Gender mainstreaming means integrating gender equality perspective at all stages and levels of policies, programmes and projects. All policy levels are equally important, as gender mainstreaming has to be applied throughout the whole society. Mainstreaming gender at local level is crucial since at this level decisions which are adopted at national level are implemented and affecting people’s daily lives. Therefore, gender aspects need to be introduced into strategies and programmes at local level and resources need to be allocated to promote awareness raising and build capacity for implementing gender mainstreaming.
In the past months, UNECE has been supporting Serbia to advance gender mainstreaming by organizing series of training workshops at national level. However, the Government expressed a need to assist in raising the awareness of local authorities on integration of gender aspects into environmental policies and activities. Therefore, in response to this request, UNECE in collaboration with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, UNDP and UN Women in Serbia organized a training session on 30 September 2021.
The training addressed local authorities and regional agencies in Serbia to support them in integrating a gender perspective into environmental policies and measures. Serbia has adopted a Law on Gender Equality in May this year that calls upon environmental authorities to take gender equality into consideration. According to the provisions of the law, local authorities are required to mainstream gender into their plans, projects and policies on environmental protection.
Participants of the training learned about commitments from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities and Regional Development Agencies towards gender mainstreaming. Furthermore, they learned about gender aspects in sectors relevant for environmental policies at local level, namely climate change, transport, energy efficiency, waste management and disaster risk reduction, partly based on new findings specific for Serbia and with reference to available international findings.
Participants have been introduced into several approaches to help design, implement and develop further gender-responsive environmental policies, such as programme screening, Gender Impact Assessment, Gender Responsive Budgeting, and Gender Monitoring presented by UNECE, UNDP and UN Women. To support participants to use different approaches in gender mainstreaming a guidance document was developed.
The discussions showed that equal gender representation is a big issue in environmental policy. Yet, it seems to be more difficult to go beyond issues of gender balance and find adequate responses to the substance of environmental policies and their impacts on gender equality. One of the main challenges is a lack of local gender-disaggregated data.
The need to continue capacity building on gender mainstreaming in environmental policy at local levels is evident, and further support will be required from national and international levels. The response to, and the interactions during the workshop showed that this is an excellent opportunity for an intensified multi-level collaboration of UN agencies, national Government and local governments. As a concrete next step, a broader international workshop to share experience was envisaged.