Targeted Investments to Promote Gender Equality Key for Ensuring Climate Resilience Plans Result in Female Empowerment, Protection, Speakers Tell Women’s Commission

Targeted investments to promote gender equality — from global to local levels — must ensure that promises made are kept as the world forges an inclusive, sustainable path to tackle climate change consequences, delegates told the Commission on the Status of Women on the second day of its annual session.

The session, which runs from 14 to 25 March, is focused on the theme “Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes”.

Some speakers highlighted challenges and innovative achievements during two ministerial round tables held in the morning. Many agreed that, like the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change consequences are disproportionately affecting women and girls. Round table discussions continued from the session’s opening day on 14 March on the same themes: climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes — advancing gender equality through holistic and integrated actions from global to local; and on women’s voice and agency — good practices towards achieving women’s full, equal and meaningful participation and decision-making in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes. (For details, see Press Release WOM/2213.)

During the general discussion in the afternoon, Rosy Akbar, Fiji’s Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said climate finance often fails to take account of gender equality and women’s empowerment. To remedy this, she called on the international community to increase gender-responsive climate, environmental and disaster risk finance. She also called for efforts to promote women’s full participation and leadership in climate, environment, ocean, biodiversity and disaster-risk-reduction action, and to strengthen their capacities through accessible training and gender-responsive policies and programmes.

In the same vein, Vindhya Persaud, Guyana’s Minister for Human Services and Social Security of the Co-operative Republic, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), reiterated disappointment that the developed countries’ pledge to provide $100 billion by 2020 for developing nations to address climate change was not met. Stressing that climate change poses an existential threat to small island developing States, she said its impact represents a “code red for humanity”. Moving forward, a gender perspective must be part of building climate resilience and designing and implementing disaster-risk-reduction strategies and recovery plans. In addition, climate finance for both adaptation and mitigation activities must include measures that support women-owned enterprises in the green and blue economies, she said, also calling for investment in gathering gender specific statistics and data on the relationship between gender and climate.

On behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Patricia Kaliati, Malawi’s Minister for Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, agreed that the current situation calls for action, as women make up the poorest and most vulnerable groups in her region. Reasons stem from their general subordinate legal status and limited access to such critical resources as land, technology, credit, education and housing, she said, pointing to several ongoing efforts to help to address these challenges. For its part, SADC integrated gender and climate change into its Protocol on Gender and Development in 2016. This means State parties should, by 2030, develop policies, strategies, and programmes to address the gender issues in climate change, conduct research to assess the differential gendered impacts of climate change and adopt effective mitigation and adaptation measures.

Youth representative Antonette Ncube, from the European Union delegation, in its capacity as an observer, spoke on behalf of the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls when she presented several recommendations. Underscoring a need to improve data and strengthen capacity building, she encouraged stakeholders to pursue the ethical collection and dissemination of high-quality, timely, reliable and disaggregated data and gender statistics on all dimensions of environmental, disaster risk reduction and climate change issues, and sexual and gender-based violence. She also recommended that stakeholders ensure the gender-responsive implementation of international commitments made in such instruments as the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Calling for concerted efforts to address gender-based violence and the disproportionate impact of climate crises and disasters on women and girls, she expected the Commission to adopt strong and action-oriented conclusions.

Some speakers shone a spotlight on the importance of remembering the most vulnerable groups of women when aiming at inclusive responses. The representative of Chile, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said those often overlooked must urgently be considered. Older persons — and even more so older women — remain largely invisible and disregarded in the development of policies and programmes. To change this, he urged United Nations agencies, and particularly the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), to systematically collect and disaggregate data by age and gender, particularly of women beyond their reproductive years.

Marta Lucía Ramírez, Vice President of Colombia, declared that, when women arrive in positions of power, they must remember to open more spaces for others “just as those who came before did for us”. Half the world’s population has historically been excluded from power, but gender equality is essential for generating sustainable economic growth, she said, highlighting Colombia’s five point national policy to support women’s inclusion — from the business sector to peace and security. Colombia also launched the world’s first sovereign gender bond to help women-owned businesses recover from the widespread economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing attention to the situation of women in conflict affected zones in Afghanistan to Ukraine, she said the international community must always call for the dignity and rights of women and must remember that these and other conflicts are a result of wars “always declared by men”.

Also delivering statements during the general discussion were Iran, Iceland, Uzbekistan, Serbia, Netherlands, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Republic of Korea, Austria, Sweden, Liechtenstein, Finland, New Zealand, France, Kazakhstan, Germany, Jordan, Ireland, Oman, Portugal, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago, and Luxembourg.

The representative of the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 16 March, to continue its work.

Ministerial Round Table III

In the morning, the Commission held a ministerial round table discussion on the theme “Climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes: advancing gender equality through holistic and integrated actions from global to local”.

Ministers and senior officials of Member States exchanged views on how Governments are working towards advancing gender perspectives into national policies and programmes. Discussing concerns about such pressing challenges as drought and gender inclusion in related mitigation efforts, delegates presented a broad range of national examples, from cash grants to training for women in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. They also highlighted gender-responsive policies and needs for improvement in such areas as financing.

HYE RYOUNG SONG (Republic of Korea), Vice-Chair designate (Asia and Pacific States Group), opened the round table, sharing some of her country’s actions. Among them are targeted initiatives that led various ministries to draft recommendations related to the gender aspects of climate change. Emphasizing the importance for partners to respond to the climate crisis in a sustainable, inclusive manner, she encouraged delegates to have a fruitful round table.

VINDHYA PERSAUD, Minister for Human Services and Social Security of Guyana, cited several national achievements, including the Low Carbon Development Strategy. Launched in 2009, the Strategy seeks to transform the economy while combating climate change and promoting the inclusion of women and vulnerable groups in key economic sectors through micro-, small enterprise and entrepreneurial projects and job opportunities. Women were awarded 62 per cent of low-carbon cash grants and were trained in climate-smart agriculture, sustainable forestry and business development. With the second highest percentage of forest cover in the world, Guyana secured climate financing for the Amerindian Development Fund, which benefitted 180 communities and strengthened village economies, providing hundreds of jobs for indigenous women. Climate financing is currently bridging the ICT divide for hinterland women and girls with the provision of laptops and the creation of hubs powered by solar-energy systems, transforming the way in which they access Government and social services. In addition, Guyanese women are leading in climate action and advocacy and have pioneered solutions to protect the country’s valuable ecosystem.

ROSY AKBAR, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation of Fiji, highlighted significant strides in developing coherent legislative and policy frameworks in the context of gender, environment and disaster risk reduction. The National Climate Change Policy (2018–2030) and the 2021 Climate Change Act endorse the principles of gender equality and women’s empowerment while recognizing women as agents of change. Gender mainstreaming mandates extend to all programmes of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2020-2024) while the Green Growth Framework identifies gender equality as key indicators of social development. The National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy establishes “human rights and gender-based approaches” as one of its eight guiding principles, in line with Fiji’s commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the gender action plan of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Initiatives related to combating gender based violence in times of disaster responses are among other ongoing efforts to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable groups, including women and girls in all diversity, are met, she said.

NAREK MKRTCHYAN, Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of Armenia, presented several ongoing initiatives in line with his country’s commitments to such global efforts as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Armenia’s disaster management strategy outlines a series of sector-targeted actions for preparedness, response and risk reduction from national to local levels while also recognizing the need to increase women’s representation in such activities. The Government prioritizes mainstreaming gender equality in all its projects dedicated to environmental sustainability, resilience-building, climate change adaptation and crisis mitigation. The Gender Policy Implementation Strategy sets the Government’s priorities for women’s equal participation in all spheres of public life, including: preventing the feminization of poverty in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda; involving rural women in combating climate change problems; strengthening cooperation with civil society and non-governmental organizations in the field of environmental and disaster risk management; and reducing of the impact of pandemics, in particular COVID-19.

NDEYE SALY DIOP DIENG, Minister for Women, Family and Gender of Senegal, said climate change is the biggest challenge, leading to land degradation, drought and other major problems. Indeed, decreases in soil fertility and other side effects have a negative impact on women while also triggering an estimated economic loss of 3 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the agriculture sector. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that more than 3 million people live in areas that are extremely vulnerable to climate change, alongside expert projections that envision 1 billion people facing climate change threats by 2050. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projects that Africa will lose two thirds of its arable land by 2025. These challenges have a human cost, she said, emphasizing that women in rural communities are being affected. Local production, from fishing to forestry, has also felt the impact. Senegal’s analysis and assessments demonstrate the scope of these climate consequences, which could possibly limit women’s access to arable land. Efforts include strengthening initiatives from the global to local levels, including promoting a green economy transition, which Senegal supports, she said, adding that funding must be increased for such endeavours.

MATEJA RIBIC, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Slovenia, said her “green” country has a wealth of natural resources and rich biodiversity, yet recognizes the immediate need to address paramount climate change and sustainable development challenges. Slovenia’s new climate change strategy aims at fostering a society adapted and resilient to climate change impacts and is characterized by a high quality of life and a high degree of safety. Fully aware of strong links among biodiversity, climate change, food security and water, she also noted the well-established interlinkages among human rights, environmental degradation and climate change, which affect millions of people, especially women and girls across the world. Welcoming the Human Rights Council’s recognition of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, she said Slovenia strongly supports women’s empowerment in the context of foreign policy priorities, with gender equality and environmental protection being a cross-cutting issue for development cooperation and humanitarian aid, including ongoing support for projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Women and girls must be at the centre of building back a better, greener, more resilient and more equal world, she said, highlighting the need for strong commitments to achieving gender equality at the highest political level.

ANALIZA REBUELTA-TEH, Under-Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Philippines, said her country — located in the tropical cyclone belt — ranks fourth among nations most affected by extreme weather events in the 2021 long-term Global Climate Risk Index. It experienced 317 exceptionally devastating events from 2000 to 2019. In December 2021, Super Typhoon Rai ravaged more than 2 million families and left $650 million in damages to housing, agriculture and infrastructure. Citing projections from the Philippine Climate Extremes 2020 Report, she said warming temperatures and decreasing rainfall are expected to threaten many communities. Coastlines and coastal resources are also highly vulnerable to climate change and disasters, with low-lying islands facing permanent inundation. The National Framework Strategy on Climate Change — among other gender-responsive adaption and mitigation efforts — addresses the different impacts that individual catastrophes and the slow-onset effects of climate change have across gender, age, socioeconomic class, indigenous status, migration status and disability. Women are ensured equal benefits and participation in Government programmes and policies, she said, adding that, in 2021, over $50 million was allocated to advance women’s technical knowledge and overall capacity to implement mitigation measures in resource-based communities. The Government’s gender mainstreaming efforts are institutionalized in focal point systems, annual appropriation for related budgets and a planning and reporting system monitored by the Philippine Commission on Women. Organized and systematic gender mainstreaming has produced national benefits for over two decades, she said, noting the Philippines’ commitment to continue this holistic, integrated effort through sex aggregated data, social inclusion and measuring long-term strategic impacts.

HALA MAZYAD ALTUWAIGRI, Secretary-General of the Family Affairs Council of Saudi Arabia, said climate change impacts women and girls disproportionately and is an added stressor that will set back their advancement. Noting that 43 per cent of the global agricultural labour force is in developing countries, she said United Nations research shows that women make up 80 per cent of those displaced by climate change, which requires a serious effort from Governments and the active participation of all community members. Citing several national achievements, she pointed to the launch of a set of environmental protection policies and initiatives that address local to global climate change effects and also consider women’s inclusion in decision-making and policymaking. The national environment strategy includes 64 initiatives aimed at restructuring the sector alongside such emission reduction programmes and policies as the adoption of an e Government project and renewable energy efforts. Contributions were allocated to the non-profit sector for providing solutions and innovation through advanced programmes and mechanisms, with women supervising the implementation of most of these efforts. The launch in 2021 of the Saudi Green Initiative aims to reduce the impact of climate change, achieve sustainability and create job opportunities for women and youth.

MOHAMMED SAHIB MARZOOQ, Head of Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, delivering a statement on behalf of Yossra Mohsen, Director General and Head of Women’s Empowerment in his country, said climate change consequences — from the reduction of arable land to the loss of waterways — has led to displacement and a loss of revenue, disproportionately affecting women and girls. As such, a historic role must be played to mitigate climate change effects. This shared responsibility should be based on circumstances and national capabilities, as solidarity and international cooperation have proven to be the only way forward. Highlighting several key achievements, he said Iraq has developed a series of projects and action programmes to tackle these and related challenges and has adopted laws and policies aimed at protecting women and increasing their participation at various levels. Noting that 95 women were elected in recent elections, he pointed to other gains, including the Government’s launch of its second National Plan for Women’s Economic Empowerment (2021-2022). Efforts included opening centres to protect women from domestic violence, creating a high-level committee to assist rural women, and a Ministry of Agriculture initiative to implement several targeted projects. In addition, 1 million trees have been planted as part of a mitigation project. Going forward, Iraq is working on revising its laws related to women’s rights and on implementing a national strategy for Iraqi women that also focuses on climate change.

In closing remarks, MAMI MIZUTORI, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, said that, while disasters affect everyone, they disproportionately affect women and girls. Summarizing several threads of the discussion, she said structural inequality is a driver of risk, noting also that women must be involved in efforts to address this. Policies must also be embedded with gender perspectives. At the same time, investing in all these policies and efforts is also critical, she said. Highlighting several other issues, she said more science and knowledge must be shared with women and girls. Attention must also be paid to the issue of increased violence against women amid disasters and the vulnerable situation of women in rural areas, she said, commending the participants for sharing their encouraging efforts at national to local levels.

Also participating were ministers and other high-level representatives from Kenya, France, Indonesia, United Republic of Tanzania, Saint Lucia, Spain, Bangladesh, Angola, United Kingdom, Maldives, El Salvador, Azerbaijan and Chad.

Ministerial Round Table IV

The Commission then held a ministerial roundtable discussion on the theme “Women’s voice and agency: good practices towards achieving women’s full, equal and meaningful participation and decision-making in the context of climate-change, environmental and disaster-risk-reduction policies and programmes”.

Ministers and senior officials of Member States detailed national strategies to increase women’s participation in decision-making and address the disproportionate effects of climate change and natural disaster on women and girls. Stressing that such effects, along with widening inequality, necessitates including these individuals in policymaking, they also pointed out that women and girls possess unique knowledge and experience that can be harnessed to inform risk-reduction and resilience strategies. Further, they pointed to the link between climate change and gender-based violence, stressing the need to mainstream gender perspectives in national policy to ensure that women and girls have both voice and agency in addressing a phenomenon that affects them in specific ways.

ELIZABETH GOMEZ ALCORTA, Minister for Women, Genders and Diversity of Argentina, chairing the round table, said that women and girls — who hold deep knowledge of the needs and priorities of their communities — are key to combating climate change and environmental degradation. However, women are far from achieving full gender parity and lack the critical mass necessary to influence policy, decisions and strategies. Further, women’s civil society organizations face barriers to participation and leadership due to diminishing funds and threats to physical security. Pointing out that, while climate change is a global challenge, not all countries share the same responsibility, she said that the richest countries produce the most greenhouse gases while those with the fewest emissions are most exposed to the negative effects of the same. This reflects the hegemonic model of development, which is harmful to the environment and increases inequality. For its part, she said that Argentina works towards gender mainstreaming by training public officials and providing more resources to community organizations, especially those affected by climate change.

SILVERIA ELFRIEDA JACOBS, Prime Minister of Sint Maarten, speaking on behalf of the Netherlands and its constituent countries of Sint Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba, said that the latter three small island developing States are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. The climate crisis magnifies inequalities and vulnerabilities — especially for women and girls — which are further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, in the global discussion regarding climate action, the voices of women and girls are underrepresented, and the international community cannot expect to solve this crisis by leaving these individuals behind. Member States must work towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality by ensuring women’s full access to equal opportunities, knowledge and pay. Emphasizing that “women must be part of the solution”, she said that, by working together to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5, the world can progress towards achieving all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

ARIUNZAYA AYUSH, Minister for Labour and Social Protection of Mongolia, noted that her country has ratified 12 United Nations conventions relating to climate change, and to ensure implementation of these international treaties at the national level, has adopted several laws and policies to protect the environment. Further, the Government has implemented a number of projects to combat desertification and reduce air pollution, as the negative effects of climate change continue to pose a risk to both women and the national economy. Air pollution — caused by densely populated urban areas — has particularly negative effects on the health of the population. She emphasized that this problem especially affects infants and pregnant women, and has also led to respiratory diseases, premature birth and developmental disorders.

AYANNA WEBSTER-ROY, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, outlined Government efforts to ensure that women have voice and agency by incorporating gender considerations in strategies and projects to enhance environmental and climate resilience. Socially constructed roles and inequality disproportionately affect women — especially in rural areas – and she highlighted the need to incorporate the United Nations principle of “leaving no one behind” in developing disaster-risk-reduction policies and programmes. Gender issues and priorities specific to women must be integrated into the same, and the Government has worked to include women in stakeholder groups such as environmentally focused cabinets. She went on to stress the need to ensure that no barriers prevent the participation of women and girls in efforts to address climate change.

NASSÉNÉBA TOURE, Minister for Women, Family and Children of Côte d’Ivoire, pointed out that women comprise 70 per cent of agricultural workers in her country, producing 90 per cent of foodstuffs. As such, they suffer disproportionately from the consequences of drought, high precipitation and natural disaster. Against that backdrop, the Government has implemented a national programme to fight climate change by empowering women and girls. Institutional and legislative support measures have been passed, multiple support funds for women working in agriculture have been established and women’s participation in elected assemblies has increased. She also said that the Government is committed to implementing three projects for producing solar energy in the country’s north — 12 solar plants and 1 biomass project using residue from cotton and cocoa will create thousands of jobs for women and girls.

HELENA DALLI, European Commissioner for Equality of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, stressed the need to address the lack of women’s participation in decision-making as “no crisis is gender-neutral”. Climate change and environmental degradation take a disproportionate toll on women due to such individuals’ reduced access to resources, and therefore, the European Union’s climate-adaptation strategy aims to increase women’s leadership and gender balance. Further, the bloc supports programmes worldwide that promote women’s participation in climate governance — once such instance is its partnership with Bhutan to help local governments include women in the process to improve disaster resilience. Spotlighting the link between climate change and gender-based violence, she said that the European Union works to prevent such violence through targeted action, such as strengthening institutional capacities to address violence against women and girls following natural disaster.

