UN-SWAP: Institutional mainstreaming of gender equality within the UN

The UN System Wide Action Plan for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-SWAP) holds the entire UN system accountable for gender mainstreaming and gender parity objectives. The UN-SWAP is the first unified accountability framework applicable to all UN system entities. Currently, over 90 per cent of UN entities report annually against the framework’s 15 performance indicators. 

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One of the ways that UN Women assists to deliver results effectively for gender equality and the empowerment of women is through the system-wide application of accountability frameworks for the gender equality and the empowerment of women.  The UN-SWAP is one such framework that constitutes a method to better embed and mainstream gender equality into all functions of an institution in a new and groundbreaking way.  It has yielded consistent results in terms of an unprecedented level of uptake, systematic monitoring and uniform reporting over several years. It has also harmonized, revitalized and systematized the gender equality work in the UN and has yielded a clearer and more consistent picture of system-wide strengths and challenges. Some aspects of innovation driven by the UN-SWAP within the UN system context include: 

1. Development and adoption of a uniform set of gender relevant performance indicators for ALL functional areas governing any entity, irrespective of its mandate.

2.Development of a network for gender focal points dedicated 

3. Development of a system of business owners and champions for gender advocacy and implementation across functional units beyond gender equality or diversity departments within large organizations e.g within the finance and budget network, the evaluation network etc.

4. Development of a system of peer reviews among UN entities to foster mutual accountability and trasparency

5. Development of a knowledge hub to systematize policy and practice across the UN system

In 2015, the fourth year of implementation of the System-wide Action Plan, 64 entities (constituting over 90 per cent of the universe of United Nations entities) reported. This represents an increase in  participation since the start of the implementation of the tool in 2012: 62 entities had reported in 2013 and in 2014, and 55 entities in 2012. The increase in uptake indicates that the accountability tool is considered effective and useful by its constituency.

How does your innovation work?

The UN-SWAP Framework includes six areas of organizational functioning through which UN entities can advance and accelerate gender mainstreaming.  These are: accountability; results-based management; oversight; human and financial resources; capacity, and coherence and knowledge generation and information. Each area comprises several elements, or tasks to be accomplished by entities, for each of which the UN-SWAP provides a four-level set of cumulative performance indicators.  Together these function both as an accountability tracking mechanism, and as an aspirational guide for progressively stronger gender mainstreaming performance. Every year UN entities submit reports to UN Women on their performance against the fifteen indicators. Results of reporting are including in the annual Report of the Secretary General on Gender Mainstreaming, presented to ECOSOC and are presented, aggregated, to the UN system. All UN entities are expected to meet UN-SWAP performance requirements by 2017 (2019 for technical entities).


What Evidence do you have that your Innovation works?

The 2015 results indicate that the System-wide Action Plan continues to catalyze progress on gender mainstreaming. For the United Nations system, the proportion of ratings indicative of meeting or exceeding requirements increased from 31 to 57 per cent between the first year of reporting, 2012, and 2015.

As the lead coordinator of the UN-SWAP, UN women has provided support to the UN System for key areas of performance. For example, we know from UN-SWAP reporting that entities with gender policies are more successful in their gender mainstreaming efforts.  As such, UN Women has made this a priority area for support and it is working. In 2015, almost 75% of entities reported having gender policies, up from 40% in 2012. An additional eight entities committed to developing or implementing policies in 2016, suggesting a compliance rate of 85 per cent of all United Nations entities by the end of 2016.

The success of the UN-SWAP as a model for increased accountability and cohesion is demonstrated through its replication for a wide variety of themes, including youth and indigenous peoples. The System-wide Action Plan on Youth was implemented in 2014 and the System-wide Action Plan on the Rights of Indigenous People was implemented in 2015.


What is your strategy for expanding use of your innovation?

The UN-SWAP network attests to the generation of a more active culture of systematic and broad engagement and substantive growth catalyzed by over 300 focal points (double the strength of its 150 members in 2012) spread across the UN System. The next phase of the UN-SWAP seeks to grow its beneficiaries through increased partnerships at the country level and with governments to scale-up and grow this innovation. 


Next Steps

In 2015, more than 190 governments committed to the new development agenda, "Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" which establishes promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women as central to achievement of all Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) and key in its own right through SDG 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of women. As the implementation of the 2030 Agenda rolls out at national, regional and global levels, the UN-SWAP Framework can help to set and transform norms, political, economic, social and related processes, drive programmes,mobilize resources and harmonize priorities with global and national partners, all with the ultimate purpose of achieving gender-related SDG results.

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