• 14 October 2014

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    Category : Entrevista

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    ”It’s impossible to talk about development and democracy without including women”

    Interview with Nava San Miguel, gender expert for the FIIAPP-Secretariat General of International Development Cooperation (SGCID)agreement.

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    Next year will reveal which of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDO) have been achieved in 15 years of work. This initiative will have a second part: the Post-2015 Agenda with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

    The backdrop for this second part is already in place and, in terms of gender, according to Nava San Miguel, one dual objective has already been achieved: the existence of a goal in this area in the SDG proposal to construct the Post-2015 Agenda and integration of the gender focus into the rest of the goals.

    Spain did its part to make this happen. With Nava San Miguel, we review the course of Spanish Cooperation in this area and its international commitment, which is mainly rooted in the two-pronged strategy, proposed back in 1995 by the Beijing Platform, of mainstreaming gender issues and undertaking specific actions to empower women.

    What type of cooperation is Spain pursuing in this area?
    Spanish cooperation includes gender equality as a defining characteristic in its development policy, and this is reflected in its last three master plans. In multilateral terms, Spain became the number one United National donor for gender issues such as UN Womenin the first years after its creation (2010), and has supported many gender projects in non-specific bodies, such as education for UNICEFand regional funds for ECLAC, supporting the gender observatory in Latin America for example. In Africa it has supported projects involving gender issues for the NEPADand the African Union. Also, in bilateral terms, we’ve supported many gender-focused subsidies and agreements, and specific gender projects, for NOGs… and we’re trying to ensure that there is a mainstreaming process in everything we do in the cooperation system.

    What does mainstreaming mean?
    That the issue of gender is integrated in everything done in Spanish cooperation— from policy definition to planning, management and assessment. We are working on different methodologies and processes like the Country Association Frameworks and, at the moment, are developing a mainstreaming manual for the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID)for example. We’ve been working on this since the Second Master Plan, and the aim is to consolidate it in the current Fourth Master Plan for 2013-2016.

    And do these represent parameters to be followed in each of the countries we cooperate with?
    Yes, gender must be integrated into all Spanish cooperation instruments. To define the priorities with our partner countries, a series of guidelines have been created for integrating gender into the definition of the Country Association Frameworks (CAF) currently being applied.
    Within the Cooperation Council, there is a gender group responsible for making sure that any development policy document that comes before the council includes a greater gender perspective.

    What are Spain’s partner countries?
    The number has gone down considerably. There were 50 countries and now, with the cutbacks, the new master plan and a policy of geographic concentration will leave us with 23. Many Technical Cooperation Offices are being closed. Above all, we are in Latin America, North Africa and certain Sub-Saharan African countries; in Asia there are also cooperation projects in Vietnam and the Philippines.

    What line will the Post-2015 Agenda follow in this area?
    The most important thing is that we have achieved an international consensus to include a specific goal in the area of gender. In negotiations, this issue is always very complicated. In this case, since the beginning and to the surprise of almost everyone working on gender and development issues, almost no one questions the fact that gender equality and empowerment of women is essential for the development of any country. But the process will remain open until September of 2015.

    This issue was already present in the MDGs… what difference is there in the SDGs?
    In the first place, it took a lot of work to get it into the MDGs. The concept was not as well defined because people talked more about equality between men and women, and talking about gender equality and the empowerment of women is much more correct; and next, the gender focus was not mainstreamed in rest of the goals. To the point that in some of them, such as in issues related to sexual and reproductive health, sexual health was not even included. This was a goal that was achieved years later and in the wake of criticism from feminist and women’s organizations all over the world. At the moment, the debate is open, but the goals proposal includes that of integrating a goal on Sexual and Reproductive Rights, as well as the goal of universal health coverage.

    In these 15 years of work on the gender goal in the MDGs, what gives you the most satisfaction?
    The progress made in establishing equality mechanisms. They may be weaker or stronger, but great progress has been made in adopting them as a public policy and in defining regulatory frameworks in almost all the countries that have signed the major agreements and which ratify international regulations. Progress has also been made in education in the area of reducing the equality gap in education for girls. Nevertheless, despite having roadmaps like Cairo-Beijing, women’s inequality continues to be universal, and the defence of sexual and reproductive rights continues to be a problem and the major workhorse in gender issues. In issues related to violence against women, I believe there is a much greater awareness of the problem, although the statistics are still horrifying, and this continues to be the tip of the iceberg of a much harsher reality for women. Awareness has been raised in the world, gender has been given a more central place in discussions and there is a greater availability of information and programmes, and a clearer direction for moving forward in reducing violence. But there is still much left to be done in the issue of gender, and it’s impossible to talk about development and democracy without including women and building gender democracies.

    And how is this panorama of cutbacks being confronted?
    What we’ve tried to do is to consolidate gender as a priority in development policy, to learn, and bring together all that’s been learned in Spanish cooperation in this area, and then to make a proposal for a minimum progressive improvement in the area of gender issues in the Equal Opportunities Strategic Plan so that the mark of Spanish cooperation in this is not lost. In addition, Spain is advocating for this priority in the international context and, especially, in the process of constructing the Post-2015 Agenda.

    And where is Spain focusing its efforts then?
    The challenge in institutions remains, and in support for projects for real equality and for mainstreaming in the other sectors.

    In the situation you describe, what is the role of the FIIAPP in promoting the gender issue?
    I believe it is key. With the capacity this foundation has for managing European Union projects, it could contribute a great deal by mainstreaming the gender issue is its projects and obtaining specific gender projects, backed by the baggage and recognition Spain has achieved in gender and development in the work done by the SGCID and with the learning of the AECID and of Spanish cooperation overall. I believe it can play a fundamental and far-reaching role. The gender issue must be present in everything.

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.