Women’s Commission Approves First-Ever Set of Agreed Conclusions on Female Empowerment in Climate Change Context, Concluding Annual Session
The Commission on the Status of Women approved the first‑ever set of agreed conclusions focused on empowering women and girls in the context of climate action, as it concluded its sixty-sixth session late tonight.
Centred on the session’s priority theme — “Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes” — the agreed conclusions (document E/CN.6/2022/L.7) offer a range of observations, concerns and recommendations for action to ensure inclusive progress across efforts to inclusively build resiliency and recover better and greener.
By provisions of the outcome document, the Commission remained deeply concerned that all women and girls, particularly in developing countries and small island developing States, are disproportionately affected by the adverse impacts of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters. It further stressed the urgency of eliminating persistent historical and structural inequalities, racism, stigmatization and xenophobia, unequal power relations between women and men, discriminatory laws and policies, negative social norms and gender stereotypes, the unequal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, gender-based violence and eradicating poverty and disadvantages in access to resources, social protection systems and public services.
To address this, the Commission made a range of recommendations in the agreed conclusions. It called for creating space for youth, especially young women and girls, to participate in shaping the decisions on climate change, environmental degradation and disasters that will affect their future, and to this end, enhancing curricula at all levels of education. It also underlined the need for strengthening access to gender-responsive, safe, available, affordable, accessible, quality and inclusive health-care services and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services.
The Commission, through the text, urged Governments to take a range of concrete actions to: strengthen normative, legal and regulatory frameworks; integrate gender perspectives into climate change, environmental and disaster-risk-reduction policies and programmes; expand gender-responsive finance; enhance gender statistics and data disaggregated by sex; and foster a gender-responsive, just transition.
Once finalized, the agreed conclusions would be transmitted to the Economic and Social Council and its high-level political forum on sustainable development for inclusion in their work.
Sima Sami Bahous, Under-Secretary-General for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said the agreements reached by the Commission come at a point when the world urgently needs new and coherent solutions to the interlocking crises that impact everyone.
“We now have a pathway with practical, specific measures for global resilience and recovery, and a shared understanding that solutions depend on bringing women and girls to the centre,” she said. “Let’s capitalize on the work done here, put these agreements into immediate practice and move these decisions forward through all the major forums ahead.”
Mathu Joyini (South Africa), Chair of the sixty-sixth session, thanking delegates for their hard work and civil society for their contributions, said that, while progress has been made since the Beijing Declaration was adopted in 1995, much remains to be done, especially as demonstrated by the disproportionate impact on females of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. Highlighting the agreed conclusions, she outlined a range of areas requiring action, noting that climate finance should have a clear gender lens. “When the time comes to review the agreed conclusions,” she said, “we should bring back positive testimonies at all levels.”
Antje Leendertse (Germany), Vice-Chair of the Commission, who facilitated negotiations, noted that: “This is the first time we address the nexus of gender equality and climate change.” Indeed, during the negotiation process, she said, it was evident how important this nexus was to all delegates who engaged in constructive discussions in order to reach this agreement.
Before taking action on the agreed conclusions, several speakers shared their delegation’s positions, with many commending efforts made to reach consensus. China’s delegate said her delegation could not join consensus on paragraphs containing the term “human rights defender”, as there is no agreed upon definition. Saudi Arabia’s representative said it was necessary to move away from language that does not have consensus. Guatemala’s delegate regretted to note the omission of references to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and disassociated himself from references to sexual and reproductive rights, as it could include abortion, which is not in line with national legislation.
Also expressing reservations, the Russian Federation’s representative said the document contains ambiguous language and items that have not enjoyed consensus. Further, the Russian Federation understands gender-based violence to be violence directed at women and girls. National legislation, policies and measures must be applied equally to all on a non-discriminatory basis, which is a true meaning of gender equality, he said. Nicaragua’s delegate, referring to paragraphs containing references to sexual and reproductive health, said national legislation recognizes that everyone has a right to life, from the time of conception.
The Commission also sent several draft resolutions to the Economic and Social Council for action, approving one on women, the girl child and HIV and AIDS (document E/CN.6/2022/L.3), which would have the Council reiterate the continued resolve to achieve the commitments made in resolution 60/2 — approved at the Commission’s sixtieth session — and urge Member States to accelerate their implementation.
In approving the draft resolution “Release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts” (document E/CN.6/2022/L.4), the Commission would ask the Council to, among other things, urge States that are parties to an armed conflict to take all measures necessary, in a timely manner, to determine the identity, fate and whereabouts of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts, and to the greatest possible extent, to provide their family members, through the appropriate channels, with all relevant information they have on their fate and whereabouts.
Prior to that text’s approval, Armenia’s representative said the presentation of this draft resolution by a country that is on record for constantly violating the norms of international humanitarian law is a vivid example of cynicism and hypocrisy. Recalling that women and children were disproportionately affected by Azerbaijan’s large-scale military aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, he said that, as the world’s attention focuses on the security crisis in Europe, Azerbaijan has resorted to new armed provocations in violation of the fundamental human rights of the Armenian population, where the civilian population of two villages were forced to flee in the face of an imminent risk of being taken hostage or killed.
The Commission approved the draft resolution “Thirtieth anniversary of the fourth World Conference on Women” (document E/CN.6/2022/L.6), by which the Economic and Social Council would decides that at its sixty-ninth session, in 2025, the Commission will undertake a review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.
In other business, the Commission approved a text containing the report on its sixty-third session (document E/CN.6/2022/L.1), as well as the provisional agenda and documentation for its sixty-seventh session (document E/CN.6/2022/L.2). It also approved a draft resolution on the Commission’s future organization and methods of work (document E/CN.6/2022/L.5).
Briefly opening its sixty-seventh session, the Commission noted its decisions in 2021 and 2022 related to its current Bureau. For its sixty-sixth and sixty-seventh sessions, the Commission, in 2021, had elected Ms. Joyini (South Africa) to serve as Chair and Pilar Eugenio (Argentina) as Vice-Chair, and in 2022, had elected for the sixty-sixth and sixty-seventh sessions Māris Burbergs (Latvia) as Vice-Chair, and had decided that Antje Leendertse (Germany) would complete the term of office of Guenter Sautter (Germany) as Vice-Chair, for both sessions. The Commission also took note that the Group of Asia-Pacific States has deferred the nomination of their candidate for Vice-Chair of the Commission’s sixty-seventh session to a later date.
The Commission also recalled that, at the first and second meetings of its sixty-sixth session, on 26 March 2021 and 14 March 2022 respectively, it had appointed the Russian Federation and Turkey to serve as members of the Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women at its sixty-sixth and sixty‑seventh sessions. It also postponed the appointment of the three remaining members pending receipt of nominations from the African, Asia-Pacific and the Latin American and Caribbean States.
Also speaking were representatives of the United States (also on behalf of a group of countries), Brazil, Chile, Iran, Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council), Yemen, Indonesia, Liechtenstein (on behalf of a group of countries), South Africa, Guyana (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), India, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Tunisia, Ethiopia, El Salvador (on behalf of a group of countries), Iraq, Egypt, United Kingdom and France.
Observers for the Holy See and the European Union delegation also delivered statements.
The representatives of Azerbaijan and Armenia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.