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A European Institute for Gender Equality -
Experiences of the German GenderCompetenceCentre at Humboldt University of Berlin  

Suggestions to Amend the Proposed Regulation of the European Institute for Gender Equality

The German GenderCompetenceCentre congratulates the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament on its efforts to further the cause of gender equality by moving forward to create a European Institute for Gender Equality. Relevant starting points are:

  • Equality for men and women is a fundamental right and policy field which EC law prioritizes – Art. 2, 3, 13, 141, 13 guidelines, about 200 ECJ decisions. Sex or gender equality has to be adressed in the context of different ethnicities, sexual orientation, age, belief or social background, which presents lasting challenges to all actors.
  • Efforts to combat sex/gender discrimination have been part of EU policy in several policy fields, yet gender mainstreaming is not systematically and thoroughly realised in the EU and its member states.
  • Equality and the implementation of Gender Mainstreaming are a cross sectional concern. Gender Equality is not a policy field, but part of all policies.  
  • Uneven developments regarding the progress made towards equality of men and women in different policy fields, in different Directorates etc., and EU-member states and the differences in causes and effects of gender inequality require
    • a broad policy-mix,
    • a solid base of information on gender in the EU, including statistical data, qualitative analysis, evaluation and monitoring schemes,
    • wide spread gender competence (awareness, knowledge, skills) to guarantee professional work in the area,
    • a wide range of effective instruments – normative, financial, programmatic, institutional - to implement gender equality.
The European Institute for Gender Equality can help to provide access to these resources. However, although new institutions are created to solve problems, they also do contribute to the recognition of new ones, and they have to master certain challenges themselves. In the case of an Institute dedicated to work towards gender equality, the complexity of gender relations will certainly lead to the detection of more or more complex problems. Based on the experience of a national Gender Institute, several risks of such a creation should be proactively addressed. First, there are two political risks – and ways to avoid them - well known in the field of feminist politics:

