The Green Climate Fund and gender: How to get from innovative mandate to meaningful implementation?

Liane Schalatek, Heinrich Boell Stiftung

How to get from an innovative mandate to meaningful implementation? This is the challenge that the new Green Climate Fund (GCF) with USD 10.2 billion promised in initial resources is facing with respect to gender.

Tasked to take a “gender-sensitive approach” in its founding charter, it has become the first multilateral climate fund with a gender policy and a gender action plan in place even beforethe GCF approved its first eight projects with USD 168 million in funding just weeks ahead of the Paris COP21. The challenge fits very well with, and is inseparable from, its ambition to be a transformational fund in support of a paradigm shift toward low-emission and climate-resilient sustainable development. Without gender equality and women’s empowerment as key outcomes of any GCF funding action, such transformative change will remain elusive.

A gender mainstreaming approach actually has been anchored in the Fund’s objectives and guiding principles since 2012, when a Transitional Committee designed the basic shape and functions of the GCF. Over their past 11 meetings, the 24 member GCF Board – composed of equal numbers of developed and developing country representatives – has made good progress in translating the objectives into key operational policies. When applied stringently and coherently, these will push the GCF ‘beyond business as usual’ by forcing the Fund to think climate projects and programmes differently.

Take, for example, the GCF accreditation process. It makes it a requirement for any entity that wants to implement GCF funding to have a developed gender policy of its own. National entities in need of some help can request readiness and preparatory support through the GCF Secretariat. This sends a clear message that gender considerations are to be part and parcel of GCF-funded action – even for big international partners such as the Deutsche Bank, a commercial banking giant, whose accreditation to the Fund in July 2015 came with the condition to develop its own gender policy before it can use GCF funding. This also has a signaling function to the wider global financial sector.

In the GCF, gender considerations are integrated in some of the investment criteria used to select GCF projects and programmes, and the GCF will judge its lasting impact with a view to the gender equality outcomes of its whole portfolio. The GCF has already promised it will spend as much on mitigation as on adaptation, and will reserve a quarter of its spending for the poorest countries – a decision with a clear gender outcome, as women in those countries are disproportionately affected by severe climate change impacts.

While this is all positive, more is needed to ensure gender-sensitive implementation. Most importantly, the meaningful participation of women as key stakeholders in recipient countries through all stages of the project cycle, from project design through implementation, has to be strengthened. This means bringing women as equal partners into country processes to determine national funding priorities. This also means involving women’s organisations in participatory monitoring, so that they can help select appropriate project indicators and raise ‘red flags’ early when things go awry. It requires that the GCF set new international best-practice standards on information disclosure. And it means recognising and strengthening the capacities and potential of women’s groups to implement projects on the ground, in cooperation with GCF accredited entities.

Lastly, it requires thinking innovatively and boldly about ways that will allow women’s groups and communities easier direct access to GCF funding. One way could be facilitating the access of women entrepreneurs to green credit lines. These could include small, patient, highly concessional loans via domestic banks that receive GCF concessional funding or GCF risk guarantees via a new GCF pilot program for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises – market segments where women entrepreneurs in developing countries are often most active. This is the kind of scaling up that will make the GCF truly gender-transformational.


Liane Schalatek is the Associate Director of the Heinrich Boell Stiftung North America, where she works on climate finance, especially on the GCF and gender and climate finance issues.