This article is written by Mouna Chambon.
On the 8th of May 2017, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Ms. Espinosa, was appointed Gender International Champion and affirmed her commitment to advance gender equality within the UNFCCC secretariat. “The full and direct involvement of women increases the array of solutions to climate change” she said.
Climate change is not gender neutral and women are disproportionately impacted. In Kenya, for instance, climate change causes a severe water stress and threatens food security because most of communities are pastoralists and highly depend on their livestock. Men often migrate in cities to find a job whereas women are left behind with children. Women, especially indigenous, are thus on the frontline of climate change. They are the ones who conduct most of activities on adaptation and mitigation. Yet, they are not systematically included into the policy-making at the national level. For that reason, Edna Kaptoyo became a climate activist in her country. As the coordinator of the Indigenous Information Network (INN), she was participating to the negotiations in Bonn and her address was unequivocal: gender equity and women empowerment must be urgently translated into concrete and measurable commitments from parties.
Translating the rhetoric into action
This was the challenging task of the SB46 in Bonn. If the Paris Agreement marked a turning point by explicitly recognising the principle of gender equity, the “COP of Action” was aimed to providing rather a “how to “for future gender-related mandates. At COP22 in Marrakech, Parties thus adopted the decision 21/CP.22 that extends the Lima Work Plan on Gender with a review in 2019. “This decision shows a clearer understanding of the gaps that need to be overstepped in the future” declared Fleur Newman, the UNFCCC Focal Point on gender. Consequently, an in-session workshop was held during the SB46 to develop possible elements of a Gender Action Plan (GAP) under the UNFCCC in COP23.
To be fully implemented, drafting the GAP requires cooperation between Party and Non-Party stakeholders. Consequently, the gender workshop at the SB46 was conducted on a very inclusive way. All participants were split in five working groups up. Representatives of the global South were particularly vocal in advocating for stronger commitments from the secretariat. “We believe that gender is one of the key crosscutting issue to tackling climate change” stated the delegate of Zimbabwe. Overall, participants highlighted the need for adequate climate finances, the development of sex-disaggregated data, the inclusion of social and gender experts within the IPCC and the integration of traditional knowledge. The final report was published the 17th of May on the UNFCCC website. This draft represents a compilation of the different views that were brought up during the two-day workshop, rather than a consensual document.
What are going to be the fallouts of this momentous document?
Well, it is not easy to say. Much more effort will be required so that this guideline translates into tangible gender-responsive actions. One of the main limits to the final outcome was the time constraint since participants had two days only to elaborating the draft document. Hence, the debate was steeped in a tension between “Is this document ambitious enough?” and “Is this realistic enough?“. Finally, the inclusiveness of all stakeholders turned out to be a critical point. Many participants from the civil society insisted for continuing to contribute to the whole process, through a web forum for instance.
In any cases, another unformal session will be hosted in Canada in September, bringing parties and civil society together prior the COP 23. Bridget Burns, from the Women’s Environment and Development organization (WEDO) is confident:” Developing the GAP on this very open way is a difficult process but it is important, otherwise participation remains an empty principle. At the end, I am convinced the GAP will include guidance for robust gender-responsive actions under the UNFCCC”. However, the GAP will need to be accompanied with strong financial resources and supportive mechanisms in order to be effectively implemented. Let’s meet in Bonn in November for the next update!
Ms. Stella Funsani Gama, delegate of Malawi . She actively contributed to the debate during the workshop by advocating for a greater gender balance within the Constituency body of the UNFCCC and delegations.
About the author: Mouna Chambon is currently completing her Master degree in Tropical Ecology in the National Museum of Natural History. She holds a dual bachelor in Political Sciences and Biology from Sciences Po Paris and the University Pierre and Marie Curie. After an exchange year in South Africa, she decided to focus on tropical ecosystems and biodiversity governance. As part of her Master, she has conducted a research project on the impact of climate change on women in Vanuatu. This experience aroused her interest in that research area. Subsequently, she joined CliMates and launched the project “Gender and climate change “ in January 2017. She speaks French, English, German and Italian.