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Social Europe ? Structural Funds - Why should Women?s organisations care?

publication date: 10 March 2006

The next round of European funding is 2007-2013, and the framework for these funds will have a direct impact on womens organisations and the VCS

There are numerous issues being raised by the Lisbon strategy for women?s organizations such as the implications for civil society and therefore women organisations as part of the voluntary and community sector.

non government organisations (NGOs) and unions are urging EU leaders to make the renewed ?Lisbon? strategy which governs the use of EU funds for disadvantaged regions work for truly sustainable communities in Europe. 

President  of the European Commission ? Jose Barroso, surprisingly affirmed that the growth and jobs agenda of the Lisbon strategy, could only work hand in hand with social goals.  This also seems to be reflected in the European Commission?s annual report 2006, which notes:

The European Council should clearly state that the objective of the Lisbon Strategy is to strengthen social cohesion and sustainability throughout Europe by making the Union the most dynamic, competitive, sustainable, knowledge-based economy, enjoying full employment?.., while at the same time helping people face these changes by providing them with adequate social protection, promoting social inclusion, ensuring training and education opportunities.

Implications for Women?s Organisations
There are numerous issues being raised by the Lisbon strategy for women?s organizations such as the implications for civil society and therefore women organisations as part of the voluntary and community sector.  One issue is civil dialogue and the other is funding of the sector. 

Both issues can be illustrated by two recent documents - Have you heard of the National Reform Programme 2005?  Or the National Strategic Reference Framework? (NSRF)

Probably not ? but these two documents are possible the two most significant documents that will influence the development of communities within Europe for the next seven years. Each country?s national reform programme should now be with the European Commission but very few member states consulted with NGOs in drawing up their programmes and what was lacking was civil dialogue and in particular with dialogue with women.

The National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF)? will establish the strategy for the implementation of the structural funds within the UK during the next funding period -2007-2013. Each member state will have to submit its own NSRF. 

Over a third of the EU budget goes to the structural and cohesion funds so criteria for  administering these funds will have direct bearing on key issues such as

  • poverty
  • sustainability
  • equality
  • development on all levels from local to national and of course at European level.

The delivery of the Structural Funds programme will essentially define the UK's approach to EU social policy to be implemented in the UK.

So what does this have to do with women's organisations?

The UK?s current approach to gender is to consider working with women, is a general equalities issue.  Under the present structural funds in the UK there has been a consistent underspend for gender work.  In order to ensure that in the next round the funds actually reach women and women?s organizations it is important that women?s organizations have input into UK?s National Strategic Reference Framework that will determine how the funds are allocated.


The DTI is co-ordinating the consultation for the UK?s National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) and a draft NSRF is out for consultation now.    Consultation deadline is 22 May 2006.

The Community Development Foundation will be preparing a response and it would be valuable if other organisations also prepared a response.

For further information visit the DTI website   http://www.dti.gov.uk/europe/future_of_funds.html

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