Speakers from Civil Society Present Path Forward to Ensure Female Voices, Needs Shape Global Climate Crisis Response, as Women’s Commission Concludes General Discussion
Despite progress in bringing women to the table when shaping climate change responses, more must be done to ensure equality in local to global decision-making roles, delegates and civil society representatives said today, as the Commission on the Status of Women concluded the general discussion segment of its sixty-sixth session.
The session, held 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.)
More than 160 speakers — from Heads of State to civil society — spoke during the general discussion, which spanned several days since the session’s opening. Speakers today broadly agreed that, while progress has been made to include women in climate action initiatives, concrete actions are sorely needed, with many of those representing non-governmental organizations sharing ideas and perspectives to advance progress and ensure women’s empowerment and gender equality.
President Alejandro Giammattei Falla of Guatemala said that, while national action is guided by gender-responsive concepts, efforts must be bolstered, which he aims at doing through ongoing policies and programmes. Highlighting a range of national actions centred on addressing inequalities and meeting the needs and rights of women across various sectors, he spotlighted a few, including pandemic response plans that reach several areas of social development and a newly launched model of comprehensive care for victims of violence that provides such services as legal assistance and economic empowerment.
Thailand’s representative said the need for gender-responsiveness is stipulated in the Constitution. As such, the Government has introduced the Guidelines on Gender-Responsive Budgeting to help all agencies to allocate such concerns in their respective budgets and carry out programmes and projects based on gender-disaggregated information.
Almost 30 non-governmental organizations shared their concerns, expertise and recommendations today, with the speaker from Amnesty International calling on Member States to take bold actions to effect meaningful change. Countries must work together in the spirit of multilateralism and international cooperation to avert a humanitarian and human rights crisis on an unthinkable scale, prevent the climate breakdown and reduce the negative impact of the climate crisis.
The speaker for the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women said the four parameters of justice — equity, access, participation and rights — are deeply skewed against women and girls during climate change. Calling on Member States to take action to address their myriad needs, she asked them to include gender-differentiated impact analysis of climate change disasters and gender equality.
Similarly, the speaker from the Canadian Federation of University Women urged Member States to fulfil their Paris Agreement commitments and collective funding promises to close the finance gap, as stated at the Climate Vulnerable Finance Summit, and ensure actions to address climate issues are grounded in gender analysis and mainstreaming gender into national determined contributions.
The speaker from the International Disability Alliance pointed out that women with disabilities are not currently included in the design of policy, implementation or monitoring of national climate change mitigation policies. To change that, she said the necessary measures must be adopted to ensure their meaningful participation in designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating climate, disaster and environmental policies and programmes.
The speaker from Public Services International, reiterating that the climate crisis is gendered, said: “A ‘greener’ version of neoliberalism won’t address the structural causes of either climate change or gender inequality.” Instead, the concept of a just transition must have broader applications, including changing the sexual division of labour and revaluing women’s work and feminized sectors, such as care and health.
Drawing attention to several other concerns, the speaker from Advocates for Youth said that, during climate‑change‑induced migrations, women and girls — who are often the last to leave as men seek livelihoods elsewhere — face a disproportionate and heightened risk of gender-based violence as they are on the move and in new or unfamiliar environments. Pointing also to the disproportionate impact of climate change on young women and girls and its links to sexual and reproductive health and rights, he said access to a full range of services is critical to building community resilience.
Elaborating on the correlation between climate change and the increase of violence against women, the speaker from the International Federation of Medical Students’ Association said more girls will be subjected to such harmful traditional practices as female genital mutilation and child marriage, a clear violation of bodily autonomy and human rights. She urged Member States to propose climate change adaptation strategies that address the rise of these practices in national and local policies. Such efforts should include building social awareness and ensuring the empowerment and rehabilitation of survivors of such practices.
The speaker from Swedish Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, said that, globally, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) and gender non-conforming women, girls and people experience higher rates of poverty, homelessness, education and employment discrimination, and suffer worsened health outcomes than the rest of the population. As such, they must be properly consulted and engaged in the design, development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of strategies addressing the climate crisis and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the afternoon, the Commission held an interactive panel discussion on the theme “Building resilient futures: Bridging the gap between the physical science and social science communities to advance gender equality in the context of climate change, environment and disaster risk reduction”.
Also delivering statements during the general discussion were representatives of Liberia, South Sudan, Spain, Sudan, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Thailand, Djibouti, Costa Rica and Ghana. Observers for the Commonwealth and the League of Arab States also spoke.
In addition, representatives of the following organizations delivered statements: Action by Churches Together — ACT Alliance, Advocates for Human Rights, African Women's Development and Communication Network, Alliance for Arab Women, CHIRAPAQ — Centro de Culturas Indígenas del Perú, Congregations of St. Joseph, Education International, Foundation for Studies and Research on Women, Girls Learn International, Green Hope Foundation, International Planned Parenthood Federation, International Trade Union Confederation, Lutheran World Federation, MenEngage Global Alliance, New Generation in Action, United Cities and Local Governments, Voice of Specially Abled People Collective, Women in Europe for a Common Future, Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
The Commission on the Status of Women will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 24 March, to continue its work.
