Serbia puts women in focus of budget planning
Serbia recognized as one of 7 European countries that has implemented this reform and established a system for monitoring investments in gender equality.
To ensure that policies and their accompanied budgets do not perpetuate gender inequalities but contribute to more equal society for women and men, girls and boys, UN Women in Serbia has been working closely with the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Serbia, Coordination Body for Gender Equality, Provincial Secretariat of Finance and local self-government units to introduce gender responsive budgeting (GRB) since 2015. As a result, Serbia has been recognized as one of seven European countries that has successfully implemented this reform of public finances and established a system for monitoring investments in gender equality, as per the SDG 5c1 report.
Serbian Government has formally introduced GRB in 2015 with the adoption of the new Budget System Law, when the promotion of gender equality was set as one of the budget goals. The Ministry of Finance and the Provincial Secretariat of Finance continue to progress in GRB implementation with UN Women support in 2022. Obligation to introduce GRB in 2023 budgets is expanded to three more institutions at national level, totaling to 51 institutions, while it encompasses all 26 direct budget users at the provincial level. To contribute to GRB institutionalization, State Audit Institution has included GRB auditing as part of their regular financial audits, while the National Academy for Public Administration has included GRB as part of their annual curricula, making it available to all civil servants.
Besides working on national and provincial level, UN Women engaged in supporting local self- governments over the course of 2022. Nine cities and municipalities across Serbia (Krusevac, Kragujevac, Cacak, Arandjelovac, Nis municipality Crveni Krst, Belgrade municipality Zvezdara, Razanj, Aleksinac and Ljig) are better equipped to introduce GRB in their 2023 budgets, with UN Women support. Performed gender analysis pointed out to the key challenges and opportunities that women and girls face in relation to social and child protection, environmental protection, sports and youth, tourism, agriculture and local economic development and health protection, and those will be addressed through local budgets.
The municipality of Aranđelovac introduced GRB in 4 out of 17 budget programs, while 2 more will be included in 2023 budget. Jovan Aksentijevic, Secretary of the Council for Gender Equality and the GRB Working Group says that this may not be the fastest pace of GRB implementation, but the "depth" they reach is more important for them right now.
“The greatest potential of GRB is that it benefits for both parties: budget creators, because through GRB, a better and clearer analysis of income, expenses, fulfillment of goals, budget performance and in general justification of expenses is achieved; and citizens, because through GRB we directly respond to their most important needs in particular domain, like agriculture and social protection, for example.
Also, when speaking about the importance of GRB introduction, we have to mention one of the vital characteristics of the budget: it is not infinite.
For this very reason, only with a tool such as GRB we can accurately assess the needs of all citizens, including vulnerable groups that need additional support in order to meet their regular needs due to social inequalities.
We are most proud of the gender-responsible reforms in policies and practices that we introduced through GRB in the area of social and child protection and preschool education: financial support for unemployed mothers and co-financing of stay of children in private kindergartens, so that their parents are able to enter the labour market and have more balanced personal and professional life. We are also very proud that the first women's association on the territory of our municipality was formed last year and is being financially supported this year, through the actions of Council for Gender Equality of our municipality”, he explains.
Mr. Aksentijevic adds that the latest measure that will be introduced aims at better inclusion of children with disabilities in the regular education system through financing special education treatments for them, which directly addresses the needs of multiple marginalized groups.
UN Women is further supporting GRB implementation and institutionalization under the SIDA funded regional programme “Transformative Financing for Gender Equality: towards more Transparent, Inclusive and Accountable Governance in the Western Balkans”.
“Although great results are achieved already, we are continuing to improve and expand the GRB implementation at all governmental levels through work with numerous partners. We are working towards closing of gender gaps in various areas through synchronized and coordinated GRB implementation by different stakeholders, using the full GRB potential. These areas include closing of gender gaps in the economic position of rural women, or synchronized application of climate financing and GRB to secure gender responsive response to climate changes, for example”, says Olja Janković Leković, UN Women GRB Programme Coordinator.
Written by Jovana Zdjelarević