Finding gender in the COP 17 negotiations

Finding gender in the COP 17 negotiations

Date: December 8, 2011
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“Women instinctively know what the effects of climate change are,” said the South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and incumbent COP 17 President, Maite Nkoane Mashabane. Mashabane was speaking at the opening of a high-level meeting on Women Leaders’ Commitments on Gender and Climate Change in Durban, co-convened with the President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, Mary Robinson. Robinson added, “They are instinctively intergenerational…” because of their biological role.

Women in Africa perform 90% of household level work. Such work is highly undervalued, and not at all accounted for in the calculations of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Yet, it is increasingly being recognised that because of their lived experiences, women have deep-seated knowledge on how to adapt to climate change.

It is with this in mind that ten years ago, Decision 36, taken at the 7th Conference of the parties (Decision 36/C.P7), “invites Parties to give active consideration to the nomination of women for elective posts in all bodies established under the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol.” This decision was intended to assist in ensuring the integration of gender in all decisions related to climate change.

The fact that the high-level dialogue, attended by women ministers, deputy ministers, negotiators, key civil society figures and senior women leaders, was officiated by three powerful women who are key movers and shakers of the COP 17 climate negotiations is testimony to some positive shifts ten years on from Decision 36/C.P7.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Mashabane, President of COP 17, and Robinson are holding their own and have pledged to ensure that gender issues are taken on board and women represented in all structures.

An important message coming out of the meetings is that women across the 135 countries need to press for “high ambition (in the outcomes)… not abstract but strong ambitious outcomes for example on climate financing” said a representative from the Caribbean Island.

The Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice organisation shared a checklist on Gender at COP 17 and what to look out for in the negotiating documents:
– Green Climate Fund (GCF) – it is important to ensure that the gender references included in the governing instrument of the GFC developed in October 2011 are maintained in the final text on the composition of the GCF board. In the GFC text, there is a reference to the need for gender balance/equal representation of men and women.
– Standing committee – Draft text states that the Standing Committee should take into account the need to achieve gender balance.
– Adaptation Committee – Decision 36/CP.7 is referred to. For example, the need for a country-driven, gender sensitive, participatory, fully transparent approach; emphasising that the work of the Adaptation Committee should take into account gender perspectives. The call is for these references to be re-inserted in the text.
– National Adaptation Plans – The modalities and guidelines of the NAPs have been developed over the last year. On 4 November 2011 a synthesis report was issued which contains seven references to gender. There is need to make this language stronger.

Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO)’s call for a Durban agreed outcome that considers gender resonated with all at the high level meeting. WEDO had done their homework. They provided an audit of women and gender references in what WEDO considers as their priority areas on adaptation, climate change financing; technology and mitigation/REDD+ with a key message to either support, retain or strengthen current language.

Senior women leaders from leading state and non-state agencies made 12 or so solidarity statements and commitments during the meeting. On aspect missing from the discussions is how each regional bloc will bring the commitments home to translate into language that women in communities can identify with.

It will also be important to integrate key outcomes from COP17 related to gender and embed this in policy frameworks to sustain the interventions. For example, in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), beyond COP 17 there is a real opportunity for change through making amendments, or developing an Addendum to, the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development to include provisions on gender, climate change, sustainable development and disaster risk management.

After discussions of SADC and REDD+, Loga Virahsawmy Gender Links’ Francophone Director spoke to the SADC Secretariat Engineer Joao Samuel Caholo, Deputy Executive Secretary – Regional Integration regarding the inclusion of an article on Gender and Climate Change in the Gender Protocol. He assured her that the matter is being taken up at a higher level, suggesting that SADC is moving in the right direction.

Gender Links coordinates the work of the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance, a regional network of organisations that campaigned for the SADC Gender Protocol and is pushing governments for full implementation of the 28 targets set for 2015. The Alliance has started a petition to call on governments to adopt the idea of the Addendum.

Under the banner “Women Unite…for a fair, transparent, equitable and inclusive COP 17/CMP7” the meeting emphasised that all women from across the North to the South have a role to play. It is not only women in households in the developing countries who need to play an active role in the climate change agenda, women from the developed world have a significant role to too. The household decisions they make, such as which appliances to buy and which cars to drive, contribute to the changing climate. By uniting women across the world, change is possible.

Loveness Jambaya Nyakujarah is the Alliance and Partnerships Manager at Gender Links. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service and African Woman and Child Feature Service special series for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence and COP 17 Conference


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