Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality

Over the last 50 years, numerous international environmental agreements and national environmental policies have increasingly integrated gender equality and women’s empowerment perspectives. Agenda 21 adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 set the pace by making 145 references to linkages between women and environment and sustainable development, recognizing the importance of the knowledge and traditional practices of women, and underscoring the contribution women have made to biodiversity conservation. This was followed by the 1995 Beijing Platform of Action that identified Women and the Environment as one of 12 areas of critical concern. From 1995 onwards was further integration of gender equality and women’s empowerment perspectives into different international environmental and sustainable development agreements.

In 2015, UNGA Resolution 70/1. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted Gender Equality as a standalone sustainable development goal and by doing recognized that adopting gender-responsive and human rights-based approaches will accelerate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, these approaches will make environmental interventions longer lasting and more transformative, from policies and programming related to the impact of climate change to issues around access to climate finance, energy, water, sanitation, land and other natural resources. Gender-responsive approaches must not only explicitly recognize girls’ and women’s diverse and gender-specific interests and needs, they must also ensure their participation and leadership in developing, implementing and monitoring mitigation and response actions. Moreover, gender equality and human rights need to be fully integrated into environmental governance.

The global COVID-19 pandemic however sets a new frame. It has taken a disproportionate toll on women and girls and has exploited existing inequalities. In addition to taking on the majority of the burden of care work, women have borne the brunt of job losses, as they were already severely disadvantaged in labour markets. So, when we think about the recovery from COVID-19, we need to recover the ground that we have lost on gender equality and women’s rights. As the Secretary-General’s 2020 SDG Progress report makes clear, COVID-19 imperils progress towards development and environmental sustainability. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic exposes the destructiveness of ‘business as usual’ and opens a portal for reconsidering human – environment relations.

Engagement in the Stockholm+50 consultations culminating in the 2-3 June 2022 International meeting and events, has thus opened up spaces for multi-stakeholder perspectives and enhanced gender equality responsive environmental understanding that demands new and different questions, emphasizes different dimensions of human-environment relationships, and requires different methodological tools and approaches. To reimagine a common, prosperous future on a healthy planet, Stockholm+50 called for an inclusive approach that reflects the richness and diversity of voices and perspectives of various stakeholder groups - local governments, cities, civil society, women leaders and women’s groups, indigenous peoples and local communities, faith-based groups, academia, youth, industry, finance, and philanthropic foundations.

Addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment has been a priority at all levels. Firstly, through the UNDP led Stockholm+50 National Consultations, 58 countries have conducted gender responsive and socially inclusive dialogues taking a multi-scale whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach on the main themes of Stockholm+50 and the Leadership Dialogues as they relate to each national context. National consultations are a space for the great diversity of voices, and particularly those from women leaders and women groups, from all countries being supported to be heard - all calling for a healthier planet and more inclusive and sustainable development choices. Secondly, at the Regional Consultations the Women’s Major Group (WMG) members have been actively involved in discussions and have provided suggestions on the way forward for gender responsive environmental policies and programmes. Thirdly, at the global level, in the Informal Working Groups for the Leadership Dialogues UN Women has taken the lead in participating in the leadership dialogues and contributed to the integration of gender equality and women’s perspectives in the recommendations. Lastly, through engagement with different organisations and partners that have mandates in developing and implementing gender responsive actions that promote sustainable environmental management, ranging from climate action to ecosystem restoration sustainable consumption.

A comprehensive report will be published on the recommendations on gender equality and the environment that emerged from the different levels of consultations and gender-related Stockholm+50 events. The report will provide recommended follow-up actions and will be shared widely with stakeholders and government partners.

Gender events at Stockholm+50

At Stockholm+50 gender equality and intersectionality was addressed at the three Leadership Dialogues as well as in a number of Side Events and Associated Events listed below:

The Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality stakeholders engagement in the Stockholm+50 consultations was coordinated by UNEP with support from UNDP, UN Women and the Women’s Major Group accredited to UNEP. Contact: [email protected].