ALEJANDRO GIAMMATTEI FALLA, President of Guatemala, highlighted a range of national actions centred on addressing inequalities and meeting the needs and rights of women. One of the pillars of Government policies proposes a strategy to prevent violence in public and private spheres. In the same vein, pandemic response plans include areas of social development, with a focus on women, indigenous communities and elderly adults. Launched in March, a model of comprehensive care for victims of violence provides such services as legal assistance and economic empowerment. Special programmes to address gender-based violence provide health and other services for teenage girls. In the employment section, he cited initiatives focused on job training and economic empowerment that partner with small and medium-sized businesses, as well as Guatemala’s partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on breastfeeding projects to ensure the rights of mothers in the workplace. While much remains to be done, he said these goals are clearly defined in the Government’s policies.
WILLIAMETTA E. SAYDEE TARR, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Liberia, pointed to her Government’s efforts to include gender concerns in environmental planning and decision-making, including through capacity-building for women. Against this backdrop, the Government adopted its National Policy and Response Strategy on Climate Change. Her ministry has been working closely with relevant actors to fully implement the Land Rights Act, to provide women’s rights and access or ownership to farmland, and to enable women to benefit from concessions in those areas considering the environmental and disaster risks which have the potential to directly affect women, girls and children. Liberia has committed to several mitigation targets to reduce greenhouse‑gas emissions from the forest sector and to enhance carbon sinks, she said, stressing that such goals can only be achieved through the support of indigenous women.
AYA BENJAMIN LIBO WARILLE, Minister for Gender, Child and Social Welfare of South Sudan, said her country is committed to implementing the international and regional normative standards on women’s right, gender equality, climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction. Climate change has a detrimental impact on South Sudan; half of the country’s 10 states are experiencing devastating flooding; and at least 800,000 people have been displaced and have lost their livelihoods. Equally, poor management of oil waste has continued to pose threats to households, families and communities living in and around oil-producing areas. South Sudan is establishing a Women Enterprise Development Fund. The Government has appointed women in various decision-making structures, including the Ministry of Environment and it has developed gender action plans in line with the Glasgow Declarations and Rio Convention on climate change, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
IRENE MONTERO, Minister for Equality of Spain, noted that climate change affects the entire planet and all people, but not equally. It’s a phenomenon that deepens existing inequalities. As such, international institutions and all Governments must promote a just ecological transition. Like the pandemic, the ecological crisis requires coordinated action around the world, as no individual solution can resolve it alone. The feminist project, along with social environmentalism, are essential to tackle the climate crisis, and offer an opportunity to create a better, more just world, she said, adding that Governments must act decisively and courageously in favour of an egalitarian and sustainable world.
AHMED ADAM BAKHEID DUKHRI, Minister for Social Development of Sudan, underscoring the relevance of the session’s theme, highlighted significant progress, including policies, plans and programmes to coordinate action in public and private sectors. Recognizing the pioneering role women play in response and recovery plans, he said cooperation among partners is needed, in line with agreed international and regional instruments. As such, Sudan has integrated women’s issues into policies and strategies along the path towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Women’s status in Sudan is the result of decades‑long efforts, from when they gained the right to vote in 1953 to current guarantees to their right to participate in decision-making processes, as outlined in the Juba Agreement. In addition, laws now criminalize female genital mutilation, recognize the rights of refugee women and protect them from violence. Equality in climate policies also extends to work in cooperation with international and non-governmental organization partners, he said.
FAZILATUN NESSA INDIRA, State Minister for Women and Children Affairs of Bangladesh, said gender equality is a priority, with significant achievements in line with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The session’s timely theme addresses some of the challenges Bangladesh faces, she said, underlining the need for financing for the most climate‑vulnerable countries. Sharing several good practices, she said a gender thematic priority has been integrated in the national climate plan, which supports gender-responsive action. A gender-equal green economy is the goal, with policies supporting gender‑inclusive measures. Citing several examples, she said gender-responsive efforts ensure financing for communities and women’s organizations, a coastal mitigation project will reach 7 million people, and half of all national resilience projects reach women. Moving forward, she said gender climate justice must be introduced in a every national and international policy.
SAMRA FILIPOVIĆ-HADŽIABDIĆ, Director of the Agency for Gender Equality, Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said gender equality and empowerment of women remains a priority for her country, which has created a solid legal and institutional framework for it. Systematic progress has been made in recent years to integrate gender equality standards in the country’s legislation, strategies and public policies. Government institutions are increasingly taking on the commitments set out in the Gender Equality Law, the third generation of gender action plans and the action plan for implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, which are aligned with international commitments. Climate change adaptation, environmental conservation and disaster risk reduction are integral parts of gender‑equality policies and strategies in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Government is also finalizing a comprehensive environmental strategy with a strong gender component.
