For years now, WEDO has engaged in the climate negotiations to ensure that women’s voices, and women’s rights are at the center of climate policy. We have made much progress in this regard, with mandates on gender across over 50 decisions under the Convention- decisions on the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund, the criteria of National Adaptation Programmes of Action- and many more. So what is the outlook on gender in the Paris agreement?

The road to Paris

When the ADP was launched in 2011, the ask was clear, we needed a cross-cutting mandate on gender equality which would inform all future climate actions, in relation to both mitigation and adaptation, and in all means of implementation.

In the beginning of 2015 in Geneva, WEDO, as part of the Women and Gender Constituency, started working alongside a number of ‘rights-based’ Constituencies including youth groups, indigenous peoples and trade unions, to call for an inclusive set of demands to be anchored in the core of the outcome in Paris. The paragraph read as follows:

This Agreement shall be implemented … ensuring the integrity and resilience of natural ecosystems and ensuring the respect, protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples; gender equality and the full and equal participation of women; intergenerational equity; a just transition of the workforce that creates decent work and quality jobs; and food security.

There were many champions who fought for the multiple aspects of this language throughout the year, including the Philippines who re-introduced it in October when the co-Chairs had left it out of the proposed negotiating draft.


Across the two weeks of COP21, the inter-Constituency group mentioned above, took strong stands of solidarity, working together in unprecedented ways through press conferences and actions. We were clear from the beginning that while Parties may choose to separate the critical issues, we will continue to advocate for people and the planet.

By the second week of the negotiations, this language had been whittled down to human rights and gender equality, and then just human rights on the final day, with the rest of what had come to be called ‘the solidarity package’ noted in the Preamble. The Preamble does not carry the legal weight of the operational text.

In efforts to save this language in the core of the final agreement at the eleventh hour, 14 countries signed a statement from a group called the “Friends of Principles” (initiated by Mexico) – calling on human rights and gender equality to be secured in the operational section of the agreement entitled “Article 2”. Those who signed included Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Finland, Guatemala, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Philippines, Switzerland, Sweden and Uruguay.

But this language did not survive in the final iteration of the agreement, though all concepts are noted in the Preamble of the text. Similarly, language on gender-responsive approaches was not achieved in mitigation, finance or technology- though references remained in adaptation and capacity building.

In a press conference with the inter-Constituency group on the final day, Meghan Rowling of Reuters asked Bridget Burns from WEDO how we would measure the progress made on gender given the references that had been retained.

Ms. Burns replied, “Yes there is language on gender in certain areas of the text–and wherever there is language– we will use this to enhance implementation. However in terms of progress already made under the UNFCCC, this is not a huge step forward. For example, gender equality was made a clear criteria for National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) in 2001 at COP7 in Marrakesh. We had a turning point at COP20 in Lima with the adoption of the Lima Work Programme on Gender, and this year, the UNFCCC hosted the first workshop on understanding gender-responsive climate policy in relation to mitigation and technology transfer and development. But where we do have mandates, they are most often only in relation to adaptation and capacity building. This is why we were pushing to ensure gender equality was achieved as an operative cross-cutting mandate, to ensure it would inform all climate actions, including mitigation actions. We cannot only consider gender when it is seen in relation to vulnerabilities and not capabilities. What we have in the Paris Agreement is not enough. It is time to understand fully that we need to ensure both gender equality and the full and equal participation of women in all climate actions. We need to do more than acknowledge it, we need to operationalize it.

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