While mainstream public sector reforms have tended to ignore gender, diversity or other social inclusion issues (Goetz, 2008: 18; Scott, 2011: 11, 24), donors have supported initiatives specifically aimed to improve the inclusiveness of public sector institutions.
Government agencies for excluded people and groups
A widely-used strategy for making government institutions more inclusive has been to establish government bodies specifically to serve excluded groups. Establishing ‘women’s machineries’ to promote women’s interests and gender equity is one popular approach (Nazneen & Mahmud, 2012: 34-35). These initiatives have had some success. One study in conflict-affected and fragile states suggests women’s machineries help create an equitable policy environment (O’Connell, 2011: 458). Nevertheless, the impact of such structures can be limited by lack of resources or political influence (O’Connell, 2011; Nazneen & Mahmud, 2012).
A key challenge is that reforming institutions is not just about passing new regulations or establishing new bodies. Research shows that the design and implementation of institutions needs to take into account the capacities of people and organisations. Donors have provided substantial support to build the capacity of government agencies to implement institutional reforms, developing a variety of capacity-building tools and resources. However, Pritchett et al. (2013: 1) argue that overly ambitious and technocratic institutional reform has often led to ‘systemic isomorphic mimicry’ – where states adopt appearances and structures but function does not improve – and ‘premature load bearing’ – which undercuts endogenous learning and change.
Capacity building for inclusive institutions
Donors have supported the development of various capacity-building tools and resources.
- DFID’s How To Note: Capacity Development (2013) sets out DFID’s approach to capacity development, summarising approaches to good capacity development.
- The Learning Network on Capacity Development (LenCD) provides an online ‘How-To’ resource with practical suggestions for practitioners implementing capacity development, covering change processes, capacity assessment, partnership and monitoring and evaluation.
Inclusive civil service
Common approaches to improve civil service institutions include meritocratic recruitment and affirmative action.
A review of the evidence (Rao, 2013: 16) concludes that merit-based recruitment and predictable, rewarding career paths improve civil servants’ capability and performance and are valued by citizens as an accountability mechanism. Moreover, meritocratic state bureaucracies are systematically associated with less corruption and higher growth rates.
Key resource on Civil Service Reform
The GSDRC Topic Guide on Civil Service Reform (Rao, 2013) summarises the evidence on what has – or hasn’t – worked in civil service reform. It includes a section on access and inclusion (p. 21).
Targeted efforts to include marginalised groups in the civil service are more controversial. For example, women’s representation in state bureaucracies can be increased through quotas (e.g. Bangladesh has a 15 per cent quota for women in the civil service). However, while these measures can overcome initial entry barriers, further promotion can be blocked (as found in Bangladesh) (Nazneen & Mahmud, 2012: 36). Even when women make up a significant proportion of the civil service, they can remain disproportionately represented in lower-level lower-paid jobs because of informal or exclusionary norms (as found in Ethiopia) (Rao, 2013: 21).
Gender audits are another tool for promoting inclusion in the civil service. These enable an organisation to examine whether their human resources policies are gender-sensitive (ILO, 2007: 12). When undertaken as a participatory exercise, such initiatives can help build ownership for gender equality reforms.
Research summary: Experience with gender audits in Sri Lanka.
The ILO 2007 manual on gender audits reports successful experiences with government organisations (as well as with donors, women’s associations and other civil society organisations). In Sri Lanka, gender audits were carried out by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon and two trade union federations. The audits enabled the participating organisations to share lessons on effective solutions to close gender gaps. Following the audit, the Ministry of Labour and Employment set up a Gender Bureau and a gender task force to monitor implementation.
Source: ILO, 2007.
Inclusive public sector budgeting
Donors have provided substantial support to reforms to make formal and informal budgeting rules and norms more transparent, accountable and participatory. The theory is that more inclusive budgeting will lead to more equitable (as well as more efficient and effective) developmental outcomes. Research shows there is no guarantee that improved transparency, accountability and participation will result in more inclusive policies. There is, however, emerging evidence that some inclusive budgetary processes have extended services and resources to poor neighbourhoods (Khagram et al., 2013). Successful interventions have occurred when there are broader political transitions to more inclusive regimes, or crises (such as economic downturns or corruption scandals) that force governments to improve independent scrutiny and public access to fiscal information (Khagram et al., 2013).
