With compliance on gender equality commitments well below the average across all commitment areas, the G20 leaders at Bali should make more gender conclusions and monitor the implementation of commitments
Indonesia’s 2022 G20 presidency has set ‘Recover together, recover stronger’ as its central theme for the Bali Summit. Despite several interconnected current crises, including many that disproportionately affect women and girls, Indonesia has yet to signal that gender equality will be prioritised.
G20 leaders first addressed gender equality at their 2009 London Summit, with 155 words (3%) in their communiqué. Since the 2010 Seoul Summit gave 177 words (1%), their attention has slowly, but irregularly, increased in size and scope. It dropped to a low at Cannes in 2011 of 52 words (0.4%), then rose at Los Cabos in 2012 to 231 words (2%). It surged at St Petersburg in 2013 to 1,015 words (4%) but dropped at Brisbane in 2014 to 305 words (3%). Then came a sustained rise to 1,235 words (14%) at Antalya in 2015, 1,199 words (8%) at Hangzhou in 2016 and a spike to 4,836 words (14%) at Hamburg in 2017. In Buenos Aires in 2018, it plunged to 676 words (8%), but rose significantly at Osaka in 2019 to 1,153 words or 23% – the highest portion at any summit. It plunged again at Riyadh in 2021 to 686 words (12%) but rose slightly in Rome in 2021 to 1,510 (16%).
From 2008 to 2021, the G20 made 80 core commitments and 39 related commitments on gender equality, for a total of 119. The first came in London in 2009, taking 3% of its commitments. The next two (2%) came at Los Cabos in 2012 and an additional four (2%) at Brisbane in 2014. Antalya in 2015 had none but produced four (2%) related commitments. Hangzhou in 2016 had no core but eight (4%) gender-related commitments. The strong surge at the 2017 Hamburg Summit stands out, with a record 30 core gender equality commitments and 14 related ones (8%). Buenos Aires in 2018 had only seven (7%) core gender commitments. At Osaka in 2019, this rose to 12, with an additional four related ones (11%). Riyadh in 2020 had eight core and one related commitment (8%). At Rome in 2021, this rose to 17 core and four related commitments (9%).
At the start, gender commitments focused on increasing the labour force participation of women and improving workplace conditions for them. This continued until 2015, with a slight expansion to women entrepreneurs and farmers and later to digital skills development and education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, to increase female participation in those sectors. In 2017 and 2018, the G20 committed to ending gender-based violence. In 2020 and 2021, the G20 recognised the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women and committed to ensuring that it would not widen existing inequalities and undermine the progress of recent decades.
G20 members averaged 62% compliance with the 24 assessed gender commitments made between 2008 and 2021. This is much lower than the G20’s 71% compliance average across all subjects. The highest compliance came with the gender commitments in 2020 at 89% and 2015 at 72%. The lowest came with the 2013 commitments at 33% and the 2009 London commitments at 48%. By June 2022, compliance with the one assessed commitment made at the 2021 Rome Summit was 53%.
The highest complier was Canada at 88%, followed by the European Union at 85% and Australia at 80%. The lowest compliers were Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey, all at 40%.
Causes and corrections
Between 2009 and 2019, several potential causes of compliance stood out. Higher G20 compliance of about 15% came for summits with a higher percentage of the communiqué words and commitments dedicated to gender and gender-related issues.
Core gender equality commitments averaged 66% compliance, compared to gender-related ones at 55%. Gender commitments with the highest compliance focused on women’s economic empowerment and ensuring the pandemic did not widen existing gender gaps. Commitments with the lowest compliance focused on women and girls’ education in STEM, unpaid care work and gender-based violence.
Commitments with highly politically binding language and thus a high degree of obligation averaged 67%; those with less binding language averaged only 50%.
Several catalysts embedded in the commitment text that provide direction for implementation have little effect on compliance. There was no difference in compliance between the 11 commitments containing at least one catalyst and the other 13: both averaged 62%. Commitments with higher compliance contained references to self-monitoring mechanisms for implementation.
G20 leaders at Bali should thus make more gender conclusions, emphasise core gender commitments, use highly binding language, and include self-monitoring of implementation.