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Human Rights Council holds panel discussion on women’s rights and climate change: climate action, good practices and lessons learned

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2019年6月28日

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON 

28 June 2019

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a panel discussion women’s rights and climate change: climate action, good practices and lessons learned.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that across the planet, the climate crisis was stripping people of their rights and identity, and even in some cases, their homes, countries and their lives.  Within this context, there were a number of clear links between climate change and the effective enjoyment of women’s rights.  Climate change had specific adverse impacts on women and girls.  During extreme weather events, women were more likely to die than men, due to differences in socio-economic status and access to information.  Women who were pregnant and breastfeeding were subject to food insecurity resulting from climate change.  At the same time, women and girls had much to contribute to climate action.  This may particularly be the case for women from marginalized communities who lived in the most precarious at-risk areas. 

Hilda C. Heine, President of the Marshal Islands, speaking in a video message, said women and girls were very often worst affected by climate change while also being important agents of change in the fight against climate threats.  These two facets were often intertwined.  Women played a central role for the well-being of their families, especially for children and older persons.  But that role often meant a women’s well-being was sacrificed first.  There were already so many striking examples of women’s leadership and much potential could be unlocked if States invested more to empower women.  A first step was to ensure strong participation and representation in policy-making.  Women were strongly involved in the Marshall Islands’ policy consultations, its climate-related planning committees and in the work of its key implementing agencies.  “If we can do it, so can others,” she said. 

The panellists were Mary Robinson, Adjunct Professor of Climate Justice at Trinity College Dublin, Chair of The Elders, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Nazhat Shameem Khan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva; Martin Oelz, Senior Specialist on Equality and Non-Discrimination at the International Labour Organization; and Nahla Haidar, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

In the discussion, delegations stressed that climate change was not gender-neutral and underlined that the risks associated with climate change reinforced gender inequalities and posed an acute threat to women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of all human rights.  Entrenched and systemic discrimination could lead to various gender-differentiated impacts of climate change and could lead to further discrimination, especially when women were excluded from political participation and decision-making processes.  However, women were not only the victims of climate change but also active contributors to climate action and active agents that transformed societies and communities on the road to a more sustainable and safe future.  Any decisions made without women and girls would be unsustainable.  “If you care about gender equality and women’s and girls’ enjoyment of human rights, take urgent climate action and do it in a way that empowered women and girls,” pleaded a youth representative. 

Speaking in the discussion were the following States: Nauru (on behalf of a group of countries); Fiji (on behalf of a group of countries); Marshall Islands (on behalf of a group of countries); Fiji (on behalf of a group of countries); Croatia (on behalf of a group of countries); Canada (on behalf of a Group of French speaking countries); European Union; Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of CARICOM); Estonia (on behalf of a group of countries); Thailand (on behalf of ASEAN); Angola (on behalf of the African group); Costa Rica (on behalf of a group of countries); Ireland; Botswana; Denmark; Dominica; Viet Nam; Ecuador; Venezuela; Bangladesh; Bolivia; Vanuatu; Madagascar; and UN-Women.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (in a joint statement with Franciscans International; FIAN International e.V.; International Movement ATD Fourth World; International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific); Institut International de l’Écologie Industrielle et de l’Économie Verte; Franciscans International (in a joint statement with Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University; Dominicans for Justice and Peace - Order of PreachersFeuropean; and Lutheran World Federation); Conectas Direitos Humanos; and International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations.

The Human Rights Council will next meet on Monday, 1 July at 10 a.m. to continue the clustered interactive dialogue on extreme poverty and human rights, and on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

Panel Discussion on Women’s Rights and Climate Change: Climate Action, Good Practices and Lessons Learned

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - Analytical study on gender-responsive climate action for the full and effective enjoyment of the rights of women (A/HRC/41/26 ).

Statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that across the planet, the climate crisis was stripping people of their rights and identity, and even in some cases, their homes, countries and their lives.  Within this context, there were a number of clear links between climate change and the effective enjoyment of women’s rights.  Climate change had specific adverse impacts on women and girls.  During extreme weather events, women were more likely to die than men, due to differences in socio-economic status, and access to information.  Women who were pregnant and breastfeeding were subject to food insecurity resulting from climate change.  The report submitted by her Office, in line with the Council’s resolution 38/4 h, found that entrenched discrimination intensified the impacts of climate change on women, particularly when they were also subjected to discrimination as members of marginalized communities. 

At the same time, women and girls had much to contribute to climate action.  This may particularly be the case for women from marginalized communities who lived in the most precarious at-risk areas.  Their intimate knowledge of the land and nature-based ecological strategies could be fundamental in the search for solutions that minimized climate harm, improved early warning, and built resilience.  With all societies facing changes of immense magnitude, there was need for the contributions of everyone, especially those who were dealing with climate change in their daily lives, so that good solutions could be built.

