Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


III. The White Paper and gender: the missing dimension?

It is in the light of the strengths and weaknesses identified in the previous section that we can now return to the question of whether gender is a crucial missing dimension in the White Paper . Let us remind ourselves that according to the Commission,

`"Governance" means rules, processes and behaviour that affect the way in which powers are exercised at European level, particularly as regards openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence.' (WP, p8, n.1).

One criticism that can be levelled at the White Paper is that it is ready enough to deal with `powers', but less ready to grapple head on with `power' and suggest through an effective political analysis, how the issue of power is shaping any reform debates, including those addressing governance as well as 2004, Nice and beyond (cf., Ludlow 2001). Gender is, as contended earlier, primordially a power question. To follow the gender mainstreaming project to its logical conclusion (and thus to escape the neo-liberal frame), it can be contended, is to raise some fundamental questions about who decides who gets what, where and how. Gender mainstreaming can be an empowerment project in much the same way that the reconsideration of `governance' could potentially be empowering, provided that the paradigm of `good governance' as a strategy for allegedly improving the impact of the EU on citizens' lives can itself be evaded (Cram 2001). Cram (2001) suggests that national contingencies, including resistance to reform, will play a huge role in determining the meaning and impact of any possible governance reforms at domestic level. In much the same way, Beveridge et al (2000c) chart a huge diversity of national conditions affecting gender mainstreaming and gender equality regimes. Issues of `fit' can dominate in both cases. Moreover, both are clearly political not technocratic projects, and a panoply of legal instruments will also be necessary for engaging with strategies of reform. It is regrettable that the insights of one innovative governance project in relation to gender mainstreaming have not been brought to bear in the formulation of a new and broader project of reform.

In addition, the missing gender dimension raises two crucial substantive questions which the White Paper does not seem equal to the task of engaging with directly, namely the role of `fairness' and `equality' as the substantive values to which policy-making should aspire. On the contrary, the focus of the White Paper is perhaps unsurprisingly much more on process values than upon substantive aspirations for the qualities of the policy outcomes. In sum, the key point of the criticism about the missing dimension of gender concerns the failure to latch onto some positive synergies between the reform programme lying at the heart of the White Paper and the critical questions for governance already raised for the EU in the context of gender equality policies and strategies.

Instead of engaging directly with substantive values, the White Paper approaches the question through an attempt to disaggregate the key elements of `good governance' according to the Commission's `five principles' (openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence), combined with the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity. This process of disaggregation is a positive feature of the White Paper, one which lends its analysis considerable force - even if that force is not always sustained effectively throughout the text of July 2001. A point of departure for mainstreaming gender itself into the White Paper could be that of interrogating each of these assumed principles in the light of the challenges of gender equality (cf., the disaggregated gendered analysis of key elements of constitutionalism and constitutional principle suggested in Shaw 2000: 419-421, focusing successively on sovereignty and authority, citizenship and membership, representation and democracy, political economy, and civil society).

The discussion cannot end without some reference to the brief commentaries upon gender issues which can be found in some of the Working Group reports which fed into the process of drawing up the White Paper. These are important building blocks which can be taken further in the process of consultation which is following the presentation of the July 2001 White Paper text. In the Report of Group 1b on Democratising Expertise and Establishing Scientific Reference Systems, the gender issue arises in the context of the `broadening', even the `democratisation' of the knowledge that is used for policy-making. Thus, the Working Group report comments that `gender impact assessments' have indicated that `gender blind' assessments may fail to identify that certain relevant aspects are neglected or poorly addressed in research proposals or in expert advice provided for policy-making. To this end the Report advocates a widening of expertise which it terms `extended peer review', to engage also with practical and other forms of knowledge about the issue under review.15

Group 4b on Networks makes the point rather sweepingly and without further amplification by reference to specific examples inside or outside the EU that - in contradistinction to hierarchical organisations -

`Networks tend to be gender neutral as more of the nodes, be it a person or an organisation can propose their norms, values and cultural characteristics. It also appears that women rise easier to executive posts when managing networks (where trust building and team animation are required) than in pyramids, where power relationships dominate.'

The most integrated discussion of issues of women and gender is to be found in the report of Group 5 on Global Governance, covering the topic of An EU Contribution to Better Governance beyond our Borders. This fact resonates in a number of different ways with a discussion of governance in the EU context. On the one hand, of course, much of the gender mainstreaming debate and discourse has flowed into the EU from the direction of `global governance' (Hafner-Burton and Pollack 2002), although, in some ways, it could be argued that this same global governance debate is very much a top-down enterprise of `good governance' as something done to a range of objects, rather than as a bottom-up instrumentalisation of subjectivity or reflexive self-steering on the part of a society or group (Cram 2001).

These references indicate that here at least are the beginnings of a discussion of the gender question which could, itself, have been `mainstreamed' into the White Paper text. These are piecemeal references, however, and they do not begin to address the rather more fundamental questions about power and values which could potentially add an important new dimension to the entire governance reform project.

15 Report of the Working Group, Democratising Expertise and Establishing Scientific Reference Systems, Group 1b.




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