Do International Instruments Recognize Gender – Climate Change Link?

If gender has not become an important issue in the context of climate change most of the fault lies with international policies that did not consider gender dimension of the climatic hardships. In this section we explore how gender issues have evolved so far; it is only representative and not exhaustive. It may be instructive first understand the difference between a declaration, a convention, and a pact at international platforms.

1.  Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is the first international treaty expressly recognizing women’s human rights. CEDAW’s Optional Protocol establishes procedures that allow women to make complaints about violations of their human rights; it was adopted by the General Assembly in 1999 and has been in effect since 22 December 2000.

CEDAW defines discrimination against women as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”

CEDAW establishes that discrimination against women violates the principles of equal rights and respect for human dignity and obstructs them from participating in political, social, economic and cultural life on the same level as men. It also recognizes that gender discrimination is an obstruction to improving the well-being of society and the family, and that it interferes with the full development of women’s possibilities to contribute to society.

Countries that have ratified CEDAW are committed to adopting measures necessary to eradicate all forms of discrimination against women, particularly in rural areas. It also recognizes that women should have equal rights to enter contracts and administer property.

2.  Global Climatic and Environmental Instruments

Rio Earth Summit

In 1992 the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the “Earth Summit,” was held inRio de Janeiro,Brazil. This was an important event that set forth a series of activities – like Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration, or the Conventions on Biodiversity and on Desertification and Drought, and of course the UNFCCC – that would shape the future international debates for years to come. Except for the UNFCCC, all other outcomes included a strong focus on women’s concerns and issues. This is the core reason why climate change discussions have remained almost oblivious to gender concerns. Later efforts remained at best sporadic and on the sidelines of the mainstream discussions but did raise the awareness among COP participants and negotiators; however, the gender issue found some visibility in the COP 11 in Montreal 2005 and then a strong impetus at Bali two years later, as the following outline suggests.

It is safe to assume that that this gap is linked to the lack of participation by gender experts in the negotiations: women are not one of the ‘constituencies’ included as observers in the UNFCCC process. This might be one reason why experts on equal opportunities and women’s rights kept away from the negotiations for a long time. It is well-known that if women’s organizations and gender experts are not involved, gender issues are not addressed.

Thanks to the initiatives taken mainly by non-governmental organizations, the Summitadopted a gender perspective in all development and environment policies and programs, leading to the promotion of women’s effective participation in the proper use of natural resources. This provided the first international precedent for including the gender perspective in promoting sustainable development.

Gender at the Rio Earth Summit

Agenda 21, the main outcome document of the Rio Summit, contains nine chapters on so-called ‘Major Groups’, the first one being ‘Women’ (the others are Children and Youth; Trade Unions; Business; Farmers; Indigenous People; Science and Research; NGOs; Local Government).

Agenda 21 recognizes the importance of women’s traditional knowledge and practices, stresses the contributions women have made to biodiversity conservation and asks that specific measures be adopted to transform objectives into strategies.

Chapter 24 is specifically dedicated to considering women. It focuses on the crucial role they play in changing the consumption and production model and expects that they will need to play a part in politico-economic decisions.

At the same time, there are proposed actions to end present discrimination against women. These include:

●The implementation of measures that strengthen and stimulate women’s institutions, non-governmental organizations and groups that provide training on using and managing resources.

●The promotion of a reduction of women’s very heavy workload by establishing child care centers, evenly dividing household tasks between men and women and using environmentally healthy technologies.

●The implementation of programs that establish and strengthen preventive health and health care services directed and managed by women and that include safe, cheap and voluntary family planning services.

Two legally binding agreements of great environmental importance were signed at the “Earth Summit”: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the latter being the first global agreement focused on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

A. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992 and came into force on 21 March 1994. The objective of the UNFCCC is to stabilize concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere, to prevent anthropogenic interferences in the climate system, and to allow for enough time to permit ecosystems to naturally adapt to the change. This will help ensure that food production is not threatened and allow for sustainable economic development. One of its other purposes is to raise worldwide public awareness about problems related to climate change.

In 1997, governments agreed to incorporate an addition to the UNFCCC, known as the Kyoto Protocol, with the objective of reducing emissions of GHGs by 5% between 2008 and 2012 by taking legally binding measures. The Kyoto Protocol includes three flexible mechanisms designed to reduce the costs of compliance with emission reduction targets: the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM); the Joint Implementation (JI); and Emissions Trading. The Protocol, though, does not include a gender perspective in its operation or in its mechanisms.

Overall, the UNFCCC makes no mention of gender or of women and men as specific stakeholders. Its implementation has thus failed to recognize the gender aspects of climate change and has omitted any mention of gender equality and women’s participation.