SUPARK PRONGTHURA (Thailand) said the Thai Constitution requires political parties to take gender equality into account when preparing their party lists. Gender equality and people-centred approaches must be integrated in all States’ key endeavours, including in climate action and disaster risk reduction programmes. Thailand has launched the Handbook on Gender Responsive Disaster Management and a draft National Adaptation Plan on Climate Change. The need for gender-responsiveness is stipulated in the Constitution. In addition, the Government has also introduced the Guidelines on Gender-Responsive Budgeting to help all agencies to allocate such concerns in their respective budgets and carry out programmes and projects based on gender-disaggregated information.
YOUSSOUF ADEN MOUSSA (Djibouti), endorsing the statements delivered on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, African Group and the Arab Group, said the pandemic rolled back progress, but gender equality gains have still been made. In the area of women’s rights, the Government promotes the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, with an appropriate level of international support playing a major factor. Implementing gender equality hinges on this financial assistance, especially in a global context that is complicated by such issues as climate change. For its part, Djibouti has taken steps to, among other things, broaden access to health care and it is working towards ensuring that all women enjoy the right to protection. Women play an important role in various sectors and levels, especially in the informal sector, which is a central part of the country’s economic fabric. Women are the pride of their families and the nation, he said, pledging Djibouti’s commitment to fulfil its obligations under international agreements and implement them to ensure women’s rights and the strengthening of efforts towards that goal.
MARITZA CHAN (Costa Rica) said that the climate crisis and ecological degradation affect populations unevenly, with women bearing the brunt. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are the only path to a sustainable green future. Her country has adopted measures to mainstream gender equality, including a national road map. Costa Rica recently updated the target for the nationally determined contribution to reduce greenhouse‑gas emissions. Other measures include greater use of land by women and the development of a national care policy. Costa Rica includes women in innovative environmental projects. She called for ensuring the equal participation of women in climate governance and their equal access to financing and technology. The right to a healthy and sustainable environment must be globally recognized in line with the relevant Human Rights Council resolutions, she said.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) said that her country’s fourth Republic Constitution of 1992 guarantees the fundamental human rights of all citizens, including women. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, continues to be guided by the national agenda for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Gender equality and climate change remain central to its development agenda and would continue to be prioritized in its National Medium-Term Development Policy Framework for 2022-2025, especially through the implementation of policy measures to reduce deforestation, ensure gender equality and increase the productive use of clean water and good energy. Other national policies that would continue to mainstream gender into climate change programmes, including the National Climate Change Policy and the National Strategy on Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.
PATRICIA SCOTLAND, Secretary-General of The Commonwealth, highlighted the cost of the pandemic for women, girls and gender equality, saying that the burden of care across the world — for those who are ill, and for children kept home from school — has been borne disproportionately by women and girls. All forms of violence against women and girls — especially domestic violence — intensified. “This is what I have called the hidden pandemic,” she said. “The Commonwealth Says No More” campaign is a unique campaign which brings together all aspects of society in its shared mission, with an online platform providing free access to useful tools and resources. The Commonwealth’s Women’s Forum convenes civil society to ensure the experience and perspectives of women are heard at the highest levels. Its Heads of Government will meet in Kigali, Rwanda, in June, along with Women’s Affairs Ministers, where these vital issues will be considered.
HAIFA ABU GHAZALEH, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of Social Affairs of the League of Arab States, said members have agreed on themes to address climate change in the region, with a focus on women’s issues. Initiatives aim at, among other things, enhancing data on women’s participation and implementing targeted efforts to include them. As the region is vulnerable to climate change, member States continue to host various international conferences to address these issues, including the upcoming Conferences of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2022 and 2023 and the “Green Middle East” forum in 2021. The division of social affairs is now preparing information on green agricultural efforts and other initiatives that advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with Sustainable Development Goal 5. This is important because women are often left out of planning for climate mitigation efforts, she said.
The speaker from Action by Churches Together — ACT Alliance said gender and climate justice are priorities for the organization’s advocacy and programmatic work. Deeply entrenched social norms and socioeconomic conditions shape the realities of the climate emergency, with women and girls disproportionately affected. She recommended that Member States adopt gender-responsive disaster-risk reduction measures that consider the needs, opportunities, challenges and roles and relationships that are shaped by social norms, increase international gender-responsive climate financing to address loss and damage and adaptation, and ensure access to universal social protection, including sexual and reproductive health services, public services and sustainable infrastructure, which are fundamental for building resilience.
