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Gender Equality Must Be Central to All Work Done under Biodiversity Convention, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Conference of Parties

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the fifteenth Conference of the Parties’ high-level ministerial breakfast on biodiversity and gender, in Montreal today:

I am honoured to be here today; my thanks to Finland, Malawi and Canada for organizing this important gathering.

I am thrilled to see women’s rights and gender equality exactly where they should be:  front and centre as we develop the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

We cannot hope to protect the web of life on Earth without the equal and full participation of women.  Gender shapes the social roles that men and women play and the power relations between them.

Although women are often closer to the land, the forests, the sea and the web of life that surrounds us, we are often prevented from playing our full part in protecting and safeguarding these natural resources.

Globally, less than 15 per cent of landholders are women.  Just 30 per cent of researchers in biological and environmental sciences are women.  And just 15 per cent of ministerial posts devoted to the environment were held by women in 2020.  These disparities clearly have an enormous impact on decision-making about the use and management of resources.

From indigenous communities to state-of-the-art laboratories, women are coming up with innovative solutions that work for people and planet.  For example, in the Andean highlands, smallholder women farmers are protecting biodiversity by using traditional knowledge to save seeds and crop varieties with unique culinary uses.

Along coastlines around the world, women are involved in mangrove conservation — preserving their own livelihoods, while protecting one of the most important ecosystems on Earth.

But discrimination and unequal access to power too often deprive women of the chance to lead and take decisions, to fulfil their role as stewards of nature, and to make our full contribution to safeguarding and protecting biodiversity.

I am therefore encouraged by the gender-related targets in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.  It is good news not just for women, but for everyone, that the negotiating parties are integrating gender into all areas of the Convention’s work.

But more needs to be done for us to get it right and to bend the curve of biodiversity loss.  I see three areas for urgent action.

First, we must develop an ambitious post-2020 gender plan and integrate it into the global biodiversity framework.  The plan must be evidence-based and backed by quotas that guarantee the equal participation of men and women in the effort to protect, restore and sustainably use the natural world.

Second, after this fifteenth Conference of the Parties, gender equality must continue to be central to all the work done under this Convention.  As part of that, we need national regulations that ensure women are equal partners in conservation, sustainable use and access, and that women share equally in the benefits of these practices.

Third, we must marshal funding, especially from the financial sector, that supports a just, gender-sensitive and inclusive transition to a sustainable economy that works in harmony with nature.

I have no illusions.  None of this will be easy.  But our planet is in a critical condition.  We need the full contributions of everyone on it to change course.

It is absolutely crucial — and long overdue — for women to play their full part, for the benefit of all.

We cannot fail in our task of protecting our biological diversity — the support system that underpins all life on Earth.

For information media. Not an official record.