Violence and threats that were inflicted on many brave environmental human rights defenders could silence those who worked in the long-term interest of all.  “We need to step up our efforts to protect them – women and men,” said the High Commissioner.  Amongst the activists demonstrating for greater climate action around the world, there were a number of young women.  Their commitment and insight deserved to be emulated by many world leaders.  The High Commissioner urged Member States to use the opportunity of today’s discussion to develop a deeper understanding of the impact of climate change on women; to identify opportunities to reduce those impacts and increase women’s participation in policy-making; and to commit to action. 

Video Message by the President of the Marshal Islands

HILDA C. HEINE, President of the Marshal Islands, speaking in a video message, said that women and girls were very often worst affected by climate change while also being important agents of change in the fight against climate threats.  These two facets were often intertwined.  Women played a central role for the well-being of their families, especially for children and older persons.  But that role often meant a woman’s well-being was sacrificed first.  In 2015 and 2016, the Marshall Islands had declared a state of disaster during a period of extraordinary severe drought: malnutrition rose among children as well as adult women in the outer islands; food and water were so scarce that great efforts were needed to secure enough for families to get by; with little spare time, the production of local handicrafts fell, reducing an important source of income for women in these areas.  Short on funds, and supporting their families through the crisis, women were very often those worst off.  As climate change increased the prevalence of such challenges, women would increasingly suffer similar effects, unless the international community acted.

There were already many striking examples of women’s leadership.  Much potential could be unlocked if States invested more to empower women.  A first step was to ensure women’s strong participation and representation in policy-making.  Women were also strongly involved in the Marshall Islands’ policy consultations, its climate-related planning committees and in the work of its key implementing agencies.  “If we can do it, so can others,” the President said.  Raising ambition in climate change action was perhaps the best way to lessen future consequences on women and girls, and people everywhere. 

Statements by the Panellists

MARY ROBINSON, Adjunct Professor of Climate Justice at Trinity College Dublin, Chair of The Elders and former President of Ireland, stressed that the panel today went to the heart of her work over the years on climate justice and recalled how shocked she had been when she had attended her first COP in Copenhagen to see how technical the approach was, with no regard for human rights and gender equality.  Ms. Robinson emphasized the importance of women’s participation as an enabler of climate justice, and its positive impact on the design, planning and implementation of gender-responsive climate policy.  Climate change exacerbated existing social inequalities, leaving women disproportionately vulnerable to climate impacts, she stressed.  Evidence showed that women’s inclusion in leadership positions resulted in improved outcomes; women’s greater participation in the governance structure of an institution protecting a community resource, such as a forest, led to better resource conservation and regeneration.

However, participation alone did not guarantee gender equality, Ms. Robinson said.  The presence of women at the decision table alone was not enough to change cultural or institutional biases.  There was strong evidence which showed that the barriers did not disappear once women reached the decision making table.  Women’s participation needed to be meaningful for that to happen.  Women must have agency and voice to affect change in all areas of decision-making, which could be supported by capacity-building, networks and access to resources to strengthen their knowledge and their confidence.  In closing, Ms. Robinson issued a stark reminder that women’s rights were under increasing threat in many parts of the world.  It was sad that the United Nations treaty bodies, and particularly the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, were starved of the funding to enable them to fulfil their vital role.    

NAZHAT SHAMEEM KHAN, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stressed the continuous reluctance to translate what was happening on the international level into national climate policy, and the reluctance to recognize that the best way to address climate change was through and with the leadership of the people and their participation.  Were women at the table when climate policies were being drawn, she asked, and to what extent did Member States include women in all decisions related to climate finance, which, often, was a rather uncomfortable and very controversial subject.  Ms. Khan also emphasized the essential importance of women’s participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change processes as negotiators, and in this context commended the efforts of Australia in the Pacific in training women negotiators specifically.  Ambassador Khan warned against complacency – no one should get complacent because they had a national gender action plan, an annual meeting on climate, or a resolution on gender and climate change.  She said more work was needed on policy coherence, between Geneva, New York, and Bonn, but more than that, it was essential for the States to translate policy discussions at the international level into national measures and actions.

Martin Oelz, Senior Specialist on Equality and Non-Discrimination at the International Labour Organization, said that despite strong recognition of women’s rights, women continued to face significant obstacles in gaining access to decent work, in both rural and urban economies.  Inequality between women and men persisted in the labour market, in respect of opportunities, treatment and outcomes.  Climate change related risks to decent work included economic and welfare losses, damage to health and productivity, forced labour migration and the interrelation between such risks.  Furthermore, women were overrepresented in domestic and unpaid household work, and climate change-related impacts could heighten women’s workload associated with care and household work.  They could for instance have to walk longer distances to fetch water.  The International Labour Organization Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work’s call for a transformative agenda for gender equality provided a strong basis to ensure respect for women’s rights at work in a world in which discrimination and inequality could no longer be allowed to be an obstacle for tackling complex global challenges such a climate change.

