Women, Girls, as Agents of Positive Change, Must Be Included in All Efforts to Combat Gender Inequality, Climate Change, Delegates Tell Commission
Strong female-based societies, indigenous women, women legislators and girls are agents of positive change and role models for sustainability, protecting the Earth and forging monumental achievements along the common global path towards sustainable development, delegates said today, calling for action to include their knowledge and experiences, as the Commission on the Status of Women continued the general discussion segment of its sixty-sixth session.
The session, which runs from 14 to 25 March, is focused on the theme “Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes”. (For background, see Press Release WOM/2213.)
From war-ravaged nations to those whose very existence was being threatened by climate change, many delegates of the more than 60 speakers today agreed that crises almost always disproportionately affect women and girls. Across regions, speakers elaborated on the root causes of the unbalanced impact of climate change, with some pointing to historic inequalities which have kept women away from land ownership, high-paying jobs, education, political participation and decision‑making roles in their countries.
However, participants also shared success stories that are changing those negative trends. From mainstreaming gender into climate action plans to ensuring the voices of indigenous women are heard, speakers echoed a clarion call, stressing that sustainable development hinges on involving women in all aspects of shaping a more sustainable, resilient, safer future for everyone. Many spotlighted such action areas as ending inequalities, ensuring access to education and sexual and reproductive health care, as well as guaranteeing protection from gender-based violence.
Palau’s representative said her country is proud to be a case study demonstrating that great accomplishments can be made when women have a voice, as it is among the very few traditionally matriarchal societies in the world. Women in Palau have historically held clan wealth and land — passed down through their mothers — and they are the ones who choose male leaders. Pointing to indicators correlated with having a strong female society, she said Palau has one of the highest literacy rates in the world — nearly 100 per cent — and over 91 per cent of the population has access to safe water, sanitation and electricity. Further, large swaths of protected areas exist in one of the most pristine environments in the world.
Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Minister for Human Development, Families and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs of Belize, highlighted strides across several sectors. The Government has appointed the first indigenous woman Governor General in the Commonwealth and has five women in the House of Representatives, including the Speaker and six women will imminently sit in the Senate, thus accounting for over 40 per cent of the Upper House. In addition, Belize is among nine countries implementing the ENGENDER Project which seeks to integrate gender equality and human‑rights-based approaches into disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and environmental management frameworks and interventions.
Myrna Cunningham, First Vice-President of the Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, stressed that indigenous people and indigenous women have developed their own system of protecting the environment, avoiding exploitation of resources and using sustainable services to guarantee that future generations have access to resources. This session offers a chance to generate discourse for achieving gender equality in the context of climate change and disaster risk reduction. Recalling that her country, Nicaragua, was hit by a hurricane in 2020, she highlighted how indigenous women played a key role in saving lives and livelihoods.
Mateja Ribič, State Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Slovenia, reported that her country is one of the few countries where women with children have a higher employment rate than those without children, stemming from well-organized, accessible public childcare and favourable maternity, paternity and parental leave arrangements. Nonetheless, she emphasized that “we need to step up our efforts and prepare better for the future crisis” to prevent a global response from being “too little, too late”. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that, during global crises, women and girls face disproportionate consequences, she said, adding that it is equally evident that action on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls must be taken within the context of international climate action.
President Alejandro Giammattei Falla of Guatemala, underscored that gender equity that recognizes institutional challenges must be included in any design or implementation of initiatives to address these challenges. With a culturally and environmentally diverse country that is among the most vulnerable to climate change, he emphasized the need to promote the inclusion of indigenous and ancestral knowledge, keeping with the principle of leaving no one behind.
To that point, Lisa Tammy Rahming, Minister of State with responsibility for Gender Affairs at the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development of the Bahamas stressed that simply having women at the table is not enough if a nation’s resources cannot meet the multiple tasks it faced. Even though her Government has placed women in key roles as climate change leaders and experts, a chronic challenge is the use of per capita gross domestic product (GDP) as the primary measurement of wealth. Thus, the Bahamas is continually denied non-reimbursable funding. A multidimensional vulnerability index is needed, as developing countries are in urgent need of funding for gender mainstreaming.
Fernando Elísio Freire, Minister for State, Family, Inclusion and Social Development of Cabo Verde, said that, with 115,000 people are living in extreme poverty in his country — which particularly affects rural women — the Government has made eradicating such poverty a top priority. It is also working to empower women and girls through policies that provide effective services, education and training and that fight against informal work and other precarious employment situations.
Véronique Tognifode, Minister for Social Affairs and Microfinance of Benin, said the Government has fought back against the reversal of gender‑equality gains stemming from the consequences of climate change, COVID-19 and natural disasters. Benin has integrated a gender approach across all strategies, promotes full involvement of women in developing such policies and programmes and has passed numerous laws in 2021 to protect women, including the introduction of measures to protect reproductive rights and support victims of gender-based violence.
Sofia Loreus, Minister for the Status of Women and Women’s Rights of Haiti, highlighted several major achievements, from accelerating legal and judicial reform to adopting a national gender equality policy. However, progress has been slow, and obstacles remain. Twenty-five years after the fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, no country has achieved equality for women and girls, and millions remain vulnerable and marginalized, she observed. For its part, Haiti will continue to use all available opportunities on all platforms to make irreversible progress towards gender equality, women’s empowerment and human rights for women and girls.
The representative of Mozambique said that, as his is the world’s eighth most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change, the Government recognizes that women play an indispensable role in the sustainable management of natural resources. Women are also essential in responding to climate consequences, a fact that has allowed Mozambique to become a pioneer in the world in addressing gender and climate change issues. Summing up a common conclusion heard throughout the day-long discussion, he said that, for Mozambique, “build back better” means listening to women.
To that end, Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, stressed, at the meeting’s conclusion, that all hands must be on deck to build resilience. Indeed, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction continues to emphasize an all-of-society approach to risks. In this vein, equal access to opportunities leads to better disaster risk reduction, and strong disaster risk reduction supports gender equality. As such, both sets of stakeholders can work together on creating a new coin with equality on one side and empowerment on the other, she said.
Echoing previous speakers’ calls voiced since the session’s opening, some speakers today condemned the Russian Federation’s ongoing war against Ukraine and demanded an end to the violence.
Also delivering statements during the general discussion were ministers and other senior Government officials of Croatia, Lithuania, Greece, Mexico, Georgia, Norway, Timor-Leste, Burkina Faso, Romania, Maldives, Andorra, Poland, Lebanon, Cuba, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, El Salvador, Tajikistan, Malaysia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Hungary, Cambodia, Uruguay, Iraq, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Singapore, Syria, Federated States of Micronesia, Bulgaria, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Yemen, Monaco, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Gabon, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Russian Federation, Belgium and Eritrea.
The Permanent Observer for the Holy See also spoke, as did representatives of the following intergovernmental organizations: International Development Law Organization (IDLO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 18 March, to continue its work.
MELISSA UPRETI, Chair of the Working Group of the Human Rights Council on discrimination against women and girls, said that, since its inception in 2010, the Working Group has examined structural challenges, through visits, dialogue and consultations. The range of issues include gender and climate change, and reports have focused on, among other things, countering roll‑backs, including right-wing forces aimed at depriving women of their liberty. Its latest thematic report to the Human Rights Council examines sexual and reproductive health in times of crisis, which is underpinned by systematic discrimination women face throughout their lives. The failure to ensure their rights is discriminatory. Unsafe abortions, maternal deaths and sexual violence against women, which are preventable, are unacceptable, she said, stressing that gaps denying women to the full range of sexual and reproductive goods and services must be closed.