NINO TANDILASHVILI, Deputy Minister for Environmental Protection and Agricultural Affairs of Georgia, joined other speakers in expressing solidarity with Ukraine and its people, condemning the Russian Federation’s invasion and use of force against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in contravention of international law. Turning to climate change, she said the phenomenon has had — and will continue to have — severe, lasting impact on the environment and social development. The resilience and adaptive capacity of women and girls must be supported, and for its part, the Government is working to mainstream gender perspectives in its environmental and climate change policy. These efforts include enhancing women’s role as agents of change and reducing the impact of natural disaster on population and infrastructure by providing early warning systems and locally informed risk management. “Without gender equality today, a sustainable, equitable future remains beyond our reach,” she added.

ANNA MARIA MOKGETHI, Minister for Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs of Botswana, highlighted the lessons learned from the COVID-19, HIV/AIDS and Ebola pandemics, in which women were not only affected, but also at the forefront of the response. As countries hold national and international dialogues on climate-change mitigation, women and girls must be at the negotiating table to ensure their voices are heard. Noting that women and girls in her country are negatively affected by aridity, persistent drought and erratic rainfall, she said that the Government pursues inclusive development policies that focus on the particular needs of women and children. Further, it engages women and girls in rural areas in the management of rural community resources, as their wealth of indigenous knowledge is essential for resilience. She went on to stress that these indigenous practices must be preserved, and that the women employing them must be empowered to fully participate in the supply chain.

In closing remarks, PREETI SINHA, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Capital Development Fund, highlighted the link between women’s economic empowerment and the climate agenda. Offering an example of the Fund’s work in Uganda, she said that the informal settlements of Mbali suffer from frequent water-supply outages, flooding and contamination. As such, only 20 per cent of households have access to clean, piped water, and this lack of access forces women and youth to travel long distances to collect water, which renders them susceptible to gender-based violence. The Fund is working to improve this water access situation, and this scenario demonstrates the effects that climate adaptation measures can have on women’s security. The relationship between climate finance and women’s economic empowerment has the potential to be one of the most powerful, virtuous cycles in development finance for least developed countries and beyond. “Let us unite to have capital serve humanity, and not the other way around,” she added.

Also participating were ministers and other high-level representatives from Estonia, Sierra Leone, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Gambia, Portugal, Ethiopia, Croatia, Greece, Mexico, Paraguay, Romania, Czech Republic, Cuba, Switzerland and Mali.

General Discussion

MILENKO ESTEBAN SKOKNIC TAPIA (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said that it is undeniable that all older women make a significant contribution, as agents of change, to the social, economic and sustainable development of societies. Not only do women account for the majority of older persons, but the proportion of older women in the global female population will also increase in the coming years. Therefore, policies and programmes must address women’s needs throughout their lives, particularly when they are older. Calling for a change in the way of thinking about ageing, he said there is a need to challenge narratives regarding the role older women can play in the economy, society and households.

It is hard to conceive that considering that older populations will outgrow younger populations by 2020, older persons — and even more so older women — remain largely invisible and disregarded in the development of policies and programmes. Such invisibility is evident in this year’s Secretary-General’s report on the priority theme, which hardly addressed the complex realities of older women facing climate change and natural disasters, despite the compounded vulnerabilities they are more likely to experience. Such lack of visibility can and must be addressed urgently. The Group therefore urges the United Nations agencies, and particularly United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) to systematically collect and disaggregate data by age and gender, particularly of women beyond their reproductive years.

Ms. AKBAR, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation of Fiji, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said that the science is non-negotiable and urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is critical. Equal and full participation of all women and girls must be central to global action. The recent volcanic eruption in Tonga caused tephra ash to fall, a tsunami and severe damage to submarine telecommunications cables. Pacific women and girls, in all their diversity, continue to play a critical role in building resilient communities. Recognizing women’s and girls’ knowledge, capabilities and skills, and empowering them, is vital to the safety and security of all Pacific families. The Pacific has one of the highest rates of violence globally; on average, two out of every three women experience some form of violence throughout their lifetime. Global evidence indicates a link between disasters, climate change and gender-based violence, she said, noting that in the Pacific, reports of domestic violence cases have increased. During disasters, women are subject to increased workloads and care responsibilities and must travel further to look for water and food. This is exacerbated by the increasing levels of non-communicable diseases in rural and remote areas.

A lack of adequate sexual reproductive health and outreach services are worsened by climate change and related disasters, she said. Climate finance also often fails to take account of gender equality and women’s empowerment. She called on the international community to increase gender-responsive climate, environmental and disaster risk finance, promote women’s full participation and leadership in climate, environment, ocean, biodiversity and disaster risk reduction action, and strengthen the capacities of women through accessible training and gender-responsive policies and programmes. It is also vital to ensure women have access to essential services during crisis situations. She also called for increased investment in national gender statistics which ensures gender-disability-geographical disaggregated data in the gender-environment nexus. “COVID-19 recovery and recovery from recurring natural disasters is an opportunity to reset our global development agenda to one that is climate-resilient, gender-inclusive and leaves no one behind,” she said.

VINDHYA PERSAUD, Minister for Human Services and Social Security of the Co operative Republic of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted that climate change poses an existential threat to small island developing States and that its impacts represent a “code red for humanity”. Reiterating disappointment that the developed countries’ pledge to provide $100 billion by 2020 for developing nations to address climate change was not met, he noted that women and girls are often disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. There must be a gender perspective when building climate resilience, as well as in the design and implementation of disaster-risk-reduction strategies and recovery plans, he said, calling also for investment to enable the production of gender-specific statistics and data on the relationship between gender and climate. Poverty eradication is central to reducing women’s vulnerability to climate change, he added, stressing that climate finance for both adaptation and mitigation activities should include measures supporting women owned micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises in the green and blue economies.

Turning to action to address sexual and gender-based violence and domestic violence, he noted that CARICOM nations are encouraging the equal sharing of responsibilities in parenting and household work; engaging community leaders to address discriminatory social norms and gender stereotypes; and adopting robust legislative regimes. Women in the region are also leaders advocating for protection of the environment and implementing home-grown solutions. Highlighting progress in Guyana, he pointed to its low-carbon development strategy, noting that 62 per cent of the jobs it has created are held by women. While women and girls are disproportionately impacted by climate events, they have also been creating innovative solutions to protect the country’s valuable ecosystem, including by using drones to monitor environmental activities to ascertain what threats have emerged to the mangroves ecosystem and how responses should be tailored. To promote women’s economic empowerment, free, non-traditional technical vocational programmes, with no pre-admission requirements, have been created to provide the necessary training and skills for thousands of women across Guyana.

PATRICIA KALIATI, Minister for Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that at a meeting in February, African Union ministers responsible for gender and promotion of women resolved that the current situation — marked by a regression of the gains made to advance women’s rights and gender equality due to the devastating effects of climate change and environmental disasters coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic — necessitates taking action. Agriculture plays an important role in the economy of all SADC member States. Environmental degradation threatens economic development and directly affects peoples’ livelihoods. SADC has established three main environmental policy goals: protect and improve the health, environment and livelihoods of the people of Southern Africa with priority for poor; preserve the region’s natural heritage, biodiversity and life supporting ecosystems; and support regional economic development on an equitable, sustainable basis for the benefit of present and future generations.

When unexpectedly heavy floods displaced more than a million people in Southern Africa in 2007, SADC began to meet annually to prepare for future occurrences, she said. It established a Disaster Risk Reduction Unit responsible for coordinating regional preparedness and response programmes for trans-boundary hazards and disaster. The SADC Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction was inaugurated in 2011. The newly developed SADC Regional Resilience Framework 2020 2030 will guide SADC member States and other stakeholders in the design and implementation of a broad range of resilience programmes. Women in the region account for most of the poorest and most vulnerable due to their general subordinate legal status; limited access to productive resources such as land, technology, credit, education and training, formal employment; as well as their susceptibility to HIV and AIDS. The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development was revised in 2016 to include gender and climate change. She stressed that State parties should, by 2030, develop policies, strategies and programmes to address the gender aspects of climate change, conduct research to assess its differential gendered impacts and put in place effective mitigation and adaptation measures.

ANTONETTE NCUBE, a youth representative from the European Union delegation, in its capacity as an observer, also spoke on behalf of the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. Stressing that climate change, disasters, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss disproportionately affect women and girls, and that crises and disasters exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities and discrimination, she said women and girls frequently face increased sexual and gender-based violence. They are subjected to harmful practices such as early and forced marriage due to the impact of climate change, disproportionate burden of care work, and restricted access to essential health services. The Group calls for concerted efforts to address these issues and expects the Commission to adopt strong and action-oriented conclusions.

More specifically, she said, the Group recommends that all stakeholders ensure the gender-responsive implementation of international obligations and commitments, including the Paris Agreement, Lima Work Programme on Gender, Convention on Biological Diversity and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. In that regard, the Group stresses the importance of enhancing women’s full, equal, effective and meaningful participation and leadership, she said, underscoring a concrete need to improve data and resources and strengthen coordination and capacity-building. The Group encourages all stakeholders to use comprehensive indicators and pursue the ethical collection and dissemination of high-quality, timely, reliable and disaggregated data and gender statistics on all dimensions of environmental, disaster risk reduction and climate change issues and sexual and gender-based violence.

MARTA LUCÍA RAMÍREZ, Vice President of Colombia, spotlighting the threats to global peace and stability seen over the last two weeks, said that the future will depend on including women’s voices. Fifty per cent of the world’s population has historically been excluded from power, but gender equality is essential for generating sustainable economic growth. For its part, Colombia has implemented a national policy with five objectives: to provide economic empowerment for women entrepreneurs; to include more women in politics; to involve women in peace and security; to ensure that women can live free from violence; and to establish more gender-based institutions. Noting her status as her country’s first female Vice President, she stressed that, when women arrive in positions of power, they must remember to open more spaces for other women “just as those who came before did for us”.

She went on to detail Colombia’s establishment of a sovereign gender bond to help women-owned businesses recover from COVID-19 — the first of its type in the world — and stressed that economic autonomy is essential for women to decide their own futures and live free from violence. The international community must also remember the situation of women living in Ukraine, Afghanistan and other conflict zones as a result of wars “always declared by men”. It must recall the voices of Afghan women, “no longer heard in the halls of the United Nations”, which reflects the current multilateral system. And it must always call for the dignity and rights of all women, she urged, highlighting the legal and moral obligation to allow women around the world to rise up with all their creative and transformative might.

ENSIEH KHAZALI, Vice President for Women and Family Affairs of Iran, said that, during the pandemic, some 12,000 women-headed households have been trained and introduced to the traditional and cybermarkets. Also, more than 1 million women-headed households are covered by the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee. They have benefited from special social protection services including funding and insurance services. Ten million rials in cash subsidies were allocated to 17 million households to reduce economic constraints on families. Supported by the Vice-Presidency for Women and Family Affairs, the women-headed households were prioritized for receiving aid packages, and with the approval of the Cabinet, the amount of loans granted to those households were doubled. Also to protect the environment, 6,000 rural and nomadic women have become members of 2,000 rural and nomadic cooperatives, some of whom have been granted plots of land over the past five years. Iranian women are fighting the effects of unilateral coercive measures, she said, adding that their heroic achievements in various areas have proven that they can withstand various unjust and unilateral sanctions.

KATRIN JAKOBSDÓTTIR, Prime Minister of Iceland, said that climate change has not spared her island country, with sea levels rising and glaciers melting. “No country is an island when it comes to climate change,” she said, stressing that similarly gender inequality plagues all parts of the world. Climate change causes poverty, disproportionally affecting women economically and socially. Climate change also causes instability and creates conditions for gender-based violence. Citing the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, she expressed concern that the conflict will produce mass displacement, which, in turn, creates more cases of gender-based violence. This “shadow pandemic” had occurred during the COVID-19 outbreak, she said, calling for attention to gender-based violence caused by the Russian Federation’s aggression. There is a need to include young people in social justice and health, as they are the best advocate for their own future. There are many remarkable women activists and human rights defenders in the forefront. “The world will be a better place with women in the lead,” she said.

TANZILA NARBAEVA, Chairperson and Speaker of the Senate of Parliament of Uzbekistan, said the Commission is a catalyst for incorporating gender into all aspects of United Nations work. Expanding the rights of women and girls is a key priority of Uzbekistan State policy, she noted, with a new development plan for 2022-2026 and a national programme to bolster the role of women and girls in the country’s future. Addressing climate change, she noted Uzbekistan is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, including the drying of the Aral Sea, which threatens the sustainable development of Central Asia. Reports have further suggested that, between 2030 and 2050, the average air temperature in the region may increase by 1.5°C to 3°C. Uzbekistan has adopted the broad use of renewable energy, and is working to develop the Aral Sea region, including through women-focused training courses to manage resources and regenerate salinated areas. During the third Central Asian Summit, Uzbekistan advanced the regional programme “Green Agenda for Central Asia”, and is planting 200 million saplings.

ZORANA MIHAJLOVIC, Deputy Prime Minister and the President of the Coordination Body of the Government of the Republic of Serbia for Gender Equality of Serbia, said that UN-Women has been a partner of the Coordination Body for Gender Equality for years. They have worked together on gender mainstreaming of climate policies and practices in Serbia, and on ensuring that the normative framework related to energy is gender-sensitive and that climate change finance always includes women’s perspective. A new national energy strategy, as well as the National Energy and Climate Action Plan are under way, both of which will be gender-sensitive, because without gender mainstreaming of public policies, the existing gender gap cannot be closed. The Government established the National Coalition on Energy Poverty whose goal is to underline gender gaps in energy poverty. “The gender-just transition is our chance not only to change our energy sources and to have a cleaner environment, but also to change the perception of the energy sector as a men-dominated sector,” she said.

EVELYN WEVER-CROES, Prime Minister of Aruba, speaking on behalf of the Netherlands and its constituent countries of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, said that these four countries have been battling the elements for centuries — “from North Sea floods to Caribbean hurricanes” — and are united in tackling the climate crisis, which is “the greatest challenge of our time”. The world is unequal, and this crisis is amplifying that inequality. In the Caribbean, the greatest burden of care falls on women and girls when communities are in crisis; however, these individuals remain underrepresented in decision-making at all levels, including at the United Nations. Against that backdrop, she urged full, equal, meaningful and effective participation and leadership for women in adaptation and mitigation processes, along with granting the same equal access to the knowledge and resources necessary to respond to climate change.

ROBBERT DIJKGRAAF, Minister for Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands, underscored the importance of knowledge in combating climate change, as it is “the only resource that grows as you use it”. However, the voices, knowledge and experience of women and girls are unheard, as these individuals are underrepresented at all levels, including technical areas crucial to making the necessary energy transition. The world needs the contribution of women and girls, in all their diversity, to ensure a liveable future for humanity. Noting that today’s meeting occurs in extraordinary times, he expressed full solidarity with all women and girls living in conflict — including those in Ukraine — and condemned the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of that country.

DERYA YANIK, Minister for Family and Social Services of Turkey, said that a civilization teaches: “Plant a tree, even if it is your last deed.” Her country puts great emphasis on environmental protection. Since 2002, it has witnessed remarkable progress as a result. Thanks to the “Zero Waste” project, a new era has begun in terms of environmental protection. Women play a major role in the success of this project. In adapting to the Paris Agreement on climate change, Turkey has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2053. An effective fight against climate change requires a political and social atmosphere in which women are resilient, empowered and their rights are ensured. Her country has made significant progress in eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination against women, adopted priority goals to increase the education level of women and girls, and taken crucial steps in terms of empowering and increasing the participation of women in the labour market. With the “Gender-Responsive Planning and Budgeting in Turkey” project, the Government is determined to ensure that women are not ignored and their needs and problems are always visible in budget programmes.

MAYA MORSY, Minister for Women and President of the National Council for Women of Egypt, said that her country is among those most affected by climate change, despite its very limited contribution to the phenomenon’s existence, as Egypt accounts for only 0.6 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In light of the impact of climate change on women — particularly on their health, food security and living standards — the Government works to implement a sustainable development model and has adopted many initiatives, programmes and projects to promote adaptation and mitigate the effects of climate change, while also promoting women’s empowerment. These efforts include: raising women’s awareness of rural initiatives and eco-friendly agricultural methods; organizing environmental camps to train women in eco-friendly industries; and raising awareness of sustainable flood-management. She also detailed Egypt’s perspective for women, the environment and climate change, affirming the Government’s commitment to address climate change and empower Egyptian women in various fields.

AAWATIF HAYAR, Minister for Solidarity, Social Integration and Family of Morocco, outlining her country’s efforts on the priority theme, said that national priority focuses on integrating women into environmental policy. This session coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a huge impact on women. Her country is including women in all areas of policy implementation. The 2011 Constitution bases itself on the principle of equality of men and women. Morocco is also working to implement all its international commitments in eliminating discrimination, advancing gender equality and addressing climate change. It has established the 2020-2030 Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation, with a view to archiving gender equality. The Government is undertaking projects with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in the field of green technology. The Government has set a goal of increasing women’s economic activity by 2026, she said, also noting that more women candidates won during the 2021 elections than in past elections.

CHUNG YOUNG-AI, Minister for Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea, voiced concern about the impact of violence on women and girls, many of whom have been displaced or forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. She affirmed that only when the perspectives of women — who account for half the world’s population — are incorporated into policies and programmes will the world be able to prudently respond to the crisis facing the international community. Her Government formulates a Basic Plan for Gender Equality Policies every five years, and has enforced gender-responsive budgeting since fiscal year 2010. It is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. In addition, a designated officer system has been established to support women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The country is also responding to deepening gender inequality in the labour market brought on by the pandemic with a COVID-19 Women’s Job Recovery Plan launched in 2021, expanding jobs for women in the public and private sectors. With the help of her ministry, UN-Women has established the United Nations Women Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality in Seoul.

SUSANNE RAAB, Federal Minister for Women, Family, Integration and Media in the Federal Chancellery of Austria, aligning herself with the European Union, noted that women and men are affected differently by climate and environmental crises and States have to think differently and come up with new solutions. Highlighting measures taken by her country in that regard, she stressed a special focus on the empowerment of women and girls in technology and innovation, to ensure that they equally benefit from job opportunities and increase diversity in those sectors, including through “Lets Empower Austria”, an initiative which aims to increase the participation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Turning to the Russian’s Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, she noted that war leads to an unbelievable suffering for civilians, in particular women and girls. In that regard, she expressed her country’s full solidarity with women and girls in Ukraine and those who fled.

