Welcome Address Augstein

Background Papers


Welcome address by Renate Augstein, German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth on the occasion of the International Conference

‘Gender Perspectives on Earth Summit 2002 -
Energy, Transport, Information for Decision-Making’
Berlin, Jagdschloss Glienicke, 10 – 12 January 2001


[ Ms Augsteins Presentation Notes ]

Ms. Renate Augstein, German Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, conveyed the best wishes of the German Minister for Women´s Affairs, Dr. Christine Bergmann to the conference. The Ministry had expertise on gender perspectives, but despite the emergence of gender mainstreaming on the international agenda some years ago, the concept was rather new in Germany insofar as practical political measures were concerned.

While the goal of gender mainstreaming was to achieve gender equality, the concept was to transform general policy processes, so that gender perspectives came to be incorporated in all policies at all levels and at all stages, by all actors normally involved in policy-making. Political activities must take into account the differences in the lives of women and men, often involving different constraints, opportunities and goals, since ignoring them could not promote gender equality.

Gender mainstreaming was endorsed by the Fourth World Women's Conference in Beijing in 1995 and became a formal legally binding commitment for EU states, with the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty on 1st of May 1999. In the case of Germany, the 1994 constitutional reform the German Basic Law was supplemented by an additional clause stating that: "The State promotes the implementation of de facto equal rights for women and men and works towards the elimination of existing disadvantages".

On 23rd June 1999 the German government decided that that the equality of women and men would become an underlying guiding principle of its policies, and that within the context of the Amsterdam Treaty the goal should be achieved by means of gender mainstreaming. In consequence, a high-level inter-ministerial steering committee was established and started work last year under the guidance of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth for the promotion of increased gender equality; work had started to develop criteria to make general policies gender-sensitive; every ministry was tasked with identifying special activities to implement gender mainstreaming within its specific area of competence. In addition, the Rules of Procedure of the Federal Ministries were clarified so that gender perspectives be observed in all their political, normative and administrative measures; while all Federal officials would now undergo training in gender mainstreaming. In 2001, each ministry would start at least one project involving gender mainstreaming to gain experience.

Efforts to implement the gender mainstreaming concept on the Länder level had also taken place, as for example the decisions of the governments of Lower Saxony and Saxony Anhalt to introduce gender mainstreaming into their political activities.

Mainstreaming involved a complementary, dual approach: both horizontal, across the board and specific action for women where appropriate. This was in contrast to the previous approach of special units or ministries reacting to discrimination of women by organising specific projects for women - though this would still be necessary. The application of gender mainstreaming revealed that general policies were never gender neutral. Specific affirmative action policies and gender mainstreaming were therefore two different, equally essential strategies to reach the same goal, which could not substitute each other.