Raising several concerns, she said the toxification of the planet is a less visible crisis that contributes to infertility, miscarriages and other health implications. The fragmented efforts within the United Nations system requires taking a holistic approach to address women’s human rights, she said, emphasizing that women’s empowerment cannot be achieved without respect for their sexual and reproductive rights, as well. In addition, women must have proper access to United Nations fora. For its next report, the Working Group will focus on girls’ activism, as they continue to face barriers to participation and are excluded in decision-making processes, she said.
FERNANDO ELÍSIO FREIRE, Minister for State, Family, Inclusion and Social Development of Cabo Verde, said the world currently faces many challenges, including the financial consequences of armed conflict in Europe and the economic recovery post-COVID-19, which has been exacerbated in Cabo Verde — like in many other countries — by long periods of drought and natural disaster. Noting that 115,000 people are living in extreme poverty in his country — which particularly affects rural women — he said that the Government has made eradicating such poverty a top priority. Further, it works to empower women and girls through policies that provide effective services, education and training and that fight against informal work and other precarious employment situations. He also detailed Government efforts to empower women’s decisions over their bodies by providing access to sexual and reproductive health services and fighting against gender-based violence, along with those to empower their decision-making by facilitating access to such positions and ensuring political representation.
SOFIA LOREUS, Minister for the Status of Women and Women’s Rights of Haiti, said that her country has notched four main achievements for women: adopting a national plan of action following the fourth World Conference on Women; setting up appropriate structures and tools to provide for gender mainstreaming; accelerating legal and judicial reform; and adopting a national policy of gender equality. However, she pointed out that progress has been slow, and obstacles remain. Twenty-five years after the Conference, no country has achieved equality for women and girls, and millions remain vulnerable and marginalized. For its part, the Government — taking note of civil society’s contributions towards gender equality — is committed to enhancing support for local, national, regional and global organizations. It will also utilize all available opportunities in the areas of sustainable development, peace and security, human rights, humanitarian action, climate change, environment and disaster risk reduction to make irreversible progress towards gender equality, women’s empowerment and human rights for women and girls.
DOLORES BALDERAMOS-GARCIA, Minister for Human Development, Families and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs of Belize, said that her country recommits to the two most important documents on gender equality: the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the Convention for the Elimination of All forms of Violence against Women. Belize has appointed the first indigenous woman Governor General in the Commonwealth and has five women in the House of Representatives, including the Speaker. Shortly, it will have six women in the Senate, including the President, accounting for over 40 per cent of the Upper House. Belize has been implementing the Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project, which aims to provide financial assistance to small farmers, with women accounting for 40 per cent of beneficiaries. Belize is also among the nine countries implementing the ENGENDER Project which seeks to integrate gender equality and human-rights-based approaches into disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and environmental management frameworks and interventions.
VÉRONIQUE TOGNIFODE, Minister for Social Affairs and Microfinance of Benin, said her country has modified the Constitution of 1990 to include affirmative action and the increase of women’s representation. Any candidate list must include women. Additionally, numerous laws were established in 2021 to protect women, including the introduction of measures to protect reproductive rights and support victims of gender-based violence. The Government also provides women with financial and career support. Climate change negatively impacts women, who account for 70 per cent of farmers. Climate change, COVID-19 and natural disasters have reserved gains on gender equality. To fight back, Benin integrated gender approach across all strategies and promote full involvement of women in developing such policies and programmes, she said.
ALEJANDRO GIAMMATTEI FALLA, President of Guatemala, said his culturally and environmentally diverse country is among the most vulnerable to climate change. Flooding, drought and desertification causes food insecurity among the poor and excluded populations, with several million women being among the most vulnerable. Gender equity that recognizes institutional challenges must be included in any design or implementation of initiatives to address these challenges. Such efforts should promote the inclusion of indigenous and ancestral knowledge, keeping with the principle of leaving no one behind. Strengthening the legal status and empowering women are among the Government’s commitments in its efforts to move towards resilient sustainable development. A national plan incorporates gender equity and equality, alongside guaranteeing public policies that are inclusive. Guatemala is also working to implement its commitments to global efforts, including a focus on economic growth and other related areas, he said.
MARGARETA MAĐERIĆ, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy of Croatia, aligning herself with the European Union, recalled her country’s history with war and called for an end to fighting in Ukraine and for women’s full and meaningful participation in the process of establishing peace and security. Croatia significantly improved its legal framework tackling gender-based violence and domestic violence, including establishing six new centres for victims. In addition, an ombudsperson for gender equality established a femicide prevention watch. Gender-transformative climate action is key to addressing the underlying causes of vulnerability to climate change, including through gender-responsive climate finance and investments in health systems. The main goal is to embrace digital and green transitions while creating new and better jobs and investing in people. At the same time, the pandemic demonstrated that there is room to create more flexible jobs which allow women more freedom and opportunities to reconcile private and professional life. Despite progress and some recovery in the labour market due to addressing pandemic-related challenges, women still make up 45 per cent of the employed and 56 per cent of the unemployed. Stronger economic independence of women is important for sustainable economic growth. In order to adapt accordingly, priorities must include ensuring equal and effective access for women in the labour market and guaranteeing professional equality both for women and men throughout their careers.
GIEDRĖ BALČYTYTĖ, Chancellor of the Government of Lithuania, said she would have loved to share Lithuania’s views and experiences in achieving gender equality but instead, she must talk about women in war as everything else take the back seat in the world, where maternity hospitals, shelters and nuclear power plants are targets of premeditated acts of aggression by foreign military forces. This is a reality of Ukrainian women today, a reality created by the invasion of the Kremlin's regime. Stressing the need to ensure there is no more sense of impunity for war crimes against civilians and gender-based violence in war and aggression, she called for the creation of mechanisms for monitoring and documenting war crimes. National and international courts must commit to launch and finalize the investigations. To every soldier acting in Ukraine, she said: “The world is watching and recording. Every unlawful act will be prosecuted. There will be no expiry date for their crimes.” She expressed hope that, when the Commission meets next time, it will not have to discuss any ecological catastrophe caused by the seizure of a nuclear power plant.
MATEJA RIBIČ, State Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Slovenia, aligning herself with the European Union, condemned the Russian Federation’s actions in Ukraine and called on Moscow to stop its aggression immediately. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that, during global crises, women and girls face disproportionate impacts. To prevent the global response from being “too little, too late”, she stressed that “we need to step up our efforts and prepare better for the future crisis”. This also means taking action on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the context of international climate action. Pointing out that a large majority of Slovenian women are active in the labour market, she said that Slovenia is one of the few countries where women with children have a higher employment rate than those without children. This stems from well-organized and accessible public childcare and favourable arrangements of maternity, paternity and parental leave. As the division of work between women and men in the private sphere remains unbalanced, awareness-raising campaigns aim to promote equal sharing of household and care work between women and men. Preventing sexual and gender-based violence and domestic violence is a high-priority for Slovenia. Concrete measures have been taken at the legislative and implementation levels, including signing regional instruments and introducing the criminal offences of rape and sexual violence according to the affirmative consent model into the Penal Code.
