Policy Analysis

Objective: To understand the policies and laws (both formal and non formal) at multiple levels that shape the context in question.

Materials/Preparation: Policies and laws at the local, regional, national and international levels that apply to the context in question, reports monitoring their application and effects, etc.

Key Informants: CARE Policy and Advocacy Advisors, local university academics, representatives from the women’s social movements at the local, national, regional or international levels, relevant government representatives, etc.

Gender Equity in the Policy Environment

To get a sense of the policy climate and its realities, a number of questions to inform analyses through both policy review, key informant interviews and visits to key governmental institutions at different levels (i.e. village, district, national) are:

Gender and Rights Policies, Laws and Plans of Action

International Level

National or Regional Level

Local Level

What international conventions has the country signed and ratified that promote gender equity or pro-poor rights and development? (i.e. CEDAW, MDGs, Human Rights conventions?) What are the national plans of action or policies to promote women’s rights? How have national plans of action or policies to promote women’s rights been applied at the local level?


Other Relevant Policies

  • What are key sectors that can facilitate or constrain gender equity, and what are their policies?
  • How can gender equity considerations be integrated into existing policies or developed into new policies to promote gender equity?


International Level

National or Regional Level

Local Level

What are international or multi-country policies or agreements that may affect gender equity, poor and vulnerable households, as well economic/social development within the area of focus? What are national or regional level plans or policies that may affect gender equity, as well as poor and vulnerable households? What are local level plans or policies that may affect gender equity, as well as poor and vulnerable households?


  • Budgeting and Accountability: What are funding levels for these plans and policies, who is responsible for funding these plans, who is responsible for implementing these plans and how are they held accountable?
  • Communications and Implementation: How have targeting, communication, implementation and oversight played out at the local level, regions/districts and national levels?
  • Institutional Considerations: When looking at government bodies, themselves, a number of questions related to institutions – and the roles of women as well as gender responsive considerations and budgeting with them – can be applied (see section on mapping institutions and key stakeholders).
  • Roles of Women or Vulnerable Populations: What was the process in which strategies or policies were put in place and the roles women or vulnerable people played to inform the process?


Step 1. Identify the policy issue

  • What is the problem?
  • Who does it affect and where? In relation to the Impact Group, this could mean:
    • Which provisions are relevant to the impact group?
    • What concrete steps have been taken in implementation and is there evidence of impact?
    • What specific gaps remain for the impact group?
  • Supportive Policies:
    • What policies support positive change in the problem?
    • What is the state of the policy (draft, ratified, etc.)?
    • When was this policy enacted? What factors led to the development of these policies
  • Restrictive Policies:
    • What policies aggravate the problem?
    • What is the state of the policy (draft, ratified, etc.)?
    • How long have these policies been in place?
    • What factors led to their development?
  • Policy Enforcement:
    • Which programs promote supportive policies?
    • Which programs promote restrictive policies?

Step 2: Identify Key Actors and Institutions

  • Who are the key actors or actor groups that make critical decisions or influence these policies?
  • Do actors oppose or support specific policies, what is their degree of influence, their resources, their interests?


Policy decisions formally controlled

Activities that affect policies

Degree of influence on policies

Motivating Interests




Step 3: Analyze the Policy Environment

  • Can people participate in policy decisions about the key issues?
  • Do channels exist for people to participate in these decisions?
  • Where are key decisions on this policy made and who controls such decisions?
  • Are the key issues widely discussed? Is this a topic of interest for the general public? Has news regarding education policies recently been featured in the media?
  • Is the issue a priority for the current government? Does the government plan to make any changes to existing regulations? What relevant policies were approved or rejected in recent years?
  • What are trends in government budgeting and expenditure with respect to the impact group

Based on these questions:

  • How do key policies/the policy environment respond to the underlying causes and drivers of poverty/vulnerability?
  • What opportunities exist in terms of possible breakthrough points?
  • Who are key allies in working towards breakthrough points?
  • Who are key opponents in working towards breakthrough points?
  • What are the threats/constraints in terms of breakthrough points?

Sources of information:

  • Local news sources
  • Government offices of public information and relevant ministers
  • Institutions/Organizations focused on the key issue area
  • National policies/law
  • Academic centers (universities, research institutes)


Step 4: Summarize policy findings

  • Articulate the problem.
  • What are the most direct causes of the problem?
  • What behaviors lead to these causes?
  • What are the causes that lead to these behaviors?


Step 5: Identify options for policy change

  • List all policy issues and describe what changes would have to take place to have an impact on the problem identified.
  • Identify the best option for policy change:
  • Which of the policy solutions is likely to have the largest and most lasting impact on the problem?
    • What will happen if nothing is done regarding these policy issues?
    • Which policy solutions are readily achievable and which are likely to be expensive/time consuming?
    • Which policy solutions are likely to garner significant support or, alternatively, face significant opposition?
    • Are some policy solutions riskier than others? Can such risks be mitigated?
    • Who should take the lead on bringing the policy solution to the attention of policy makers?
    • Which policy solutions is CARE and its current or potential partners in the best position to achieve?
  • Evaluate the costs/benefits of taking advocacy action:
    • Is it possible that advocacy will cause you, your partners, or project participants to face major risks, such as violence, loss of credibility in the community, or being asked to leave the country?
    • Is the timing right to become involved in a political debate? Could your involvement make the problem worse?
    • Are there clear solutions to the problem that involve different programmatic approaches that are likely less expensive or more practical than advocacy?
    • Does the problem require immediate action that an advocacy strategy would take too long to address?

Related Tools

View more tools related to:



  • E Watts (2011). Practical Guide for Policy Mapping. CARE Ethiopia.
  • A Dazé, K Ambrose and C Ehrhart (2009). Climate Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis Handbook. 
  • B Kuehhas (2009). Gender Analysis Guiding Notes. CARE Osterreich.
  • S Sprechmann  and E Pelton (2001). Advocacy Tools and Guidelines: Promoting Policy Change. CARE International.