Among international organizations, the European Union (EU) stands out in its support for the goal of gender equality. The Lisbon Reform Treaty considers ‘equality between women and men’ among its values and objectives 1 and, since 1996, the EU has committed to mainstreaming gender considerations into all aspects of its operations and policies. But what impact has the EU model of gender equality, as it is diffused and expressed in its external development, aid, trade and human rights policies, had on the rest of the world? The Union is a powerful trade actor with the greatest market share of world trade in goods and services. The EU (Commission and member states) is also the world’s largest aid donor, providing 55 per cent of offi cial development assistance globally. But to what extent have these external instruments been used to advance gender equality goals? Have EU gender equality norms served to humanize or transform EU development policies?