LISA TAMMY RAHMING, Minister of State with responsibility for Gender Affairs at the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development of the Bahamas, aligning herself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), recalled that she and six other women were elected in 2021, and women now served as the President of the Senate and the Chair of the House of Assembly. While each “crack in the glass ceiling” is celebrated, she noted that there was still a lot of work to do. Small island developing States are particularly vulnerable to climate change. In 2019, Hurricane Dorian caused $3.4 billion in damage, claiming many lives and displacing thousands of women and girls. Many of them lived in temporary shelters with insufficiently safe conditions due to co-ed accommodations, heightening the potential for exploitation and abuse. The 2020 Annual Police Report noted that sexual offences increased by 34 per cent in 2019, along with 2,432 reports of incidents of domestic violence. Women make up 52 per cent of those living below the poverty line, and social and financial interventions, mental health support and training programmes are urgently needed. The Government has placed women in key roles as climate change leaders and experts, but simply having them at the table is not enough if the nation’s available resources pale in comparison to the monumental task at hand. A chronic challenge is the use of per capita gross domestic product (GDP) as the primary measurement of wealth. That results in the Bahamas being continually denied non-reimbursable funding, she said, adding that her delegation continues to press the case for the help of the United Nations to move towards a multidimensional vulnerability index as a better measurement to be used, as developing countries are in urgent need of funding for gender mainstreaming.
MARIA SYRENGELA, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Affairs responsible for Gender Equality, Demography and Family of Greece, expressed concern over the safety of civilians in Ukraine — especially women and girls — following the Russian invasion and called for the cessation of war, the protection of civilians and the safety of humanitarian works and journalists. Turning to climate change, she stressed that this issue is one of social justice and is not gender‑neutral. It is well-documented that environmental conditions affect women and men differently due to existing structural responsibilities and roles. As well, women are more vulnerable as they are subject to inherent discrimination within society. However, they are not just victims of climate change and environmental degradation; they are also first responders and agents of change. For its part, the Government is implementing gender-sensitive and green recovery policies, subsidizing the creation of new jobs and businesses with an emphasis on assisting unemployed women, and facilitating women’s entry into the fields of research and innovation.
MARTHA DELGADO PERALTA, Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, expressed solidarity with all women and girls in Ukraine whose lives have been drastically impacted over the last few weeks as a result of the Russian Federation’s invasion. Conflict disproportionately affects women and girls, and she called for respect for international law and the establishment of humanitarian pauses to facilitate the safe delivery of required assistance. Further, any dialogue must involve Ukrainian women in whatever decisions are taken. Noting that women have made necessary contributions to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and achieve inclusive global recovery, she spotlighted the work of 14 Mexican women in national vaccination efforts. Turning to climate change, she stressed that efforts to reduce climate change and its effects should include aspects of gender equality, human rights and intersectionality. She also acknowledged the women activists fighting for the rights of women, girls and the environment — risking their lives on many occasions — and called for these individuals to be safeguarded.
KHATUNA TOTLADZE, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, condemning the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine, outlined her delegation’s top priorities, including the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality. Recalling pandemic-related responses in this regard, she said the Government adopted programmes focused on women’s economic and social support. Along with continuing the proactive policy towards combating and preventing violence against women and domestic violence, progress was made in implementing initiatives on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. Climate change affects every aspect of society. At the same time, gender-responsive interventions have the potential to provide more effective climate change mitigation. Georgia’s updated nationally determined contribution puts a strong emphasis on strengthening the role of women in the implementation of national climate actions. She noted her regret that the Russian Federation’s illegal occupation of the Georgian regions of Tskhinvali/South Ossetia and Abkhazia remains the main obstacle for the Government to implement its human rights protection framework for the women and girls remaining on the other side of the illegally erected barbwire fences, she said, reiterating Georgia’s commitment to continue its efforts towards promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment and to stay actively engaged in global endeavour in this regard.
GRY HAUGSBAKKEN, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Culture and Equality of Norway, condemning the Russian Federation’s military attack against Ukraine, emphasized that “a country without gender equality cannot fully claim to have a free people”. As women often pay the greatest price, as with the current climate crisis, climate policies must be developed to move gender equality forward. The rising number of people showing distrust for established society is gaining traction, she said, offering examples of people who do not believe in climate change, COVID-19 or vaccines, as well as those who distrust the Muslim, Jewish and LGBTIQ+ communities, not to mention women. Groups that were once seen as extreme have now become mainstream and are using “fake news” on social media platforms to spread their views, she said, urging stakeholders to join forces and push back the pushback against the rights of women and sexual minorities. There is an urgent need to make the transition from a fossil fuel-dependent society to a sustainable one. The Nordic model offers a good framework for a successful green transition. In 2020, climate-related disasters displaced over 30 million people, leading to a greater risk of gender-based violence and child marriage, and impacting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. Women environmental human rights defenders face a risk of femicide and are increasingly being met with threats and violence. Efforts must work to protect women’s safety and their rights to live a life free from violence, and to make decisions about their own bodies and sexuality, she said.
MARIA JOSÉ DA FONSECA MONTEIRO DE JESUS, Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion of Timor-Leste, aligning herself with the Community of the Portuguese-Speaking Countries and the Group of Friends for the elimination of violence against women and girls, said: “Every time it starts to rain, our lives are put on hold; we stop doing everything.” At that moment everyone fears they might lose their homes. Further, they do not know if their children will be able to walk to or safely back from school without being engulfed in flooding waters, or if their crops and animals will survive the rain. This reality, being experienced around the world, demonstrates that climate change is an emergency issue which needs collective and concentrated actions. Noting domestic measures taken in mitigation and adaptation, she highlighted the first National Policy Plan on Climate Change approved recently. Stressing that a Timorese person's footprint a year is more than four times below the sustainable rate expected by 2050, she urged everyone to collectively take steps to mitigate the effects of climate change. Women are more vulnerable to the effects of it than men; they carry the heavier burden of household duties and face rooted discriminatory gender norms. Thus, her country’s efforts focus on the rights of rural women regarding food security, non‑discriminatory access to resources, economic empowerment, and equitable participation in decision-making processes, including through the Secretariat of State for Equality and Inclusion.
SALIMATA NEBIE CONOMBO, Minister for Gender and Family of Burkina Faso, associating herself with the African Group and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, cited measures that her Government has adopted to adapt to climate change in a gender-responsive manner. Among a range of initiatives, the Government continues to implement strategies on gender, risk management, education and humanitarian response, all with gender mainstreaming running throughout various projects. Progress in the area of the economic empowerment of women included $8 million in loans granted to pandemic-affected female-owned businesses. In the area of environmental protection, measures such as training have been deployed; the social sector saw such progress with the establishment of a mechanism to report gender-based violence. Women and girls face different obstacles in dealing with the disproportionate impact of climate change, among them social and cultural burdens and practices and limited participation in Government, from national to local platforms. Gender equality is not only a fundamental right, she said, but is necessary to set up a world that is peaceful and prosperous.
LUMINITA POPESCU, State Secretary, Head of the National Agency for Equal Opportunities between Women and Men of Romania, underscored that her country stands in full solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Reaffirming her Government’s commitment to the principle of equal opportunities and treatment between women and men, she spotlighted the newly established Romanian Ministry of Family, Youth and Equal Opportunities between Women and Men. On the legislative framework, her Government has been regulating electronic monitoring in judicial and executive criminal proceedings. It is also regulating the National Integrated Programme for the Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence and the Framework Methodology on the organization and functioning of the innovative national network of shelter for victims of domestic violence. In addition, it is elaborating the Practical Guide on Moral Harassment and regulating the Anti-Harassment Policy at Work. Joining the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) “Generation Equality” initiative, she stressed her country’s commitment to implement the National Strategy for Preventing and Combating sexual violence “SYNERGY” 2021-2030, and to increase the women representation in decision-making at all levels. Romania is also working on the first National Action Plan for Women’s economic and politic empowerment for the period 2023-2028.