  • Risk of “delegation” – clear mandate to support and enable: Many actors tend to feel released from their genuine (cross sectional!) responsibility to strive towards gender equality. Sometimes, it is argued that “doubling of tasks” should be avoided. However, since gender is a cross-sectional concern, a Gender Institute does not usually not double a task, but complement a mainstream task with gender expertise. The only risk of “doubling tasks” exist in the area of gender expertise. Therefore, the European Institute for Gender Equality should be obliged
    • to support European agencies, national or regional institutes with expertise in issues around gender equality,
    • to pass on gender-related questions and tasks to the responsible actor (rather than “do it yourself”),
    • to actively encourage the strategy of gender mainstreaming by monitoring, offering advice and support training activities to build genuine gender competence.
  • Risk of “alibi” – independence: In many cases, there is a tendency to use the creation of a specific actor committed to gender equality as an excuse for actors not to implement gender mainstreaming. This may happen to a European Institute as well. Therefore, autonomy (or independence) of such an institute is key for success – which means that no institution should have the right to define the operative tasks and activities of the Institute in detail, but that a framework (or roadmap) should suffice to collaborate, and that a defined set of actors should have the right to get advise and support to optimize their work and output. Art. 5 should be refined in light of this.
In addition, there are administrative and structural risks – and ways to avoid them - relevant to the creation of such institutes in terms of task and structure. The institutional “framing” of a Gender Institute is a factor of high relevance regarding its acceptance, and the long-term success of such efforts directed at the implementation of gender mainstreaming.
  • Risk of excess – clear mandate: Gender is relevant in every sphere of life, thus in all EU policies. Thus there is a risk of excess if tasks are defined too broadly. No Institute will be able to address it all, nor should an institute be reduced to specific policy fields. A clear mandate is thus key for success, and Art. 3 should be revised in light of this. The German GenderComptenceCentre did limit its task in that it directs its work at structural effects for specific actors, rather than at expertise in all policy fields. In the German case, those primarily adressed are not the public nor politicians, but government agencies, and even more specifically: people working in government. The approach is to enable within institutions, rather than comment from outside. In the European case, one might consider to allow for a proactive approach of the Institute addressing actors relevant to an issue or action, yet one should be hesitant to oblige the Institute with too many tasks, particularly in the formative years.
  • Risk of mistrust and marginalization – proximity to research and science – distance to lobbying and partisan politics: Since gender equality has been marginalized in the past, and is still often labeled a “special interest”, there is a high risk that even a Gender Institute will fail, based on such stereotypes. Generally, the first phase of institutionalisation has to result in firm roots and create positive recognition of the institute.  As an example, the German GenderCompetenceCentre in two ways: first, it rooted itself in cooperative structures with independent gender experts, and second, it created roots in work relations with people inside mainstream institutions. In the European case, one should define a structure within and a network of working relations around the European Gender Institute. Looked at from the German experience, non-partisan expert standing is key to success, and proximity to science one way to guarantee this. The quality of gender mainstreaming is based on the quality of knowledge and analytical skills which shall be inserted in mainstream policies. Science indicates independence from political parties, lobby groups, and administration, which is extremely important in a field which shall move from a political side issue to a professional mainstream task. Again, and in addition, the right to proactive (rather than just reactive, predefined ) intervention or comments will help the Institute to establish standing, yet the Institute should not and cannot replace lobbying and political action per se. The composition of the Bodies of the Institute and the tasks defined in Art. 3 may have to be refined here.
  • Task related to data: Experience shows a growing demand and necessity for continuous comparable information on gender aspects in all policy fields, which is particularly important for European actors. Tasks may be to collect, support, analyse or evaluate data, or, more generally, information on gender equality. In Germany, one regional institute G/I/S/A provides general policy field data (collected from other public statistics), but the national GenderCompetenceCentre provides access to data (but no genuine statistics) and supports actors to create, acquire, use and interpret data from usual sources (Eurostat et. al.). A European Equality Institute should best work to improve the comparability, objectivity and reliability of data on the EU level. If it shall provide data on its own, resources have to be allocated accordingly. If it shall evaluate data and policies, it will run the risk to loose its standing as a source of information rather than as a political lobbyists on gender equality. The Institute could efficiently support Eurostat to develop a standardised gendered system of data collection and analysis. In any case, the Instuitute will need access (and related resources) to data to prepare advisory work.
  • In particular: Public relations: Gender competent analysis offers critical insight in many fields. Sometimes, it is marginalized as a political particularity, and sometimes, it is fought because of traditional views on equality, contrary to EU law, norms, and goals of integration. Such voices are heard within and outside of institutions. Therefore, a successful Institute needs the right to be an independent voice in gender matters. Part of this is the right to autonomous public relations. It enables the Gender Institute to establish its own “brand”, with regular visbile events and products will also fight the risk of marginalization. Both the composition of the management board of a European Institute for Gender Equality (art. 10 enactment) and the definition of tasks in art. 3 should thus be refined.
All in all, a European Institute for Gender Equality can be an important step to further efforts to implement gender mainstreaming in the EU, to support and partially co-ordinate the national and European efforts, and to monitor success and optimize processes. A board and an advisory body will be important assets of the institute, the structure of which has to be carefully drafted. Gender mainstreaming needs well-founded gender competence precisely at the interface between science and politics. The creation of awareness among mainstream actors is, on the long run, the most important factor of success, which should thus be central to the work of such an institute. This will mean that “success” needs t be measured against the objective of long lasting change, rather than give oneself to the illusion to qucikly create that one agent who does it all.

Diese Stellungnahme und weitere Vorschläge zur Modifikation der Regulationen des Europäischen Instituts für Gleichstellung können Sie in einer druckfreundlichen pdf-Version hier herunterladen.

erstellt von Administrator zuletzt verändert: 02.01.2010 20:06