Seminar on Gender Impact Assessment

On 23 October 2014, the Office Equality Commissioner organised a seminar on improving political decision making through gender impact assessment.
Experts from Finland, Belgium and Austria gave presentations on their experiences and gender impact assessment practices. A discussion was held on the system of impact assessment of legislation in Estonia and how gender impact assessment within this framework could be improved.  Participants at the seminar debated whether and what changes need to be made to the impact assessment methodology, and what support and training should be provided to officials conducting the assessments.

Summary

On 23 October the Office of the Equality Commissioner hosted a seminar and debate in Tallinn on “Gender Impact Assessment – how to make fairer decisions”. Anu Laas from the University of Tartu and Helen Biin from the Praxis Center for Policy Studies highlighted the current obstacles to gender impact assessment in Estonia. The most significant problems noted are the lack of a gender equality strategy, a low level of political will and a low level of awareness and skills among government officials in addressing gender equality issues, including performing gender impact assessments.

During the discussion, the participants concluded that the two-step methodology currently used in Estonia should be reviewed and simplified. Representatives from a number of ministries admitted that they found it difficult to assess whether a policy has a significant impact, based on the established criteria. Quality control of assessments should also be improved. The sheer volume of new and amended legislation and the tight schedule for its adoption places a great burden on the ministries and their various divisions (e.g. the Gender Equality Department of the Ministry of Social Affairs), but there are insufficient resources to fulfil this task. The question was therefore raised whether the establishment of a separate unit specialising in impact assessment and quality control, as has been done in Belgium and Austria, might be warranted.

The participants agreed that impact assessment methodology in Estonia, as in other EU Member States, is just beginning to take hold, and that this is an area that definitely needs to be developed further. The Office of the Equality Commissioner also proposed that a working group be formed to further develop gender impact assessment methodology, contribute to the development of implementation and control mechanisms and elaborate a gender impact assessment training and support system.

Experts from Finland, Belgium and Austria also participated in the seminar and shared information on the approach to gender impact assessment in their countries.


Agenda

09.15–09.30 Registration and coffee
09.30–09.40 Opening remarks by Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner Mari-Liis Sepper.
09.40–10.40 The Finnish Approach to Gender Impact Assessment (in English)
Anna Elomäki, Doctor of Philosophy, University of Helsinki, Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies.
10.40–11.40 Gender Impact Assessment in Belgium (in English)
Saskia Ravesloot, Senior Gender Expert, Belgian Development Agency
11.40–12.30 Lunch
12.30–13.30 Austrian Gender Impact Assessment Practices (in English)
Sandra Schreilechner, Federal Performance Management Office, Civil Service and Administrative Innovation Division of the Federal Chancellery of Austria
13.30–14.00 Impact Assessment of Legislation in Estonia
Uku-Mats Peedosk, Counsellor, Legislative Policy Department, Ministry of Justice
14.00–15.00 Round table discussion: “What is the best gender impact assessment solution for Estonia?”

The discussion was moderated by Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner Mari-Liis Sepper. Opening remarks were provided by sociologist Anu Laas and Helen Biin, analyst at the Praxis Center for Policy Studies. The working languages of the seminar were Estonian and English, and simultaneous interpretation was provided. The Seminar was held at the Meriton Grand Conference & Spa Hotel (Paldiski mnt 4).