EVA NORDMARK, Minister for Gender Equality, Ministry of Employment of Sweden, associating herself with the European Union, expressed solidarity with those living in conflict situations and other emergencies, including Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia and Ukraine. The unprovoked, illegal and indefensible Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine is having an immense impact on the civilian population there, with a huge number of people, including women and children, forced to flee their homes. “We all have an obligation to strongly condemn this invasion,” she said. As a member of the Swedish feminist Government, she noted women’s economic empowerment is key to achieving gender equality. “When you make your own money, you can choose your own life,” she said, citing political reforms such as parental leave for both mothers and fathers, affordable childcare and individual taxation to help close the gender pay gap. Addressing the urgency of stopping fossil fuel emissions to accelerate a just climate transition, she noted Sweden is producing batteries and the world’s first fossil-free steel, creating thousands of new green jobs. As the COVID-19 pandemic has globally increased the risk of women being subjected to men’s violence, prostitution and trafficking, the Government has adopted a 99-point Action Programme for preventing and combating violence against women. The blame must be put where it belongs: on the perpetrators. Stressing the importance of sexual and reproductive rights, she said: “We must continue promoting access to safe and legal abortions, contraceptives and comprehensive sexuality education.”

DOMINIQUE HASLER, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Education and Sport of Liechtenstein, noted the meeting unfortunately falls under the shadow of a terrible war, condemning the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine. She stressed that all armed conflicts have devastating consequences for civilians, and are a setback for the rights of women and girls, who disproportionately suffer violence, marginalization and exclusion, but show amazing resilience. Their role is key in supporting the international rules-based order; it is not a question of political correctness but a prerequisite for successful and peaceful political processes. Climate change also disproportionately burdens women and girls, and generations to come will note the action — or inaction — of the international community on the issue. Addressing the interlinkage between climate change and rights, she noted women lack access to land ownership. Modern slavery and human trafficking increase during and after natural disasters, she stressed, pointing to a blueprint the Government has developed for financial institutions to prevent such crimes through financial inclusion. Liechtenstein has also partnered with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the Climate and Environment Transition Fund. Quoting the Secretary-General, she noted that humanitarian emergencies move the clock backwards on women’s rights.

THOMAS BLOMQVIST, Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality of Finland, aligning himself with the European Union, condemned Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine in the strongest terms, stressing that the war is also a violation of women’s rights. “We must hear the voices of Ukrainian women. As in every conflict, women are critical to achieving sustainable peace,” he said. Noting the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls, he stressed that climate change is also a gender issue, calling for increased efforts to ensure a gender perspective in all climate, environment and disaster management policies. Highlighting the intersection between climate issues and sexual and reproductive health and rights, he spotlighted the essential importance of universal access to quality comprehensive sexuality education, bodily autonomy, access to clean water and sanitation, and women’s economic empowerment, in order to achieve gender equality. To that end, his Government has introduced family leave reform and is also introducing national legislation on pay transparency, he noted. Expressing concern about the increasing sexual and gender-based violence, harassment and hate speech, both offline and online, he emphasized the need to bridge the gender digital divide and eliminate harmful gender stereotypes, including gender bias in artificial intelligence.

HO JAN TINETTI, Minister for Women of New Zealand, emphasized that women who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including indigenous women, are among those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and disasters, but also powerful agents of action, change and resilience. As such, the Government of New Zealand is increasingly applying gender and intersectional analysis to all its actions and decision-making, including by promoting the use of an online tool, she said. Noting the data-collection gaps and shortcomings exposed in that process, she stressed the vital importance of gender-disaggregated data to ensuring visibility for the gendered impacts of climate change and natural hazards, and of tailoring responses accordingly. She went on to state that New Zealand is also focusing on enabling an equitable climate transition to a low carbon economy, which entails consideration of the outcomes for different groups in the way climate change policies and programmes are funded and financed.

ÉLISABETH MORENO, Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities of France, expressed concern over the fate of women and girls in Ukraine following the Russian Federation’s military aggression and underscored the need to preserve the rights and dignity of Ukrainians. Turning to climate change, she pointed out that women are the primary victims of it, and quite often, they are not heard despite “having something to say”. Gender equality is at the forefront of France’s efforts in the European Union, and the Government also works to combat sexual and gender-based violence. National legislation addresses domestic abuse, street harassment and new forms of violence on the Internet, and an ombudsman for public enterprises was established to combat harassment in the workplace. She also emphasized the importance of women’s economic independence, noting that the pandemic has revealed the inequality women face in the public and professional spaces. Despite women playing a key role, their contributions are often not seen or valued, and she expressed hope that, post-pandemic, “parity will be the rule, not the exception”.

LYAZZAT RAMAZANOVA, Minister for the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy under the President of Kazakhstan, said her country is committed to all issues on gender equality as women are the main beneficiaries of a clean environment. Kazakhstan is addressing climate change challenges head-on. A transition to the green economy requires significant investment in line with commitments made under the Paris Agreement and the subsequent agreement in Glasgow. Kazakhstan seeks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The Government does not represent the whole picture in this effort, she said, stressing that civil society and businesses are doing their parts. Noting that her landlocked country is far from the ocean and two thirds of its land is desert, she said Central Asian economies like hers must adapt to climate change. Kazakhstan will plant 2 billion trees, with civil society participating in that endeavour. About 80 per cent of civil-society organizations are headed by women. She noted the establishment of a green technology centre in Kazakhstan.

ANNALENA BAERBOCK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said an estimated 800,000 women will give birth in Ukraine in the next few months, many without shelter or access to proper care. “This illustrates clearly that conflicts and crises are not gender-blind,” she said, stressing that conflicts disproportionately impact women from Afghanistan to the Sahel. The same is true for the climate crisis, she said, urging the Commission to compel States to put women’s rights at the heart of climate action. She noted that, during droughts, it is girls who are sent to school less frequently because gender norms dictate that fetching water falls to them. For such reasons, Germany supported the Human Rights Council in recognizing a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right, and it supports efforts to give women and other marginalized groups an equal say in decision-making processes.

MUSA MAAYTAH, Minister for Political and Parliamentary Affairs and Chairman of the Ministerial Committee for the Empowerment of Women, and Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs of Jordan, said the international community must take into account the most vulnerable people to ensure civil society features the participation of women in decision-making processes. Jordan has pioneered mainstreaming gender into State policy on climate change, stressing the importance of measures addressing the root causes of inequality and discrimination and acknowledging the different circumstances of men and women. He also affirmed the Government will work to provide better services to women in humanitarian crises, either through prevention or recovery, and is further taking into account lessons learned from the pandemic, involving women in decision-making related to economic empowerment. He noted that the labour law was amended to provide nursery care for female staff, equal pay and paternity leave, as well as equal pay for equal work.

RODERIC O’GORMAN, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth of Ireland, aligning himself with the European Union, expressed solidarity with women and girls in situations of conflict or other emergencies and pointed out that these individuals are particularly impacted by the same, including in Ukraine. Ireland prioritizes women’s empowerment, demonstrated by its international development programming that focuses on social protection, food systems, climate action and the women, peace and security agenda. Spotlighting the link between climate and security, he said that instability and fragility have a disproportionate impact on women. Women’s role in addressing the climate crisis is too often overlooked and undervalued, and States must ensure that women’s voices are heard at all levels. He went on to say that Ireland, for its part, has pioneered citizens’ assemblies as exercises in participatory democracy, and the assembly for gender equality recently submitted its report containing 45 recommendations in this area to the Government for implementation.

LAILA AL NAJAR, Minister for Social Development of Oman, emphasized the importance of a prominent role for women in national development, noting that they instil the value of tolerance. Noting that his country’s Constitution guarantees the rights of women, he said their economic participation is an important goal for Oman. A high percentage of women are now joining the labour market, he added. Pointing out that more women occupy leadership positions in political and public life, he said they are holding decision-making positions in private companies, as well. Oman provides assistance to women entrepreneurs and small business owners engaged in e-commerce, he said, adding that the Government also supports victims of domestic violence. Women volunteer to help those affected in crisis situations, he noted, stressing that their participation is crucial both during normal times and in emergencies.

MARIANA VIEIRA DA SILVA, Minister of State for the Presidency of Portugal, said that it is fundamental to invest in the production of data disaggregated by sex, on the impacts of phenomena and policies. Environment and energy, agriculture, mobility or urban planning are important sectors in this approach. Since 2021, Portugal has monitored gender equality indicators in its State budget report, including in the field of climate change, with all data produced by the Central Administration to be disaggregated by sex. In the labour market, the Government is integrating more women in key areas of climate transition, whether through training activities in maritime economy, in the management of rural fires, or through the training of women working in the agricultural sector. In the fight against energy poverty, it is reducing the costs of energy and other consumptions, supporting the more vulnerable households, namely single parent families. Legislative measures set minimum thresholds for participation in decision-making positions. Since 2017, the average proportion of women on the boards of publicly listed companies increased from 12 to 29 per cent. In public administration, since 2015, the rate of women senior managers jumped from 32 to 43 per cent. In the Portuguese Parliament, women account for more than a third of representation.

MEIRAV COHEN, Minister for Social Equality of Israel, spotlighted all the young girls, mothers, sick or wounded women, pregnant women and senior citizens in Ukraine who thought they would never have to experience war atrocities again. Those women must be kept in mind when discussing policy. The gap between the privilege of discussing gender issues and the need to stay alive and protect one's children must be pondered by all. On a national level, she pointed to the presence of many different communities, which presents challenges to promoting women's rights in a “complex sphere” where every group lives according to its traditions and customs. Nearly 56 per cent of Israeli women are employed, most of them working mothers. Together with a high birth rate in Israel, Israeli women are burdened by their households much more than their Western counterparts. As a result, her Government’s attempt to reduce environmental hazards by restricting the use of disposable housewares was met with strong opposition from Orthodox communities that consist of multi-child families. An attempt to limit disposables with extensive taxing was considered an attack on women in the more traditional household. The women, as sole housekeepers, had to choose between spending more money or having to do more housework. To that end, her country has the complex task of finding the right balances between promoting women’s rights while preserving the environment and addressing climate change.

AYANNA WEBSTER-ROY, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister responsible for Gender and Child Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, said the country’s National Vision 2030 Development Plan and the National Policy on Gender and Development recognize the importance of holistic, interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches to conserving, developing and safeguarding natural resources. The Policy aims to encourage women and men to play diverse and complementary roles in approaches to climate change and environmental protection. She noted that Trinidad and Tobago ratified the Paris Agreement, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent in the energy, transportation, and industrial sectors by 2030 — a 103 million-ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. On gender, she cited the Ministry of Planning and Development, the political head of which is a woman, and the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Network, with women accounting for 58 per cent of the groups and playing a lead role in decision making. The country’s Comprehensive Disaster Management Policy further recognizes that disasters and hazards affect women, girls, men and boys differently. Because of their reproductive responsibilities, women are particularly valuable “change agents” in the transition to a sustainable economy, and should be trained and supported in adopting new environmentally friendly practices and technologies.

TAINA BOFFERDING, Minister for Equality between Women and Men of Luxembourg, said that crises — whatever their nature — affect each individual differently. In the conflict situation in Ukraine, women and girls must demonstrate resilience and courage while facing unprovoked Russian aggression. In a three-week period, millions have been forced to flee their homes, the majority of whom are women and girls. Also expressing shock over reports of sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by Russian armed forces, she demanded that the Russian Federation “cease this stupid war”. Turning to women and climate change, she stressed the need to improve the collection of reliable, disaggregated gender data; to place gender equality at the centre of resilience policies and disaster-risk-reduction programmes; and to increase the number of women in decision-making and leadership roles. She added that, for its part, the Government has adopted a feminist foreign policy and its development-cooperation efforts — to which 1 per cent of Luxembourg’s GDP is allocated — are focusing on new gender strategies, such as increasing financing for projects bolstering women’s empowerment throughout the world.

Right of Reply

Speaking in the exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation said that many delegates made baseless allegations against his country in their statements today. They ignore the fact that the Ukrainian army has stricken the heart of Donetsk, killing civilians. Since the coup d'état in 2014, the Ukrainian regime has taken a decision to destroy the Russian-speaking populations in the country’s east, where they are being shelled and killed. He wondered why Western countries ignore this situation created by the criminal regime in Kyiv, and instead provide lethal weapons to Kyiv. He reminded the Commission that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) used inhumane weapons in the former Yugoslavia, killing civilians, including women and children, also citing similar actions by the so-called “peacekeeping” forces in Afghanistan and Libya.

Source: United Nations

Targeted Investments to Promote Gender Equality Key for Ensuring Climate Resilience Plans Result in Female Empowerment, Protection, Speakers Tell Women’s Commission

Targeted investments to promote gender equality — from global to local levels — must ensure that promises made are kept as the world forges an inclusive, sustainable path to tackle climate change consequences, delegates told the Commission on the Status of Women on the second day of its annual session.

The session, which runs from 14 to 25 March, is focused on the theme “Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes”.

Some speakers highlighted challenges and innovative achievements during two ministerial round tables held in the morning. Many agreed that, like the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change consequences are disproportionately affecting women and girls. Round table discussions continued from the session’s opening day on 14 March on the same themes: climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes — advancing gender equality through holistic and integrated actions from global to local; and on women’s voice and agency — good practices towards achieving women’s full, equal and meaningful participation and decision-making in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes. (For details, see Press Release WOM/2213.)

During the general discussion in the afternoon, Rosy Akbar, Fiji’s Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said climate finance often fails to take account of gender equality and women’s empowerment. To remedy this, she called on the international community to increase gender-responsive climate, environmental and disaster risk finance. She also called for efforts to promote women’s full participation and leadership in climate, environment, ocean, biodiversity and disaster-risk-reduction action, and to strengthen their capacities through accessible training and gender-responsive policies and programmes.

In the same vein, Vindhya Persaud, Guyana’s Minister for Human Services and Social Security of the Co-operative Republic, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), reiterated disappointment that the developed countries’ pledge to provide $100 billion by 2020 for developing nations to address climate change was not met. Stressing that climate change poses an existential threat to small island developing States, she said its impact represents a “code red for humanity”. Moving forward, a gender perspective must be part of building climate resilience and designing and implementing disaster-risk-reduction strategies and recovery plans. In addition, climate finance for both adaptation and mitigation activities must include measures that support women-owned enterprises in the green and blue economies, she said, also calling for investment in gathering gender specific statistics and data on the relationship between gender and climate.

On behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Patricia Kaliati, Malawi’s Minister for Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, agreed that the current situation calls for action, as women make up the poorest and most vulnerable groups in her region. Reasons stem from their general subordinate legal status and limited access to such critical resources as land, technology, credit, education and housing, she said, pointing to several ongoing efforts to help to address these challenges. For its part, SADC integrated gender and climate change into its Protocol on Gender and Development in 2016. This means State parties should, by 2030, develop policies, strategies, and programmes to address the gender issues in climate change, conduct research to assess the differential gendered impacts of climate change and adopt effective mitigation and adaptation measures.

Youth representative Antonette Ncube, from the European Union delegation, in its capacity as an observer, spoke on behalf of the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls when she presented several recommendations. Underscoring a need to improve data and strengthen capacity building, she encouraged stakeholders to pursue the ethical collection and dissemination of high-quality, timely, reliable and disaggregated data and gender statistics on all dimensions of environmental, disaster risk reduction and climate change issues, and sexual and gender-based violence. She also recommended that stakeholders ensure the gender-responsive implementation of international commitments made in such instruments as the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Calling for concerted efforts to address gender-based violence and the disproportionate impact of climate crises and disasters on women and girls, she expected the Commission to adopt strong and action-oriented conclusions.

Some speakers shone a spotlight on the importance of remembering the most vulnerable groups of women when aiming at inclusive responses. The representative of Chile, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said those often overlooked must urgently be considered. Older persons — and even more so older women — remain largely invisible and disregarded in the development of policies and programmes. To change this, he urged United Nations agencies, and particularly the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), to systematically collect and disaggregate data by age and gender, particularly of women beyond their reproductive years.

Marta Lucía Ramírez, Vice President of Colombia, declared that, when women arrive in positions of power, they must remember to open more spaces for others “just as those who came before did for us”. Half the world’s population has historically been excluded from power, but gender equality is essential for generating sustainable economic growth, she said, highlighting Colombia’s five point national policy to support women’s inclusion — from the business sector to peace and security. Colombia also launched the world’s first sovereign gender bond to help women-owned businesses recover from the widespread economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing attention to the situation of women in conflict affected zones in Afghanistan to Ukraine, she said the international community must always call for the dignity and rights of women and must remember that these and other conflicts are a result of wars “always declared by men”.

Also delivering statements during the general discussion were Iran, Iceland, Uzbekistan, Serbia, Netherlands, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Republic of Korea, Austria, Sweden, Liechtenstein, Finland, New Zealand, France, Kazakhstan, Germany, Jordan, Ireland, Oman, Portugal, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago, and Luxembourg.

The representative of the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 16 March, to continue its work.

Ministerial Round Table III

In the morning, the Commission held a ministerial round table discussion on the theme “Climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes: advancing gender equality through holistic and integrated actions from global to local”.

Ministers and senior officials of Member States exchanged views on how Governments are working towards advancing gender perspectives into national policies and programmes. Discussing concerns about such pressing challenges as drought and gender inclusion in related mitigation efforts, delegates presented a broad range of national examples, from cash grants to training for women in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. They also highlighted gender-responsive policies and needs for improvement in such areas as financing.

HYE RYOUNG SONG (Republic of Korea), Vice-Chair designate (Asia and Pacific States Group), opened the round table, sharing some of her country’s actions. Among them are targeted initiatives that led various ministries to draft recommendations related to the gender aspects of climate change. Emphasizing the importance for partners to respond to the climate crisis in a sustainable, inclusive manner, she encouraged delegates to have a fruitful round table.

VINDHYA PERSAUD, Minister for Human Services and Social Security of Guyana, cited several national achievements, including the Low Carbon Development Strategy. Launched in 2009, the Strategy seeks to transform the economy while combating climate change and promoting the inclusion of women and vulnerable groups in key economic sectors through micro-, small enterprise and entrepreneurial projects and job opportunities. Women were awarded 62 per cent of low-carbon cash grants and were trained in climate-smart agriculture, sustainable forestry and business development. With the second highest percentage of forest cover in the world, Guyana secured climate financing for the Amerindian Development Fund, which benefitted 180 communities and strengthened village economies, providing hundreds of jobs for indigenous women. Climate financing is currently bridging the ICT divide for hinterland women and girls with the provision of laptops and the creation of hubs powered by solar-energy systems, transforming the way in which they access Government and social services. In addition, Guyanese women are leading in climate action and advocacy and have pioneered solutions to protect the country’s valuable ecosystem.