ZIFLEENA HASSAN, Minister of State for Gender, Family and Social Services of Maldives, citing Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, underscored that women are often bearing the brunt of climate impacts. In Maldives, women are at the centre of home-based economic activity, including small‑scale agriculture and fishing, while also providing most caregiving services. However, climate change is resulting in hotter days and changes in drought and rain patterns, leading to reduced agricultural yields and undermining the livelihoods of women. Women have also borne the brunt of the economic fallout during COVID-19, she said, spotlighting the Income Support Allowance, which was launched for workers who lost their jobs, and which put a particular emphasis on women working in the informal sector. Calling for women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in leadership roles and in decision-making processes, she noted that a third of the ministerial posts in her Government are held by women. For the first time, her country has female Supreme Court justices and a women leader for both the Judicial Service Commission and the Human Rights Commission. Women were also elected to one third of the local council seats in April 2021. In addition, she highlighted her country’s gender mainstreaming efforts through the 2019-2023 Strategic Action Plan and the 2022-2026 Gender Equality Action Plan.
TERESA MILÀ SAMBOLA, Secretary of State for Social Affairs, Youth and Equality of Andorra, said that women and girls continue to suffer from poverty, discrimination, violence and underrepresentation in the centres of power and decision-making, which places them at a disadvantage. Noting the negative social, political, economic and health effects of climate change, she urged that the response thereto begin with a collective perspective, but not lose sight of the vulnerable populations — such as women — disproportionately affected by the same. Women often assume primary care roles, but the physical, mental and emotional burden of such action is invisible. In periods of crisis, these burdens are accentuated, she stressed, citing reports stating that women are 14 times more likely to die than men in natural disasters and that 80 per cent of those displaced during such events are women. In Andorra, where climate change threatens a decrease in winter tourism — a sector in which women are heavily involved — the Government has implemented measures to prepare the population to tackle this new situation, balancing environmental sustainability, social justice and gender equality.
ANNA SCHMIDT, Deputy Minister for Family, Labour and Social Policy and Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment of Poland, said her country’s Government has taken unprecedented steps to guest more than 1 million refugees from Ukraine, abolishing COVID-19 quarantine requirement. An urgent bill provides for extending the stay of Ukrainians with a valid visa from 90 days to 18 months. Moreover, the Ministry of Family and Social Policy ensures that Ukrainian children, alike Polish kids, will receive the unconditional governmental child‑support benefit “Family 500+”. Kindergartens, school space and supplementary paediatric wards are being established. Women with children predominate among the refugees. Among the latter, many come from orphanages. Therefore, the ministry has a staff whose task it is to organize transport and support for children, who come to Poland. In the spirit of good neighbourliness and international solidarity, Poland endeavours to minimalize the consequences of the Russian-triggered war catastrophe for the affected population, in particular children and women, including pregnant and maternity cases.
CLAUDINE AOUN, President of the National Commission for Women of Lebanon, said that the world is entering a period of great uncertainty, characterized by conflict. This reality has reversed gains made in gender equality along with scientific and economic progress. The international community must also address the consequences of climate change. For its part, the Government has focused on creating a legislative and social environment that allows women to overcome these difficulties through their own efforts. Such efforts include establishing policies to combat gender-based violence, addressing the causes that prevent women from entering the labour market and ensuring women’s full participation in elections. She spotlighted the increased number of women signing up for military duty in Lebanon, which represents progress on the path towards gender equality. She went on to detail Government efforts to counter the difficulties women face when entering the economic sphere, including the provision of high-quality, reasonably priced childcare services which allow mothers to be involved in the economic life of the country.
TERESA AMERELLE BOUE, Secretary-General of the Federation of Cuban Women and Member of the Council of State of Cuba, said that the Commission’s priority theme requires particular attention from countries. Almost 30 years after the historic United Nations Conference on the Environment, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the situation remains increasingly troubling. Neoliberal policies and the irrational and unsustainable consumption patterns impede equitable development of peoples, accelerate the environmental destruction and expand gender gaps. Article 16 of her country’s Constitution promotes the protection and conservation of the environment, as well as climate action. Despite the unprecedented effects of the economic blockade imposed by the United States even during the pandemic, Cuba’s climate action plan made up of 5 strategic pillars and 11 tasks focused on the protection of human life with a gender perspective, contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 13.
DOREEN SIOKA, Minister of gender equality, poverty eradication and social welfare of Namibia, said that, due to Namibia's dry nature and reliance on rainfall for agriculture output, the country has been affected by the detrimental effects of climate change over the years. To this effect, her Government has responded by implementing climate‑resilient agricultural efforts that can adapt to shifting climatic circumstances, including enactment of laws and programmes such as the Environmental Management Act and the 2013 National Policy on Community‑based Natural Resource Management. Highlighting her country’s legal framework, which strongly promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, she also said that the National Gender Policy (2010-2020), which calls for women's involvement and participation in areas related to natural resource management, environmental preservation, and climate change, is being reviewed. Other initiatives include the introduction of climate resilient agricultural programmes aimed at reducing food insecurity. In the 2019 and 2020 financial years, 19.3 per cent women and 14 per cent males benefited from that initiative, accounting for 34 per cent of the targeted 120,000 crop-growing farmers, she said.
HALA MAZYAD ALTUWAIGRI, Secretary-General of the Family Affairs Council of Saudi Arabia, underlined the importance of protecting the rights of women as they are linked to the protection of the environment, as indicated by the Rio conventions. Her country has aligned its national plans with international instruments, prioritizing sustainable development. Saudi Arabia has launched many initiatives to protect the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change with women involved. Sixty-four initiatives target the restructuring of the environment sector, including a transition to renewal energy. In 2021, as a major oil exporter, it launched the large-scale projects, Green Saudi Arabia and Green Middle East. Her country will also aim to achieve zero emissions by 2060. In this transition, the Government encourages women to take on new jobs in the green economy. Without their participation in climate action and environmental management, “we cannot move forward”, she said.
SANDRA SANCHEZ-MONTANO (Philippines) said her country’s location in the Tropical Cyclone belt and Pacific Ring of Fire means it faces the constant and severe risk of extreme climate-related and geological hazards. Recounting some of the devastation it has seen in recent years, she also noted the slow-onset impacts of climate change on human health, agriculture, fisheries, livelihoods, and food and water security, all of which are suffered more severely by women. In response, the Government has implemented multisectoral, participatory, inclusive and gender-responsive plans and policies, also taking a pro-poor perspective in all climate change and renewable energy efforts. Among other initiatives, she drew attention to the creation of the Climate Change Commission which spearheads gender mainstreaming into all local and national adaptive capacities, the long‑term National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan and the Climate Change Expenditure Tagging programme, which monitors gender-responsible climate work.
MARÍA LILIAN LÓPEZ, Executive Director of the Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Women of El Salvador, aligning herself with the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the diverse impact of climate change requires attention. El Salvador has made important progress in protecting women and girls by including them in climate change strategies, among other things. The Government has opened specialized care centres for women facing violence and is providing technical assistance to implement public policies on women and girls. Institutional coordination is required in promoting such policies, she said. Other initiatives support strategies that invest in women working in the textile industry. Climate projects include a gender perspective, including efforts to reach rural women to manage knowledge and good practices in climate‑resilience efforts. As for governance, women are decision makers in biosphere committees and other areas. Nationally determined contribution provisions also include a gender approach, she said, calling on partners to support these efforts and expressing hope to move forward together.
