“2 steps ahead”: Malawi Moving the Parties Forward on Gender in Climate Change

Today in the informal consultations on gender and climate change, Malawi, on behalf of the LDCs (Least Developed Counties negotiating group), presented a conference room paper as a draft of a decision to establish a 2-year work programme for gender under the UNFCCC. This paper was seen for the first time by most parties in attendance (as well as us lucky observers in the room), but almost in consensus they decided to use this paper as a basis for further negotiations on gender. Though, the parties of course reserved the right to add and subtract to the draft at their next meeting. Malawi’s proposal draws upon previous decisions and conclusions of the COP, namely decisions 36/CP.7  and 23/CP.18 and conclusions SBI/2013/L.16, to establish a framework for gender in climate change under the UNFCCC. In addition to recalling the previous decisions and conclusions and proposing a 2-year work programme, Malawi recommends the parties also strengthen thematic areas on gender though in-session workshops, create a platform for dialogue on gender in climate change by training both men and women in the issues, build skills for females (especially for the most vulnerable women), provide information relating to gender and equality, appoint a Senior Gender Equality Expert, and provide means for implementation, including making finances available.

Though the co-chair praised Malawi for being “two steps ahead,” it is because the UNFCCC is “two steps behind” that this issue doesn’t have a work programme yet. The UNFCCC was born at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, a conference that included many statements on the importance of women in the path forward on environmental issues. For example Agenda 21, the cornerstone of the Earth Summit contained many references to gender and the importance of including women as key participants, both due to their vulnerability as well as their capacity to be leaders in climate change. Principle 20 of the Rio Principles, also created by the parties in Rio, states: “Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.” In the more than 20 years since Rio, other agreements have reiterated the need to incorporate gender with environmental discussions, including the recently proposed UN Sustainable Development Goals and indicators which include one specific goal on gender with regard to sustainable development, but also synthesize gender issues throughout the Goals.

The same understanding on the importance of gender and women in environmental policies must be fully incorporated into the UNFCCC. Though progress has been made (in part demonstrated by the decisions and conclusions referenced above), not enough has yet been to done for gender balance under the UNFCCC. At COP19 in Warsaw, the parties agreed to this, that not only is gender equity and women’s involvement important to the UNFCCC, but also there is much work left to be done. (To learn more about the gender discussions from Warsaw read last year’s posts by Heather Crowshaw, Tracy Bach , and Taylor Smith).

Photo from UN Women

Photo from UN Women

Tomorrow and again later in the week, the parties will reconvene to discuss Malawi’s conference room paper, and thanks to the parties allowing observers back in the room, I’ll do my best to post on their progress within the week. Maybe the UNFCCC can finally take the 2 steps up to where it should be and agree to a convention on gender equity and the role of women.