On financing and capital markets, women are worse-off than men. Women have less access to finance, assets and collateral. Additionally, the world is faced with an unprecedented climate crisis, with disasters increasing in their severity, frequency and unpredictability.
To achieve a gender-equal and ecological transformation of economies, Public Development Banks (PDBs) come into play. PDBs are (partially or fully) state-owned with a mandate to invest in development projects. They can act as catalysts to accelerate gender and climate objectives. However, national PDBs are often small, have limited resources and capacities and lack access to international funding. They often require technical assistance (TA) to reach development objectives.
Fruitful cooperation fundamental to achieving governmental objectives
In September 2023, the ICR Facility discussed the role of TA for incorporating gender and climate in the operations of PDBs at the Finance in Common Summit (FiCS) – the world summit of PDBs.
Dr. Gene Leon, CEO of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), highlighted that TA could improve the impact of innovative financing solutions for gender equality. This was followed by an exchange among recipients and providers of TA: the Bahamas Development Bank (BDB), Development Finance Corporation Belize (DFC), CEDA Botswana, UNDP Sustainable Finance Hub and a representative of the Practitioner’s Network for European Development Cooperation.
The panelists stressed that partnerships are important to achieve governmental objectives on climate and gender. These include partnerships between international development organisations and PDBs, but also peer learning among PDBs.
The discussion showed that the dynamic between regional and (sub-)national PDBs can be crucial. BDB and DFC Belize, both national banks, elaborated on the role of the regional development bank CDB in supporting national banks in the region. For example, CDB gave a lifeline to BDB several years back when the bank was on the verge of closing. With the help of CDB, BDB was not only able to survive difficult times, but is now also learning to a become leader among its peers.
The discussion showed: Technical assistance can be transformative for PDBs when programs are tailored and contextualised to their needs.
Reorganising capacity building
Throughout the discussion, it also became clear that technical assistance often does not suit the individual needs of banks. The three representatives from national PDBs expressed their current needs, for example a more experienced pool of local consultants who understand the unique contexts in which they operate, assistance in project preparation facilities for larger scale projects and translating policies and commitments into real work.
While TA has been beneficial to align PDBs’ operations to international agendas, it can fail to make a real change within institutions. The panellists agreed that TA providers must listen better to the needs of recipients to ensure a customised and demand-driven approach and leave an impact. As Marcos Neto, Head of UNDP’s Sustainable Finance Hub, stated: ‘This is the time to reorganise capacity building.’
Technical assistance to drive gender within PDBs
Strengthening the gender-lens in both the strategic as well as the day-to-day operations of PDBs has increasingly gained traction. While there is a noticeable interest surrounding the gender topic, it is relatively new and many national PDBs currently lack the in-house expertise to promote, incorporate and disseminate the topic within their institutions.
There are a number of ways that TA can assist. For instance, bringing in an external perspective can provide an objective view to capture the PDB’s starting point/current progress in terms of gender, possibly identifying blank spots of which PDBs were unaware. Furthermore, tailor-made and contextualised TA is even more relevant because of the social and cultural aspects surrounding gender. This can be the case when adapting financial products and non-financial services to better address the different requirements of women customers that can differ widely depending on region, country and local community.
Nevertheless, it is essential to couple advisory services with bank-wide staff trainings. Without the sensitisation of all staff and the buy-in from top management, policies, strategies and action plans cannot be implemented successfully.
The way forward for future technical assistance
The participants of the FiCS agreed: after years of talking, it is now time to act. There has been a shift in mindset and practice in how ‘development’ is defined, changing from a focus on economic growth to sustainable development. TA can support PDBs to cater their services to this new definition and play their part in the pursuit of the SDGs. This includes both receiving TA to move own priorities forward as well as supporting peers and partner stakeholders. If TA is tailored to the needs of PDBs, the existing offer can already lead to tangible results. TA can help become a transformation tool to ensure the impact of innovative financing solutions and adopt international standards on gender and climate.
The ICR Facility is supporting ten Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) from 2023 until 2025. With them, it works on:
- Strengthening DFIs’ gender-lens in their internal and client-facing operations,
- improving the monitoring and evaluation frameworks to become gender-responsive, and
- refining financial and non-financial services to suit the needs of women.
This TA will help the banks to accelerate their gender-lens investing efforts and ultimately improve access to finance for women in the respective countries. Learn more in our factsheet.
The ICR Facility supported the production of this publication. It is co-funded by the European Union (EU), the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the British Council. The ICR Facility is implemented by GIZ, the British Council, Expertise France, and SNV. The contents of the publication are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the EU, OACPS, BMZ or of the implementing partners.