Marija Petronjevic

Marija Petronijevic
Marija Petronijevic



Contemporary public policy planning is characterized by comprehensive rationality standards. At least declaratively. It should be based on values, well-formulated aims with estimated policy effects studied with the premises of various impact factors (Cairney, 2012). However, the same is not applied to public budgeting. In this domain, the incrementalism is much more common. There are no legal restrictions binding the parliament to adopt the resembling budget each year – its structure and content can substantially be altered to address the strategic goals, the changing circumstances and citizens’ needs. Nevertheless, the policy makers maintain the public budget unchanged each year with eventual small, incremental modifications.

The money is the essential resource and instrument for public policy implementation. The public funds come from taxation, tariffs or commercial activities managed by the public sector. The parliament agrees about how the communal finances should be spent. Hence, the collected money can be used only through the public budget. Analyzing the budget and monitoring the expenditures and its effects provide the data that are showing where real policy priorities are, and if the public administration is working efficiently and effectively. Gender Budgeting (GB) should provide the data and other means that ultimately must impact the successful distribution of the public money by which both women and men equally benefit from (Observatory, no date). Nonetheless, incremental budgeting implies the fact that the public budget most usually is not gender sensitive.

However, gender budgeting is not an easy task. It requires many preconditions, among which real sensitivity of public administration to gender issues, political and administrative obligation to implement the GB related policy and instruments, permanent reflections and analysis as well as constant skills and knowledge development (Quinn, 2009). The said author underlines the importance of consolidation of GB with other budgetary reform operations. The challenges of implementing GB on all administrative levels until program level is reached are significant too. In the Republic of Serbia, program budgeting is a reform that did not include gender budgeting and it is an under-implemented legal requirement (EC, 2015: 10; USAID, no date).


Somewhere between the public policy theories, the inconsistent practice and the lack of accountability – the needs of policy users are hidden. To illustrate: in Serbia, almost every third woman experience physical violence perpetrated by their male intimate partner, 22% of whom thought about committing suicide (WHO, 2005). This study demonstrated the fact that women are safer outside their homes than inside (Green and Roberts, 2008). 80.8% of most severe cases of physical violence against women are committed by husbands and partners (UNDP Serbia, 2013). 27 women were murdered in a domestic-partnership context in 2014 in Serbia (Women against Violence Network, 2014) and even 21 women just during first five months of 2015 (Peščanik, 2015). Notwithstanding, public money are not allocated to protect victims effectively.


The Serbian national legal framework includes many laws, strategies and institutions’ protocols (Ombudsman, no date). However, the policy-makers in Serbia show frivolity towards anti-VAW financial management by asserting that “for the realization of this plan (NAP) it is not needed to provide additional funding from the Republic budget” (RSJP, 2014). Information about how money is spent to support progress towards gender equality and to support domestic violence survivors is not easily accessible – the last report about GE Coordinating body’s activities is available for 2013 and the official data about current GE and GB programs are not available, as well (GECB, 2016a). WAVE country report shows that specialized social services for domestic violence survivors are not publicly funded in Serbia (Blank et al., 2014: 48-49). The shelter is a social service that is not gender sensitive according to Serbian law (RZSZ, 2013: 17-18). Therefore, due to lack of the GB, the funding, the effectiveness, and sustainability of shelters in Serbia are highly compromised (Dukić & Petronijević, 2016). Finally, it is not hard to conclude that domestic violence victims’ lives are compromised too by unaccountable public resources distribution.


Besides money, the human resources are another crucial asset for public policy implementation. The employees must be skillful, committed and motivated to have good performance and results. The relation between money and human resources can be seen as the “chicken or the egg” dilemma. Human resource management, besides other elements, includes recruitment and training of the employees. Both elements are expensive. However, if the funds are not allocated to train public administration or to advocate about gender budgeting and its benefits, the available GB mechanisms will not be implemented properly or not at all. On the other hand, if public administration is not informed or educated about the GB advantages they will not allocate funds in a gender sensitive manner. The recent experience in Serbia proves this fact.

Fenomena Association was in charge of conducting training for an extensive number of finance officials from local self-governments on gender sensitive budgeting (SIDA/GED, 2013). The activities were part of the third phase of the huge project dedicated to the implementation of the GE National Action Plan. The project was managed by former Serbian Gender Equality Directorate (GED) and supported by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). In summary, 32 local authorities (towns and municipalities) registered their representatives for training, and more than 70 local finance officials participated the training on GB in November 2013. This was the first vast education activity on GB intended to public finance officials. Regardless of the significant interest shown by the public employees, the project did not see its follow-up. The reason is the dismissal of the former GED in April 2014 and the appointment of the new coordination entity with significantly lower jurisdictions, including the new director who see the priorities differently (GECB, 2016b). 


The experience in Serbia demonstrated only declarative acceptance of gender mainstreaming by the public administration. As long as GM stays at the declarative level – laws, strategies or even action plans without concrete budget allocations – GM is welcomed, and it does not induce any opposition. Current political context implies the absence of policy and law implementation and the absence of any sanctions to this regard. Gender equality and gender budgeting programs and projects are terminated without thorough performance evaluation and GE public entities are demoted under the austerity arguments. The circumstances impose gender budgeting as the 2016-2020 GE Strategy constituent (GECB, 2016c), being the only effective method for attaining improved circumstances and preferable position for women in private, economic, cultural and political domain. If the current public administration is not willing to allocate and spend public money equally on women and men and to monitor the spending effects, then preparing and adopting another declarative strategy document is needless. 

Marija Petronjevic is Programm Coordinator at Fenomena