South Africa: Government courts civil society ahead of COP17

South Africa: Government courts civil society ahead of COP17

Date: October 4, 2011
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South Africa’s government is in the process of courting civil society ahead of the 17th session of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework in Climate Change to be held in Durban from 29 November to 9 December. The Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation will host a consultative meeting with civil society organisations to provide an opportunity for them to contribute to the exchange of views on the future and impact of the climate regime negotiated in Durban.

Last month the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana Mashabane, reminded delegates at a ‘Consultative Dialogue on Women and Climate Change – preparing for Durban and Beyond’ on how global warming is going to affect the lives of many people around the world.

“Studies have shown that global warming, including the extreme weather conditions that it causes, will have calamitous consequences for millions of people. Global warming is one of the leading causes and greatest contributors to world hunger, malnutrition, exposure to disease, and declining access to water”. Adding that:” Moreover, it poses limitations to adequate housing, spurring the loss of livelihoods as a result of permanent displacement and migration of communities to escape drought or water shortage (for example). Therefore, climate change affects the economic and social rights of countless individuals; this includes their rights to food, health and shelter,” said Mashabane in her keynote address.

The minister said as climate change will inevitably continue to affect humanity; a key priority is safeguarding the human rights of people whose lives are most adversely affected – that is, women!

She added that: “I must, therefore, assure you that as incoming President I will strive to ensure the centrality of women in all global fora to advance the multilateral efforts to address climate change which impacts in a very pernicious manner on women, especially in developing countries. Fundamentally, climate change changes everything we have thus far known about development, with a huge potential of reversing the gains made by women in their emancipation. By shifting the goalposts of planning for sustainable development and distorting these, climate change makes it more difficult to fulfil global undertakings made to address the status of women.

Women produce up to 80% of the food in the developing world. However, drought and unpredictable rains brought on by climate change will make this work far more precarious. Mashabane said women will have to labour harder and longer to ensure their families have food, fuel, and water.

In the heat and dry season women in many developing countries have to walk further each year to find safe water for drinking and cooking, spending up to eight hours a day on the road. It is known that in Africa, women do 90% of the work of gathering water and food, and children, in particular girls, often share these responsibilities.

Although the UNFCCC does not address gender equality directly, there are numerous global commitments and agreements that make the linkage between gender equality and climate change. Known examples are: The International Conference on Population and Development (1994), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002), and the 2005 World Summit. All these instruments point to the pivotal role women play in sustainable development.

This year’s Durban climate change conference will run under the theme “Working Together, Saving Tomorrow!”


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