ROSY AKBAR, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation of Fiji, highlighted significant strides in developing coherent legislative and policy frameworks in the context of gender, environment and disaster risk reduction. The National Climate Change Policy (2018–2030) and the 2021 Climate Change Act endorse the principles of gender equality and women’s empowerment while recognizing women as agents of change. Gender mainstreaming mandates extend to all programmes of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2020-2024) while the Green Growth Framework identifies gender equality as key indicators of social development. The National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy establishes “human rights and gender-based approaches” as one of its eight guiding principles, in line with Fiji’s commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the gender action plan of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Initiatives related to combating gender based violence in times of disaster responses are among other ongoing efforts to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable groups, including women and girls in all diversity, are met, she said.

NAREK MKRTCHYAN, Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of Armenia, presented several ongoing initiatives in line with his country’s commitments to such global efforts as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Armenia’s disaster management strategy outlines a series of sector-targeted actions for preparedness, response and risk reduction from national to local levels while also recognizing the need to increase women’s representation in such activities. The Government prioritizes mainstreaming gender equality in all its projects dedicated to environmental sustainability, resilience-building, climate change adaptation and crisis mitigation. The Gender Policy Implementation Strategy sets the Government’s priorities for women’s equal participation in all spheres of public life, including: preventing the feminization of poverty in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda; involving rural women in combating climate change problems; strengthening cooperation with civil society and non-governmental organizations in the field of environmental and disaster risk management; and reducing of the impact of pandemics, in particular COVID-19.

NDEYE SALY DIOP DIENG, Minister for Women, Family and Gender of Senegal, said climate change is the biggest challenge, leading to land degradation, drought and other major problems. Indeed, decreases in soil fertility and other side effects have a negative impact on women while also triggering an estimated economic loss of 3 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the agriculture sector. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that more than 3 million people live in areas that are extremely vulnerable to climate change, alongside expert projections that envision 1 billion people facing climate change threats by 2050. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projects that Africa will lose two thirds of its arable land by 2025. These challenges have a human cost, she said, emphasizing that women in rural communities are being affected. Local production, from fishing to forestry, has also felt the impact. Senegal’s analysis and assessments demonstrate the scope of these climate consequences, which could possibly limit women’s access to arable land. Efforts include strengthening initiatives from the global to local levels, including promoting a green economy transition, which Senegal supports, she said, adding that funding must be increased for such endeavours.

MATEJA RIBIC, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Slovenia, said her “green” country has a wealth of natural resources and rich biodiversity, yet recognizes the immediate need to address paramount climate change and sustainable development challenges. Slovenia’s new climate change strategy aims at fostering a society adapted and resilient to climate change impacts and is characterized by a high quality of life and a high degree of safety. Fully aware of strong links among biodiversity, climate change, food security and water, she also noted the well-established interlinkages among human rights, environmental degradation and climate change, which affect millions of people, especially women and girls across the world. Welcoming the Human Rights Council’s recognition of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, she said Slovenia strongly supports women’s empowerment in the context of foreign policy priorities, with gender equality and environmental protection being a cross-cutting issue for development cooperation and humanitarian aid, including ongoing support for projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Women and girls must be at the centre of building back a better, greener, more resilient and more equal world, she said, highlighting the need for strong commitments to achieving gender equality at the highest political level.

ANALIZA REBUELTA-TEH, Under-Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Philippines, said her country — located in the tropical cyclone belt — ranks fourth among nations most affected by extreme weather events in the 2021 long-term Global Climate Risk Index. It experienced 317 exceptionally devastating events from 2000 to 2019. In December 2021, Super Typhoon Rai ravaged more than 2 million families and left $650 million in damages to housing, agriculture and infrastructure. Citing projections from the Philippine Climate Extremes 2020 Report, she said warming temperatures and decreasing rainfall are expected to threaten many communities. Coastlines and coastal resources are also highly vulnerable to climate change and disasters, with low-lying islands facing permanent inundation. The National Framework Strategy on Climate Change — among other gender-responsive adaption and mitigation efforts — addresses the different impacts that individual catastrophes and the slow-onset effects of climate change have across gender, age, socioeconomic class, indigenous status, migration status and disability. Women are ensured equal benefits and participation in Government programmes and policies, she said, adding that, in 2021, over $50 million was allocated to advance women’s technical knowledge and overall capacity to implement mitigation measures in resource-based communities. The Government’s gender mainstreaming efforts are institutionalized in focal point systems, annual appropriation for related budgets and a planning and reporting system monitored by the Philippine Commission on Women. Organized and systematic gender mainstreaming has produced national benefits for over two decades, she said, noting the Philippines’ commitment to continue this holistic, integrated effort through sex aggregated data, social inclusion and measuring long-term strategic impacts.

HALA MAZYAD ALTUWAIGRI, Secretary-General of the Family Affairs Council of Saudi Arabia, said climate change impacts women and girls disproportionately and is an added stressor that will set back their advancement. Noting that 43 per cent of the global agricultural labour force is in developing countries, she said United Nations research shows that women make up 80 per cent of those displaced by climate change, which requires a serious effort from Governments and the active participation of all community members. Citing several national achievements, she pointed to the launch of a set of environmental protection policies and initiatives that address local to global climate change effects and also consider women’s inclusion in decision-making and policymaking. The national environment strategy includes 64 initiatives aimed at restructuring the sector alongside such emission reduction programmes and policies as the adoption of an e Government project and renewable energy efforts. Contributions were allocated to the non-profit sector for providing solutions and innovation through advanced programmes and mechanisms, with women supervising the implementation of most of these efforts. The launch in 2021 of the Saudi Green Initiative aims to reduce the impact of climate change, achieve sustainability and create job opportunities for women and youth.

MOHAMMED SAHIB MARZOOQ, Head of Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, delivering a statement on behalf of Yossra Mohsen, Director General and Head of Women’s Empowerment in his country, said climate change consequences — from the reduction of arable land to the loss of waterways — has led to displacement and a loss of revenue, disproportionately affecting women and girls. As such, a historic role must be played to mitigate climate change effects. This shared responsibility should be based on circumstances and national capabilities, as solidarity and international cooperation have proven to be the only way forward. Highlighting several key achievements, he said Iraq has developed a series of projects and action programmes to tackle these and related challenges and has adopted laws and policies aimed at protecting women and increasing their participation at various levels. Noting that 95 women were elected in recent elections, he pointed to other gains, including the Government’s launch of its second National Plan for Women’s Economic Empowerment (2021-2022). Efforts included opening centres to protect women from domestic violence, creating a high-level committee to assist rural women, and a Ministry of Agriculture initiative to implement several targeted projects. In addition, 1 million trees have been planted as part of a mitigation project. Going forward, Iraq is working on revising its laws related to women’s rights and on implementing a national strategy for Iraqi women that also focuses on climate change.

In closing remarks, MAMI MIZUTORI, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, said that, while disasters affect everyone, they disproportionately affect women and girls. Summarizing several threads of the discussion, she said structural inequality is a driver of risk, noting also that women must be involved in efforts to address this. Policies must also be embedded with gender perspectives. At the same time, investing in all these policies and efforts is also critical, she said. Highlighting several other issues, she said more science and knowledge must be shared with women and girls. Attention must also be paid to the issue of increased violence against women amid disasters and the vulnerable situation of women in rural areas, she said, commending the participants for sharing their encouraging efforts at national to local levels.

Also participating were ministers and other high-level representatives from Kenya, France, Indonesia, United Republic of Tanzania, Saint Lucia, Spain, Bangladesh, Angola, United Kingdom, Maldives, El Salvador, Azerbaijan and Chad.

Ministerial Round Table IV

The Commission then held a ministerial roundtable discussion on the theme “Women’s voice and agency: good practices towards achieving women’s full, equal and meaningful participation and decision-making in the context of climate-change, environmental and disaster-risk-reduction policies and programmes”.

Ministers and senior officials of Member States detailed national strategies to increase women’s participation in decision-making and address the disproportionate effects of climate change and natural disaster on women and girls. Stressing that such effects, along with widening inequality, necessitates including these individuals in policymaking, they also pointed out that women and girls possess unique knowledge and experience that can be harnessed to inform risk-reduction and resilience strategies. Further, they pointed to the link between climate change and gender-based violence, stressing the need to mainstream gender perspectives in national policy to ensure that women and girls have both voice and agency in addressing a phenomenon that affects them in specific ways.

ELIZABETH GOMEZ ALCORTA, Minister for Women, Genders and Diversity of Argentina, chairing the round table, said that women and girls — who hold deep knowledge of the needs and priorities of their communities — are key to combating climate change and environmental degradation. However, women are far from achieving full gender parity and lack the critical mass necessary to influence policy, decisions and strategies. Further, women’s civil society organizations face barriers to participation and leadership due to diminishing funds and threats to physical security. Pointing out that, while climate change is a global challenge, not all countries share the same responsibility, she said that the richest countries produce the most greenhouse gases while those with the fewest emissions are most exposed to the negative effects of the same. This reflects the hegemonic model of development, which is harmful to the environment and increases inequality. For its part, she said that Argentina works towards gender mainstreaming by training public officials and providing more resources to community organizations, especially those affected by climate change.

SILVERIA ELFRIEDA JACOBS, Prime Minister of Sint Maarten, speaking on behalf of the Netherlands and its constituent countries of Sint Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba, said that the latter three small island developing States are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. The climate crisis magnifies inequalities and vulnerabilities — especially for women and girls — which are further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, in the global discussion regarding climate action, the voices of women and girls are underrepresented, and the international community cannot expect to solve this crisis by leaving these individuals behind. Member States must work towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality by ensuring women’s full access to equal opportunities, knowledge and pay. Emphasizing that “women must be part of the solution”, she said that, by working together to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5, the world can progress towards achieving all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

ARIUNZAYA AYUSH, Minister for Labour and Social Protection of Mongolia, noted that her country has ratified 12 United Nations conventions relating to climate change, and to ensure implementation of these international treaties at the national level, has adopted several laws and policies to protect the environment. Further, the Government has implemented a number of projects to combat desertification and reduce air pollution, as the negative effects of climate change continue to pose a risk to both women and the national economy. Air pollution — caused by densely populated urban areas — has particularly negative effects on the health of the population. She emphasized that this problem especially affects infants and pregnant women, and has also led to respiratory diseases, premature birth and developmental disorders.

AYANNA WEBSTER-ROY, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, outlined Government efforts to ensure that women have voice and agency by incorporating gender considerations in strategies and projects to enhance environmental and climate resilience. Socially constructed roles and inequality disproportionately affect women — especially in rural areas – and she highlighted the need to incorporate the United Nations principle of “leaving no one behind” in developing disaster-risk-reduction policies and programmes. Gender issues and priorities specific to women must be integrated into the same, and the Government has worked to include women in stakeholder groups such as environmentally focused cabinets. She went on to stress the need to ensure that no barriers prevent the participation of women and girls in efforts to address climate change.

NASSÉNÉBA TOURE, Minister for Women, Family and Children of Côte d’Ivoire, pointed out that women comprise 70 per cent of agricultural workers in her country, producing 90 per cent of foodstuffs. As such, they suffer disproportionately from the consequences of drought, high precipitation and natural disaster. Against that backdrop, the Government has implemented a national programme to fight climate change by empowering women and girls. Institutional and legislative support measures have been passed, multiple support funds for women working in agriculture have been established and women’s participation in elected assemblies has increased. She also said that the Government is committed to implementing three projects for producing solar energy in the country’s north — 12 solar plants and 1 biomass project using residue from cotton and cocoa will create thousands of jobs for women and girls.

HELENA DALLI, European Commissioner for Equality of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, stressed the need to address the lack of women’s participation in decision-making as “no crisis is gender-neutral”. Climate change and environmental degradation take a disproportionate toll on women due to such individuals’ reduced access to resources, and therefore, the European Union’s climate-adaptation strategy aims to increase women’s leadership and gender balance. Further, the bloc supports programmes worldwide that promote women’s participation in climate governance — once such instance is its partnership with Bhutan to help local governments include women in the process to improve disaster resilience. Spotlighting the link between climate change and gender-based violence, she said that the European Union works to prevent such violence through targeted action, such as strengthening institutional capacities to address violence against women and girls following natural disaster.

NINO TANDILASHVILI, Deputy Minister for Environmental Protection and Agricultural Affairs of Georgia, joined other speakers in expressing solidarity with Ukraine and its people, condemning the Russian Federation’s invasion and use of force against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in contravention of international law. Turning to climate change, she said the phenomenon has had — and will continue to have — severe, lasting impact on the environment and social development. The resilience and adaptive capacity of women and girls must be supported, and for its part, the Government is working to mainstream gender perspectives in its environmental and climate change policy. These efforts include enhancing women’s role as agents of change and reducing the impact of natural disaster on population and infrastructure by providing early warning systems and locally informed risk management. “Without gender equality today, a sustainable, equitable future remains beyond our reach,” she added.

ANNA MARIA MOKGETHI, Minister for Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs of Botswana, highlighted the lessons learned from the COVID-19, HIV/AIDS and Ebola pandemics, in which women were not only affected, but also at the forefront of the response. As countries hold national and international dialogues on climate-change mitigation, women and girls must be at the negotiating table to ensure their voices are heard. Noting that women and girls in her country are negatively affected by aridity, persistent drought and erratic rainfall, she said that the Government pursues inclusive development policies that focus on the particular needs of women and children. Further, it engages women and girls in rural areas in the management of rural community resources, as their wealth of indigenous knowledge is essential for resilience. She went on to stress that these indigenous practices must be preserved, and that the women employing them must be empowered to fully participate in the supply chain.

In closing remarks, PREETI SINHA, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Capital Development Fund, highlighted the link between women’s economic empowerment and the climate agenda. Offering an example of the Fund’s work in Uganda, she said that the informal settlements of Mbali suffer from frequent water-supply outages, flooding and contamination. As such, only 20 per cent of households have access to clean, piped water, and this lack of access forces women and youth to travel long distances to collect water, which renders them susceptible to gender-based violence. The Fund is working to improve this water access situation, and this scenario demonstrates the effects that climate adaptation measures can have on women’s security. The relationship between climate finance and women’s economic empowerment has the potential to be one of the most powerful, virtuous cycles in development finance for least developed countries and beyond. “Let us unite to have capital serve humanity, and not the other way around,” she added.

Also participating were ministers and other high-level representatives from Estonia, Sierra Leone, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Gambia, Portugal, Ethiopia, Croatia, Greece, Mexico, Paraguay, Romania, Czech Republic, Cuba, Switzerland and Mali.

General Discussion

MILENKO ESTEBAN SKOKNIC TAPIA (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said that it is undeniable that all older women make a significant contribution, as agents of change, to the social, economic and sustainable development of societies. Not only do women account for the majority of older persons, but the proportion of older women in the global female population will also increase in the coming years. Therefore, policies and programmes must address women’s needs throughout their lives, particularly when they are older. Calling for a change in the way of thinking about ageing, he said there is a need to challenge narratives regarding the role older women can play in the economy, society and households.

It is hard to conceive that considering that older populations will outgrow younger populations by 2020, older persons — and even more so older women — remain largely invisible and disregarded in the development of policies and programmes. Such invisibility is evident in this year’s Secretary-General’s report on the priority theme, which hardly addressed the complex realities of older women facing climate change and natural disasters, despite the compounded vulnerabilities they are more likely to experience. Such lack of visibility can and must be addressed urgently. The Group therefore urges the United Nations agencies, and particularly United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) to systematically collect and disaggregate data by age and gender, particularly of women beyond their reproductive years.

Ms. AKBAR, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation of Fiji, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said that the science is non-negotiable and urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is critical. Equal and full participation of all women and girls must be central to global action. The recent volcanic eruption in Tonga caused tephra ash to fall, a tsunami and severe damage to submarine telecommunications cables. Pacific women and girls, in all their diversity, continue to play a critical role in building resilient communities. Recognizing women’s and girls’ knowledge, capabilities and skills, and empowering them, is vital to the safety and security of all Pacific families. The Pacific has one of the highest rates of violence globally; on average, two out of every three women experience some form of violence throughout their lifetime. Global evidence indicates a link between disasters, climate change and gender-based violence, she said, noting that in the Pacific, reports of domestic violence cases have increased. During disasters, women are subject to increased workloads and care responsibilities and must travel further to look for water and food. This is exacerbated by the increasing levels of non-communicable diseases in rural and remote areas.

A lack of adequate sexual reproductive health and outreach services are worsened by climate change and related disasters, she said. Climate finance also often fails to take account of gender equality and women’s empowerment. She called on the international community to increase gender-responsive climate, environmental and disaster risk finance, promote women’s full participation and leadership in climate, environment, ocean, biodiversity and disaster risk reduction action, and strengthen the capacities of women through accessible training and gender-responsive policies and programmes. It is also vital to ensure women have access to essential services during crisis situations. She also called for increased investment in national gender statistics which ensures gender-disability-geographical disaggregated data in the gender-environment nexus. “COVID-19 recovery and recovery from recurring natural disasters is an opportunity to reset our global development agenda to one that is climate-resilient, gender-inclusive and leaves no one behind,” she said.

VINDHYA PERSAUD, Minister for Human Services and Social Security of the Co operative Republic of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted that climate change poses an existential threat to small island developing States and that its impacts represent a “code red for humanity”. Reiterating disappointment that the developed countries’ pledge to provide $100 billion by 2020 for developing nations to address climate change was not met, he noted that women and girls are often disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. There must be a gender perspective when building climate resilience, as well as in the design and implementation of disaster-risk-reduction strategies and recovery plans, he said, calling also for investment to enable the production of gender-specific statistics and data on the relationship between gender and climate. Poverty eradication is central to reducing women’s vulnerability to climate change, he added, stressing that climate finance for both adaptation and mitigation activities should include measures supporting women owned micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises in the green and blue economies.

Turning to action to address sexual and gender-based violence and domestic violence, he noted that CARICOM nations are encouraging the equal sharing of responsibilities in parenting and household work; engaging community leaders to address discriminatory social norms and gender stereotypes; and adopting robust legislative regimes. Women in the region are also leaders advocating for protection of the environment and implementing home-grown solutions. Highlighting progress in Guyana, he pointed to its low-carbon development strategy, noting that 62 per cent of the jobs it has created are held by women. While women and girls are disproportionately impacted by climate events, they have also been creating innovative solutions to protect the country’s valuable ecosystem, including by using drones to monitor environmental activities to ascertain what threats have emerged to the mangroves ecosystem and how responses should be tailored. To promote women’s economic empowerment, free, non-traditional technical vocational programmes, with no pre-admission requirements, have been created to provide the necessary training and skills for thousands of women across Guyana.

