Gender Equality and Rural Women’s Empowerment Network
Near East and North Africa Region

FAO Policy on Gender Equality

Gender equality is central to FAO’s mandate to achieve food security for all by raising levels of nutrition, improving agricultural productivity and natural resource management, and improving the lives of rural populations. FAO can achieve its goals only if it simultaneously works toward gender equality and supports women’s diverse roles in agriculture and rural development. Gender equality is not only an essential means by which FAO can achieve its mandate; it is also a basic human right.

In pursuing its goals, FAO is mandated by the United Nations system to promote and protect Human Rights and Gender Equality and to work in a way that ensures that it contributes to their realization by addressing underlying causes of human rights violations including discrimination against women and girls. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is the over-arching UN document that formally recognizes universally agreed human rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is central to the issue of gender equality. CEDAW obliges governments to promote, protect and fulfill the equal rights of men and women in their own jurisdictions. Progressive achievement of CEDAW’s principle of substantive equality requires actions to achieve equality of opportunity between men and women, and actions to correct the inequalities of power between men and women. Given that masculine and feminine roles are socially constructed and maintained through patriarchal culture, CEDAW provides that State Parties are obligated to take all appropriate measures to modify socio-cultural patterns and stereotypes, and to eliminate prejudices and cultural practices based in sexist ideas.

The purpose of this policy document is to provide FAO with a framework to guide its efforts to achieve gender equality in all its technical work and to assess results, and calls on the whole organization to contribute to these efforts. This policy specifies FAO’s goal and objectives related to gender equality, and delineates an accountability structure to ensure policy oversight, and achievement of results (Annex A). This includes specifying roles and responsibilities for coordinating and supporting the implementation of the policy (Annex B). A separate human resource action plan addressing gender parity issues in FAO has been developed for 2010-2013 and a gender policy for human resources is planned for the longer term.

This policy document also responds to the performance and reporting standards for UN entities required by the UN System-Wide Action Plan (SWAP) on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women which was endorsed by the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) in October 2006, as a means of accelerating gender equality and women’s empowerment within the policies and programs of the UN system, and implementing the ECOSOC agreed conclusions 1997/2. The SWAP framework establishes a common understanding of, and some standard requirements for, gender equality and women’s empowerment. It is intended to promote both accountability and leadership by providing senior managers with clear guidelines as to what they are accountable for and for ensuring adequate resources and capacity in their entities to be successful leaders on gender equality and women’s empowerment.