Supporting gender responsive budgeting in Timor-Leste: the Governance for Development approach

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Written by Joanne Choe

At this week’s Cardno ID GESI Community of Practice, we were joined by Flora Brytes (Planning and GRB Adviser) and Carolyn Peterken (Team Leader) from DFAT’s Governance for Development (GfD) program, which supports central agencies in Timor-Leste to improve service delivery to its citizens. Mana Flora has been trailblazing efforts to support the Government of Timor-Leste (GoTL) to implement a Prime Ministerial directive on gender responsive budgeting. It was wonderful to hear how much progress GoTL has made in this area, with a truly cutting-edge approach being put in place.

As Mana Flora explained, gender-responsive budgeting is essentially a process of analysing the impact of public expenditure in reducing gender disparities. Ultimately this analysis should change budgetary decision making so that resource allocation creates equitable outcomes for women, men, boys, girls and marginalised groups. To be effective, gender analysis needs to be integrated into the different stages of the budget cycle, with all actors and stakeholders involved and invested. For this to happen, political will and leadership needs to coalesce with the technical systems, processes and capabilities all along the budgetary cycle: this is where GfD comes in.

With the political will and leadership coming from the Prime Minister and Prime Minister’s office in the form of a GRB Policy Note in 2018, GfD has been able to provide the technical support to bring gender responsive budgeting to life in Timor-Leste. Not content with small amounts of the budget being allocated to GESI-related activities, the Timor-Leste Government has committed to effective mainstreaming of GESI throughout the budgeting process, with a view to more equitable outcomes from Timor-Leste’s entire resource envelope.

Every budget category at the subprogram level in Timor-Leste is now categorised with a “Gender marker” that classifies whether that budget spend will have a “principal”, “significant” or “not targeted” impact on gender equality. “Principal” means the subprogram is expected to reduce gender inequalities. “Significant” means that, in addition to other expected results, the subprogram is designed to have a positive impact on inclusivity and advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. “Not targeted” means the subprogram is not designed to reduce gender inequalities or address the needs and concerns of vulnerable and marginalised groups.

This level of analysis results in a powerful tool that provides an aggregate picture of how government resource allocation is or is not geared towards the interests and needs of women and vulnerable and marginalised groups. This information, presented in clear dashboard form, is shared with Members of Parliament, civil society organisations, development partners and public servants, as part of a broader awareness and advocacy effort to lift commitment to allocating resources in ways that will address gender and social inequalities in society.

Gender responsive budgeting is not easy – and challenges remain for the GoTL to apply gender analysis comprehensively to every budget line. There are many levels and parts of government involved in this effort so it is no small feat. But the Timor-Leste experience shows what a powerful tool it is, to get at the heart of resource allocation and strategic decision-making for the nation, in a way that makes clear who benefits and who does not. Timor-Leste has forged its own path in gender-responsive budgeting and has made impressive progress, with the support and commitment of Mana Flora and the GfD team.

Cardno ID’s GESI Community of Practice brings together GESI and development practitioners from across 25 programs across the Asia-Pacific to share experiences, build networks and promote good practice.

For further information contact:

Joanne Choe
Head of Program Quality & Gender

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