PATRICIA KALIATI, Minister for Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that at a meeting in February, African Union ministers responsible for gender and promotion of women resolved that the current situation — marked by a regression of the gains made to advance women’s rights and gender equality due to the devastating effects of climate change and environmental disasters coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic — necessitates taking action. Agriculture plays an important role in the economy of all SADC member States. Environmental degradation threatens economic development and directly affects peoples’ livelihoods. SADC has established three main environmental policy goals: protect and improve the health, environment and livelihoods of the people of Southern Africa with priority for poor; preserve the region’s natural heritage, biodiversity and life supporting ecosystems; and support regional economic development on an equitable, sustainable basis for the benefit of present and future generations.

When unexpectedly heavy floods displaced more than a million people in Southern Africa in 2007, SADC began to meet annually to prepare for future occurrences, she said. It established a Disaster Risk Reduction Unit responsible for coordinating regional preparedness and response programmes for trans-boundary hazards and disaster. The SADC Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction was inaugurated in 2011. The newly developed SADC Regional Resilience Framework 2020 2030 will guide SADC member States and other stakeholders in the design and implementation of a broad range of resilience programmes. Women in the region account for most of the poorest and most vulnerable due to their general subordinate legal status; limited access to productive resources such as land, technology, credit, education and training, formal employment; as well as their susceptibility to HIV and AIDS. The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development was revised in 2016 to include gender and climate change. She stressed that State parties should, by 2030, develop policies, strategies and programmes to address the gender aspects of climate change, conduct research to assess its differential gendered impacts and put in place effective mitigation and adaptation measures.

ANTONETTE NCUBE, a youth representative from the European Union delegation, in its capacity as an observer, also spoke on behalf of the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. Stressing that climate change, disasters, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss disproportionately affect women and girls, and that crises and disasters exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities and discrimination, she said women and girls frequently face increased sexual and gender-based violence. They are subjected to harmful practices such as early and forced marriage due to the impact of climate change, disproportionate burden of care work, and restricted access to essential health services. The Group calls for concerted efforts to address these issues and expects the Commission to adopt strong and action-oriented conclusions.

More specifically, she said, the Group recommends that all stakeholders ensure the gender-responsive implementation of international obligations and commitments, including the Paris Agreement, Lima Work Programme on Gender, Convention on Biological Diversity and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. In that regard, the Group stresses the importance of enhancing women’s full, equal, effective and meaningful participation and leadership, she said, underscoring a concrete need to improve data and resources and strengthen coordination and capacity-building. The Group encourages all stakeholders to use comprehensive indicators and pursue the ethical collection and dissemination of high-quality, timely, reliable and disaggregated data and gender statistics on all dimensions of environmental, disaster risk reduction and climate change issues and sexual and gender-based violence.

MARTA LUCÍA RAMÍREZ, Vice President of Colombia, spotlighting the threats to global peace and stability seen over the last two weeks, said that the future will depend on including women’s voices. Fifty per cent of the world’s population has historically been excluded from power, but gender equality is essential for generating sustainable economic growth. For its part, Colombia has implemented a national policy with five objectives: to provide economic empowerment for women entrepreneurs; to include more women in politics; to involve women in peace and security; to ensure that women can live free from violence; and to establish more gender-based institutions. Noting her status as her country’s first female Vice President, she stressed that, when women arrive in positions of power, they must remember to open more spaces for other women “just as those who came before did for us”.

She went on to detail Colombia’s establishment of a sovereign gender bond to help women-owned businesses recover from COVID-19 — the first of its type in the world — and stressed that economic autonomy is essential for women to decide their own futures and live free from violence. The international community must also remember the situation of women living in Ukraine, Afghanistan and other conflict zones as a result of wars “always declared by men”. It must recall the voices of Afghan women, “no longer heard in the halls of the United Nations”, which reflects the current multilateral system. And it must always call for the dignity and rights of all women, she urged, highlighting the legal and moral obligation to allow women around the world to rise up with all their creative and transformative might.

ENSIEH KHAZALI, Vice President for Women and Family Affairs of Iran, said that, during the pandemic, some 12,000 women-headed households have been trained and introduced to the traditional and cybermarkets. Also, more than 1 million women-headed households are covered by the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee. They have benefited from special social protection services including funding and insurance services. Ten million rials in cash subsidies were allocated to 17 million households to reduce economic constraints on families. Supported by the Vice-Presidency for Women and Family Affairs, the women-headed households were prioritized for receiving aid packages, and with the approval of the Cabinet, the amount of loans granted to those households were doubled. Also to protect the environment, 6,000 rural and nomadic women have become members of 2,000 rural and nomadic cooperatives, some of whom have been granted plots of land over the past five years. Iranian women are fighting the effects of unilateral coercive measures, she said, adding that their heroic achievements in various areas have proven that they can withstand various unjust and unilateral sanctions.

KATRIN JAKOBSDÓTTIR, Prime Minister of Iceland, said that climate change has not spared her island country, with sea levels rising and glaciers melting. “No country is an island when it comes to climate change,” she said, stressing that similarly gender inequality plagues all parts of the world. Climate change causes poverty, disproportionally affecting women economically and socially. Climate change also causes instability and creates conditions for gender-based violence. Citing the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, she expressed concern that the conflict will produce mass displacement, which, in turn, creates more cases of gender-based violence. This “shadow pandemic” had occurred during the COVID-19 outbreak, she said, calling for attention to gender-based violence caused by the Russian Federation’s aggression. There is a need to include young people in social justice and health, as they are the best advocate for their own future. There are many remarkable women activists and human rights defenders in the forefront. “The world will be a better place with women in the lead,” she said.

TANZILA NARBAEVA, Chairperson and Speaker of the Senate of Parliament of Uzbekistan, said the Commission is a catalyst for incorporating gender into all aspects of United Nations work. Expanding the rights of women and girls is a key priority of Uzbekistan State policy, she noted, with a new development plan for 2022-2026 and a national programme to bolster the role of women and girls in the country’s future. Addressing climate change, she noted Uzbekistan is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, including the drying of the Aral Sea, which threatens the sustainable development of Central Asia. Reports have further suggested that, between 2030 and 2050, the average air temperature in the region may increase by 1.5°C to 3°C. Uzbekistan has adopted the broad use of renewable energy, and is working to develop the Aral Sea region, including through women-focused training courses to manage resources and regenerate salinated areas. During the third Central Asian Summit, Uzbekistan advanced the regional programme “Green Agenda for Central Asia”, and is planting 200 million saplings.

ZORANA MIHAJLOVIC, Deputy Prime Minister and the President of the Coordination Body of the Government of the Republic of Serbia for Gender Equality of Serbia, said that UN-Women has been a partner of the Coordination Body for Gender Equality for years. They have worked together on gender mainstreaming of climate policies and practices in Serbia, and on ensuring that the normative framework related to energy is gender-sensitive and that climate change finance always includes women’s perspective. A new national energy strategy, as well as the National Energy and Climate Action Plan are under way, both of which will be gender-sensitive, because without gender mainstreaming of public policies, the existing gender gap cannot be closed. The Government established the National Coalition on Energy Poverty whose goal is to underline gender gaps in energy poverty. “The gender-just transition is our chance not only to change our energy sources and to have a cleaner environment, but also to change the perception of the energy sector as a men-dominated sector,” she said.

EVELYN WEVER-CROES, Prime Minister of Aruba, speaking on behalf of the Netherlands and its constituent countries of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, said that these four countries have been battling the elements for centuries — “from North Sea floods to Caribbean hurricanes” — and are united in tackling the climate crisis, which is “the greatest challenge of our time”. The world is unequal, and this crisis is amplifying that inequality. In the Caribbean, the greatest burden of care falls on women and girls when communities are in crisis; however, these individuals remain underrepresented in decision-making at all levels, including at the United Nations. Against that backdrop, she urged full, equal, meaningful and effective participation and leadership for women in adaptation and mitigation processes, along with granting the same equal access to the knowledge and resources necessary to respond to climate change.

ROBBERT DIJKGRAAF, Minister for Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands, underscored the importance of knowledge in combating climate change, as it is “the only resource that grows as you use it”. However, the voices, knowledge and experience of women and girls are unheard, as these individuals are underrepresented at all levels, including technical areas crucial to making the necessary energy transition. The world needs the contribution of women and girls, in all their diversity, to ensure a liveable future for humanity. Noting that today’s meeting occurs in extraordinary times, he expressed full solidarity with all women and girls living in conflict — including those in Ukraine — and condemned the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of that country.

DERYA YANIK, Minister for Family and Social Services of Turkey, said that a civilization teaches: “Plant a tree, even if it is your last deed.” Her country puts great emphasis on environmental protection. Since 2002, it has witnessed remarkable progress as a result. Thanks to the “Zero Waste” project, a new era has begun in terms of environmental protection. Women play a major role in the success of this project. In adapting to the Paris Agreement on climate change, Turkey has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2053. An effective fight against climate change requires a political and social atmosphere in which women are resilient, empowered and their rights are ensured. Her country has made significant progress in eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination against women, adopted priority goals to increase the education level of women and girls, and taken crucial steps in terms of empowering and increasing the participation of women in the labour market. With the “Gender-Responsive Planning and Budgeting in Turkey” project, the Government is determined to ensure that women are not ignored and their needs and problems are always visible in budget programmes.

MAYA MORSY, Minister for Women and President of the National Council for Women of Egypt, said that her country is among those most affected by climate change, despite its very limited contribution to the phenomenon’s existence, as Egypt accounts for only 0.6 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In light of the impact of climate change on women — particularly on their health, food security and living standards — the Government works to implement a sustainable development model and has adopted many initiatives, programmes and projects to promote adaptation and mitigate the effects of climate change, while also promoting women’s empowerment. These efforts include: raising women’s awareness of rural initiatives and eco-friendly agricultural methods; organizing environmental camps to train women in eco-friendly industries; and raising awareness of sustainable flood-management. She also detailed Egypt’s perspective for women, the environment and climate change, affirming the Government’s commitment to address climate change and empower Egyptian women in various fields.

AAWATIF HAYAR, Minister for Solidarity, Social Integration and Family of Morocco, outlining her country’s efforts on the priority theme, said that national priority focuses on integrating women into environmental policy. This session coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a huge impact on women. Her country is including women in all areas of policy implementation. The 2011 Constitution bases itself on the principle of equality of men and women. Morocco is also working to implement all its international commitments in eliminating discrimination, advancing gender equality and addressing climate change. It has established the 2020-2030 Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation, with a view to archiving gender equality. The Government is undertaking projects with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in the field of green technology. The Government has set a goal of increasing women’s economic activity by 2026, she said, also noting that more women candidates won during the 2021 elections than in past elections.

CHUNG YOUNG-AI, Minister for Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea, voiced concern about the impact of violence on women and girls, many of whom have been displaced or forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. She affirmed that only when the perspectives of women — who account for half the world’s population — are incorporated into policies and programmes will the world be able to prudently respond to the crisis facing the international community. Her Government formulates a Basic Plan for Gender Equality Policies every five years, and has enforced gender-responsive budgeting since fiscal year 2010. It is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. In addition, a designated officer system has been established to support women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The country is also responding to deepening gender inequality in the labour market brought on by the pandemic with a COVID-19 Women’s Job Recovery Plan launched in 2021, expanding jobs for women in the public and private sectors. With the help of her ministry, UN-Women has established the United Nations Women Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality in Seoul.

SUSANNE RAAB, Federal Minister for Women, Family, Integration and Media in the Federal Chancellery of Austria, aligning herself with the European Union, noted that women and men are affected differently by climate and environmental crises and States have to think differently and come up with new solutions. Highlighting measures taken by her country in that regard, she stressed a special focus on the empowerment of women and girls in technology and innovation, to ensure that they equally benefit from job opportunities and increase diversity in those sectors, including through “Lets Empower Austria”, an initiative which aims to increase the participation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Turning to the Russian’s Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, she noted that war leads to an unbelievable suffering for civilians, in particular women and girls. In that regard, she expressed her country’s full solidarity with women and girls in Ukraine and those who fled.

EVA NORDMARK, Minister for Gender Equality, Ministry of Employment of Sweden, associating herself with the European Union, expressed solidarity with those living in conflict situations and other emergencies, including Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia and Ukraine. The unprovoked, illegal and indefensible Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine is having an immense impact on the civilian population there, with a huge number of people, including women and children, forced to flee their homes. “We all have an obligation to strongly condemn this invasion,” she said. As a member of the Swedish feminist Government, she noted women’s economic empowerment is key to achieving gender equality. “When you make your own money, you can choose your own life,” she said, citing political reforms such as parental leave for both mothers and fathers, affordable childcare and individual taxation to help close the gender pay gap. Addressing the urgency of stopping fossil fuel emissions to accelerate a just climate transition, she noted Sweden is producing batteries and the world’s first fossil-free steel, creating thousands of new green jobs. As the COVID-19 pandemic has globally increased the risk of women being subjected to men’s violence, prostitution and trafficking, the Government has adopted a 99-point Action Programme for preventing and combating violence against women. The blame must be put where it belongs: on the perpetrators. Stressing the importance of sexual and reproductive rights, she said: “We must continue promoting access to safe and legal abortions, contraceptives and comprehensive sexuality education.”

DOMINIQUE HASLER, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Education and Sport of Liechtenstein, noted the meeting unfortunately falls under the shadow of a terrible war, condemning the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine. She stressed that all armed conflicts have devastating consequences for civilians, and are a setback for the rights of women and girls, who disproportionately suffer violence, marginalization and exclusion, but show amazing resilience. Their role is key in supporting the international rules-based order; it is not a question of political correctness but a prerequisite for successful and peaceful political processes. Climate change also disproportionately burdens women and girls, and generations to come will note the action — or inaction — of the international community on the issue. Addressing the interlinkage between climate change and rights, she noted women lack access to land ownership. Modern slavery and human trafficking increase during and after natural disasters, she stressed, pointing to a blueprint the Government has developed for financial institutions to prevent such crimes through financial inclusion. Liechtenstein has also partnered with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the Climate and Environment Transition Fund. Quoting the Secretary-General, she noted that humanitarian emergencies move the clock backwards on women’s rights.

THOMAS BLOMQVIST, Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality of Finland, aligning himself with the European Union, condemned Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine in the strongest terms, stressing that the war is also a violation of women’s rights. “We must hear the voices of Ukrainian women. As in every conflict, women are critical to achieving sustainable peace,” he said. Noting the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls, he stressed that climate change is also a gender issue, calling for increased efforts to ensure a gender perspective in all climate, environment and disaster management policies. Highlighting the intersection between climate issues and sexual and reproductive health and rights, he spotlighted the essential importance of universal access to quality comprehensive sexuality education, bodily autonomy, access to clean water and sanitation, and women’s economic empowerment, in order to achieve gender equality. To that end, his Government has introduced family leave reform and is also introducing national legislation on pay transparency, he noted. Expressing concern about the increasing sexual and gender-based violence, harassment and hate speech, both offline and online, he emphasized the need to bridge the gender digital divide and eliminate harmful gender stereotypes, including gender bias in artificial intelligence.

HO JAN TINETTI, Minister for Women of New Zealand, emphasized that women who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including indigenous women, are among those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and disasters, but also powerful agents of action, change and resilience. As such, the Government of New Zealand is increasingly applying gender and intersectional analysis to all its actions and decision-making, including by promoting the use of an online tool, she said. Noting the data-collection gaps and shortcomings exposed in that process, she stressed the vital importance of gender-disaggregated data to ensuring visibility for the gendered impacts of climate change and natural hazards, and of tailoring responses accordingly. She went on to state that New Zealand is also focusing on enabling an equitable climate transition to a low carbon economy, which entails consideration of the outcomes for different groups in the way climate change policies and programmes are funded and financed.

ÉLISABETH MORENO, Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities of France, expressed concern over the fate of women and girls in Ukraine following the Russian Federation’s military aggression and underscored the need to preserve the rights and dignity of Ukrainians. Turning to climate change, she pointed out that women are the primary victims of it, and quite often, they are not heard despite “having something to say”. Gender equality is at the forefront of France’s efforts in the European Union, and the Government also works to combat sexual and gender-based violence. National legislation addresses domestic abuse, street harassment and new forms of violence on the Internet, and an ombudsman for public enterprises was established to combat harassment in the workplace. She also emphasized the importance of women’s economic independence, noting that the pandemic has revealed the inequality women face in the public and professional spaces. Despite women playing a key role, their contributions are often not seen or valued, and she expressed hope that, post-pandemic, “parity will be the rule, not the exception”.

LYAZZAT RAMAZANOVA, Minister for the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy under the President of Kazakhstan, said her country is committed to all issues on gender equality as women are the main beneficiaries of a clean environment. Kazakhstan is addressing climate change challenges head-on. A transition to the green economy requires significant investment in line with commitments made under the Paris Agreement and the subsequent agreement in Glasgow. Kazakhstan seeks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The Government does not represent the whole picture in this effort, she said, stressing that civil society and businesses are doing their parts. Noting that her landlocked country is far from the ocean and two thirds of its land is desert, she said Central Asian economies like hers must adapt to climate change. Kazakhstan will plant 2 billion trees, with civil society participating in that endeavour. About 80 per cent of civil-society organizations are headed by women. She noted the establishment of a green technology centre in Kazakhstan.

ANNALENA BAERBOCK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said an estimated 800,000 women will give birth in Ukraine in the next few months, many without shelter or access to proper care. “This illustrates clearly that conflicts and crises are not gender-blind,” she said, stressing that conflicts disproportionately impact women from Afghanistan to the Sahel. The same is true for the climate crisis, she said, urging the Commission to compel States to put women’s rights at the heart of climate action. She noted that, during droughts, it is girls who are sent to school less frequently because gender norms dictate that fetching water falls to them. For such reasons, Germany supported the Human Rights Council in recognizing a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right, and it supports efforts to give women and other marginalized groups an equal say in decision-making processes.

MUSA MAAYTAH, Minister for Political and Parliamentary Affairs and Chairman of the Ministerial Committee for the Empowerment of Women, and Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs of Jordan, said the international community must take into account the most vulnerable people to ensure civil society features the participation of women in decision-making processes. Jordan has pioneered mainstreaming gender into State policy on climate change, stressing the importance of measures addressing the root causes of inequality and discrimination and acknowledging the different circumstances of men and women. He also affirmed the Government will work to provide better services to women in humanitarian crises, either through prevention or recovery, and is further taking into account lessons learned from the pandemic, involving women in decision-making related to economic empowerment. He noted that the labour law was amended to provide nursery care for female staff, equal pay and paternity leave, as well as equal pay for equal work.