Nahla Haidar, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that women and girls constituted the majority of the population affected by disasters and climate change.  However, they were not inherently more vulnerable than men, and nor should they be stereotyped as such.  Vulnerability was constructed socially, economically, and culturally through the distribution of power, wealth and resources.  For instance, gender-based violence against women and girls was common in humanitarian crises and may become acute in the wake of disasters and conflicts where there was heightened physical and food insecurity as well as impunity for perpetrators of violence.  The susceptibility of women and girls to disease was heightened as a result of inequalities in access to food, nutrition and health care as well as social expectations that women would act as primary care givers for children, the elderly and the sick.

Discussion

Speakers noted that least developed countries and small island developing States were at the forefront of combatting this multi-dimensional threat as it continued to negatively impact the fabric of their social, cultural and economic ways of life.  Those countries experienced unique threats such as displacement, loss of environment and cultural heritage, and food insecurity – each and every one of those had a gendered dimension that required meaningful consideration and response.  In this context, women’s empowerment was of fundamental importance and key to increasing the resilience of vulnerable communities, speakers noted, and cited the example of the Solar Mamas project in the Pacific, where women with little or no formal education were given an opportunity to study solar engineering.  The result had been catalytic as those women and their communities now owned their development and showed what could be achieved by political will and the needed partnerships aligned to mobilize resources to empower women.  In this sense, what could be the first steps to take to promote and ensure the full participation of women and girls and their empowerment?

Climate change was not gender-neutral, delegations stressed, and underlined that the risks associated with climate change reinforced gender inequalities and posed an acute threat to women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of all human rights.  Entrenched and systemic discrimination could lead to various gender-differentiated impacts of climate change and to further discrimination, especially when women were excluded from political participation and decision-making processes.

However, women were not only the victims of climate change but also active contributors to climate action and active agents that transformed societies and communities on the road to a more sustainable and safe future.  The meaningful inclusion of women in climate action and decision-making processes was critical – any decision made without women and girls would be unsustainable.  As climate change was an issue that would most affect and define the future, youth activism, particularly by girls, must be supported and facilitated.  “If you care about gender equality and women’s and girls’ enjoyment of human rights, take urgent climate action and do it in a way that empowered women and girls,” pleaded a youth representative.  Several delegations asked for recommendations towards further increasing participation of young persons who represented diverse perspectives in climate change decision-making processes at all levels.  What more could States do to encourage and support women’s grassroots organizations in the area of climate action?  An investment in women and girls should be made not only because it slowed down climate change, but because it was their right.

Concluding Remarks

MARY ROBINSON, Adjunct Professor of Climate Justice at Trinity College Dublin, Chair of The Elders and former President of Ireland, said island States were canaries in the mine.  The voices of young people should be accentuated, and there was a need for an intergenerational dimension in the coalitions that were preparing for the climate summit.  It should be a concerted effort to make sure the coalitions for climate actions were gender responsive across the board.  This must also happen in Abu Dhabi at the end of the month so that it may also be reflected in the climate summit.  There was a G20 charter for engagement which called for gender responsive climate solutions, which should be helpful, she pointed out.

NAZHAT SHAMEEM KHAN, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that in building gender-responsive climate policies nationally, it was essential to understand the lived experiences of women, which, however, should not lead down the path of stereotypes, because not every woman was affected in the same way.  Climate policies must be built around the understanding of the obstacles to the participation of women on an equal basis.  This, she said, was one of the key obstacles.  Women must be seen participating, visibly, taking decisions, visibly, providing their voices, visibly, in order to serve as role models for young girls.

MARTIN OELZ, Senior Specialist on Equality and Non-Discrimination at the International Labour Organization, noted that the International Labour Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal People Convention contained obligations of States on gender equality and effective consultation and participation.  The right to consultation was a key right for indigenous peoples and more efforts and resources must be invested in building consultation mechanisms.

NAHLA HAIDAR, Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, called upon States to look at the mechanisms and instruments that many of the panellists and speakers had mentioned during the dialogue, such as the Sendai or Paris Agreements.  Furthermore, more could be done to harness the collective knowledge of States, for example through the Geneva Pledge group.  But first and foremost, the ultimate action that States must take was to reduce their emissions.  Access to information was essential to enable women to prepare themselves.

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For use of the information media; not an official record
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