The UN addresses the link between gender, climate, and security, particularly in communities affected by climate change and conflict, to mitigate risks of climate change and violence, and support the building of resilient, inclusive and peaceful societies.
A collaborative report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women); Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA); and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released on June 2020 recognizes the connections between gender equality, state fragility and climate vulnerability of countries around the world, showing that women on the frontlines of climate action are playing a vital role in conflict prevention, and sustainable and inclusive peace.
According to “Gender, Climate and Security: Sustaining inclusive peace on the frontlines of climate change,” the communities affected by conflict and climate change face a double crisis, and the ongoing pandemic has only compounded the impacts of climate change on food security, livelihoods, social cohesion, and security. Such added challenges can undermine decades of development gains, escalating violence, and also disrupt fragile peace processes.
Climate change has fueled heatwaves, fiercer storms, rising seas, prolonged droughts, and floods that have impacted the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the world. These risks exacerbate gender inequalities. Women often bear the brunt of these effects.
The report stated that women are facing disproportionate economic burdens due to different types of marginalization; gendered expectations can lead men and women to resort to violence when traditional livelihoods fail; and important socio-economic shifts can result from changes to patterns of migration.
Economically, women are automatically at a disadvantage because they disproportionately make up the world’s poor. Women are also less likely to be educated and represented in government or leadership positions. Women face greater health and safety risks when water and sanitation systems become compromised, and they take on increased domestic work when resources dwindle. In many societies, cultural norms, patriarchal attitudes, and childcare responsibilities prevent women from migrating or working when a disaster hits. This is likely to put an added burden on women, who have to travel longer to get drinking water and wood for fuel. And in times of conflict, women are often subject to sexual violence and other abuses.
Establishing a direct correlation between environmental degradation and gender inequality has not always been straightforward. But recent data-driven studies have confirmed what many experts have known for years: Women are more vulnerable to the political, social, and economic effects of climate change.
The report stressed the urgent need for gender-responsive action to tackle these linked crises. It also pointed out that interventions around natural resources, the environment, and climate change, for example, provide significant opportunities for women’s political and economic leadership and strengthen their contributions to peace.
Similarly, sustainable natural resource programming also offers opportunities to mitigate sexual and gender-based violence in conflict. Recognizing that peace and security, human rights, and development are interdependent is vital to forge a better future, according to the report.
The report called for more investment for gender equality. Women’s empowerment is required in fragile states and especially in sectors related to natural resources where it is particularly low. “Similarly, gender considerations should also be fully reflected in emerging policy and programming on climate-related security risks with highlighting opportunities for leadership and inclusion of women and marginalized groups in decision-making processes,” the report stated.
We call on lawmakers and local government heads to study and address the connections between gender, climate and security to effectively respond to the range of crises that the planet faces, such as the increased competition and conflict over scarce resources as climate change triggers more extreme weather patterns around the world.
By bringing women into these actions as agents of change and not as victims, our country can build back better with a gender lens by ensuring post-COVID-19 economies will begin to address the fundamental inequalities and disproportionate impacts of climate change on women, and the interconnected nature of gender inequality on the whole of society.