BACKGROUND STUDY Developing a Legal Instrument for Gender Assessments in Energy Infrastructure Planning and Development within ECOWAS


ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE)



Main Geographic Focus: 


RE&EE Category Taxonomy: 

  • REEE in general
  • Policy and Strategy

File Tag: 

  • Policy
  • Awareness


The study seeks to set the stage for the creation and adoption of an ECOWAS regional legal instrument for conducting gender assessments of energy infrastructure projects, including extraction of fuel sources, storage, generation, transmission and distribution of energy, whether from solar, wind, biomass, fossil, geothermal, ocean, nuclear or hydro sources.

The importance of creating a regional regulatory instrument for enforcing gender equality in the energy sector was introduced in the ECOWAS Policy for Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access. The Policy, the first of its kind, aims to promote gender mainstreaming in energy access and gender equality in the energy sector – not only preventing negative, discriminatory effects, but also harnessing the positive socioeconomic impacts of gender-informed design and decision making in energy development. Compared to widely used environmental assessment practices, incorporating gender considerations in energy infrastructure development is not a widespread phenomenon, though gender-differentiated risks, impacts, and benefits are in many cases significant.

The ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) and the ECOWAS Department of Social Affairs and Gender, in collaboration with the relevant ECOWAS energy agencies, are taking the lead in developing the ECOWAS legal instrument to help ensure that gender considerations are taken on-board when energy infrastructure projects and investments are planned and executed. ECOWAS is recognizing that without consideration of gender equality and inclusivity, the region is both limiting its ability to become a better community steward and to reach its full economic potential. Studies from around the globe link better corporate performance and decision-making to the presence of gender balanced teams drawn from the full talent pool of
women and men.

The first step towards creating the envisioned legal instrument is this Background Study, which comprehensively examines gender related issues associated with infrastructure development and the regulatory framework in the energy sector in the ECOWAS region. The Background Study summarizes the regional legal context; surveys current national level practice regarding gender assessments; identifies key considerations for the design of the legal instrument; lays out the process for eventual adoption; explores global trends and best practice in conducting similar assessments, linking those to a number of ECOWAS-specific case studies; and, details a litany of gender-linked impacts of energy sector development.

In this study, two options emerged for legal instruments, common in the ECOWAS legal system, that would be well-suited for requiring gender assessments in energy projects. The two primary options identified in this study are ECOWAS Regulations and Directives. While Regulations are directly applicable in Member States, their enforceability is contingent on the degree to which each State has incorporated ECOWAS law into their national legal systems. Directives provide more flexibility, allowing each nation to determine the particulars of how to integrate provisions into their existing legislation, but are less strictly proscriptive than Regulations.

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