The representative of Advocates for Human Rights noted that climate change and environmental degradation exacerbate the unequal burden that women bear. Recalling a report produced by the organization that examined gender diversity and inclusion in the mining industry, she noted that women are most impacted by the environmental and socially adverse effects in the mining and extractive industries. Women are traditionally responsible for securing and preparing food for the family, and they need to travel far for safe water and food, she noted. Pointing to the failure to include women in consultations before and during commercial extractive operations, due to cultural and geographical factors, she called on Governments and companies to plan, finance and operate with a view to gender equity and in consultation with all local community stakeholders, in order to support civil society, reduce the environmental and social impacts of these industries on the community, and mitigate violence against women.
The representative of Advocates for Youth pointed to the disproportionate impact of climate change on young women and girls and its links to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services is critical to building community resilience, he said. During climate change induced migrations, women and girls — who are often the last to leave as men seek livelihoods elsewhere — face a disproportionate and heightened risk of gender-based violence as they are on the move and in new or unfamiliar environments. Displacement as such also leads to increased maternal and infant mortality; harmful practices such as child marriage; and a greater risk of contracting HIV as health‑care systems and communities are disrupted. Supporting populations vulnerable to climate change such as young women and girls, including indigenous women and girls living in rural areas, is key for adapting to and mitigating the effect of climate impacts, he said, highlighting the urgency to engage women and girls in decision-making and climate change discussions.
The speaker from African Women's Development and Communication Network called for the restructuring of climate and environmental financing mechanisms to meet the realities, needs and priorities of African women and girls in all their diversity. Finance must be flexible, accessible, long-term and support African women and girls who are at the front lines of the climate crisis. She also demanded the equitable representation of African women and girls in the upcoming twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) in government delegations and an open space for women rights and youth organization engagement.
The speaker from Alliance for Arab Women said women in the Arab region face inequalities in accessing services and resources and exposure to all forms of violence. Seventy-five per cent of the Arab region’s poor people are women. Climate change will worsen women’s conditions because of their very limited ownership and control over land and problems in accessing water and their right to use it. Women’s local traditional knowledge in agricultural regions makes them well positioned to observe changes and to respond to them through different adaptive practices. Women therefore should have access to technology for preventing and mitigating the adverse effects of climate change.
The speaker from Amnesty International highlighted actions Member States can take to respond effectively to the climate crisis and meet their obligations under international law, emphasizing that countries must work together in the spirit of multilateralism and international cooperation to avert a humanitarian and human rights crisis on an unthinkable scale, prevent the climate breakdown and reduce the negative impact of the climate crisis. States must also take the most ambitious measures possible to reduce greenhouse‑gas emissions and limit global warming to 1.5°C, with wealthier nations taking the lead in reducing emissions faster and providing adequate climate finance to lower-income countries. Member States must also adopt the necessary measures to protect individuals from the unavoidable effects of the climate crisis, ensure all climate responses are based on the full protection and realization of human rights, including women’s rights and gender equality, and recognize women human rights defenders while ensuring they can carry out their activities without fear of intimidation and reprisals.
The speaker for the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women said the four parameters of justice — equity, access, participation and rights — are deeply skewed against women and girls during climate change. Calling on Member States to take action to address their myriad needs, she first asked them to recognize that gender equality and women’s empowerment are central to development, environmental sustainability and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, Beijing Platform for Action and the International Conference on Population and Development’s Programme of Action. Member States must also uphold sexual and reproductive health and rights, acknowledging the co-benefits in contributing to climate adaptation, mitigation and resilience. She also called on Member States to recognize women in all their diversities as agents of change and ensure their meaningful participation in the planning, financing and implementation of climate responses including in mitigation and adaptation initiatives at all levels, at all times. In addition, she called on Member States to ensure that national policies, programming and budgets related to climate change and disaster risk reduction incorporate gender mainstreaming and sexual and reproductive health and rights, and include gender-differentiated impact analysis of climate change disasters and gender equality.
The speaker from the Canadian Federation of University Women expressed support for the United Nations assessment that legislation and regulations to reduce emissions must be implemented at the Member State level in order to drive transformative change. As such, she urged Member States to fulfil their Paris Agreement commitments and collective funding promises to close the finance gap, as stated at the Climate Vulnerable Finance Summit and ensure actions to address climate issues are grounded in gender analysis and mainstreaming gender into national determined contributions. She also called on Member States to conceptualize climate change as a security risk through the women, peace and security agenda, direct at least 25 per cent of humanitarian funding to grass‑roots organizations to address the root causes of climate-induced migration and plan a transition away from non-renewable energy by retraining, reskilling workers in the energy sector. In addition, she called on Member States to regulate the private sector especially relating to the activities of the resource extraction sector and include gender equality targets related to climate in trade agreements.
