2021 saw the release of multiple devastating reports on extinctions and extinction risks of large groups of species, as well as a host of extreme weather events and climate disasters. As the global community comes together this Spring to discuss agreements to protect nature and biodiversity, as well as disaster risk reduction, it is imperative to center the leadership of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, women, and feminists – and enact policies that protect both people and planet. Last month from 14-29 March, WEDO participated in the first of these multilateral processes, joining the Women’s Caucus active within the Convention on Biological Diversity to engage with and influence the centering of gender in the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (also known as the “Post-2020 GBF,” or “GBF.”)

What is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)?

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the first global agreement to cover biodiversity at all levels. Ratified by nearly 200 nations, the CBD is a legally binding treaty with three main goals: conserve biological diversity; promote sustainable use of its components; and attain fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the utilization of genetic resources. 

The convention’s 14th Conference of the Parties in 2018 adopted a decision to develop a new biodiversity framework that builds on the CBD’s 2011-2020 strategic plan (“Aichi Biodiversity Targets“) and sets out an “ambitious plan to implement broad-based action to bring about a transformation in society’s relationship with biodiversity, ensuring that by 2050 the shared vision of ‘living in harmony with nature’ is fulfilled.” The decision also “welcomes the advice for Parties, the Secretariat and other relevant organizations to enable a gender-responsive and gender-balanced process for the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and urges Parties, the Secretariat and other relevant organizations to consider this advice in their processes on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.”

How Do Feminists Engage in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)?

The CBD Women’s Caucus, led by Women4Biodiversity, provides a platform to advocate for women’s human rights and gender equality in the policy framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The platform aims to connect and amplify women’s various experiences related to biodiversity across the world, ensuring their full and effective participation and centering their roles in biodiversity conservation.

What is the CBD Currently Discussing?

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has ravaged lives and destroyed economies, has also put pressure on multilateral processes, and made global negotiations more complex. As a result, meetings to define the Global Biodiversity Framework for 2021 to 2030 – to align with the Sustainable Development Goals – were delayed, and the Framework is still being developed by parties. A draft Framework was recently reviewed and reworked in Geneva, Switzerland, and will be renegotiated and adopted during the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) – set to take place in Kunming, China later this year. The Framework will be accompanied by several implementing tools, namely:

  • The enhanced multidimensional approach to planning, monitoring, reporting and review;
  • The updated plan of action on subnational governments, cities and other local authorities for biodiversity;
  • The long-term strategic framework for capacity-building and development to support nationally determined priorities for the implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework;
  • The communications strategy for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework
  • The gender plan of action for the post-2020 period; and
  • The strategy for resource mobilization.

After 15 days of negotiations in Geneva, progress is still underway. Thus, parties agreed to the fourth meeting of the post-2020 working group to be held from 21-26 June 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya to make further progress on the draft GBF ahead of the COP15.

How is gender being considered in the Draft Framework?

While a lot of progress has been made on crafting and shaping the goals, theory of change and targets for the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, the Convention has yet to truly center gender issues. Of the 21 targets within the draft Framework, only one target mentions women, and no single target mentions gender. Some parties have stated that since the Gender Plan of Action (GPA) will complement the Framework, there is no need for a standalone target on gender.  Feminists and gender equality advocates, however, believe it critical to have strong integration of gender within the Framework itself to anchor and give life to the Gender Plan of Action.

What Are Feminists and Advocates Calling for?

With the support of a broad alliance, the CBD Women’s Caucus launched a campaign to call for the convention to add a 22nd target – an effort proposed by Costa Rica with the support of 11 other member states: Guatemala, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Togo, Benin, Cameroon and Tanzania. Target 22, which in the current text reads, “Ensure women and girls’ equitable access and benefits from conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, as well as their informed and effective participation at all levels of policy and decision making related to biodiversity,” covers three main areas aligned to the objectives of the convention: women’s full and effective participation in decision-making, equal rights to and control over land and resources, and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic and biological resources. 

How Can Feminists and Advocates Influence This Process?

While the commitment by 11 member states endorsing and advancing target 22 should be commended, more work needs to be done to ensure gender is at the heart of this critical framework. Women and girls are at the frontline of conservation and protection of biodiversity, yet they are not equitably represented in all biodiversity-related policies, process, program designs and implementation. And, they are not accessing and/or controlling the benefits derived from the utilization of natural resources. Thus, the proposed Gender Plan of Action goes into greater detail – laying out three main objectives:

  1. [All genders,] in particular women and girls, have equal opportunity and capacity to contribute to the three objectives of the Convention.
  2. Biodiversity policy, planning and programming decisions address equally the perspectives, interests, needs and human rights of [all genders,] in particular [of] women and girls
  3. Enabling conditions are created to ensure gender responsive implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Unlike the previous GPA, most proposed actions under the new plan are to be led by parties, together with other stakeholders. Hence, it is of vital importance to have feminists and gender equality advocates across the globe taking a keen interest in the development and adoption process, and even more importantly in the implementation and monitoring at the national and regional levels. 

Lastly, while the new GBF is being designed to build coherence with other Rio conventions and the SDGs, stakeholders and other actors – especially feminists and human rights advocates – need to actively engage in the GBF development process to ensure it advances the rights of rights holders and shifts exploitative systems in the spirit of ‘living in harmony with nature’. To complement and strengthen the CBD Women’s Caucus work under the leadership of Women4Biodiversity, more capacity needs to be mobilized to streamline gender in all other implementation tools being developed parallel to the framework – including the resource mobilization strategy, communication strategy, and monitoring and reporting – just to mention a few. To quote Women4Biodiversity Director Mrinalini Rai: “The time to act is now.”

Ways to Engage:

1: Read and learn more: 

2: Follow on social media: @Women4Biodiv, #GenderTargetinPost2020, #GenderIsABiodiversityIssue.

3: Join the CBD Women’s Caucus.


Mwanahamisi (“Mishy”) Singano is an African feminist passionate about fighting structural and intersecting inequalities while contributing to a more just, equal, fairer, and sustainable world. At WEDO, she serves as a senior global policy lead.

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