HILOLBI QURBONZODA, Chair of the Committee of Family and Women Affairs of Tajikistan, highlighted national progress in including gender themes into various efforts. A national development plan contains gender perspectives and considers climate change to have had an impact on agriculture, water resource management and industries heavily dependent on the environment. Noting that 93 per cent of Tajikistan is covered in mountains, she said that, each year, economic losses are experience in these and other sectors. At the same time, women face the burden of care. As such, efforts must focus on these sectors, as climate change is an important part of the twenty-first century reality. In addition, internally displaced persons are a concern. Underlining the importance of conducting a national gender analysis, she said efforts are also under way to lower the risks of natural disasters. Highlighting Tajikistan’s commitment to the issue of water resources, as well as its many resolutions on related issues, she invited delegates to attend the forthcoming second International High-Level Conference on the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018-2028, to be held in Dushanbe.
MAZIAH CHE YUSOFF, Secretary General, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia, said that, because of the major floods which affected the inland states of peninsular Malaysia last year, her Government has placed greater emphasis on women’s empowerment in these situations, including allocation for disaster relief assistance for the protection and well‑being of disaster victims. Malaysia is also enhancing laws on gender-based violence in the aftermath of disasters, she said, highlighting a bill on sexual harassment, currently awaiting its second reading. In addition, the National Council for Women was established as a platform to identify initiatives to empower women. Climate change, in addition to COVID-19, threatens to exacerbate poverty and inequality among women. This is not only the case for low-income earners in economic activities, which are mostly affected by climate conditions, such as agriculture in highly exposed suburban coastal areas, but it has also impacted women in informal jobs residing in urban areas, she pointed out. Education on sustainability needs to begin at home with mothers empowered to make decisions impacting themselves and the family. Providing opportunities for girls in receiving formal education in the field of science, technology, engineering and maths will also enable more women to assume leadership roles in climate change adaption
INLAVANH KEOBOUNPHANH, President of the Lao Women’s Union of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said her country successfully chaired and hosted the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) first Ministerial Meeting on Women and adopted the Vientiane Declaration on the “Enhancing Gender Perspective and ASEAN Women’s Partnership in Environmental Sustainability” in 2012. In addition, her country has achieved remarkable progress in its development of legislations, policy and strategic framework related to women’s participation in addressing climate change and environmental protection. The National Assembly has previously adopted the Law on Environmental Protection, Law on Disaster Management, Decree on Climate Change and the Law on Gender Equality. Likewise, the National Green Growth Strategy and nationally determined contributions have also been adopted and the Women Advancement Plan have been incorporated into its national and local socioeconomic development plans.
ATTILA BENEDA, Deputy Secretary of State for Family Policy in the Office of the Prime Minister of Hungary, expressing concern about the war in Ukraine, noted that Hungary, a long time ago, committed itself to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women. This commitment extends to the protection of the planet. Studies in Hungary have shown that more women attach more importance to the protection of the environment than men. Women also have an unpaired vision and perspective on everyday life, know how to nourish, heal, protect and sustain in their roles as activists, experts, first responders, drivers of positive change and role models for sustainability. It has become crucial to ensure their involvement in policy and decision-making processes. The Hungarian National Assembly adopted the Act on Climate Protection in 2020 and has made important steps towards that goal. Hungarian carbon‑dioxide emissions per capita are among the six lowest ones in the European Union, and 60 per cent of the electric‑power‑generation in Hungary is carbon-dioxide-free. Since 2010, more than 100 protected natural areas have been designated in Hungary and the amount of recycled waste has increased from 31 to 70 per cent in the past decade. In addition, in 2020, Hungary launched the Climate and Nature Protection Action Plan towards a green transition, among them an initiative to plant 10 trees for every newborn baby, he said, pointing out that, by 2030, forest will cover 27 per cent of the country.
NIRMITA HOU, Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Women's Affairs of Cambodia, highlighted her country’s progress in mainstreaming gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate change and disaster risk reduction into national and subnational planning. Examples included the Climate Change Strategic Plan and a national action plan for disaster risk reduction. The Government has ensured gender and climate action is at the forefront, with the inclusion of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the inter-ministerial climate change technical group, among other things. Cambodia aims to reduce 42 per cent of its emissions by 2030 and leverage gender equality targets by highlighting the linkages between gender equality, social inclusion and resilience building. The Ministry of Environment Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Plan 2021-2025 was launched to promote and empower women in protected areas. Cambodia also recognizes the need to use gender and climate change statistics, as well as gender-responsive climate budgeting and financing to enable evidence-based decision-making, accelerate implementation of climate commitments and demonstrate transparency and accountability. Promoting women’s leadership in politics and public administration and ending gender-based violence is critical to nurturing sustainable economic growth, she said, noting that Cambodia recognizes women as the “backbone of the national economy and social development”.
MONICA BOTERO, Director of the National Institute of Women, INMUJERES, Ministry of Social Development of Uruguay, condemned the unprovoked, unjustified Russian invasion of Ukraine and expressed solidarity with the women and girls of Ukraine, who are showing courage and resilience following this attack. Turning to climate change, she said that the phenomenon’s differentiated impact on men and women is not due to biology; rather, it is due to vulnerabilities rooted in the roles historically assigned to genders. Women’s resultant lack of access to economic and educational resources affects their capability to generate mitigation and adaptation measures in response to climate change. Noting that the concept of gender equality is incorporated in most multilateral environmental agreements, she said that the Government is committed to capacity-building and generating knowledge to address climate change. She went on to say that combating the threat of climate change requires policies that rectify gaps affecting women, which also offers the opportunity to pursue equality in the areas of education, research and decision-making.
MOHAMMED SAHIB MARZOOQ, Deputy Head of the Human Rights Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, detailed national efforts to empower women by promoting gender balance in the workplace — according to levels of effort, expertise and qualifications — along with measures to reduce violence against women and girls and ensure these individuals have access to water, food, medical care and dignified housing. The effects of climate change are clear in Iraq, he stressed, as the country faces the grave threat of water scarcity in what he described as the “rivers that witnessed the birth of the first civilizations on Earth”. Further, deserts are expanding, agricultural land is shrinking, and historic effort is required to combat this phenomenon. He went on to highlight Government efforts to increase women’s participation in decision-making, noting that 195 Iraqi women won seats in the National Assembly. Laws have also been passed to compensate Yazidi women survivors, and national efforts are under way to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) by facilitating women’s leadership in negotiation and peacebuilding.
SYLVIE DURRER, Director of the Swiss Federal Office for Gender Equality of Switzerland, condemned the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine. Her country does not intervene militarily in an armed conflict, but its neutrality obliges it to make every effort to uphold the fundamental values of democracy, respect for the rule of law, and the protection of human rights. The historic decision to phase out nuclear power was taken by a majority-female Government. Women also made a difference in certain popular votes, such as the one to shift freight transport from road to rail with a view to better environmental protection. Without the full participation of women, the country’s response to any crisis — whether environmental, economic, social or political — cannot be sustainable. Switzerland has drawn up its 2030 Gender Equality Strategy, which provides measures to improve the representation of women at decision-making levels. Women’s participation in the science, technology, engineering and math sector is a priority.
The representative of Czech Republic expressed sympathy and solidarity with women in Ukraine affected by the Russian Federation’s aggression. His country’s citizens are helping refugees within its border. Welcoming the session’s main topic, he said the pursuit of gender equality and environmental protection are the two main objectives of the world. However, the interlinkages between the two are not fully explored. Women have huge potential to help combat climate change. Similarly, the labour market transition offers a potential for women’s economic empowerment. Last year, his country established the Gender Equality Strategy, consisting of 400 measures to promote gender parity. However, peace is a precondition for any global issue to be resolved. His country is running for membership of the Commission in the 2022 elections, he said, calling for support.
KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said ensuring gender equality and protection of women’s rights is a crucial sociopolitical issue that affects the future of a country’s development. The policies led by the “people first” principle ensure that all women in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea fully enjoy their dignity and rights, through such legislation as the Law on Equality between Men and Women and the Law on the Nursing and Upbringing of Children. Women are involved in all sectors, and nurseries, kindergartens and other modern and comprehensive public service facilities in residential areas, factories and enterprises are relieving women of household chores and allowing them to participate in their labour activities. These and other initiatives are the consistent and principled position of the Government to promote international cooperation and interaction aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination against women and ensuring gender equality and empowerment of women.
JOPHIE TANG (Singapore) said sustainable development requires the full participation of women in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life. To this end, Singapore aspires to become a fairer and more inclusive society, where equal opportunities are available to women, at every stage of their lives. Around the world, women and girls have stepped up to lead the fight against climate change as scientists, engineers and heads of non-governmental organizations. They have made their mark in visible and impactful ways in Singapore, including the group of Women in Sustainability and Environment. This is the first women’s society in Singapore to focus on concerted gender action to ensure responsible consumption and production patterns in line with the national Green Plan 2030. Women are well-educated and contribute actively to the economy in Singapore, she said, noting that, in 2021, the literacy rate of resident females was 96.4 per cent and the employment rate of resident females aged 25 to 64 was 75.1 per cent. Women occupy close to 30 per cent of seats in parliament in 2021, and its President is a woman.
GABRIELE CACCIA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, recalled the words of Pope Francis that the world is faced “with one complex crisis that is both social and environmental”. Poverty and hunger, two of the greatest challenges in the world today, disproportionately affects poor women and girls. It was critical to confront harmful actions and attitudes and eradicate the poverty and scarcity that leave too many families without enough to meet their needs. Many women — particularly those living in rural areas and in developing countries — rely on natural resources for their livelihoods and contribute to familial and communal well-being through food production and ecological stewardship. However, many encounter barriers that men do not, such as the lack of land rights and financial resources. Ensuring equality in both law and practice is necessary for women to thrive. The burden for addressing environmental harms is too often placed on poor women and those living in developing countries. Some so-called development programmes have involved coercion — such as forced sterilization — often targeting indigenous women. Further, the promotion of contraception and abortion serves neither women nor the environment, “but, instead, contributes to the throwaway culture we must overcome to achieve integral development”, he added.
ALIAA ALI (Syria), emphasizing that women’s rights are inalienable, complementary and an integral part of human rights, said that her country has ratified the main international instruments on gender equality and harmonized national legislation with international standards in this area. The Constitution guarantees that women have every opportunity to participate in the country’s political, economic, social and cultural life. Climate change is causing challenges around the world, and the international community must focus its efforts to adapt and limit the repercussions of this phenomenon. However, the war that her country has been afflicted with through terrorist and successionist forces has created difficult circumstances. Successionist militia, with the help of illegal foreign forces, have taken over oil fields in the country’s north-east, and appear to be guilty of anarchic oil production with no regard for the environment. This has led to significant water, ground and air pollution. Thus, these illegal practices have coincided with the desertification and drought from which the region generally suffers, negatively impacting agricultural land.
JEEM LIPPWE (Federated States of Micronesia), aligning himself with the Pacific Islands Forum, noted that, last year, a woman was elected to the national Congress for the first time. In addition, more women were elected to the state legislatures. Women have also been represented as cabinet members in the states and the national Government, as well as taking up leadership roles as justices in both the states and national courts. The Government has also provided scholarships to many young women, and has extended maternity leave and has provided fixed‑term paid leave. Climate change and sea-level rise continue to exact the highest price from women and girls, he said, highlighting the Emergency Declaration, which provides much‑needed supplies and relief goods to the affected. He called for cooperation and assistance from the international community to meet their mitigation, adaptation and climate financing commitments. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the global digital divide and exposed how the pandemic greatly disadvantaged the women and children from small island countries. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s digital cooperation road map, he also acknowledged women’s role as important agents of change for climate change adaptation and food security. This inclusion of women in decision‑making for agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors promotes partnerships between all genders, he said.
LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria) condemned the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unjustified military invasion of Ukraine. Turning to the priority theme, she said climate change, disasters, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss disproportionately affect women and girls. Moreover, they exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities and create conditions for all forms of discrimination. Stressing the need to build resilience by empowering women and girls, while also including them in every level and every aspect of decision-making, she drew special attention to women human‑rights defenders and women-led organizations, as they play a key role in the process of empowerment. Bulgaria also attaches great importance to youth-led organizations as they bring added value and a new approach to the topic of gender equality. Climate change and climate policies are not gender neutral. Due to structural gender inequalities and norms, women and girls are exposed to more risks. Stressing that women and girls are agents of change, she said that their needs and interests must be taken into account in order to enable sustainable development and realize the 2030 Agenda.
NASEER AHMED FAIQ (Afghanistan) said his country is not represented by a woman in this Commission for the first time in 20 years. Despite the gains made over the period, following the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021, the socioeconomic and political situation drastically changed, and all progress regressed. The country is now faced with multiple crises, such as economic and humanitarian, drought and natural disasters, the pandemic and security, with women and girls have been the prime victims. There are continued credible reports of human rights violations committed by the Taliban, including house searches, arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. He requested Member States and international partners to continue their support to Afghan women and girls and to convey a clear message to the Taliban that the rights of Afghan citizens, in particular women and girls, are non‑negotiable. He also called for the intra-Afghan talks under the auspices of the United Nations and other stakeholders to agree on a road map for the future of the country, leading to the establishment of an inclusive, responsible, representative Government with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.
DOMA TSHERING (Bhutan), noting her country was already carbon‑negative, commended the Commission’s focus this year. Citing a 2020 study on gender and climate change in Bhutan, she noted that rural women are more vulnerable than men to the effects of climate change and climate-induced disasters. As climate change exacerbates challenges faced in the agriculture sector, and half the farming population in Bhutan are women, she called for a gender‑transformative approach in climate related policies and actions, as well as efforts to strengthen awareness and capacity‑building. This must go hand in hand with gender-responsive, climate‑smart and -resilient agriculture, along with sustainable energy consumption and production, sustainable transport systems and sustainable waste management. She affirmed Bhutan’s resolve to combat any form of violence against women and children, including through the Gender and Child Protection Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan, which includes emergency helplines, counselling services, medical care and safe refuge for victims. A multisectoral task force and community-based support system were also built, in partnership with civil society, to address the immediate needs of victims, she noted.
ABDULLAH ALI FADHEL AL-SAADI (Yemen) said that, as a signatory to major treaties on women’s rights, the Government is working within the parameters of the Beijing Declaration. Citing activities in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Framework and the Paris Agreement to address climate change, he said that the conflict in Yemen has stymied efforts to protect the environment. To that end, the Government needs international support for such efforts. Women have paid a heavy price in the war, he said, pointing to ongoing developments that have undermined constitutional order in Yemen. The Constitution ensures their right to equality and protection against violence, he said, emphasizing that women work on a range of efforts to address many challenges Yemen faces. National negotiations with all institutions, governmental bodies and the United Nations are in line with the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. He expressed hope that these and other efforts will lead to progress in ensuring the rights of women and tackling climate change consequences.