The speaker from CHIRAPAQ — Centro de Culturas Indígenas del Perú said the climate crisis and disasters are caused by human actions that are based on an economic model which stems from exploitation. As such, indigenous women and girls are affected disproportionately by the impact of climate change and are not considered when designing measures to mitigate disasters. To change this, she called on Member States to recognize the importance of indigenous women and youth and to harmonize international commitments with individual and collective human rights. She also called on them to include indigenous women and youth in the process of designing policies, from local to global levels. Recognizing indigenous territories is equally important, as is promoting the participation of women and young people. In addition, protection measures must reach indigenous women and youth, she said, reiterating that need for Member States to guarantee that they mainstream individual and collective rights into all relevant climate action efforts.
The representative of Congregations of St. Joseph, speaking on behalf of 12 organizations that are part of the Mining Working Group Coalition, said people, including indigenous women, near extractive sites bear the brunt of human rights and environmental impacts. The principle of free, prior and informed consent to be guaranteed to indigenous peoples is often violated. Women must not only participate in these spaces, but have an equal voice in decisions, she said, welcoming the resolution passed at the Human Rights Council on the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment and calling on the General Assembly to also recognize this right.
The representative of Education International, speaking on behalf of the global union federation of over 32 million teachers and education support personnel, said that, for the green economy to function, just transition plans must create rights-based, climate-friendly jobs, especially for young women in the science, technology, engineering and math sectors. Placing women at the centre of a just transition means an investment in low-carbon transport, an end to occupational segregation, job formalization, developing a rights-based sustainable food system and redistributing unpaid care responsibilities.
The speaker from Foundation for Studies and Research on Women urged an end to the development modalities based on extractivism that evict the populations from their territories and destroy the environment. Governments should ensure the redistribution of the benefits from extractive activities and move towards resilient economies. Latin America and the Caribbean is the most unsafe region for women rights defenders. These persecutions, and deaths, must end. She urged the Governments in the region to ratify the ESCAZU Regional Agreement and to ensure the rights of self-determination and participation of indigenous people.
The speaker from Girls Learn International urged Member States to create disaster resilience programmes, invest in disaster-resilient hospitals, homes, schools and shelters, and ensure girls’ equal access to nutritious foods, clean water, menstrual products and proper sanitation facilities. Economic insecurity from climate change forces girls into unpaid domestic labour like caregiving and fetching water, hindering their ability to learn, complete their education and build careers. Without economic security and access to the formal economy, girls are at risk for increased violence. Member States must equip girls with the skills needed to problem-solve and help lead the response to the climate crisis.
The speaker from the Green Hope Foundation said the pandemic has significantly hampered the progress made on gender equality, especially in the global South. Lack of infrastructure and the yawning digital divide have imposed major constraints that seem insurmountable for regions and communities to tackle by themselves and it is largely left to non-State actors to find innovative solutions to rebuild. At a policy level, there needs to be focused agenda-setting from multilateral institutions to address issues regionally and locally, taking into account the unique complexities that exist at a grass‑roots level. As challenges are unique at the local level, the solutions need to be equally creative. There is an urgent need to revamp the education system in some countries, with a focus on vocation-based pedagogy so that a tangible link to entrepreneurship and employment is established that includes a gender focus. The pandemic has created a frightening scenario where there is a risk of losing an entire generation of girls and young women, as millions are yet to return to the education system.
The speaker from the International Disability Alliance said that women and girls with disabilities experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. They are at greater risk for experiencing harm because of climate change, including a heightened risk of violence, and will experience more barriers to support due to their gender and disability. In the aftermath of disasters as result of climate change, they are most likely to be left out, experiencing barriers to accessing assistive devices, health care, education and more. Women with disabilities are not currently included in the design of policy, implementation or monitoring of national climate change mitigation policies. The necessary measures must be adopted to ensure the meaningful participation of women and girls with disabilities and their representative organizations in designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating climate, disaster and environmental policies and programmes.
The speaker from the International Federation of Medical Students’ Association said that climate change puts all lives at an increased risk and disproportionately affects vulnerable groups. There is a correlation between climate change and the increase of violence against women, including harmful traditional practices. More girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation and child marriage, a clear violation of bodily autonomy and human rights. The Association, which represents the collective voice of 1.3 million medical students worldwide, urges Member States to propose climate change adaptation strategies that address the rise of these practices in national and local policies. Such efforts should include building social awareness and ensuring the empowerment and rehabilitation of survivors of such practices.
The speaker from the International Planned Parenthood Federation said that the climate crisis has devastating impacts on the realization of human rights, the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Deeply ingrained forms of discrimination mean that women and girls are at a higher risk of experiencing the harmful effects of the climate crisis. Extreme weather events can prevent people from accessing health services. In humanitarian response work, sexual and reproductive health services are often underprioritized and underfunded. The climate crisis may pose particular risks for the rights and health of those with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics, due to frequent marginalization. Sexual and reproductive health and rights must be recognized as an important element of climate change adaptation. Governments should recognize sexual and reproductive health and rights as a critical component of policy on climate change adaptation.