However, the Women’s Caucuses that have been held since COP-11 (2005) have vigorously negotiated for the inclusion of the gender approach in all areas of the Convention. Members of the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA), which was launched in 2007 at COP-13 inBali, have also been active in promoting gender equality concerns in global efforts to address climate change.

7th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (Marrakech, 2001)

The first (and only) official mention of women is contained in the text of a resolution agreed at COP7 in Marrakech in 2001. the decision FCCC/ CP/2001/13/ calls for more nominations of women to UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol bodies. It also tasks the Secretariat with determining the gender composition of these bodies, and with bringing the results to the attention of the Parties.

13th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (Bali, 2007)

COP-13, held in Bali, Indonesiain December 2007, clearly underlined the commitments of Member States concerning climate change and formulated the Bali Action Plan. This led toward the promotion of gender equality.

Within the UNFCCC COP-13 framework, and in an unprecedented effort, UNDP, UNEP, IUCN and WEDO launched the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA). The principal objective of thisAllianceis to ensure that policies, initiatives and decision-making processes on climate change include the gender approach at global, regional and national levels. The fundamental principle is to guarantee the inclusion of women’s voices in decision-making and in policy-making.

Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA)

The GGCA’s objectives and strategies aim to:

●Integrate the gender approach in world policies and decision-making to ensure full compliance with United Nations mandates on gender equality;

●Ensure that mitigation and adaptation financing mechanisms take equal account of the needs of poor men and women;

●Build capacities at global, regional and local levels to design policies, strategies and programs on climate change that recognize gender equity.

TheAlliancewould work with UNFCCC to incorporate gender perspective and develop training module to propagate this issue.

14th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (Poznan, 2008)

Gender and climate change advocates had a high profile at COP-14. The Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA) led various events, including a High-Level Panel advocating for the inclusion of Gender in the climate change dialogue. Further, the GGCA, led by IUCN, compiled a training manual on gender and climate change and trained 17 regional trainers from Africa,ArabStates, Asia, Latin America and theCaribbean, and oriented over 50 national delegates to the UNFCCC. This created a supportive atmosphere in favor gender inclusion.

Although the next two COPs atCopenhagen(2009) andCancun(2010) have not produced any significant break through, the gender concerns have begun to be recognized.

National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPA)

In the UNFCCC documents, the only reference to gender is in the guide on how to prepare National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPA). Gender equality is one of the principles included when designing the NAPA and it advises that experts – both women and men – be included on the teams working on gender questions. Many of the national reports submitted by the signatory nations to the UNFCCC Secretariat thus far stress, in very general terms, the vulnerability of women and the importance of equality. Specifically, manyNAPAhave recognized that women are mainly responsible for domestic chores such as collecting water, firewood (or other fuels) and producing and preparing meals. They also mention that, in general, vulnerable women are found in the poorest populations.

B. Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), adopted in 1992, is the international framework for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the fair distribution of its benefits. The objective of the CBD is to promote the sustainable use of biodiversity. This convention recognizes that biodiversity includes not only plants, animals, micro-organisms and their ecosystems, but also human beings and their needs (e.g., food, clean air, medicines and a clean and healthy environment). Over 190 states have ratified it to date.

Women’s participation has been explicitly addressed within the CBD. Since 2007, the CBD Secretariat has made specific efforts to mainstream gender and developed a Gender Plan of Action for this purpose.

3.  United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (1994)

Adopted in 1994, The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only internationally recognized legally binding instrument dealing with the problem of land degradation in terra firma rural areas. The objective of this Convention is to demonstrate that the risks of desertification are substantial and clear. Calculations show that the means of subsistence of more than 1 billion people could be at risk because of desertification and could be in danger of being driven from their lands. Especially vulnerable are poor people living in rural zones, particularly those in less developed countries.

The UNCCD goes beyond mainstreaming gender. It not only recognizes the role women play in rural sustenance, but also promotes equal participation of women and men. The prologue of the convention stresses

the important role played by women in regions affected by desertification and/or drought, particularly in rural areas of developing countries, and the importance of ensuring the full participation of both men and women at all levels in programs to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought.”62 Likewise, Article 4 of the General Obligations requires the affected country to “promote awareness and facilitate the participation of local populations, particularly women, with the support of non-governmental organizations, in efforts to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought.

4.  World Conference on Women, Beijing (1995)

At the Fourth World Conference on Women, held inBeijingin 1995, the link between gender, the environment and sustainable development was clearly defined. Chapter K of the Platform for Action makes specific reference to the environment with strategic objectives and action as central themes, including the poverty that affects many women; the need for women to participate vigorously in making decisions about the environment at all levels; and integration of the gender perspective in sustainable development policies and programs.

