OECD Secretary-General

Strengthening the gender dimension of aid for trade


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

03 July 2019 - Geneva, Switzerland

(as prepared for delivery)




Minister Linde, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be with you today to launch the report on “Strengthening the gender dimension of aid for trade”. This report focuses on a crucial issue of our time, closing gender gaps in trade and empowering women – and therefore society as a whole.

This work was made possible thanks to the generous funding from the Swedish government, and I am pleased to welcome the Minister for Foreign Trade of Sweden, Ms Ann Linde, who is with us here today.

Women’s economic empowerment is key to sustainable development and two Sustainable Development Goals focus on this very issue: Goal 5 on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and Goal 8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth. Why is this crucial? Because if women have more control over household resources, it leads to greater investment in health and education for their children and their family, ultimately contributing to higher and more sustainable levels of growth.

We know, for example, from our 2017 report, ‘The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle’ that reducing the gender gap in labour force participation by 25% by 2025 could add 1 percentage point to projected baseline GDP growth across the OECD over the period 2013-25, and almost 2.5 percentage points if gender participation gaps were halved by 2025.

Our latest Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) 2019 Global Report highlights that economic policies and quotas are not enough: we need a cultural transformation. We need a deeper and broader approach. Even if we make progress introducing new policies and regulations (like quotas) to induce gender inclusion and women’s empowerment, cultural patterns, customary laws and social norms continue to determine the behaviour of communities and individuals, limiting the impact of policy reforms. This is why at the OECD, we very much believe that gender equality is a driver of social cohesion and inclusive growth. And we are putting the people – the women, men and children – at the centre of our policies.

Gender-responsive aid for trade is increasing

The good news is that gender-responsive aid for trade is increasing. The report we are launching today shows that bilateral donors increased gender-responsive aid for trade from USD 3 billion in 2006 and 2007 to USD 12 billion in 2016 and 2017, that is from 9% of their total aid for trade to 24% over the same period.

Global commitments to women’s empowerment are also paving the forward. For example, in 2016, the High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, convened by the UN Secretary-General, laid out measures to accelerate women’s economic participation, recognising it as a cornerstone of the SDGs and critical to achieving gender equality.

These measures include: sharing the burden of unpaid care work; ensuring women’s access to financial services, new technology, and justice; changing practices in employment; and ratifying key international agreements on the rights of women workers, especially in the informal sector and domestic work.


Certain sectors are lagging behind

These are important developments, however challenges persist and certain sectors are lagging behind when it comes to integrating the gender dimension. Key findings suggest that, roughly half (47%) of bilateral and multilateral donors’ support to agriculture, forestry and fishing includes promoting women’s economic empowerment.

Moreover, in the infrastructure sectors, such as transport, energy, and communications, only 14-20% of the aid addresses the gender dimension. This is because these sectors are often believed to be “gender neutral”, meaning some donors think that they don’t require any gender perspective to be applied. As you comment in the report , Minister Linde, it is indeed surprising that a key sector for trade, such as communications, has such a low proportion of gender perspectives integrated.

Many donors today do not have adequate indicators, or monitoring and evaluation systems, to assess impact on women’s economic empowerment in the long term. They also need to scale up small income generation projects for wider impact.

Last but not least, special attention also needs to be paid to the unintended negative impacts of trade liberalisation. International competition can lead to poor quality jobs for women and increased imports in agriculture can also be a detriment to women who work in small-scale farming.


Promoting women’s economic empowerment through aid for trade

The report that we are launching today examines how aid for trade can enhance economic opportunities for women, address impediments to trade – such as lack of infrastructure – and prevent women from being negatively impacted from export activities, including poor labour conditions and low wages.

Many countries are making important headway in integrating a gender dimension in aid for trade and important lessons can be learnt from these experience. Let me provide a few:


  • Belgium has provided credit to a company in Côte d’Ivoire, who employed mostly women in processing cashew nuts. Today, the company is the leader of the cashew industry in the country, which is the second largest exporter in the world.

  • Similarly, Sweden financed a study to analyse the gender impact of the prospective preferential trade agreement of the EU with Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. It highlighted the potential negative impact due to import competition in areas where many women are employed, such as in the agriculture, food processing and manufacturing of electronic products.

  • Finland, Italy, and Canada have supported women’s businesses through the provision of solar energy in Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, and Burkina Faso.

  • And in the financial sector, the Netherlands have supported the development of the Global Banking Alliance for Women, which brings together women entrepreneurs, bankers, academics, and other stakeholders to review best practices and market innovations for women’s economic empowerment.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

In the words of the late Kofi Annan, “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”. Let’s heed these words as we come together to discuss how aid for trade can contribute to closing the gender gap in the 21st Century. I wish you a fruitful and productive discussion. Thank you.



See also:

OECD work by Development Assistant Committee

OECD work on Gender


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