Foreign Assistance:

U.S. Had Made Slow Progress In Involving Women in Development

NSIAD-94-16: Published: Dec 21, 1993. Publicly Released: Jan 24, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Agency for International Development's (AID) and the Department of State's efforts to fully integrate gender issues in their foreign assistance programs.

GAO found that: (1) since 1974, AID has issued policies and directed its bureaus and missions to integrate gender concerns throughout their assistance activities and to evaluate the impact of these activities on women, but its progress has been slow; (2) AID has not adequately monitored the implementation of its policies and strategies or routinely evaluated the impact of its programs and activities on women; (3) many agency officials view women-in-development as a narrow special interest issue rather than as a means for accomplishing development objectives; (4) the State Department has generally promoted women's issues by encouraging the appointment of women into senior United Nations (U.N.) positions and supporting various U.N. resolutions on women's economic and human rights; (5) although women and their dependents are the majority of refugee camp residents, they have been largely excluded from participating in decisionmaking activities and the development of foreign aid programs; and (6) the State Department has supported training for refugee relief workers to more effectively address the needs of refugee women and girls.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: New foreign aid authorizing legislation had been discussed but not enacted, and enacting new foreign aid legislation is not a priority. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 Women-in-Development (WID) language remains the primary guidance for AID.

    Matter: Congress should consider emphasizing in any new foreign aid legislation that women-in-development is a means for accomplishing sustainable development objectives, and to the extent possible should be applied to all assistance programs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The regional bureaus, the Bureau for Global Programs and the Bureau for Humanitarian Response, submitted women-in-development action plans to the Administrator, and these include benchmarks and timelines.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should require all AID bureaus to establish effective women-in-development strategies and action plans and establish reasonable deadlines for their timely completion.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: All AID programs have been directed to take account of gender issues. In May 1994, the Administrator directed all bureaus to develop action plans for incorporating gender concerns and ensuring that overseas missions integrated gender into their country strategic plans. All regional and functional bureaus, as well as the Policy and Program Coordination Bureau, responded with a variety of strategies, action plans, and guidance to field missions. Missions are held accountable for gender integration when their country strategies and action plans are approved by the regional bureaus, as well as when their Results Review and Resource Requests are submitted annually.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should require overseas missions to integrate gender concerns into country strategies and action plans and include reasonable deadlines for reaching stated benchmarks.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID's WID Office issued guidance in May 1994 directing regional bureaus, in accordance with the GAO recommendation, to ensure that gender considerations are integrated into all strategic planning, programming, and reporting at headquarters and field levels. The WID Office hired regional advisors to monitor the bureaus' progress, and both the Global Affairs Bureau (in which the WID Office is located) and the Bureau for Policy and Program Coordination are monitoring bureau compliance.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should develop systems and procedures for centrally monitoring the timely completion and effective execution of bureau strategies and action plans and mission efforts to integrate gender into its development strategies.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Guidance for incorporating gender considerations into nonproject assistance programming was included in the May 1994 guidance.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should direct that, to the extent possible, women-in-development policy objectives be incorporated in nonproject assistance programming.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Data on gender-disaggregated indicators can now be collected through the Strategic Management Framework/New Management System (NMS), which incorporates the strategic objectives and indicators developed by the Program Performance Information for Strategic Management (PRISM). Because data on results are reviewed annually through the Results Review and Resource Requests process, available gender disaggregated information will be continually incorporated into NMS so that AID can monitor and evaluate the agencywide integration of WID concerns.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should ensure the timely completion and evaluation of the Program Performance Information for Strategic Management system so that AID has the information needed to more effectively design, implement, monitor, and evaluate women-in-development efforts and more effectively measure the institutional commitment to women-in-development.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In its April 1994 response to the Office of Management and Budget and the committees regarding GAO's recommendations, State said that it would issue policy guidance to U.S. representatives to international organizations on integrating women into the ranks of international organizations and raising the status of women in countries represented. This guidance was to include direction on how to document progress made by these organizations in advancing women's status. As of August 28, 1997, State had not issued any policy guidance. According to an official of the International Affairs Bureau, State has been very involved in gender mainstreaming issues since the 1995 UN Conference in Beijing. However, State has not and very likely will not issue any policy papers on the subject.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should, in implementing the provisions of section 305 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, issue policy guidance for: (1) monitoring the progress of international organizations in integrating women into national economies and professional and policymaking positions at international organizations; and (2) documenting the extent to which U.S. contributions to such organizations have considered the progress of international organizations in promoting policies and procedures for the integration of women in these areas.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The State Department's Bureau of Refugee Programs continues to work closely with UNHCR and the NGO community to advance the importance of refugee women's issues. In 1993, the United States earmarked $2.7 million to UNHCR for refugee women and children.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should encourage the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to increase the number and distribution of focal points for women's issues at refugee camps and to require its implementing partners to apply UNHCR Policy on Refugee Women.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Bureau of Refugee Programs continues to urge UNHCR to strengthen its training and evaluation to address the needs of refugee women. In addition to supporting UNHCR's gender-focused "People-Oriented Planning" courses, State also sponsored a 2-day consultation in Washington in March 1994 with UNHCR's refugee women's coordinator.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should support expanded and strengthened gender training for UNHCR staff and officials and relief workers of nongovernmental organizations and other agencies working with refugees.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Bureau of Refugee Programs is working with UNHCR's Subcommittee on Administrative and Financial Matters to strengthen the administration and evaluation of UNCHR's gender efforts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should encourage UNHCR to evaluate the efficacy of its gender training programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID has taken action and implemented new procedures that seek to include women as full participants and beneficiaries in economic assistance programs.

    Recommendation: Within the ongoing efforts to redefine U.S. foreign aid strategies, the Administrator, AID, should seek to include women as full participants and beneficiaries in AID economic assistance programs.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

 

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