In order to ensure gender equality in the projects supported by the ESF and other Structural Funds, a coherent strategy and process must be set up throughout all policy and implementation cycles on EU and national level. The policy cycles begin right at the top, with the policy planning and implementation at EU level.
In this section of the Standard, we address how to translate the Cohesion policy objectives set at the European level into the national and regional programming instruments (especially into Partnership Agreement and Operational Programme) of the Structural and Investment Funds, particularly the ESF, from a gender perspective.
The ESF implementation cycle comprises the translation of programming documents (e.g. Member States’ National Reform Programme, Partnership Agreement and Operational Programme and EU KOM recommendations on National Reform Programme, the Partnership Contract, and, most importantly, the Operational Programme) into implementation – shaping strategies, as well as of objectives set out in the Operational Programme cycle into activities funded under the chosen ESF Thematic Objectives, Investment Priorities and Specific Objectives.
The implementation cycle is developed by extrapolating structural and thematic gender equality requirements from the National Reform Programme, the Partnership Agreement and the Operational Programme, as well as from the Gender Equality Pact of the Council and the European Gender Equality Strategy.
The project level is where programming documents and implementation preparations turn into projects. In calls, guidelines and instructions to project promoters, it must clearly be stated that the ESF requires all ESF funded projects to integrate the gender perspective into all levels and phases of the project.
The STANDARD is designed to coherently integrate gender equality and the dual gender equality approach into all steps of ESF management. In order to do so, the STANDARD follows the different ESF programming and implementation cycles on EU and member state level.
As Gender Equality is a transversal objective, coherence is an obligation in the different policy levels of the ESF, from policy planning and implementation at the EU level all the way down to the project level. Creating this coherence has been the goal of developing this STANDARD on Gender Mainstreaming within the ESF.
All cycles follow the same logic, or series of steps as it is called in the STANDARD. Cycles all begin with an analysis and/or a gender impact assessment, which is followed by the setting of objectives. Then come the implementation, the monitoring, and the evaluation steps. These steps are found in all four cycles of the Standard, even if the contents differ due to the different functions of the cycles.