The first Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) since the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) kicks off on Monday, May 22, in Cancun, Mexico.

Like other post-2015 global processes, DRR is in the implementation and operationalization phase. There is a consensus that women and gender are cross-cutting issues but while the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement specifically mention gender equality, the Sendai Framework does not. Women’s human rights are also missing. But, groundwork is there and it is time to build on it as well as for governments to operationalize their commitments to gender equality and women’s human rights. Let’s not forget that almost every government has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Member States annually follow up the Beijing Platform for Action at the Commission on the Status of Women – both CEDAW and CSW have underscored the linkages between DRR and women’s rights.

What can we expect from the GPDRR besides speeches in the plenaries and panels? Will governments validate and strengthen commitments to Sendai? Will the outcome document enshrine tangible steps toward the 2020 target of substantially increasing the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies – and will those strategies be gender-responsive? Will donor governments and agencies prioritize and invest in building resilience and preventing disaster, especially both slow- and rapid-onset climate-related disasters, by working closely with civil society and local communities? Or will they hold back and wait for the media attention for their work after disasters strike? Will public funds be prioritized so that urgent action can be taken or will governments and citizens have to rely on private investments that only go where there is clear profit to be made? Will building back better ensure that women and girls’ human rights are prioritized, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, and that actions and plans contribute to reducing and redistributing unpaid domestic and care work? Will governments commit to assessing internal coherence between climate, DRR, and the SDGs to enhance success, reduce duplicative mechanisms and policies, and avoid unintentional negative consequences?

These questions are critical because the impacts of, responses to and recovery from disasters depends on multiple factors, ranging from the quality of strategies and plans in place and involvement of civil society actors (e.g. women and local communities) in planning processes to coherence with climate change strategies and the level of equality – particularly gender equality – in a given location.

Gender roles can limit women’s access to resources, finance, decision-making, time, formal education, and power structures. Intersectionality of gender with other identity categories such as indigeneity, ability, and age can deepen inequalities. However, gender roles can also contribute to women’s specialized knowledge about natural resources, community response capacity, warning signals as well as safe water and food sources. Women are leaders, innovators, and changemakers with diverse knowledge and perspectives – and women and girls have an important role and stake, particularly in preventing and preparing for disasters. Gender-responsive DRR should recognize and act on these complexities.

The challenge ahead requires efforts by everyone, in all phases of DRR, so that the operationalization of gender-responsive DRR does not build on the unpaid labor of women while benefits accrue to those who are already ahead. Operationalization should advance women’s human rights and result in financing to women’s and feminist organizations; collection, analysis and use of disaggregated data; capacity building and integration of women’s leadership; development of appropriate, safe and sustainable technology; redistribution of unpaid domestic and care work; social safety nets; investment in women and girls health and well-being and resilient; and climate compatible infrastructure and development.

WEDO’s Co-Director Eleanor Blomstrom will be in Cancun to monitor progress on these critical issues and serving as focal point for the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) for DRR, the official civil society channel for women’s rights, feminist and gender equality organizations and allies to participate and input to the GPDRR. WEDO and WGC members will be working across multiple networks in the DRR space, with women from grassroots and local communities as well as advocacy organizations. WEDO and WGC will also link to the Women’s Major Group for Sustainable Development and the Women and Gender Constituency for the UNFCCC and other civil society allies.

[The Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) views successful implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction as implementation that recognizes the rights of all people, in all their diversity — including gender, sex, age, race, ethnicity, geography, income, migrant or refugee status, and ability. It should contribute to achieving gender equality as well as address underlying risk factors and overcome structural inequalities through a human rights-based approach in every phase of disaster risk reduction, development, and enhancing resiliency.]

Follow the GPDRR at the hashtags #MEXICOGP2017 and #womenDRR

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