Evaluating the Success of Gender Mainstreaming in New Zealand Official Development Assistance Since 2000
Gender mainstreaming is one of the most widespread methods employed by donor countries and their partners to address gender equality and women’s empowerment in development. New Zealand has had a varied history of engagement on gender issues within its aid programme. As reportedly one of the first countries within the OECD to have a specific gender policy, New Zealand’s commitment to women has waxed and waned. Case and point, in 2011, when asked where women came into New Zealand’s growing Pacific focus for aid, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated that he was not interested in prescribing a gender within the aid programme. This research evaluated how gender mainstreaming has been implemented into the policies of New Zealand’s Official Development Assistance (NZODA) since 2000. Research methods used included reviewing past and present NZODA policies, carried out alongside interviews with development specialists who had worked in the New Zealand aid and gender environment. Using a feminist lens, the research revealed that New Zealand’s ODA has had limited investment in gender equality and women’s empowerment, despite gender being mainstreamed or mandated as a cross-cutting issue since 2002. The previous structure which administered NZODA, NZAID, released an in-depth gender policy late in its existence and struggled to retain staff in the gender advisor role. The refocus of NZODA, with the subsequent reintegration of aid into foreign affairs in 2009 meant the expiration of this policy. Two years later, the new body established to administer NZODA, the NZ Aid Programme, released its only policy, where gender equality and women’s empowerment featured little and appeared tokenistic. As well as this lack of investment in women, this research revealed that gender mainstreaming appears to be misunderstood, which can only contribute to its widely perceived ineffectiveness. Recommendations argue for a committed focus on gender best practice within NZODA, alongside greater investment in programmes and activities that specifically focus on women and gender issues.