The speaker from the International Trade Union Confederation called on Member States to engage in social dialogue with trade unions and guarantee decent work for all, including the formalization of informal work, the creation of 575 million decent, climate‑friendly jobs, universal social protection, underpinned by international labour standards, and to double public investments in care to create 269 million decent care jobs. Member States should overcome occupational segregation, including by ensuring women’s access to jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math sectors, and applying International Labour Organization (ILO) Guidelines for a Just Transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies. Further, they should deliver on gender‑responsive climate finance, enlarge fiscal space through progressive tax policies and end tax havens so the wealthiest companies and countries contribute the most. States must address gender energy poverty and provide universal access to publicly owned green energy; build climate‑friendly, sustainable food systems with decent jobs; and establish quality climate change education. Member States should also ensure women’s equal participation and representation in decision‑making and leadership roles. Ambitious national gender-transformative transition plans can preserve the planet and build resilient economies and just societies.
The speaker from the Lutheran World Federation said addressing the climate emergency cannot be postponed. As women are on the front lines of climate catastrophes, she urged the international community to ensure that the knowledge, experiences, differentiated needs and capacities of women, girls and youth are incorporated into the creation, design and execution of programmes to address climate change. In addition, she called for allocating adequate financial resources for climate change action, including those implemented by faith actors who are at the forefront of supporting millions of people affected by climate change around the world. She also asked the international community to ensure the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Paris Agreement on climate change, including all the key gender dimensions and perspectives.
The speaker from MenEngage Global Alliance said cooperation is needed more than ever before, given the continued injustices in the world. The feminist analyses demonstrate clear links between the climate emergency and social injustices, showing how these injustices are rooted in common systems of power, exploitation and militarism, as well as in the histories of colonial resource extraction, capitalist industrial production and global North dominance. Calling attention to the role of patriarchy and patriarchal forms of masculinity in perpetuating social and environmental injustices, he said these norms must be challenged on a global scale and transformed. Corporate and government leaders must be held accountable for their destructive environmental policies and practices. Political complacency and excuses must be seen for what they are: gross failures of leadership and a tragic failure for humanity and all life on Earth, he said, urging action — with men and boys as allies — to transform patriarchal masculinities and harmful power structures. Governments must act in line with the demands of Fridays for Future, including: a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects; annual binding carbon budgets; economic, racial and gender justice in climate policies; protecting and safeguarding democracy with citizen participation in climate decision-making; and making ecocide an international crime.
The speaker from New Generation in Action said women produce 60 to 80 per cent of food in developing countries, yet, worldwide, they own only 10 to 20 per cent of agricultural land. As such, the organization is tackling the issues of data and policy development that will provide the proper research often overlooked and play a role in the local food system. It is also supporting and implementing transformational change through quality education, training and resources so women can have a livelihood and understand how to properly grow cocoa without damaging crops with pesticides and understand the dangers of deforestation. Due to the lack of means and need to fulfil immediate survival requirements farmers — specifically women — feel they have no other choice but to illegally remove trees to be sold as wood or give up land for illegal gold without understanding that they are being stripped of sustainable agricultural resources. Her organization is using films to raise awareness of deforestation, climate change and gender equality while forming partnerships with stakeholders who are helping cocoa farmers, especially women. There is a long way to go, as gender equality and female empowerment can be a hard task considering age-old culture, tribal customs and even life expectancy due to limited resources. Realizing the Sustainable Development Goals will require all stakeholders to work together to help.
The speaker from Public Services International called on the international community and all levels of government to support a transformational, feminist, just and equitable transition. The climate crisis is gendered, she said, noting that women bear a disproportionate brunt of the impact of climate disasters, displacement and migration while enduring energy poverty, care burden and climate‑related loss and damage. “A ‘greener’ version of neoliberalism won’t address the structural causes of either climate change or gender inequality,” she said. The concept of a just transition must have broader applications, including changing the sexual division of labour and revaluing women’s work and feminized sectors, such as care and health.
The speaker from Swedish Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, said that, globally, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) and gender non-conforming women, girls and people experience higher rates of poverty, homelessness, education and employment discrimination, and suffer worsened health outcomes than the rest of the population. They must be properly consulted and engaged in the design, development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of strategies addressing the climate crisis and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, all stakeholders must tackle the exclusion, violence, discrimination and economic and social insecurity faced by the LGBTI communities.
CAROLINA COSSE, Mayor of Montevideo, Uruguay, spoke on behalf of United Cities and Local Governments, as well as the local and regional governments constituency. She said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that in the face of major, collective challenges, such as the climate crisis, it is essential to take an inclusive and caring approach that puts people and planet at its centre. Women and girls, the LGBTQI community, children, persons with disabilities, older persons and people from marginalized ethnicities, among others, are disproportionately impacted and commonly the first to have their sociopolitical and ecological rights compromised in times of crisis. Emphasizing the importance of feminist leadership, she said the pandemic prompted local and regional governments to pursue innovative measures to ensure equitable access to services for all. “By upturning deep-rooted gender norms, we can begin to build new narratives and just, climate-resilient pathways for all,” she said.