Another approach has been to reform government budget rules and processes to advance gender equality. Gender responsive budgeting covers a range of activities – from planning and designing policy and programmes, to budgetary allocation, implementation and review of impact (OECD-DAC Network on Gender Equality, 2010; Budlender, 2008). The experience of the few dozen developing countries that have applied forms of gender-responsive budgeting since the mid-1980s has been mixed (Combaz, 2013). A GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report finds that positive outcomes have included improved awareness, capacities and data related to gender equality in budgetary processes, and some improved gender outcomes in budgets, policies and service delivery (Combaz, 2013). Successful interventions have enjoyed sustained political support and supported women’s participation in planning and budgeting.
Research summary: Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) in the Philippines
A case study in an OECD-DAC Issues Brief evaluates the experience of GRB in the Philippines. Since 1999, national agencies have been required to allocate a minimum of 5% of national and local government budgets to activities supporting gender equality. Compliance has remained low. The authors find that challenges include the absence of incentives for compliance or penalties for non-compliance; the lack of understanding of the law and the lack of capacity in national agencies; and limited sex-disaggregated data. There is also, however, promising practice by some agencies. For example the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has appointed dedicated staff and built capacity to design and monitor gender-equality projects.
A social guarantee approach to service delivery
The social guarantee approach sets up legal and administrative mechanisms to determine citizens’ entitlements to certain rights, and to ensure the state fulfils its obligations (World Bank, n.d.; Gacitúa-Marió et al., 2009). There have been a few successful experiences: Moreno and Rosenblüth found that social guarantees improved services and efficiency in the health sector in Chile (in Gacitúa-Marió et al., 2009: 71-107). The World Bank’s cross-country review of the social guarantee approach (n.d.; 17-21) recommends the following: inclusion of the private sector and civil society in design and implementation; an independent monitoring system; robust redress mechanisms; and an overarching vision and activities to (re)build an inclusive social and fiscal pact.
- Budlender, D. (2008). Integrating gender-responsive budgeting into the aid effectiveness agenda: Ten-country overview report. Cape Town: UNIFEM. See document online
- Combaz, E. (2013). Impact of gender-responsive budgeting. (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 977). Birmingham: GSDRC, University of Birmingham. See document online
- OECD-DAC Network on Gender Equality (2010). Integrating gender equality dimensions into public financial management reforms. Issues Brief No. 6. Paris: OECD. See document online
- DFID (2013). How to note: Capacity development. London: Department for International Development. See document online
- Gacitúa-Marió, E., Georgieva, S. & Norton, A. (2009). Building equality and opportunity through social guarantees. Washington D.C.: World Bank. See document online
- Goetz, A.M. (Ed.) (2008). Governing women: Women’s political effectiveness in contexts of democratization and governance reform. Abingdon: Routledge.
- ILO (2007). A manual for gender audit facilitators: The ILO participatory gender audit methodology. Geneva: International Labour Organisation. See document online
- Khagram, S., Fung, A. & de Renzio, P. (2013). Open budgets: The political economy of transparency, participation, and accountability. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. See document online
- Nazneen, S. & Mahmud, S. (2012). Gendered politics of securing inclusive development. Working Paper No. 13. Manchester: Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre, University of Manchester. See document online
- O’Connell, H. (2011) What are the opportunities to promote gender equity and equality in conflict-affected and fragile states? Insights from a review of evidence. Gender & Development, 19(3), 455-466. See document online
- Pritchett, L., Woolcock, M. & Andrews, M. (2013). Looking like a state: techniques of persistent failure in state capability for implementation. Journal of Development Studies, 49(1), 1–18. See document online
- Rao, S. (2013). Topic guide on civil service reform. Birmingham: GSDRC, University of Birmingham. See document online
- Scott, Z. (2011). Evaluation of public sector governance reforms 2001-2011: Literature review. Oxford: Oxford Policy Management. See document online
- World Bank (n.d.). Increasing social inclusion through social guarantees. A Policy Note. Washington D.C.: World Bank. See document online