ALYSON CALEM-SANGIORGIO (Monaco), calling for the protection of women in Ukraine, said females are disproportionately affected by such crises. The Glasgow Climate Pact highlights the importance of including women in climate action. Efforts have been taken to promote a non-sexist environment. Monaco has also adopted more ambitious production targets aimed at achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The national energy plan is in line with Monaco’s commitments to the Kyoto Protocol and has turned gender into a main priority in its partnerships with other countries. Underlining the importance of gender disaggregated data, she said efforts are under way towards improvements. Women lead ministries and are working on Monaco’s transition plan. Acknowledging that women are affected disproportionately affected by climate change, she said Monaco will continue to advance to their rights.
ANDREAS HADJICHRYSANTHOU (Cyprus) said that the duality of this year’s theme presents a significant challenge: how to prevent increased inequality as a result of climate change and disasters on the one hand, and how to use such crises as opportunities to enhance equality, on the other. It was critical to develop a strategy to eliminate constitutional, legal, administrative, cultural, behavioural, social and economic obstacles to women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in the climate change and all other spheres. To that end, he called for a policy of zero tolerance towards inequality, unequal pay, discrimination, violence against women and bias in public discourse. “We need to tackle more decisively the patriarchal stereotypes we perpetuate from generation to generation,” he stressed. Emphasizing the importance of a solid legal framework to that end, he noted that measures can be taken to empower women, not only when faced with disaster, but in enabling them to prevent, adapt and mitigate climate risks in their communities.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) highlighted his country’s 2,500-year history where women enjoyed independence, equality and participated in decision-making in the ancient royal courts. Therefore, it was not surprising that Sri Lanka became one of the first countries to adopt universal adult suffrage in 1931, allowing all men and women above 18 years of age to vote and elect their leaders. As well, in the 1960s, it had the world’s first woman Prime Minister. Today, Sri Lankan women are at the forefront in the fields of health, education, administration, legal and technical disciplines and have achieved success in traditionally male‑dominated fields, including engineering, among others. The Government is currently amending certain personal laws to empower women in order to bring such legislation in line with the international treaty bodies to which they are a party. The policy response to fulfil the State obligations towards management of disaster risk is significant, as it has realized that the climate crisis and natural disasters disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, such as the impoverished and economically insecure, the homeless, women and children. In addition, the Government has taken several measures to mainstream gender in climate change‑related strategies and activities, and in the National Policy and Action Plan on Disaster Management formulated in 2013.
VILIAMI VAʻINGA TŌNĒ (Tonga) said today’s meeting has real and resounding echoes for his country in light of the unprecedented 15 January eruption of an underwater volcano that caused a tsunami and severed communications to the island, affecting 84 per cent of the population. In spite of that devastation and the challenges wrought by COVID-19, Tonga continues to tackle gender equality, climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction under its regional and international commitments, and through its Strategic Development Framework (2015‑2025). Citing some of those efforts, he said the Government is responding to the needs of women and the most vulnerable populations following the January disaster, ensuring that they have access to basic and essential services. For example, the REACH programme focuses on female-headed households impacted by the tsunami, providing psychosocial support and gender-based counselling.
ILANA VICTORYA SEID (Palau) said her country is proud to be one of the very few traditionally matriarchal societies in the world. In Palau, women have historically held clan wealth and land, which is passed down through mothers, and women choose male leaders or chiefs. Palau became an independent democracy in 1994 and has transitioned to a modern form of government. But, its traditions are still alive and well. A majority of Palau’s school principals, lawyers, Supreme Court judges and bureau directors are women. Half of its ambassadors are also women. “This is a demonstration that when women have a voice, when they are respected as individuals, when they are shielded from gender bias, and they are allowed to lead — they do”, she said. Some of the indicators correlated with having a strong female society included one of the highest literacy rates in the world — nearly 100 per cent. Over 91 per cent of the population has access to safe water, sanitation and electricity. Palau also had one of the most pristine environments in the world, with large swaths of protected areas, and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site. However, due to the traditions of choosing male leaders, only 8 per cent of the congressional seats are held by women. Out of eight ministers, only one is a woman. Nonetheless, Palau is proud to be a case study to show that great accomplishments can be made when women have a voice and given a chance.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon) said that the Government, for many years, has worked to provide women with the same decision-making space and active role as held by men. Further, Gabon continues to update its domestic legal framework to provide women with the full opportunity to participate in national development. Noting that poor women and those living in rural areas are most vulnerable to economic crises, armed conflict and natural hazards, she also pointed out that women play a key role in the management, conservation and use of natural resources. They occupy a key position to be front-line employers of effective adaptation measures. She added that 60 per cent of her country’s population lives in coastal areas — particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change — and as a result, the Government adopted a national plan for such areas in 2019. This plan will strengthen women’s participation in disaster risk reduction by adopting gender‑specific policies to support them, and she emphasized that women can be actors for change in line with Sustainable Development Goals 5 on gender equality and 13 on climate action.
AIDA KASYMALIEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said that her country’s national development strategy for 2018-2040 aims to integrate gender and human rights into policies in the areas of climate change, disaster risk reduction, economic development and environmental protection. Further, programmes addressing climate change, environmental degradation and natural hazards — considering the impacts of these phenomena on women’s health and well-being — aim to ensure the availability of health services and reproductive, mental health and psychosocial support during and after disasters. She also detailed her country’s national action plan for 2022-2024, including measures to mainstream a gender dimension into policies and action plans for climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation; to support women’s participation and influence in managing the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources; and to provide education and training for women and girls in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and sustainable energy.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO, (Mozambique), aligning himself with the Group of African States, Community of Portuguese‑Speaking Countries and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), stated: “COVID-19 has walloped the world’s women.” Citing a recent report by Oxford Famine Relief Organization International, worldwide, women lost 64 million jobs — $800 billion in earnings — in 2020 alone, a figure that is more than the combined GDP of 98 countries. For his country, “build back better” means listening to women. Mozambique is the eighth most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change in the world and the third in Africa, with women and girls disproportionally affected. The impact of climate changes on women and girls manifests in gender-based violence, abuse, forced unions and trafficking, as well as reduced participation in economic activities. This increases income inequality between men and women. The Cyclone Idai that hit the country in 2019, affecting 787,624 people, of which 53 per cent were women; more recently, the cyclones Ana and Batsirai happened, as well. Against that backdrop, he underscored that his Government recognizes that women play an indispensable role in the sustainable management of natural resources, as well as in responding to the effects of climate change, a fact that has allowed the country to become a pioneer in the world in addressing gender and climate change issues.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said that armed conflict, climate change and natural hazards have one thing in common — women and girls pay the highest price. The Commission’s theme shed light on the most important issue: women and girls are the most vulnerable in climate change and disasters. It is thus important to involve women in all environment policy drafting and implementation. In Kuwait, women lead many sectors. His country’s social security leaves no one behind, he said, expressing appreciation to women, who were the first responders during the past two years of the pandemic.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) said it is important to develop disaster-risk-reduction programmes due to the devastating effects of climate change. Measures to fight climate change cannot succeed without the participation of women, who accounts for 50 per cent of the population. Women raise children and transmit knowledge to future generations. Russian women are solving climate‑change-related problems, and are represented at the highest level, including many deputy positions. The Russian Federation is working together with Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) via a high-level forum, which, in October 2021, examined the role of women in protecting the planet. Environmental protection, including waste management, is a top priority for his country. It is reflected in its climate doctrine.
