Cancun, Mexico- Climate change is the most urgent and critical issue of our time. Ensuring equitable participation of women and men in developing solutions to this challenge is key to moving towards a sustainable future. Women’s leadership at all levels is integral to achieving the goals of sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

At present women account for only between 12-15%[1] of all Heads of Delegations at the UNFCCC, and around 30% of all party delegates. Recognizing the need for increased access and participation of women in this process, the Women Delegates Fund (WDF) was established in 2009 with support of the Government of Finland. The WDF is a project of the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA), implemented by UNDP and administered by the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO).

The Women Delegates Fund provides support to women delegates from developing countries, and specifically least developed countries, to participate in the UNFCCC negotiations.

Since the start of the project in 2009, over 25 women delegates have been funded to attend UNFCCC meetings through the WDF.

The project is about much more than simply bringing women to the table. It is about enhancing their knowledge and skills with training in negotiations, media, and communications. Participants are provided with expert presentations and research materials on all the different topics and aspects of climate change negotiations, such as REDD+ and climate finance, as well as information on opportunities for influencing national level implementation. Consistency of participation in these meetings as well as an emphasis on networking and capacity building is essential to bridging the gap in women leadership in the UNFCCC process.

Finland’s support of this fund in partnership with the GGCA, alongside the active engagement of WDF sponsored women delegates as ambassadors for this project has brought the issue of women’s leadership and participation in the climate change negotiations to the forefront. Throughout 2010, the average participation of women in country delegations rose to 34%; the highest representation of women in the history of the UNFCCC.

While these numbers show there is still more work to be done, the network of women delegates is growing stronger every day. As their visibility and positions of leadership within delegations continue to grow, so does the understanding of the need for equitable participation of both men and women at this level of decision making.

[1] This percentage reflects number of female heads of delegations at the annual Conference of Partices (COP). The percentage increases to around 20% during inter-sessional meetings as shown in the following graphs.

Click here for Key Gender Statistics on Women’s Participation in the UNFCCC for 2010.

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