed conflict, moreover, women are more likely than men to be affected by violence outside of direct combat, including sexual and gender-based violence. Even if women and men share certain experiences in conflict situations, they tend to experience the situation differently in many respects. These gender-specific effects persist even after the end of a violent conflict. In the post-conflict phase, when societies begin to deal with their conflict-related past, build institutions and negotiate the rules for their future coexistence, it is therefore important to think about gender equality. “For a gender-equal society, it is essential that all genders have the opportunity to bring their perspectives, needs and interests into this process of change. After all, peace can only be lasting and inclusive if the gender dimension is borne in mind,” explains evaluator Dr Angela Heucher.

German development cooperation procedures essentially adequate for supporting gender equality

The United Nations’ “Women, Peace and Security” agenda calls for increased participation of women in peace processes and more effective protection against gender-based violence. The German Federal Government supports this resolution and has already drawn up three National Action Plans for its implementation since 2012. The most recent of these was adopted in February 2021.

German development cooperation implements these goals with the instrument of “gender mainstreaming”, among others. Gender mainstreaming means that a gender perspective is integrated into all development policy strategies and projects. The aim is to make the different life situations, needs and interests of all genders an integral part of German development cooperation. In this way, gender equality is to be promoted in post-conflict contexts while at the same time supporting inclusive and peaceful development. DEval has therefore investigated whether the planning and implementation processes used in German development cooperation are suitable for taking account of the different perspectives of women and men in post-conflict societies. Having analysed 47 projects in eleven post-conflict contexts, the evaluation found that the existing procedures are essentially adequate for supporting gender equality.

Competences and resources are the most important factors for successful gender mainstreaming 

The evaluation also considered in more detail whether the use of gender mainstreaming in development cooperation projects actually has positive effects. Here, the authors conclude that individual projects, for example those relating to “overcoming trauma” or “increasing income”, achieve outcomes that not only meet practical needs but also contribute to empowering women and changing gender roles. Overall, however, the connection between gender and conflict is not sufficiently anchored in the projects, with the result that its potential is not systematically exploited to a sufficient extent. “With regard to the effects achieved in promoting gender equality in post-conflict contexts, there is still a gap between the declarations of intent and commitments of German development cooperation on the one hand, and how these are actually realised in development cooperation projects on the other,” states DEval Director Prof Jörg Faust. Overall, the evaluation shows that the gender-and-conflict competence of staff and the availability of resources are factors that are particularly relevant for the success of gender mainstreaming. In terms of the sustainability of the projects, it is also important that the partner organisations on the ground support the objective of gender mainstreaming. 

Central recommendations

The evaluation recommends that German development cooperation establish a stronger strategic basis for the promotion of gender equality in post-conflict contexts and make it easier to measure this. When planning projects, the relationship between gender and conflict prevention should be integrated systematically into the overall design. The organisations in the partner countries that German development cooperation works with should also be selected on the basis of their gender-and-conflict competence. The evaluation also recommends improving protection and complaint mechanisms on sexual misconduct. In addition, the possibilities for sharing knowledge and experience within development organisations should be expanded.

Data basis

Based on interviews, group discussions, and content, context and portfolio analyses, the evaluation examined the strategies and formal processes of German bilateral development cooperation, their practical implementation and their impact. The evaluation covered a total of 47 projects in eleven post-conflict countries, performing detailed case studies in four countries (Columbia, Liberia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka).

Original publication
Brüntrup-Seidemann, S., V. Gantner, A. Heucher and I. Wiborg (2021),Supporting Gender Equality in Post-conflict Contexts, German Institute for Development Evaluation (DEval), Bonn.


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