PHILIPPE KRIDELKA (Belgium) expressed solidarity with all women and girls living in situations of conflict or other emergencies, stating that his country stands with those in Ukraine who have demonstrated resilience and courage in the face of Russian aggression. Also expressing concern over reports of sexual and gender‑based violence perpetrated by Russian armed forces, he demanded that Moscow immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine and withdraw from that country’s territory. Turning to climate change, he stressed that issues of gender equality and the environment are “indivisibly linked”, and that gender analysis — based on disaggregated data — should be applied throughout the policy‑development cycle. Belgium has employed this gender-mainstreaming approach for many years, while also promoting an intersectional one that accounts for the specificities of certain groups. Adding that women and girls are too often underrepresented in environmental and climate decision-making, he said that their equal participation is not only an objective for achieving gender equality, but would also allow the global response to benefit from their unique knowledge and experience.
AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea) said that for five centuries, the desire of the few to privatize nature for limitless profit has led to the degradation and destruction of our planet earth. Existing inequalities and gender-based roles and responsibilities cause women to bear the brunt of the effects of climate change. Yet, in many parts of the world, women have demonstrated remarkable resilience and innovativeness. In many parts of the developing world, because of existing knowledge about nature and expertise on sustainability, women continue to lead many local initiatives to combat climate change and tackle its consequences in their communities. There must be international political will and solidarity with developing countries to ensure successful cooperation on climate change, and he called on developed countries to refrain from restrictive financial and political measures, including unilateral sanctions. Acknowledging women’s role in effectively mobilizing communities in disasters, especially for in a country vulnerable to climate change, like his own, he affirmed his country’s commitment in meeting challenges in gender equality in the context of climate change by strengthening the national regulatory framework and addressing the gaps in enforcement.
JAN BEAGLE, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), stated that there is a persistent disparity between the promise of justice for women and girls and the realities on the ground at home, at school, in communities and in the workplace. This justice is essential to empowering women and closing the gender gap, and to this end, the Organization works together with UN-Women and national partners to eliminate discriminatory laws and practices. Further, it works to promote survivor-centric approaches to violence against women and girls by helping justice institutions prevent and respond to gender-based violence and empowering survivors to access justice and rebuild their lives. Pointing out that countries in which women are excluded from decision-making have increased levels of environmental degradation — and that having more women in Government correlates positively with reduced carbon emissions — she said that promoting a gender-responsive approach to climate action through the rule of law is an increasingly important area of the organization’s work. She went on to offer several examples of such work, including supporting Rwandan women as land-use mediators as part of national legal reforms to promote sustainable land tenure.
MYRNA CUNNINGHAM, First Vice-President of the Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, stressed that indigenous people and indigenous women have developed their own system of protecting the environment, avoiding exploitation of resources and using sustainable services offered by the Mother Earth to guarantee that future generations have access to resources. Indigenous territories are rich in biodiversity. Women are the guardians of such resources, contributing to the whole of mankind. But, they continue to face challenges, such as systemic violence and discrimination. This session offers a chance to generate discourse for achieving gender equality in the context of climate change and disaster risk reduction. Her country, Nicaragua, was hit by a hurricane in 2020. Indigenous women played a key role in saving lives and livelihoods, and in recovery. This Commission should recognize the contribution of indigenous peoples to responses to climate change and disasters.
MARIA HELENA SEMEDO, Deputy Director-Genera of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that migrant women and girls are increasingly facing the challenges of having to adapt their livelihoods in the context of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters. IOM helps migrant women to adapt to these new realities. In 2020 alone, approximately 3.1 million women and girls benefitted from its work to reduce risk and build the resiliency of communities in 45 countries. It is of utmost importance to raise the bar for migrant women, she said, stressing that they must be recognized as rights holders. It is also important to integrate gender equality considerations into policies, programmes and services on climate change mitigation and adaptation, disaster risk reduction and environmental migration. Cross-sectoral partnerships must be promoted to address the gendered challenges of migration and displacement linked to climate change in multilateral frameworks and processes, including the Paris Agreement, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. In addition, greater evidence and data is necessary to raise awareness of the disproportionate impact of disasters on women and girls and in ensuring gender-sensitive responses and recovery.
MARIA HELENA SEMEDO, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), noted encouraging trends to address gender issues in climate action, such as developing countries’ increasing use of gender-specific approaches, responses and engagement in the agricultural sector. However, more action and investment are needed to translate commitments into concrete improvements in the daily reality of women and girls. Females play a major role in how humans grow, harvest, process, store, transport, buy, sell, prepare and consume food; yet, they are disproportionately affected by climate vulnerability, conflict and economic slowdowns, all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. To transform the agrifood system, women and girls cannot be left out; rather, they must be at the centre of the solution, as well as at the table designing that solution. More attention must be paid to women’s specific needs, building their resilience and giving them direct access to the tools and resources needed to deal with the climate crisis. She added that, for its part, FAO supports countries in developing gender-responsive climate policies in the agriculture, forestry, fishery and livestock sectors.
ISABELLE DURANT, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said: “The pandemic has shown the glaring evidence of structural injustices in the existing social and economic system. The war in Ukraine is sending shocks enhancing them.” Looking back in history, she described gender inequality as the oldest, and longest-standing structural and systematic injustice. Women contribute 76 per cent of unpaid work time and 43 per cent of paid work time; COVID-19 helped to make invisible or undervalued work more visible. She went on to note that climate change is not gender neutral, and women tend to have less mobility to react to climate change. “Decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation and CO2 emissions is central for sustainable development. In fact, it is an imperative,” she said. It was essential to apply gender as a lens into the social inclusion and development impact of economic policies, such industrial, trade policies, blue and green economies, as well as to include care economy in the measurement and indicators beyond GDP. Calling for climate adaptation, she also stressed the need for better data to design more inclusive policies, both in the area of gender and climate.
VALERIE GUARNIERI, Assistant Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), recognized the critical role that women play in building community resilience to adapt to the climate crisis. Addressing the root causes of gender inequality and advancing the economic empowerment of women and girls are key to achieving zero hunger. Women and girls play an essential role in growing, preparing and marketing food, and overseeing family nutrition. Despite this, they remain more food-insecure than men. Addressing social norms and unequal power relations in the context of food security and nutrition involves supporting each household member to examine who, why, how much and by whom food is acquired, prepared and consumed. WFP is making climate risk insurance work for food insecure populations — by triggering forecast-based anticipatory action before humanitarian crises hit. It is also taking action through the applications of risk analysis, early warning and emergency preparedness approaches. In 2021, the agency helped protect 2.6 million people in 18 countries with climate risk insurance — 60 per cent of whom were women. In addition, WFP support people to restore natural buffer zones, rebuild infrastructure and reduce the impacts of climate hazards and puts cash, vouchers and food in the hands of women to meet their family’s immediate food needs while supporting ecosystem-based adaptation activities.
MAMI MIZUTORI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, said the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction will continue to emphasize an all-of-society approach to disaster risks, as all hands must be on deck to build resilience. Women and girls are affected disproportionately when disaster strikes. Women’s capability and skill‑sets are often undermobilized and undervalued. To redress these imbalances, women and girls need to become empowered, problem-solving agents of change for resilience. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction calls for gender-responsive disaster risk reduction and the mobilization of women’s leadership in building resilience. She urged Governments to engage women and girls in implementing the Sendai Framework, including in developing national and local disaster-risk-reduction strategies. To date, 50 countries have reported some form of sex disaggregated data in the Sendai Framework Monitor system. Looking ahead, the 2022 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction soon takes place in Bali, Indonesia. As a multi-stakeholder event, it provides an opportunity to ensure that women’s voices are heard. Equal access on opportunities leads to better disaster risk reduction, and strong disaster risk reduction supports gender equality. Both sets of stakeholders can work together on creating a new coin with equality on one side and empowerment on the other.