RODERIC O’GORMAN, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth of Ireland, aligning himself with the European Union, expressed solidarity with women and girls in situations of conflict or other emergencies and pointed out that these individuals are particularly impacted by the same, including in Ukraine. Ireland prioritizes women’s empowerment, demonstrated by its international development programming that focuses on social protection, food systems, climate action and the women, peace and security agenda. Spotlighting the link between climate and security, he said that instability and fragility have a disproportionate impact on women. Women’s role in addressing the climate crisis is too often overlooked and undervalued, and States must ensure that women’s voices are heard at all levels. He went on to say that Ireland, for its part, has pioneered citizens’ assemblies as exercises in participatory democracy, and the assembly for gender equality recently submitted its report containing 45 recommendations in this area to the Government for implementation.

LAILA AL NAJAR, Minister for Social Development of Oman, emphasized the importance of a prominent role for women in national development, noting that they instil the value of tolerance. Noting that his country’s Constitution guarantees the rights of women, he said their economic participation is an important goal for Oman. A high percentage of women are now joining the labour market, he added. Pointing out that more women occupy leadership positions in political and public life, he said they are holding decision-making positions in private companies, as well. Oman provides assistance to women entrepreneurs and small business owners engaged in e-commerce, he said, adding that the Government also supports victims of domestic violence. Women volunteer to help those affected in crisis situations, he noted, stressing that their participation is crucial both during normal times and in emergencies.

MARIANA VIEIRA DA SILVA, Minister of State for the Presidency of Portugal, said that it is fundamental to invest in the production of data disaggregated by sex, on the impacts of phenomena and policies. Environment and energy, agriculture, mobility or urban planning are important sectors in this approach. Since 2021, Portugal has monitored gender equality indicators in its State budget report, including in the field of climate change, with all data produced by the Central Administration to be disaggregated by sex. In the labour market, the Government is integrating more women in key areas of climate transition, whether through training activities in maritime economy, in the management of rural fires, or through the training of women working in the agricultural sector. In the fight against energy poverty, it is reducing the costs of energy and other consumptions, supporting the more vulnerable households, namely single parent families. Legislative measures set minimum thresholds for participation in decision-making positions. Since 2017, the average proportion of women on the boards of publicly listed companies increased from 12 to 29 per cent. In public administration, since 2015, the rate of women senior managers jumped from 32 to 43 per cent. In the Portuguese Parliament, women account for more than a third of representation.

MEIRAV COHEN, Minister for Social Equality of Israel, spotlighted all the young girls, mothers, sick or wounded women, pregnant women and senior citizens in Ukraine who thought they would never have to experience war atrocities again. Those women must be kept in mind when discussing policy. The gap between the privilege of discussing gender issues and the need to stay alive and protect one's children must be pondered by all. On a national level, she pointed to the presence of many different communities, which presents challenges to promoting women's rights in a “complex sphere” where every group lives according to its traditions and customs. Nearly 56 per cent of Israeli women are employed, most of them working mothers. Together with a high birth rate in Israel, Israeli women are burdened by their households much more than their Western counterparts. As a result, her Government’s attempt to reduce environmental hazards by restricting the use of disposable housewares was met with strong opposition from Orthodox communities that consist of multi-child families. An attempt to limit disposables with extensive taxing was considered an attack on women in the more traditional household. The women, as sole housekeepers, had to choose between spending more money or having to do more housework. To that end, her country has the complex task of finding the right balances between promoting women’s rights while preserving the environment and addressing climate change.

AYANNA WEBSTER-ROY, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister responsible for Gender and Child Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, said the country’s National Vision 2030 Development Plan and the National Policy on Gender and Development recognize the importance of holistic, interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches to conserving, developing and safeguarding natural resources. The Policy aims to encourage women and men to play diverse and complementary roles in approaches to climate change and environmental protection. She noted that Trinidad and Tobago ratified the Paris Agreement, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent in the energy, transportation, and industrial sectors by 2030 — a 103 million-ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. On gender, she cited the Ministry of Planning and Development, the political head of which is a woman, and the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Network, with women accounting for 58 per cent of the groups and playing a lead role in decision making. The country’s Comprehensive Disaster Management Policy further recognizes that disasters and hazards affect women, girls, men and boys differently. Because of their reproductive responsibilities, women are particularly valuable “change agents” in the transition to a sustainable economy, and should be trained and supported in adopting new environmentally friendly practices and technologies.

TAINA BOFFERDING, Minister for Equality between Women and Men of Luxembourg, said that crises — whatever their nature — affect each individual differently. In the conflict situation in Ukraine, women and girls must demonstrate resilience and courage while facing unprovoked Russian aggression. In a three-week period, millions have been forced to flee their homes, the majority of whom are women and girls. Also expressing shock over reports of sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by Russian armed forces, she demanded that the Russian Federation “cease this stupid war”. Turning to women and climate change, she stressed the need to improve the collection of reliable, disaggregated gender data; to place gender equality at the centre of resilience policies and disaster-risk-reduction programmes; and to increase the number of women in decision-making and leadership roles. She added that, for its part, the Government has adopted a feminist foreign policy and its development-cooperation efforts — to which 1 per cent of Luxembourg’s GDP is allocated — are focusing on new gender strategies, such as increasing financing for projects bolstering women’s empowerment throughout the world.

Right of Reply

Speaking in the exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation said that many delegates made baseless allegations against his country in their statements today. They ignore the fact that the Ukrainian army has stricken the heart of Donetsk, killing civilians. Since the coup d'état in 2014, the Ukrainian regime has taken a decision to destroy the Russian-speaking populations in the country’s east, where they are being shelled and killed. He wondered why Western countries ignore this situation created by the criminal regime in Kyiv, and instead provide lethal weapons to Kyiv. He reminded the Commission that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) used inhumane weapons in the former Yugoslavia, killing civilians, including women and children, also citing similar actions by the so-called “peacekeeping” forces in Afghanistan and Libya.

Source: United Nations

Targeted Investments to Promote Gender Equality Key for Ensuring Climate Resilience Plans Result in Female Empowerment, Protection, Speakers Tell Women’s Commission

Targeted investments to promote gender equality — from global to local levels — must ensure that promises made are kept as the world forges an inclusive, sustainable path to tackle climate change consequences, delegates told the Commission on the Status of Women on the second day of its annual session.

The session, which runs from 14 to 25 March, is focused on the theme “Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes”.

Some speakers highlighted challenges and innovative achievements during two ministerial round tables held in the morning. Many agreed that, like the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change consequences are disproportionately affecting women and girls. Round table discussions continued from the session’s opening day on 14 March on the same themes: climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes — advancing gender equality through holistic and integrated actions from global to local; and on women’s voice and agency — good practices towards achieving women’s full, equal and meaningful participation and decision-making in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes. (For details, see Press Release WOM/2213.)

During the general discussion in the afternoon, Rosy Akbar, Fiji’s Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said climate finance often fails to take account of gender equality and women’s empowerment. To remedy this, she called on the international community to increase gender-responsive climate, environmental and disaster risk finance. She also called for efforts to promote women’s full participation and leadership in climate, environment, ocean, biodiversity and disaster-risk-reduction action, and to strengthen their capacities through accessible training and gender-responsive policies and programmes.

In the same vein, Vindhya Persaud, Guyana’s Minister for Human Services and Social Security of the Co-operative Republic, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), reiterated disappointment that the developed countries’ pledge to provide $100 billion by 2020 for developing nations to address climate change was not met. Stressing that climate change poses an existential threat to small island developing States, she said its impact represents a “code red for humanity”. Moving forward, a gender perspective must be part of building climate resilience and designing and implementing disaster-risk-reduction strategies and recovery plans. In addition, climate finance for both adaptation and mitigation activities must include measures that support women-owned enterprises in the green and blue economies, she said, also calling for investment in gathering gender specific statistics and data on the relationship between gender and climate.

On behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Patricia Kaliati, Malawi’s Minister for Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, agreed that the current situation calls for action, as women make up the poorest and most vulnerable groups in her region. Reasons stem from their general subordinate legal status and limited access to such critical resources as land, technology, credit, education and housing, she said, pointing to several ongoing efforts to help to address these challenges. For its part, SADC integrated gender and climate change into its Protocol on Gender and Development in 2016. This means State parties should, by 2030, develop policies, strategies, and programmes to address the gender issues in climate change, conduct research to assess the differential gendered impacts of climate change and adopt effective mitigation and adaptation measures.

Youth representative Antonette Ncube, from the European Union delegation, in its capacity as an observer, spoke on behalf of the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls when she presented several recommendations. Underscoring a need to improve data and strengthen capacity building, she encouraged stakeholders to pursue the ethical collection and dissemination of high-quality, timely, reliable and disaggregated data and gender statistics on all dimensions of environmental, disaster risk reduction and climate change issues, and sexual and gender-based violence. She also recommended that stakeholders ensure the gender-responsive implementation of international commitments made in such instruments as the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Calling for concerted efforts to address gender-based violence and the disproportionate impact of climate crises and disasters on women and girls, she expected the Commission to adopt strong and action-oriented conclusions.

Some speakers shone a spotlight on the importance of remembering the most vulnerable groups of women when aiming at inclusive responses. The representative of Chile, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said those often overlooked must urgently be considered. Older persons — and even more so older women — remain largely invisible and disregarded in the development of policies and programmes. To change this, he urged United Nations agencies, and particularly the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), to systematically collect and disaggregate data by age and gender, particularly of women beyond their reproductive years.

Marta Lucía Ramírez, Vice President of Colombia, declared that, when women arrive in positions of power, they must remember to open more spaces for others “just as those who came before did for us”. Half the world’s population has historically been excluded from power, but gender equality is essential for generating sustainable economic growth, she said, highlighting Colombia’s five point national policy to support women’s inclusion — from the business sector to peace and security. Colombia also launched the world’s first sovereign gender bond to help women-owned businesses recover from the widespread economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing attention to the situation of women in conflict affected zones in Afghanistan to Ukraine, she said the international community must always call for the dignity and rights of women and must remember that these and other conflicts are a result of wars “always declared by men”.

Also delivering statements during the general discussion were Iran, Iceland, Uzbekistan, Serbia, Netherlands, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Republic of Korea, Austria, Sweden, Liechtenstein, Finland, New Zealand, France, Kazakhstan, Germany, Jordan, Ireland, Oman, Portugal, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago, and Luxembourg.

The representative of the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 16 March, to continue its work.

Ministerial Round Table III

In the morning, the Commission held a ministerial round table discussion on the theme “Climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes: advancing gender equality through holistic and integrated actions from global to local”.

Ministers and senior officials of Member States exchanged views on how Governments are working towards advancing gender perspectives into national policies and programmes. Discussing concerns about such pressing challenges as drought and gender inclusion in related mitigation efforts, delegates presented a broad range of national examples, from cash grants to training for women in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. They also highlighted gender-responsive policies and needs for improvement in such areas as financing.

HYE RYOUNG SONG (Republic of Korea), Vice-Chair designate (Asia and Pacific States Group), opened the round table, sharing some of her country’s actions. Among them are targeted initiatives that led various ministries to draft recommendations related to the gender aspects of climate change. Emphasizing the importance for partners to respond to the climate crisis in a sustainable, inclusive manner, she encouraged delegates to have a fruitful round table.

VINDHYA PERSAUD, Minister for Human Services and Social Security of Guyana, cited several national achievements, including the Low Carbon Development Strategy. Launched in 2009, the Strategy seeks to transform the economy while combating climate change and promoting the inclusion of women and vulnerable groups in key economic sectors through micro-, small enterprise and entrepreneurial projects and job opportunities. Women were awarded 62 per cent of low-carbon cash grants and were trained in climate-smart agriculture, sustainable forestry and business development. With the second highest percentage of forest cover in the world, Guyana secured climate financing for the Amerindian Development Fund, which benefitted 180 communities and strengthened village economies, providing hundreds of jobs for indigenous women. Climate financing is currently bridging the ICT divide for hinterland women and girls with the provision of laptops and the creation of hubs powered by solar-energy systems, transforming the way in which they access Government and social services. In addition, Guyanese women are leading in climate action and advocacy and have pioneered solutions to protect the country’s valuable ecosystem.

ROSY AKBAR, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation of Fiji, highlighted significant strides in developing coherent legislative and policy frameworks in the context of gender, environment and disaster risk reduction. The National Climate Change Policy (2018–2030) and the 2021 Climate Change Act endorse the principles of gender equality and women’s empowerment while recognizing women as agents of change. Gender mainstreaming mandates extend to all programmes of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2020-2024) while the Green Growth Framework identifies gender equality as key indicators of social development. The National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy establishes “human rights and gender-based approaches” as one of its eight guiding principles, in line with Fiji’s commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the gender action plan of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Initiatives related to combating gender based violence in times of disaster responses are among other ongoing efforts to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable groups, including women and girls in all diversity, are met, she said.

NAREK MKRTCHYAN, Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of Armenia, presented several ongoing initiatives in line with his country’s commitments to such global efforts as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Armenia’s disaster management strategy outlines a series of sector-targeted actions for preparedness, response and risk reduction from national to local levels while also recognizing the need to increase women’s representation in such activities. The Government prioritizes mainstreaming gender equality in all its projects dedicated to environmental sustainability, resilience-building, climate change adaptation and crisis mitigation. The Gender Policy Implementation Strategy sets the Government’s priorities for women’s equal participation in all spheres of public life, including: preventing the feminization of poverty in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda; involving rural women in combating climate change problems; strengthening cooperation with civil society and non-governmental organizations in the field of environmental and disaster risk management; and reducing of the impact of pandemics, in particular COVID-19.

NDEYE SALY DIOP DIENG, Minister for Women, Family and Gender of Senegal, said climate change is the biggest challenge, leading to land degradation, drought and other major problems. Indeed, decreases in soil fertility and other side effects have a negative impact on women while also triggering an estimated economic loss of 3 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the agriculture sector. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that more than 3 million people live in areas that are extremely vulnerable to climate change, alongside expert projections that envision 1 billion people facing climate change threats by 2050. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projects that Africa will lose two thirds of its arable land by 2025. These challenges have a human cost, she said, emphasizing that women in rural communities are being affected. Local production, from fishing to forestry, has also felt the impact. Senegal’s analysis and assessments demonstrate the scope of these climate consequences, which could possibly limit women’s access to arable land. Efforts include strengthening initiatives from the global to local levels, including promoting a green economy transition, which Senegal supports, she said, adding that funding must be increased for such endeavours.

MATEJA RIBIC, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Slovenia, said her “green” country has a wealth of natural resources and rich biodiversity, yet recognizes the immediate need to address paramount climate change and sustainable development challenges. Slovenia’s new climate change strategy aims at fostering a society adapted and resilient to climate change impacts and is characterized by a high quality of life and a high degree of safety. Fully aware of strong links among biodiversity, climate change, food security and water, she also noted the well-established interlinkages among human rights, environmental degradation and climate change, which affect millions of people, especially women and girls across the world. Welcoming the Human Rights Council’s recognition of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, she said Slovenia strongly supports women’s empowerment in the context of foreign policy priorities, with gender equality and environmental protection being a cross-cutting issue for development cooperation and humanitarian aid, including ongoing support for projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Women and girls must be at the centre of building back a better, greener, more resilient and more equal world, she said, highlighting the need for strong commitments to achieving gender equality at the highest political level.

ANALIZA REBUELTA-TEH, Under-Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Philippines, said her country — located in the tropical cyclone belt — ranks fourth among nations most affected by extreme weather events in the 2021 long-term Global Climate Risk Index. It experienced 317 exceptionally devastating events from 2000 to 2019. In December 2021, Super Typhoon Rai ravaged more than 2 million families and left $650 million in damages to housing, agriculture and infrastructure. Citing projections from the Philippine Climate Extremes 2020 Report, she said warming temperatures and decreasing rainfall are expected to threaten many communities. Coastlines and coastal resources are also highly vulnerable to climate change and disasters, with low-lying islands facing permanent inundation. The National Framework Strategy on Climate Change — among other gender-responsive adaption and mitigation efforts — addresses the different impacts that individual catastrophes and the slow-onset effects of climate change have across gender, age, socioeconomic class, indigenous status, migration status and disability. Women are ensured equal benefits and participation in Government programmes and policies, she said, adding that, in 2021, over $50 million was allocated to advance women’s technical knowledge and overall capacity to implement mitigation measures in resource-based communities. The Government’s gender mainstreaming efforts are institutionalized in focal point systems, annual appropriation for related budgets and a planning and reporting system monitored by the Philippine Commission on Women. Organized and systematic gender mainstreaming has produced national benefits for over two decades, she said, noting the Philippines’ commitment to continue this holistic, integrated effort through sex aggregated data, social inclusion and measuring long-term strategic impacts.

HALA MAZYAD ALTUWAIGRI, Secretary-General of the Family Affairs Council of Saudi Arabia, said climate change impacts women and girls disproportionately and is an added stressor that will set back their advancement. Noting that 43 per cent of the global agricultural labour force is in developing countries, she said United Nations research shows that women make up 80 per cent of those displaced by climate change, which requires a serious effort from Governments and the active participation of all community members. Citing several national achievements, she pointed to the launch of a set of environmental protection policies and initiatives that address local to global climate change effects and also consider women’s inclusion in decision-making and policymaking. The national environment strategy includes 64 initiatives aimed at restructuring the sector alongside such emission reduction programmes and policies as the adoption of an e Government project and renewable energy efforts. Contributions were allocated to the non-profit sector for providing solutions and innovation through advanced programmes and mechanisms, with women supervising the implementation of most of these efforts. The launch in 2021 of the Saudi Green Initiative aims to reduce the impact of climate change, achieve sustainability and create job opportunities for women and youth.

