JOINT STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women through EU External Relations 2016 - 2020

A new framework for the EU's activities on gender equality and women's empowerment in the EU's external relations for the 2016-2020 period was adopted in September 2015 by the European Commission and the EEAS. Its aim is to support partner countries, especially in developing, enlargement and neighbouring countries, to achieve tangible results towards gender equality which is at the core of European values, as well as the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be formally adopted this week.

The new framework for action will build on the achievements and lessons learnt brought about by the implementation of the Gender Action Plan in Development 2010-2015. It will be more focussed on tangible results. It will be financed through a variety of EU external action instruments (such as the Development and Cooperation Instrument) and aid modalities (for instance, budget support or assistance to Civil Society Organisations).

The new framework is divided into four pillars, for which there are concrete indicators and targets set. These pillars are the following:

  • Fighting violence of any kind against women and girls - this includes protecting women against violence in situations of conflict and the prevention of trafficking of girls and women, but also fighting harmful practices like Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting, and empowering women to have control over their sexual and reproductive life.
  • Economic and social empowerment – by for instance increasing access of women and girls to quality education and training, including on entrepreneurship, facilitating their access to financial services, to decent jobs and to basic services like energy or clean water.
  • Strengthening voice and participation – Concrete actions could include women's increased participation in policy and decision-making at all levels, enhancing their role as peace-builders, supporting them in changing social and cultural norms through grassroots organisations or media.
  • Shifting institutional culture – to more effectively deliver on EU commitments, all EU actors are expected to analyse the development priorities in the third countries where they work, as well as the local context for women and girls, and implement those priorities that are most relevant to them; they should also further strengthen their coordination, coherence and leadership.

Accountability is essential to the success of this new approach. Every new EU-funded project will now have to include measurable targets and objectives on gender.


Document type
  • Policy/Strategy
  • Practical Advice/Guide


Publication Year


Geographical focus
  • European Union (EU 27)
  • International; Other
  • Western Balkans
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • General

Entry created by Anna Sirocco on June 20, 2016
Modified on June 20, 2016