Eyes on the GGCA at CSW59: Gender Inequality and Climate Change: How to Tackle a Double Injustice

Our own Vicky Markham, GGCA Network Development Officer, covered GGCA Member's participation at UN CSW 59th session side-events, New York, NY, March 2015. This is the fourth in a series of blogs about the events, their highlights, speakers, discussions and GGCA member involvement.

The UN system labyrinth can be formidable, even daunting, to navigate - and particularly if you wish to influence the process, provide evidence, or have your voice heard by UN decision makers and country delegates. We face this now with the UN's CSW59, Post 2015 development agenda, SDGs and UNFCCC processes.

Yet putting that aside, at the same time they present extraordinary opportunities to have input into global policies that will change lives and be grounded in real-world dynamics and people. And, there are distinctly successful ways to have that input, as many witnessed recently at the UN's CSW59 NGO side-events organized and attended by a cohort of GGCA members.

One such side-event, on "Gender Inequality and Climate Change: How to Tackle a Double Injustice", (Tuesday March 10, 2015, 11:30-12:45pm) showcased some of the most impressive and effective ways I have seen to influence the UN processes: through charismatic, well-informed champions who grab our attention and present us with crystal clear, concrete direction, policy options and actions as we venture down the "gender and development" path.

CARE International, the government of France, IUCN, NGO CSW/NY and WEDO organized the impressive event with Moderator Martha Chouchena-Rojas, CARE's Head of Global Advocacy, and speakers Honorable Mary Robinson, UN Special Envoy on Climate Change and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, Lakshmi Puri, Executive Director of UN Women, Lorena Aguilar, Global Senior Advisor, IUCN (all GGCA members), and senior government representatives of France and Peru (below).

CSW GCC Double Injustice Champions Side-Event Panel. Photo Credit: V. Markham/GGCA.
CSW GCC Double Injustice Champions Side-Event Panel. Photo Credit: V. Markham/GGCA.

Its purpose was to identify ways to address what the speakers called the "double injustice" of: a) gender inequality, and; b) climate change, at a critical moment when governments are negotiating the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the UN's climate convention in Paris this fall, and in the midst of the UN's Post 2015 development agenda process to set up the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

My heroines didn't disappoint as each panelist presented their unique perspective.

Mme. Pascale Boistard, French Secretary of State for Women's Rights, opened by stating that "climate change was the most unjust occurrence of all, along with gender inequity"…and that they were inextricably linked. Her sentiments, shared by others on the panel, were clear:

  • Women must be elevated to be change agents rather than victims in this development process.
  • We need to incorporate women's rights and gender equity into these UN processes (mentioned above).
  • France shows strong support and commitment to addressing gender and climate change linkages.
  • Women's rights are human rights.
  • Twenty years on from the Beijing Declaration, no country had gender equity.

She asked, "Why is it important to have gender at the heart of the climate negotiations?" She pointed to the fact that climate change is an issue of human development, that 70% of the world's poor are disproportionately women, thus more affected, less able to fight it than other groups, and that women's carbon footprint is much lower than men's.

"We must help women to become better equipped to adapt to and fight climate change", Mme. Boistard explained, adding "…Increasing women's representation in national and international negotiations on climate change is imperative to accomplish this." She ended with an appeal: "Let's be united in this debate," she stated, "It is 'Women United' that will allow us all to move forward."

CSW59 Side Event on GCC Double Injustice. Photo Credit: M. Lauter, CARE.
CSW59 Side Event on GCC Double Injustice. Photo Credit: M. Lauter, CARE.

The Honorable Mary Robinson reiterated how unjust climate change is, disproportionately affecting the poorest people and the poorest countries. This, combined with gender inequity, makes it the double injustice. She noted how much has been achieve since Beijing, but not in the climate arena. "Climate change is the most severe human rights issue of this century," she stated. "We are the first generation under climate change threats, and the last to be able to do something about it in order to have a major impact. We must address these two injustices by tackling both gender and climate change inequalities at the same time.  It's our moral duty."

Ms. Puri confirmed her solidarity with the panelists' messages and added a need to focus on mainstreaming gender in the CSW, COP21 and SDG processes, elevating women from being victims to influencers in these processes.

Lorena Aguilar outlined the road forward, with only nine months left to COP21, "the last 100 meters of a long marathon", she said. She reminded us it's been a nine-year process to integrate gender into climate change, but the fight wasn't over to strengthen the climate text and reinforce the Peruvian government's lead - the first time a President of the COP host-country embraced women's equity in relation to climate change. "Our mandate is to include men and women in this fight," Lorena pointed out.

She urged us to examine at the UNFCCC climate strategy to see if gender is mainstreamed. Her team has looked at all the national plans and gender equality is not in the majority of them, she noted, so something needs to change.

Climate finance is key, she added, a critical piece of the puzzle for all of this to happen. "For us, it's a matter of life and death," Lorena explained, "So we ask for your support."

What more motivation do we need - to mobilize this global movement to correct climate change in the context of gender equality, human rights and women's rights?

Next, see Blog #5 for a strong call by those among the most critically affected by climate change in "Human Rights and Climate Change - Our Environment, Our Life, Our Rights: Let's Talk About It", from the Pacific Islands.