The mutual learning seminar, held in Bratislava on the 4th and 5th February 2020, focused on gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting in two strands: the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF); and national budgets. The seminar discussed good practice from the Slovak Republic, and the associated countries, the Czech Republic and Austria.
In the Slovak Republic, a systemic approach to gender mainstreaming in the ESIFs is taken. The Department of Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities, in the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, and Family, plays a coordinating role, with its Division of Horizontal Principles. Its responsibilities are defined in the ‘System of Management of the ESIF’. Its staff and activities are financed under the OP Technical Assistance. It must, in cooperation with the Central Management Authority, review all calls for proposals and national projects before publication. All projects must respect the horizontal principles, including gender equality and their contract can be terminated if they do not. This is subject to: administrative check; independent monitoring with specific indicators; and site inspections.
In the Czech Republic, gender equality initiatives have been progressed under the OP Employment, funded by the ESF. Initiatives are funded to underpin capacity by resourcing the development and application of tools, methods, and training in institutions to better advance gender equality, and to implement actions under the gender equality strategy. An ESF funded project was developed to create a unified standard for gender audits in private and public sector bodies. The standard covered: the areas for audit; the methods for auditing; and the qualification of auditors. Employers were supported to conduct audits, and in a second wave, to act on the audit findings with a subsequent re-audit.
In Austria, budgetary law reform introduced performance budgeting and, with it, gender budgeting. This budgetary approach is primarily focused on outcomes rather than resources. Each line Ministry defines five outcomes per budget chapter, one of which must be gender focused. These outcomes must be accompanied by concrete measures and indicators to realise and monitor their achievement. This outcome orientation information is presented at all levels of the budget structure. An Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Gender Mainstreaming and Gender Budgeting has been formed to accompany this process.
The seminar discussions emphasised the importance of establishing gender equality as a horizontal principle for all ESIFs for the next period. It pointed to the importance of gender equality capacity building for managing authorities, and the need for transnational networking on gender mainstreaming in the ESIF, facilitated at EU level. Regarding national gender budgeting, the importance of leadership by the Ministry of Finance was stressed and the value of securing support from the gender equality unit from the relevant Ministry or external expertise. It was noted that the commitment to gender budgeting should be reinforced on foot of the 10 December 2019 EPSCO Council Conclusions that called on the European Commission and Member States to underpin gender mainstreaming including through the introduction of gender budgeting.