MOHAMMED SAHIB MARZOOQ, Head of Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, delivering a statement on behalf of Yossra Mohsen, Director General and Head of Women’s Empowerment in his country, said climate change consequences — from the reduction of arable land to the loss of waterways — has led to displacement and a loss of revenue, disproportionately affecting women and girls. As such, a historic role must be played to mitigate climate change effects. This shared responsibility should be based on circumstances and national capabilities, as solidarity and international cooperation have proven to be the only way forward. Highlighting several key achievements, he said Iraq has developed a series of projects and action programmes to tackle these and related challenges and has adopted laws and policies aimed at protecting women and increasing their participation at various levels. Noting that 95 women were elected in recent elections, he pointed to other gains, including the Government’s launch of its second National Plan for Women’s Economic Empowerment (2021-2022). Efforts included opening centres to protect women from domestic violence, creating a high-level committee to assist rural women, and a Ministry of Agriculture initiative to implement several targeted projects. In addition, 1 million trees have been planted as part of a mitigation project. Going forward, Iraq is working on revising its laws related to women’s rights and on implementing a national strategy for Iraqi women that also focuses on climate change.

In closing remarks, MAMI MIZUTORI, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, said that, while disasters affect everyone, they disproportionately affect women and girls. Summarizing several threads of the discussion, she said structural inequality is a driver of risk, noting also that women must be involved in efforts to address this. Policies must also be embedded with gender perspectives. At the same time, investing in all these policies and efforts is also critical, she said. Highlighting several other issues, she said more science and knowledge must be shared with women and girls. Attention must also be paid to the issue of increased violence against women amid disasters and the vulnerable situation of women in rural areas, she said, commending the participants for sharing their encouraging efforts at national to local levels.

Also participating were ministers and other high-level representatives from Kenya, France, Indonesia, United Republic of Tanzania, Saint Lucia, Spain, Bangladesh, Angola, United Kingdom, Maldives, El Salvador, Azerbaijan and Chad.

Ministerial Round Table IV

The Commission then held a ministerial roundtable discussion on the theme “Women’s voice and agency: good practices towards achieving women’s full, equal and meaningful participation and decision-making in the context of climate-change, environmental and disaster-risk-reduction policies and programmes”.

Ministers and senior officials of Member States detailed national strategies to increase women’s participation in decision-making and address the disproportionate effects of climate change and natural disaster on women and girls. Stressing that such effects, along with widening inequality, necessitates including these individuals in policymaking, they also pointed out that women and girls possess unique knowledge and experience that can be harnessed to inform risk-reduction and resilience strategies. Further, they pointed to the link between climate change and gender-based violence, stressing the need to mainstream gender perspectives in national policy to ensure that women and girls have both voice and agency in addressing a phenomenon that affects them in specific ways.

ELIZABETH GOMEZ ALCORTA, Minister for Women, Genders and Diversity of Argentina, chairing the round table, said that women and girls — who hold deep knowledge of the needs and priorities of their communities — are key to combating climate change and environmental degradation. However, women are far from achieving full gender parity and lack the critical mass necessary to influence policy, decisions and strategies. Further, women’s civil society organizations face barriers to participation and leadership due to diminishing funds and threats to physical security. Pointing out that, while climate change is a global challenge, not all countries share the same responsibility, she said that the richest countries produce the most greenhouse gases while those with the fewest emissions are most exposed to the negative effects of the same. This reflects the hegemonic model of development, which is harmful to the environment and increases inequality. For its part, she said that Argentina works towards gender mainstreaming by training public officials and providing more resources to community organizations, especially those affected by climate change.

SILVERIA ELFRIEDA JACOBS, Prime Minister of Sint Maarten, speaking on behalf of the Netherlands and its constituent countries of Sint Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba, said that the latter three small island developing States are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. The climate crisis magnifies inequalities and vulnerabilities — especially for women and girls — which are further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, in the global discussion regarding climate action, the voices of women and girls are underrepresented, and the international community cannot expect to solve this crisis by leaving these individuals behind. Member States must work towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality by ensuring women’s full access to equal opportunities, knowledge and pay. Emphasizing that “women must be part of the solution”, she said that, by working together to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5, the world can progress towards achieving all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

ARIUNZAYA AYUSH, Minister for Labour and Social Protection of Mongolia, noted that her country has ratified 12 United Nations conventions relating to climate change, and to ensure implementation of these international treaties at the national level, has adopted several laws and policies to protect the environment. Further, the Government has implemented a number of projects to combat desertification and reduce air pollution, as the negative effects of climate change continue to pose a risk to both women and the national economy. Air pollution — caused by densely populated urban areas — has particularly negative effects on the health of the population. She emphasized that this problem especially affects infants and pregnant women, and has also led to respiratory diseases, premature birth and developmental disorders.

AYANNA WEBSTER-ROY, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, outlined Government efforts to ensure that women have voice and agency by incorporating gender considerations in strategies and projects to enhance environmental and climate resilience. Socially constructed roles and inequality disproportionately affect women — especially in rural areas – and she highlighted the need to incorporate the United Nations principle of “leaving no one behind” in developing disaster-risk-reduction policies and programmes. Gender issues and priorities specific to women must be integrated into the same, and the Government has worked to include women in stakeholder groups such as environmentally focused cabinets. She went on to stress the need to ensure that no barriers prevent the participation of women and girls in efforts to address climate change.

NASSÉNÉBA TOURE, Minister for Women, Family and Children of Côte d’Ivoire, pointed out that women comprise 70 per cent of agricultural workers in her country, producing 90 per cent of foodstuffs. As such, they suffer disproportionately from the consequences of drought, high precipitation and natural disaster. Against that backdrop, the Government has implemented a national programme to fight climate change by empowering women and girls. Institutional and legislative support measures have been passed, multiple support funds for women working in agriculture have been established and women’s participation in elected assemblies has increased. She also said that the Government is committed to implementing three projects for producing solar energy in the country’s north — 12 solar plants and 1 biomass project using residue from cotton and cocoa will create thousands of jobs for women and girls.

HELENA DALLI, European Commissioner for Equality of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, stressed the need to address the lack of women’s participation in decision-making as “no crisis is gender-neutral”. Climate change and environmental degradation take a disproportionate toll on women due to such individuals’ reduced access to resources, and therefore, the European Union’s climate-adaptation strategy aims to increase women’s leadership and gender balance. Further, the bloc supports programmes worldwide that promote women’s participation in climate governance — once such instance is its partnership with Bhutan to help local governments include women in the process to improve disaster resilience. Spotlighting the link between climate change and gender-based violence, she said that the European Union works to prevent such violence through targeted action, such as strengthening institutional capacities to address violence against women and girls following natural disaster.

NINO TANDILASHVILI, Deputy Minister for Environmental Protection and Agricultural Affairs of Georgia, joined other speakers in expressing solidarity with Ukraine and its people, condemning the Russian Federation’s invasion and use of force against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in contravention of international law. Turning to climate change, she said the phenomenon has had — and will continue to have — severe, lasting impact on the environment and social development. The resilience and adaptive capacity of women and girls must be supported, and for its part, the Government is working to mainstream gender perspectives in its environmental and climate change policy. These efforts include enhancing women’s role as agents of change and reducing the impact of natural disaster on population and infrastructure by providing early warning systems and locally informed risk management. “Without gender equality today, a sustainable, equitable future remains beyond our reach,” she added.

ANNA MARIA MOKGETHI, Minister for Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs of Botswana, highlighted the lessons learned from the COVID-19, HIV/AIDS and Ebola pandemics, in which women were not only affected, but also at the forefront of the response. As countries hold national and international dialogues on climate-change mitigation, women and girls must be at the negotiating table to ensure their voices are heard. Noting that women and girls in her country are negatively affected by aridity, persistent drought and erratic rainfall, she said that the Government pursues inclusive development policies that focus on the particular needs of women and children. Further, it engages women and girls in rural areas in the management of rural community resources, as their wealth of indigenous knowledge is essential for resilience. She went on to stress that these indigenous practices must be preserved, and that the women employing them must be empowered to fully participate in the supply chain.

In closing remarks, PREETI SINHA, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Capital Development Fund, highlighted the link between women’s economic empowerment and the climate agenda. Offering an example of the Fund’s work in Uganda, she said that the informal settlements of Mbali suffer from frequent water-supply outages, flooding and contamination. As such, only 20 per cent of households have access to clean, piped water, and this lack of access forces women and youth to travel long distances to collect water, which renders them susceptible to gender-based violence. The Fund is working to improve this water access situation, and this scenario demonstrates the effects that climate adaptation measures can have on women’s security. The relationship between climate finance and women’s economic empowerment has the potential to be one of the most powerful, virtuous cycles in development finance for least developed countries and beyond. “Let us unite to have capital serve humanity, and not the other way around,” she added.

Also participating were ministers and other high-level representatives from Estonia, Sierra Leone, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Gambia, Portugal, Ethiopia, Croatia, Greece, Mexico, Paraguay, Romania, Czech Republic, Cuba, Switzerland and Mali.

General Discussion

MILENKO ESTEBAN SKOKNIC TAPIA (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said that it is undeniable that all older women make a significant contribution, as agents of change, to the social, economic and sustainable development of societies. Not only do women account for the majority of older persons, but the proportion of older women in the global female population will also increase in the coming years. Therefore, policies and programmes must address women’s needs throughout their lives, particularly when they are older. Calling for a change in the way of thinking about ageing, he said there is a need to challenge narratives regarding the role older women can play in the economy, society and households.

It is hard to conceive that considering that older populations will outgrow younger populations by 2020, older persons — and even more so older women — remain largely invisible and disregarded in the development of policies and programmes. Such invisibility is evident in this year’s Secretary-General’s report on the priority theme, which hardly addressed the complex realities of older women facing climate change and natural disasters, despite the compounded vulnerabilities they are more likely to experience. Such lack of visibility can and must be addressed urgently. The Group therefore urges the United Nations agencies, and particularly United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) to systematically collect and disaggregate data by age and gender, particularly of women beyond their reproductive years.

Ms. AKBAR, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation of Fiji, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said that the science is non-negotiable and urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is critical. Equal and full participation of all women and girls must be central to global action. The recent volcanic eruption in Tonga caused tephra ash to fall, a tsunami and severe damage to submarine telecommunications cables. Pacific women and girls, in all their diversity, continue to play a critical role in building resilient communities. Recognizing women’s and girls’ knowledge, capabilities and skills, and empowering them, is vital to the safety and security of all Pacific families. The Pacific has one of the highest rates of violence globally; on average, two out of every three women experience some form of violence throughout their lifetime. Global evidence indicates a link between disasters, climate change and gender-based violence, she said, noting that in the Pacific, reports of domestic violence cases have increased. During disasters, women are subject to increased workloads and care responsibilities and must travel further to look for water and food. This is exacerbated by the increasing levels of non-communicable diseases in rural and remote areas.

A lack of adequate sexual reproductive health and outreach services are worsened by climate change and related disasters, she said. Climate finance also often fails to take account of gender equality and women’s empowerment. She called on the international community to increase gender-responsive climate, environmental and disaster risk finance, promote women’s full participation and leadership in climate, environment, ocean, biodiversity and disaster risk reduction action, and strengthen the capacities of women through accessible training and gender-responsive policies and programmes. It is also vital to ensure women have access to essential services during crisis situations. She also called for increased investment in national gender statistics which ensures gender-disability-geographical disaggregated data in the gender-environment nexus. “COVID-19 recovery and recovery from recurring natural disasters is an opportunity to reset our global development agenda to one that is climate-resilient, gender-inclusive and leaves no one behind,” she said.

VINDHYA PERSAUD, Minister for Human Services and Social Security of the Co operative Republic of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted that climate change poses an existential threat to small island developing States and that its impacts represent a “code red for humanity”. Reiterating disappointment that the developed countries’ pledge to provide $100 billion by 2020 for developing nations to address climate change was not met, he noted that women and girls are often disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. There must be a gender perspective when building climate resilience, as well as in the design and implementation of disaster-risk-reduction strategies and recovery plans, he said, calling also for investment to enable the production of gender-specific statistics and data on the relationship between gender and climate. Poverty eradication is central to reducing women’s vulnerability to climate change, he added, stressing that climate finance for both adaptation and mitigation activities should include measures supporting women owned micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises in the green and blue economies.

Turning to action to address sexual and gender-based violence and domestic violence, he noted that CARICOM nations are encouraging the equal sharing of responsibilities in parenting and household work; engaging community leaders to address discriminatory social norms and gender stereotypes; and adopting robust legislative regimes. Women in the region are also leaders advocating for protection of the environment and implementing home-grown solutions. Highlighting progress in Guyana, he pointed to its low-carbon development strategy, noting that 62 per cent of the jobs it has created are held by women. While women and girls are disproportionately impacted by climate events, they have also been creating innovative solutions to protect the country’s valuable ecosystem, including by using drones to monitor environmental activities to ascertain what threats have emerged to the mangroves ecosystem and how responses should be tailored. To promote women’s economic empowerment, free, non-traditional technical vocational programmes, with no pre-admission requirements, have been created to provide the necessary training and skills for thousands of women across Guyana.

PATRICIA KALIATI, Minister for Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that at a meeting in February, African Union ministers responsible for gender and promotion of women resolved that the current situation — marked by a regression of the gains made to advance women’s rights and gender equality due to the devastating effects of climate change and environmental disasters coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic — necessitates taking action. Agriculture plays an important role in the economy of all SADC member States. Environmental degradation threatens economic development and directly affects peoples’ livelihoods. SADC has established three main environmental policy goals: protect and improve the health, environment and livelihoods of the people of Southern Africa with priority for poor; preserve the region’s natural heritage, biodiversity and life supporting ecosystems; and support regional economic development on an equitable, sustainable basis for the benefit of present and future generations.

When unexpectedly heavy floods displaced more than a million people in Southern Africa in 2007, SADC began to meet annually to prepare for future occurrences, she said. It established a Disaster Risk Reduction Unit responsible for coordinating regional preparedness and response programmes for trans-boundary hazards and disaster. The SADC Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction was inaugurated in 2011. The newly developed SADC Regional Resilience Framework 2020 2030 will guide SADC member States and other stakeholders in the design and implementation of a broad range of resilience programmes. Women in the region account for most of the poorest and most vulnerable due to their general subordinate legal status; limited access to productive resources such as land, technology, credit, education and training, formal employment; as well as their susceptibility to HIV and AIDS. The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development was revised in 2016 to include gender and climate change. She stressed that State parties should, by 2030, develop policies, strategies and programmes to address the gender aspects of climate change, conduct research to assess its differential gendered impacts and put in place effective mitigation and adaptation measures.

ANTONETTE NCUBE, a youth representative from the European Union delegation, in its capacity as an observer, also spoke on behalf of the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. Stressing that climate change, disasters, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss disproportionately affect women and girls, and that crises and disasters exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities and discrimination, she said women and girls frequently face increased sexual and gender-based violence. They are subjected to harmful practices such as early and forced marriage due to the impact of climate change, disproportionate burden of care work, and restricted access to essential health services. The Group calls for concerted efforts to address these issues and expects the Commission to adopt strong and action-oriented conclusions.

More specifically, she said, the Group recommends that all stakeholders ensure the gender-responsive implementation of international obligations and commitments, including the Paris Agreement, Lima Work Programme on Gender, Convention on Biological Diversity and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. In that regard, the Group stresses the importance of enhancing women’s full, equal, effective and meaningful participation and leadership, she said, underscoring a concrete need to improve data and resources and strengthen coordination and capacity-building. The Group encourages all stakeholders to use comprehensive indicators and pursue the ethical collection and dissemination of high-quality, timely, reliable and disaggregated data and gender statistics on all dimensions of environmental, disaster risk reduction and climate change issues and sexual and gender-based violence.

MARTA LUCÍA RAMÍREZ, Vice President of Colombia, spotlighting the threats to global peace and stability seen over the last two weeks, said that the future will depend on including women’s voices. Fifty per cent of the world’s population has historically been excluded from power, but gender equality is essential for generating sustainable economic growth. For its part, Colombia has implemented a national policy with five objectives: to provide economic empowerment for women entrepreneurs; to include more women in politics; to involve women in peace and security; to ensure that women can live free from violence; and to establish more gender-based institutions. Noting her status as her country’s first female Vice President, she stressed that, when women arrive in positions of power, they must remember to open more spaces for other women “just as those who came before did for us”.

She went on to detail Colombia’s establishment of a sovereign gender bond to help women-owned businesses recover from COVID-19 — the first of its type in the world — and stressed that economic autonomy is essential for women to decide their own futures and live free from violence. The international community must also remember the situation of women living in Ukraine, Afghanistan and other conflict zones as a result of wars “always declared by men”. It must recall the voices of Afghan women, “no longer heard in the halls of the United Nations”, which reflects the current multilateral system. And it must always call for the dignity and rights of all women, she urged, highlighting the legal and moral obligation to allow women around the world to rise up with all their creative and transformative might.

ENSIEH KHAZALI, Vice President for Women and Family Affairs of Iran, said that, during the pandemic, some 12,000 women-headed households have been trained and introduced to the traditional and cybermarkets. Also, more than 1 million women-headed households are covered by the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee. They have benefited from special social protection services including funding and insurance services. Ten million rials in cash subsidies were allocated to 17 million households to reduce economic constraints on families. Supported by the Vice-Presidency for Women and Family Affairs, the women-headed households were prioritized for receiving aid packages, and with the approval of the Cabinet, the amount of loans granted to those households were doubled. Also to protect the environment, 6,000 rural and nomadic women have become members of 2,000 rural and nomadic cooperatives, some of whom have been granted plots of land over the past five years. Iranian women are fighting the effects of unilateral coercive measures, she said, adding that their heroic achievements in various areas have proven that they can withstand various unjust and unilateral sanctions.

KATRIN JAKOBSDÓTTIR, Prime Minister of Iceland, said that climate change has not spared her island country, with sea levels rising and glaciers melting. “No country is an island when it comes to climate change,” she said, stressing that similarly gender inequality plagues all parts of the world. Climate change causes poverty, disproportionally affecting women economically and socially. Climate change also causes instability and creates conditions for gender-based violence. Citing the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, she expressed concern that the conflict will produce mass displacement, which, in turn, creates more cases of gender-based violence. This “shadow pandemic” had occurred during the COVID-19 outbreak, she said, calling for attention to gender-based violence caused by the Russian Federation’s aggression. There is a need to include young people in social justice and health, as they are the best advocate for their own future. There are many remarkable women activists and human rights defenders in the forefront. “The world will be a better place with women in the lead,” she said.