The speaker for Voice of Specially Abled People Collective, said the twenty‑first century constellation of economic, environmental and climate crises is largely attributable to the historic pattern of unsustainable production, consumption and land use, as well as the exploitation of marine, coastal and terrestrial resources. Noting that climate change and corresponding extreme weather events disproportionately impact women and girls with disabilities, she called for the elevation of their voices as active participants in the planning, implementation and monitoring of emergency disaster responses. Appropriate services for women and girls with disabilities in situations of climate-related risk and natural disaster should be made available and their accessibility should be secured by removing physical, communicative, social, cultural, economic, political and other barriers, including the expansion of quality services in rural and remote areas, she added.
The representative of Women in Europe for a Common Future stressed that there won’t be sustainable development without peace. Standing in solidarity with victims of wars, including those in Ukraine, she called for an end to military interventions and solutions through discussions with women at peace tables. Noting that feminist, indigenous and youth-led organizations are leading the fight against climate change, she pointed out that women are still relegated to perpetuated traditional roles and suffer from sexual and gender-based violence and underrepresentation in environmental and climate decision-making. Stressing that finance hardly reaches feminist, indigenous and youth-led organizations, she also called on States to put gender equality at the top of their environmental and climate agendas and fully include civil society in all related efforts.
The representative of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling highlighted the disproportionate impact to climate change faced by Palestinian women under Israeli occupation, and the numerous and systematic environmental violations to which they are subjected. In the West Bank, Israel intentionally destroys Palestinian agricultural lands, which endangers the health, well-being and safety of women and children. Due to the continuous expansion of illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, settler violence on agricultural lands is becoming more frequent, she noted, also pointing to Israel’s confiscation of water tanks and trucks. As such, 95 per cent of water is undrinkable in the besieged Gaza Strip. The international community must hold Israel accountable for its environmental violations in the occupied territories and urge Israel to end practices that hinder Palestinian women’s access to their natural resources and stop its settlement‑expansion and exploitation of such resources. She also called for a special resolution regarding the conditions of Palestinian women under occupation and called on Palestine to take all measures to ensure the effective, meaningful participation of women in decision-making related to climate change.
The speaker from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, taking the floor on behalf of 10 million girls and young women from around the world, said that girls and women are already playing a critical role fighting climate change. More than half of girls consulted consider that climate change is not being treated with the same seriousness as the COVID-19 pandemic. In the last two years, the world has seen what can be achieved when Governments commit to quick, bold and joint action. “We want to see this urgency and unity applied to the climate emergency,” she said.
In the afternoon, the Commission held an interactive panel discussion on the theme “Building resilient futures: Bridging the gap between the physical science and social science communities to advance gender equality in the context of climate change, environment and disaster risk reduction”. It featured the following panellists: Noelene Nabulivou of Fiji, Co-Founder of Diverse Voices and Action for Equality; Lorena Aguilar of Costa Rica, an independent expert on gender and the environment; and David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment. Kehkashan Basu of Canada, Founder of the Green Hope Foundation, served as discussant.
Ms. NABULIVOU presented several proposals and ideas to advance research and ensure the inclusion of gender perspectives. Highlighting that a form of knowledge “silo-ing” continues between different spheres of science and social sciences, she said there is often an assumption that experts have interdisciplinary interests, when in reality they may not. In addition, feminist research continues to be considered as complementary, she said, noting that development cultures can be “a little boring”, with the same ideas circulating in the same think-tanks. Discussions should instead include a range of issues and perspectives, with enhanced support across these fields of study. Some sets of research are unlikely to be done by most States, but rather would be conducted by non-State organizations. The ideal situation is a partnership that would join States and researchers to ensure the inclusion of such considerations as feminist‑focused, cutting-edge studies. Citing a range of new available research, she said the best research is grounded in local settings, and the most helpful climate change studies move between numbers and narratives of people affected. Such research galvanizes action, she said, commending ongoing collaborative approaches.
Ms. AGUILAR said that, in the 2021 ranking of 1,000 leading climate researchers, only two women were among the top 50. Women researchers are less likely to be nominated for awards. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change — works with thousands of scientists. In 2018, the Panel established a task force to enhance gender parity within its own organization. However, gender parity is far from being realized across climate research communities, including in the Panel. Women scientists accounted for 8 per cent of those communities in 1990. The percentage rose to a third after six assessments. Barriers that hinder progress on women’s advancement in science include a lack of time as they take on more care responsibilities, she said, also citing a lack of confidence, limited writing skills and poor access to computers and other technology. Fair representation is crucial, as diverse perspectives, offered by women, can improve the quality of research. By side-lining women, the scientific community is side‑lining an opportunity for innovation and transformation, she said, pointing out that women are powerful resources.
