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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Protecting the hardest hit: the critical role of gender equality and social protection

08 November 2021

Delivered by

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights - Video message


26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

This is a vitally important discussion.

Climate change is a threat to human rights unprecedented in its magnitude and scope. But it does not affect us all equally.

When waters rise, crops dry up, and heat waves become unbearable, it is the people who already live in vulnerable and precarious situations who suffer the most. They are the most exposed; they are the least protected. And many are women.

Gender-based discrimination within and outside of families means that women have less income – and less steady income. This means they benefit least from the social protections afforded to those with steady jobs. They are more likely to live in vulnerable housing and shoulder double and triple responsibilities as domestic carers, in addition to their professions.

CEDAW, the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, has issued a General Comment on States' obligations in the context of the far-reaching impact of climate change and disasters on women. It makes for chilling reading.

Meaningful inclusion and leadership of women and people with diverse gender identities is essential to ensure effective climate solutions.

And to build resilient societies that are capable of mitigating and adapting to climate change, all people, regardless of their gender, and especially the most vulnerable, must have what they need to sustain their lives and ensure their human rights.

We need gender-responsive policies – and gender-focused social protections. As the world has painfully experienced during the pandemic, social protection measures can keep individuals and entire societies afloat during times of disaster.

We at the UN recently issued Key Messages on human rights, the environment, and gender equality. I urge States to fulfill these obligations, and to work together, under the call to action that you will adopt today, to ensure that no woman or woman-headed household gets pushed further behind.