TANZILA NARBAEVA, Chairperson and Speaker of the Senate of Parliament of Uzbekistan, said the Commission is a catalyst for incorporating gender into all aspects of United Nations work. Expanding the rights of women and girls is a key priority of Uzbekistan State policy, she noted, with a new development plan for 2022-2026 and a national programme to bolster the role of women and girls in the country’s future. Addressing climate change, she noted Uzbekistan is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, including the drying of the Aral Sea, which threatens the sustainable development of Central Asia. Reports have further suggested that, between 2030 and 2050, the average air temperature in the region may increase by 1.5°C to 3°C. Uzbekistan has adopted the broad use of renewable energy, and is working to develop the Aral Sea region, including through women-focused training courses to manage resources and regenerate salinated areas. During the third Central Asian Summit, Uzbekistan advanced the regional programme “Green Agenda for Central Asia”, and is planting 200 million saplings.

ZORANA MIHAJLOVIC, Deputy Prime Minister and the President of the Coordination Body of the Government of the Republic of Serbia for Gender Equality of Serbia, said that UN-Women has been a partner of the Coordination Body for Gender Equality for years. They have worked together on gender mainstreaming of climate policies and practices in Serbia, and on ensuring that the normative framework related to energy is gender-sensitive and that climate change finance always includes women’s perspective. A new national energy strategy, as well as the National Energy and Climate Action Plan are under way, both of which will be gender-sensitive, because without gender mainstreaming of public policies, the existing gender gap cannot be closed. The Government established the National Coalition on Energy Poverty whose goal is to underline gender gaps in energy poverty. “The gender-just transition is our chance not only to change our energy sources and to have a cleaner environment, but also to change the perception of the energy sector as a men-dominated sector,” she said.

EVELYN WEVER-CROES, Prime Minister of Aruba, speaking on behalf of the Netherlands and its constituent countries of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, said that these four countries have been battling the elements for centuries — “from North Sea floods to Caribbean hurricanes” — and are united in tackling the climate crisis, which is “the greatest challenge of our time”. The world is unequal, and this crisis is amplifying that inequality. In the Caribbean, the greatest burden of care falls on women and girls when communities are in crisis; however, these individuals remain underrepresented in decision-making at all levels, including at the United Nations. Against that backdrop, she urged full, equal, meaningful and effective participation and leadership for women in adaptation and mitigation processes, along with granting the same equal access to the knowledge and resources necessary to respond to climate change.

ROBBERT DIJKGRAAF, Minister for Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands, underscored the importance of knowledge in combating climate change, as it is “the only resource that grows as you use it”. However, the voices, knowledge and experience of women and girls are unheard, as these individuals are underrepresented at all levels, including technical areas crucial to making the necessary energy transition. The world needs the contribution of women and girls, in all their diversity, to ensure a liveable future for humanity. Noting that today’s meeting occurs in extraordinary times, he expressed full solidarity with all women and girls living in conflict — including those in Ukraine — and condemned the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of that country.

DERYA YANIK, Minister for Family and Social Services of Turkey, said that a civilization teaches: “Plant a tree, even if it is your last deed.” Her country puts great emphasis on environmental protection. Since 2002, it has witnessed remarkable progress as a result. Thanks to the “Zero Waste” project, a new era has begun in terms of environmental protection. Women play a major role in the success of this project. In adapting to the Paris Agreement on climate change, Turkey has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2053. An effective fight against climate change requires a political and social atmosphere in which women are resilient, empowered and their rights are ensured. Her country has made significant progress in eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination against women, adopted priority goals to increase the education level of women and girls, and taken crucial steps in terms of empowering and increasing the participation of women in the labour market. With the “Gender-Responsive Planning and Budgeting in Turkey” project, the Government is determined to ensure that women are not ignored and their needs and problems are always visible in budget programmes.

MAYA MORSY, Minister for Women and President of the National Council for Women of Egypt, said that her country is among those most affected by climate change, despite its very limited contribution to the phenomenon’s existence, as Egypt accounts for only 0.6 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In light of the impact of climate change on women — particularly on their health, food security and living standards — the Government works to implement a sustainable development model and has adopted many initiatives, programmes and projects to promote adaptation and mitigate the effects of climate change, while also promoting women’s empowerment. These efforts include: raising women’s awareness of rural initiatives and eco-friendly agricultural methods; organizing environmental camps to train women in eco-friendly industries; and raising awareness of sustainable flood-management. She also detailed Egypt’s perspective for women, the environment and climate change, affirming the Government’s commitment to address climate change and empower Egyptian women in various fields.

AAWATIF HAYAR, Minister for Solidarity, Social Integration and Family of Morocco, outlining her country’s efforts on the priority theme, said that national priority focuses on integrating women into environmental policy. This session coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a huge impact on women. Her country is including women in all areas of policy implementation. The 2011 Constitution bases itself on the principle of equality of men and women. Morocco is also working to implement all its international commitments in eliminating discrimination, advancing gender equality and addressing climate change. It has established the 2020-2030 Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation, with a view to archiving gender equality. The Government is undertaking projects with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in the field of green technology. The Government has set a goal of increasing women’s economic activity by 2026, she said, also noting that more women candidates won during the 2021 elections than in past elections.

CHUNG YOUNG-AI, Minister for Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea, voiced concern about the impact of violence on women and girls, many of whom have been displaced or forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. She affirmed that only when the perspectives of women — who account for half the world’s population — are incorporated into policies and programmes will the world be able to prudently respond to the crisis facing the international community. Her Government formulates a Basic Plan for Gender Equality Policies every five years, and has enforced gender-responsive budgeting since fiscal year 2010. It is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. In addition, a designated officer system has been established to support women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The country is also responding to deepening gender inequality in the labour market brought on by the pandemic with a COVID-19 Women’s Job Recovery Plan launched in 2021, expanding jobs for women in the public and private sectors. With the help of her ministry, UN-Women has established the United Nations Women Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality in Seoul.

SUSANNE RAAB, Federal Minister for Women, Family, Integration and Media in the Federal Chancellery of Austria, aligning herself with the European Union, noted that women and men are affected differently by climate and environmental crises and States have to think differently and come up with new solutions. Highlighting measures taken by her country in that regard, she stressed a special focus on the empowerment of women and girls in technology and innovation, to ensure that they equally benefit from job opportunities and increase diversity in those sectors, including through “Lets Empower Austria”, an initiative which aims to increase the participation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Turning to the Russian’s Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, she noted that war leads to an unbelievable suffering for civilians, in particular women and girls. In that regard, she expressed her country’s full solidarity with women and girls in Ukraine and those who fled.

EVA NORDMARK, Minister for Gender Equality, Ministry of Employment of Sweden, associating herself with the European Union, expressed solidarity with those living in conflict situations and other emergencies, including Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia and Ukraine. The unprovoked, illegal and indefensible Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine is having an immense impact on the civilian population there, with a huge number of people, including women and children, forced to flee their homes. “We all have an obligation to strongly condemn this invasion,” she said. As a member of the Swedish feminist Government, she noted women’s economic empowerment is key to achieving gender equality. “When you make your own money, you can choose your own life,” she said, citing political reforms such as parental leave for both mothers and fathers, affordable childcare and individual taxation to help close the gender pay gap. Addressing the urgency of stopping fossil fuel emissions to accelerate a just climate transition, she noted Sweden is producing batteries and the world’s first fossil-free steel, creating thousands of new green jobs. As the COVID-19 pandemic has globally increased the risk of women being subjected to men’s violence, prostitution and trafficking, the Government has adopted a 99-point Action Programme for preventing and combating violence against women. The blame must be put where it belongs: on the perpetrators. Stressing the importance of sexual and reproductive rights, she said: “We must continue promoting access to safe and legal abortions, contraceptives and comprehensive sexuality education.”

DOMINIQUE HASLER, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Education and Sport of Liechtenstein, noted the meeting unfortunately falls under the shadow of a terrible war, condemning the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine. She stressed that all armed conflicts have devastating consequences for civilians, and are a setback for the rights of women and girls, who disproportionately suffer violence, marginalization and exclusion, but show amazing resilience. Their role is key in supporting the international rules-based order; it is not a question of political correctness but a prerequisite for successful and peaceful political processes. Climate change also disproportionately burdens women and girls, and generations to come will note the action — or inaction — of the international community on the issue. Addressing the interlinkage between climate change and rights, she noted women lack access to land ownership. Modern slavery and human trafficking increase during and after natural disasters, she stressed, pointing to a blueprint the Government has developed for financial institutions to prevent such crimes through financial inclusion. Liechtenstein has also partnered with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the Climate and Environment Transition Fund. Quoting the Secretary-General, she noted that humanitarian emergencies move the clock backwards on women’s rights.

THOMAS BLOMQVIST, Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality of Finland, aligning himself with the European Union, condemned Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine in the strongest terms, stressing that the war is also a violation of women’s rights. “We must hear the voices of Ukrainian women. As in every conflict, women are critical to achieving sustainable peace,” he said. Noting the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls, he stressed that climate change is also a gender issue, calling for increased efforts to ensure a gender perspective in all climate, environment and disaster management policies. Highlighting the intersection between climate issues and sexual and reproductive health and rights, he spotlighted the essential importance of universal access to quality comprehensive sexuality education, bodily autonomy, access to clean water and sanitation, and women’s economic empowerment, in order to achieve gender equality. To that end, his Government has introduced family leave reform and is also introducing national legislation on pay transparency, he noted. Expressing concern about the increasing sexual and gender-based violence, harassment and hate speech, both offline and online, he emphasized the need to bridge the gender digital divide and eliminate harmful gender stereotypes, including gender bias in artificial intelligence.

HO JAN TINETTI, Minister for Women of New Zealand, emphasized that women who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including indigenous women, are among those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and disasters, but also powerful agents of action, change and resilience. As such, the Government of New Zealand is increasingly applying gender and intersectional analysis to all its actions and decision-making, including by promoting the use of an online tool, she said. Noting the data-collection gaps and shortcomings exposed in that process, she stressed the vital importance of gender-disaggregated data to ensuring visibility for the gendered impacts of climate change and natural hazards, and of tailoring responses accordingly. She went on to state that New Zealand is also focusing on enabling an equitable climate transition to a low carbon economy, which entails consideration of the outcomes for different groups in the way climate change policies and programmes are funded and financed.

ÉLISABETH MORENO, Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities of France, expressed concern over the fate of women and girls in Ukraine following the Russian Federation’s military aggression and underscored the need to preserve the rights and dignity of Ukrainians. Turning to climate change, she pointed out that women are the primary victims of it, and quite often, they are not heard despite “having something to say”. Gender equality is at the forefront of France’s efforts in the European Union, and the Government also works to combat sexual and gender-based violence. National legislation addresses domestic abuse, street harassment and new forms of violence on the Internet, and an ombudsman for public enterprises was established to combat harassment in the workplace. She also emphasized the importance of women’s economic independence, noting that the pandemic has revealed the inequality women face in the public and professional spaces. Despite women playing a key role, their contributions are often not seen or valued, and she expressed hope that, post-pandemic, “parity will be the rule, not the exception”.

LYAZZAT RAMAZANOVA, Minister for the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy under the President of Kazakhstan, said her country is committed to all issues on gender equality as women are the main beneficiaries of a clean environment. Kazakhstan is addressing climate change challenges head-on. A transition to the green economy requires significant investment in line with commitments made under the Paris Agreement and the subsequent agreement in Glasgow. Kazakhstan seeks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The Government does not represent the whole picture in this effort, she said, stressing that civil society and businesses are doing their parts. Noting that her landlocked country is far from the ocean and two thirds of its land is desert, she said Central Asian economies like hers must adapt to climate change. Kazakhstan will plant 2 billion trees, with civil society participating in that endeavour. About 80 per cent of civil-society organizations are headed by women. She noted the establishment of a green technology centre in Kazakhstan.

ANNALENA BAERBOCK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said an estimated 800,000 women will give birth in Ukraine in the next few months, many without shelter or access to proper care. “This illustrates clearly that conflicts and crises are not gender-blind,” she said, stressing that conflicts disproportionately impact women from Afghanistan to the Sahel. The same is true for the climate crisis, she said, urging the Commission to compel States to put women’s rights at the heart of climate action. She noted that, during droughts, it is girls who are sent to school less frequently because gender norms dictate that fetching water falls to them. For such reasons, Germany supported the Human Rights Council in recognizing a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right, and it supports efforts to give women and other marginalized groups an equal say in decision-making processes.

MUSA MAAYTAH, Minister for Political and Parliamentary Affairs and Chairman of the Ministerial Committee for the Empowerment of Women, and Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs of Jordan, said the international community must take into account the most vulnerable people to ensure civil society features the participation of women in decision-making processes. Jordan has pioneered mainstreaming gender into State policy on climate change, stressing the importance of measures addressing the root causes of inequality and discrimination and acknowledging the different circumstances of men and women. He also affirmed the Government will work to provide better services to women in humanitarian crises, either through prevention or recovery, and is further taking into account lessons learned from the pandemic, involving women in decision-making related to economic empowerment. He noted that the labour law was amended to provide nursery care for female staff, equal pay and paternity leave, as well as equal pay for equal work.

RODERIC O’GORMAN, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth of Ireland, aligning himself with the European Union, expressed solidarity with women and girls in situations of conflict or other emergencies and pointed out that these individuals are particularly impacted by the same, including in Ukraine. Ireland prioritizes women’s empowerment, demonstrated by its international development programming that focuses on social protection, food systems, climate action and the women, peace and security agenda. Spotlighting the link between climate and security, he said that instability and fragility have a disproportionate impact on women. Women’s role in addressing the climate crisis is too often overlooked and undervalued, and States must ensure that women’s voices are heard at all levels. He went on to say that Ireland, for its part, has pioneered citizens’ assemblies as exercises in participatory democracy, and the assembly for gender equality recently submitted its report containing 45 recommendations in this area to the Government for implementation.

LAILA AL NAJAR, Minister for Social Development of Oman, emphasized the importance of a prominent role for women in national development, noting that they instil the value of tolerance. Noting that his country’s Constitution guarantees the rights of women, he said their economic participation is an important goal for Oman. A high percentage of women are now joining the labour market, he added. Pointing out that more women occupy leadership positions in political and public life, he said they are holding decision-making positions in private companies, as well. Oman provides assistance to women entrepreneurs and small business owners engaged in e-commerce, he said, adding that the Government also supports victims of domestic violence. Women volunteer to help those affected in crisis situations, he noted, stressing that their participation is crucial both during normal times and in emergencies.

MARIANA VIEIRA DA SILVA, Minister of State for the Presidency of Portugal, said that it is fundamental to invest in the production of data disaggregated by sex, on the impacts of phenomena and policies. Environment and energy, agriculture, mobility or urban planning are important sectors in this approach. Since 2021, Portugal has monitored gender equality indicators in its State budget report, including in the field of climate change, with all data produced by the Central Administration to be disaggregated by sex. In the labour market, the Government is integrating more women in key areas of climate transition, whether through training activities in maritime economy, in the management of rural fires, or through the training of women working in the agricultural sector. In the fight against energy poverty, it is reducing the costs of energy and other consumptions, supporting the more vulnerable households, namely single parent families. Legislative measures set minimum thresholds for participation in decision-making positions. Since 2017, the average proportion of women on the boards of publicly listed companies increased from 12 to 29 per cent. In public administration, since 2015, the rate of women senior managers jumped from 32 to 43 per cent. In the Portuguese Parliament, women account for more than a third of representation.

MEIRAV COHEN, Minister for Social Equality of Israel, spotlighted all the young girls, mothers, sick or wounded women, pregnant women and senior citizens in Ukraine who thought they would never have to experience war atrocities again. Those women must be kept in mind when discussing policy. The gap between the privilege of discussing gender issues and the need to stay alive and protect one's children must be pondered by all. On a national level, she pointed to the presence of many different communities, which presents challenges to promoting women's rights in a “complex sphere” where every group lives according to its traditions and customs. Nearly 56 per cent of Israeli women are employed, most of them working mothers. Together with a high birth rate in Israel, Israeli women are burdened by their households much more than their Western counterparts. As a result, her Government’s attempt to reduce environmental hazards by restricting the use of disposable housewares was met with strong opposition from Orthodox communities that consist of multi-child families. An attempt to limit disposables with extensive taxing was considered an attack on women in the more traditional household. The women, as sole housekeepers, had to choose between spending more money or having to do more housework. To that end, her country has the complex task of finding the right balances between promoting women’s rights while preserving the environment and addressing climate change.

AYANNA WEBSTER-ROY, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister responsible for Gender and Child Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, said the country’s National Vision 2030 Development Plan and the National Policy on Gender and Development recognize the importance of holistic, interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches to conserving, developing and safeguarding natural resources. The Policy aims to encourage women and men to play diverse and complementary roles in approaches to climate change and environmental protection. She noted that Trinidad and Tobago ratified the Paris Agreement, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent in the energy, transportation, and industrial sectors by 2030 — a 103 million-ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. On gender, she cited the Ministry of Planning and Development, the political head of which is a woman, and the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Network, with women accounting for 58 per cent of the groups and playing a lead role in decision making. The country’s Comprehensive Disaster Management Policy further recognizes that disasters and hazards affect women, girls, men and boys differently. Because of their reproductive responsibilities, women are particularly valuable “change agents” in the transition to a sustainable economy, and should be trained and supported in adopting new environmentally friendly practices and technologies.

TAINA BOFFERDING, Minister for Equality between Women and Men of Luxembourg, said that crises — whatever their nature — affect each individual differently. In the conflict situation in Ukraine, women and girls must demonstrate resilience and courage while facing unprovoked Russian aggression. In a three-week period, millions have been forced to flee their homes, the majority of whom are women and girls. Also expressing shock over reports of sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by Russian armed forces, she demanded that the Russian Federation “cease this stupid war”. Turning to women and climate change, she stressed the need to improve the collection of reliable, disaggregated gender data; to place gender equality at the centre of resilience policies and disaster-risk-reduction programmes; and to increase the number of women in decision-making and leadership roles. She added that, for its part, the Government has adopted a feminist foreign policy and its development-cooperation efforts — to which 1 per cent of Luxembourg’s GDP is allocated — are focusing on new gender strategies, such as increasing financing for projects bolstering women’s empowerment throughout the world.

Right of Reply

Speaking in the exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation said that many delegates made baseless allegations against his country in their statements today. They ignore the fact that the Ukrainian army has stricken the heart of Donetsk, killing civilians. Since the coup d'état in 2014, the Ukrainian regime has taken a decision to destroy the Russian-speaking populations in the country’s east, where they are being shelled and killed. He wondered why Western countries ignore this situation created by the criminal regime in Kyiv, and instead provide lethal weapons to Kyiv. He reminded the Commission that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) used inhumane weapons in the former Yugoslavia, killing civilians, including women and children, also citing similar actions by the so-called “peacekeeping” forces in Afghanistan and Libya.

Source: United Nations