Mr. BOYD said the Human Rights Council’s resolution that recognized the right to live in a clean environment sets a forward-looking tone for climate action. The global climate crisis requires the best chances to address it — by empowering women as agents of change. Human rights can be a catalyst for transformative change, from emancipation to women’s rights, including the right to clean air and a safe climate. The right to a clean environment comes with a toolbox that must be accessible to all women and girls, as non-discrimination is essential. Scientific evidence demonstrates that women and girls are tremendous agents of change, he said, pointing to recent reports of women who are, among other things, using climate-smart farming techniques. In addition, corporations with more women on their boards of directors invest more in climate action. Ensuring the full participation of women in environmental management will help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and also will ensure their empowerment. But, there is a long way to go, he said, calling on stakeholders to engage women and put them in leadership positions.
Ms. BASU, describing the Green Hope Foundation, said the organization works with climate‑change-impacted communities in regions that are “literally on the periphery of development”, mainly in the global South and in places where challenges are exacerbated by social strictures, archaic beliefs and a lack of education. Recounting her experience working against climate change from the age of 12, she said the discourse has long been dominated by a technical-scientific framing based on notions of objective knowledge, control and efficiency. Today, that has shifted to a discourse of climate justice with a greater focus on the grass roots, which has steadily moved climate change awareness from an abstract phenomenon to one that is more tangible, multi-layered and intersectional. “However, the adaptation of scientific knowledge in grass‑roots feminist action remains an unconquered frontier,” said. In that context, she called for more platforms that enable feminist critiques of climate science, work more closely with communities and make possible a broader range of social justice interventions — especially as the world rebuilds from the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the floor was opened to delegations, the representative of the United States said that the climate crisis and gender equality are inextricably linked. She quoted her country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Linda Thomas‑Greenfield, who said that “the climate crisis is sexist”. The leadership of women and girls extends beyond governance, she said, stressing that they must be empowered as innovators, entrepreneurs and founders of on-the-ground initiatives. The Biden-Harris Administration’s strategy on climate calls for both domestic and foreign policy action to address the disproportionate impact of the crisis on women and girls. The climate crisis may be sexist, but its solution need not be, she said.
The representative for the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that tackling climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the present time. In order to respond effectively, its causes and consequences need to be understood, as well as the different impact it has on women and girls. She underlined the importance of building bridges between all scientific fields to identify all solutions to achieve sustainable development. She also stressed the need to eliminate gender segregation and the digital gender divide, while noting that access to quality education for girls must be increased at all levels. Women and girls are agents of change and their full potential needs to be harnessed, she said.
The representative of the United Kingdom asked about disabled women in the context of the present discussion, noting that they had not been mentioned. The twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow showed that urgent action is needed to stop the rights of disabled people from being neglected in the battle against climate change. Despite disabled people constituting 15 per cent of the world’s population, their rights and perspectives have been neglected in responses to a changing climate. Around the world, disabled people are being hit hard by extreme weather events such as droughts and wildfires. These are catastrophic for disabled people who are more likely to be marginalized by poverty and other social barriers and, as a result, less likely to be evacuated safely.
The representative of the Philippines said that gender equality and development must be integrated as basic elements in climate action. It is time to recognize underlying gender inequalities that worsen the vulnerabilities of women and girls. Climate adaptation finance must flow with urgency and be available to the most vulnerable communities. Alongside the sciences, the humanities must be included to promote narratives addressing the climate crisis, he said.
The representative of South Africa said his country established the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences in 2013. South Africa seeks to empower women in combating climate change and recognize their participation in science. He drew attention to the upcoming World Science Forum in his country, the first in Africa. The theme, “science for social justice”, centres on the issue of gender equality.
The speaker from the World Farmers’ Organization said she represents the world’s 1.5 billion family farmers. By not including them, “we are wasting resources”, she said, adding that those resources could be used to tackle climate change, reduce disaster risks and enhance food security. Issues affecting farmers should not be discussed “over our heads”, she insisted.
The speaker from the Episcopal Church said the organization’s digital asset mapping enables the identification of the human, spiritual, physical and financial resources across all 112 dioceses and 9 provinces within the Episcopal Church and beyond. The mapping helps examine and interpret environmental, climatic, social and economic data in the context of local parishes, ministries and institutions.
Ms. NABULIVOU highlighted some gaps in to cross- and multidisciplinary evidence to support the advance of legislation and programmes, stressing the need for more data, for example, on how climate change impacts wage gaps and income inequality.
Mr. BOYD said that the climate issue lacks an accountability mechanism. This is the reason to employ human rights approach to tackling climate change. Human rights provide accountability, with some Governments being held accountable in courts. The climate emergency needs finance now that would match COVID-19 responses by Governments.
Ms. BASU reiterated the importance of applying an intersectional lens to the issue, calling for more disaggregated data to achieve feminist climate justice.
Also speaking were the representatives of Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and Sudan, as well as several civil society organizations.