Gender Impact Assessments, a Tool for the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda: The Case of Madrid Nuevo Norte


Gender issues and women’s specific needs in cities and human settlements are well integrated in the New Urban Agenda (NUA) that resulted from the Quito Declaration adopted by the United Nations at the Habitat III Conference (UN 2016). Of the 175 paragraphs that make up the agenda, up to 34 include references to either women or gender (Sanchez de Madariaga and Novella 2018). Cities and gender equality also play an important role in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, with two respective specific standalone objectives, numbers 11 and 5 respectively (UN 2015). Additionally, most of the remaining 15 SDGs do address urban and equality issues (Novella Abril 2017).

However, gender mainstreaming in spatial planning is demonstrating a certain difficulty when translated into practice. Two recent books (Sanchez de Madariaga and Roberts 2013; Zibell et al. 2018), in addition to the present collection, provide an overview of advances and experiences in Europe and beyond. In Europe, the integration of gender mainstreaming as a principle for public policy at all levels as enshrined in the Treaty of Amsterdam of 1998 has produced a significant degree of gender mainstreaming in different policy fields across the continent. In developing countries, policies addressing women and gender have been, rather, linked to criteria set up by international development organizations, agencies, and banks (UN Women 2014). These agencies have moved from an approach focusing on women’s issues to a more encompassing outlook that integrates gender considerations (Campa 2018).

This chapter will look at one particular tool, the Gender Impact Assessment (GIA). GIAs are considered a relevant tool for promoting equality between men and women in spatial planning and urban policies by the First Quadrennial

Report for the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda (UN 2018). This First Report sets the criteria and topics for the future evaluation every four years of advances in the implementation of the NUA worldwide. As such, it is highly relevant that a tool for the integration of gender dimensions has been explicitly included among the recommended instruments. GIAs have also been introduced as tools for gender mainstreaming in different policy areas in Europe, as well as in some national legislations. However, specific applications in the field of planning are still scarce.

This chapter aims at discussing the possibilities and conditions for the effective application of GIAs in spatial planning. To that end it analyses how gender has been integrated into Madrid Nuevo Norte, one of the most important urban redevelopment projects in Europe. The way this project has integrated gender aspects while developing a GIA as part of its technical documents can provide useful insights on the relevance and usefulness of GIAs as tools for the effective mainstreaming of gender issues in planning agendas.

Gender Impact Assessments as a Planning Tool in Spain

GIAs or reports are mandatory in Spain, since 2003, for all legislation and regulations emanating from public bodies (Ley 30/2003). This mandate was originated by European policy, in particular by the Action Plan on Improving Legislation of 2002, which made it compulsory to elaborate such reports for all European legislation. This European Action Plan aimed at firstly improving the quality of the legislation and secondly enhancing gender mainstreaming in public policies (Macias Jara 2018).

Unlike in some other European countries, spatial plans at different scales in Spain are also pieces of legislation. Because urban development plans are in effect legislative instruments, some regional level courts in Madrid and Andalucia revoked, in 2016 and 2017, a number of Municipal Urban Comprehensive Development Plans (Planes Generales de Urbanismo) on the basis that they lacked the specific report addressing gender impacts. These court decisions would be following the national legislation of 2003 and its subsequent law of 2015 that regulates GIAs for all pieces of legislation (Ley del Gobierno, 40/2015; Real Decreto, 2009).

However, a more recent ruling by the national level Supreme Court in 2018 overrules the previous ones of 2016 and 2017 made by lower echelons of the judiciary. Briefly summarized, the current decision by the Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo 2018) addresses an issue of procedure and competence between state and regional levels, while acknowledging that promoting gender equality should be an objective of urban plans, to which the national land-use legislation makes succinct reference (TRLSRU 2015). In short, it says that national legislation requiring elaboration of GIAs as a specific official document accompanying legislative instruments cannot be applied across the board as a suppletory legal formal requirement of urban development plans when the regional level planning legislation does not explicitly address gender requirements among its regulations (Sanchez de Madariaga & Novella Abril 2020).

While the Supreme Court recognizes that the national land-use law includes a brief mention of the equality of treatment and opportunities among the several aspects of sustainable development that planning needs to take into account, it stresses that planning legislation in Spain is the exclusive competence of the regions. The national land-use law in Spain has a very limited scope because planning legislative powers are exclusively attributed by the Constitution to the 17 regions in which the country is divided (comunidades autonomas). So, the Supreme Court states that the relevant issue is how the regional-planning legislations refer to gender as a substantive aspect to be addressed by urban plans.

Now, how do regions address the topic of gender in their planning and housing policies? While some regions have included significant sections on gender in planning law - Catalonia, Extremadura, Valencia - some have done it through regional legislation on gender equality - Basque Country for instance - and others do not make explicit reference to gender mainstreaming in the field of planning and housing policies (Sanchez de Madariaga 2018). However, many among this last group do have regional legislation on GIAs for regulations emanating from regional governments. This diverse panorama sets the stage for the emergence of GIAs as a relevant tool for gender planning in Spain, albeit in evolving and uneven ways in different parts of the country.

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