NEW YORK (May 5, 2013)— by Bridget Burns

In a space often dominated by technical discussion, where elevating the dialogue on social equity and gender equality is often challenging and ad-hoc, in Doha, it was encouraging to see Parties investing time and space to engage in a critical dialogue on gender equality and ultimately, finding consensus on Decision 23/CP.18Promoting gender balance and improving the participation of women in UNFCCC negotiations and in the representation of Parties in bodies established pursuant to the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol”. WEDO remains encouraged that this decision seeks to go further than the original decision at COP7 in Marrakesh, recognizing that to be fully effective, enhanced capacity building and innovative actions are needed for transformation in representation.

Parties’ recognition of the importance of gender balance has already helped to increase women’s participation at all levels in this process with women’s participation on national delegations reaching an all time high of 33% in 2012. However, as reported in WEDO’s recent analysis of women’s participation in the process from 2008-2012, women continue to be underrepresented in many delegations, particularly with respect to higher levels of leadership positions in the negotiations, and, in countries most vulnerable to climate impacts.

As highlighted through this research and our work on the Women Delegates Fund (WDF), WEDO believes that the equitable participation of women in climate change decision making can provide the crosscutting experiences necessary for climate change policies that embody social equity and reflect and serve the needs of society. However, beyond the understanding of either women’s vulnerabilities to or potential leadership in mitigating and adapting to climate change, equity in decision making comes down to a simple notion:  If it weren’t for underlying institutional and societal inequities, why wouldn’t half the population be represented in equal numbers in decision-making?

It’s understanding these underlying inequities which frame WEDO’s approach to climate change policy at all levels, and how we are working to frame this recent decision at the UNFCCC — gender balance as part of larger goal towards achieving gender equality and an overall socially just, ambitious and effective climate agreement.

Gender balance, has always been an important indicator of gender equality in these international processes, but achieving gender equality is about much more than just bringing women to the table. It’s understanding the social and institutional disparities, in work, income, education, health, etc. which result in gender inequality and developing tools, strategies and policies to transform these norms. A truly inclusive and participatory processes require mechanisms whereby multiple diverse perspectives can be represented- not only balanced by sex but also by multiple intersecting identities and perspectives including age, ethnicity, region, class- as well as in creating space for those with diverse expertise, from scientific and technical to human rights and social justice.

To make progress on this, since Doha, WEDO has been working with leading experts on gender and climate change, including from the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA), as well as with our colleagues in the Women and Gender Constituency at the UNFCCC, to provide a vision for how this Decision can work towards a more cohesive framework for gender-responsive climate policy.

Looking forward, the next UNFCCC meeting in June will be a key space for discussion and strategizing with the UNFCCC Secretariat, Parties and Observers on how to capitalize on the momentum of COP18 to make progress on this Decision as part of a truly ambitious climate change regime.

If you would like to engage in this dialogue, join us next week, May 14th for a GGCA-hosted Twitter chat with UNFCCC Secretary Christiana Figueres at 10am EDT to discuss Key Objectives and Entry Points to the COP18 Gender Decision.

WEDO will keep you informed with news and updates in the lead up to and following the June intersessional in Bonn.

About the Decision
At the COP18 climate negotiations in Doha, Parties agreed on Decision 23/CP.18: “Promoting gender balance and improving the participation of women in UNFCCC negotiations and in the representation of Parties in bodies established pursuant to the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol”.  Moving beyond an earlier decision on enhancing women’s participations, the COP18 decision includes the following operative provisions:

  • Requests the UNFCCC Secretariat to maintain and make available annually, sex-disaggregated data on composition of bodies and Member State delegations under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, both by country and by regional groups in order to track progress.
  • Establishes the issue of gender and climate change as a standing item on the agenda of sessions of the Conference of the Parties to review UNFCCC’s annual reporting
  • An in-session COP19 workshop on “gender balance in the UNFCCC process, gender-sensitive climate policy and capacity-building activities to promote the greater participation of women in the UNFCCC process”, organized by the Secretariat
  • Submissions from Parties & Observer organizations on “the goal of gender […] in order to improve women’s participation and inform more effective climate change policy that addresses the needs of women and men equally” due September 2nd, 2013
  • Review of progress towards goal of gender balance (by UNFCCC Parties and other institutions established under the Convention and Kyoto Protocol) at COP22 in2016

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