In the follow-up meeting to the Beijing Platform for Action (2005), the General Assembly stressed the need “to actively involve women in environmental decision-making at all levels; integrate their concerns and the gender perspective in sustainable development policies and programs and consolidate or establish mechanisms at the national, regional, and international levels to assess the impact of development and environmental policies on women.”

5.  World Conference on Disaster Reduction (Hyogo, 2005)

The World Conference on Disaster Reduction (Hyogo, 2005) is the most recent international advance in efforts to integrate gender equity into all decision-making and planning processes related to disaster risk management. The Framework for Action of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction states:

“A gender perspective should be integrated into all disaster risk management policies, plans and decision-making processes, including those related to risk assessment, early warning, information management, and education and training (Gender consideration of action priorities).

“Develop early warning systems that are people centred, in particular systems whose warnings are timely and understandable to those at risk, which take into account the demographic, gender, cultural and livelihood characteristics of the target audiences, including guidance on how to act upon warnings, and that support effective operations by disaster managers and other decision makers (Essential priority activity to take early warning action).

“Ensure equal access to appropriate training and educational opportunities for women and vulnerable constituencies, promote gender and cultural sensitivity training as integral components of education and training for disaster risk reduction (Essential priority activity for action for teaching and training).”

6.  High-level roundtable on “Gender and Climate Change” (New York, 2007)

In 2007, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization WEDO along with other groups organized a high-level roundtable on “Gender and Climate Change.” This meeting was attended by representatives of the United Nations, NGOs and officials from 60 countries. The roundtable included extensive discussions on the connection between climate change and gender; presentations from various countries demonstrating that relationship; importance of including the gender approach in all policies about climate change, especially in adaptation policies; and suggestions for specific steps to ensure that gender equity is included in decision-making processes.

7.  Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

From 2002 until the present, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has continued to promote awareness of the links between gender, disaster and climate change. In accordance with resolution 2006/9 of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the CSW identifies emerging global themes that require global and regional actions in each of its annual sessions. Specifically, Resolution (jj) on Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment requests governments to “integrate a gender perspective in the design, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting of national environmental policies, strengthen mechanisms and provide adequate resources to ensure women’s full and equal participation in decision-making at all levels on environmental issues, in particular on strategies related to the impact of climate change on the lives of women and girls.”

At its 46th session in 2002, the CSW broached themes related to climate change when it focused on disaster management and mitigation. In its conclusions, the Commission called for the integration of a gender perspective in ongoing research that the academic and other sectors are conducting on the impact of climate change and its deep-rooted causes.

At its 52nd session in March 2008, the CSW considered the “Gender perspective on climate change” as an emerging theme. To identify gender perspectives and women’s participation in actions concerning climate change, the participants in the interactive dialogue shared experiences on good practices at the national, regional and international levels.

8.  United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII)

At its Sixth Session in 2007, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues requested that a document be prepared to investigate and report on “the impacts of mitigation measures on indigenous peoples.” In compliance with that request, the impact of mitigation on indigenous people was taken up as a special theme at the seventh session of the Forum (2008), entitled “Climate change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the role of indigenous peoples and new challenges.”

The result was a report compiled by the Support Group members at the Forum on indigenous peoples and climate change (E/C.19/2008/10), in which recommendation No. 79 recognized women’s important role, stating: “The principles of shared but differentiated responsibilities, equity, social justice and sustainable development, must remain as key principles that sustain climate change negotiations, policies and programs. The approach to development and the ecosystem, based on human rights, should guide the design and implementation, at national, regional and global levels, of policies and projects on climate. The crucial role of women and indigenous girls in developing mitigation and adaptation measures must also be ensured.”

Present Status

At present, global negotiations on climate change are still mainly focused on reducing GHGs by means of the UNFCCC, the IPCC, the Kyoto Protocol, and other related mechanisms. The gender dimension has not been significantly broached in considering adaptation and mitigation, and therefore they provide neither a legal framework nor a rights-based approach needed to implement responses to climate change that are equitable for both men and women.

Specific Issues

Why Climate Change is a Gender Issue?

What is a Gender-Sensitive Response to Climate Change?

Why Poor Women should Worry about Climate Change?

About Goodpal

I am a firm believer in healthy people (mind and body both), healthy societies and healthy environment. Please feel free to comment, share and broadcast your views -- I like rational and intellectual discussions. Thanks for stopping by. Have a Good Day!
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