Lakshmi Puri calls for strengthened women’s participation in addressing climate change

Statement by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri, at the “Gender inequalities and vulnerability to climate change: how to fight against a double injustice” side event, on 10 March, New York City.


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Excellencies, and distinguished guests, good morning and thanking you for having me today.

It is such a pleasure to speak with you today, especially as we set another milestone for gender equality and the empowerment of women. With the review and appraisal of the Beijing Platform for Action, we now have a clear understanding of the gaps and challenges that remain in its full and effective implementation. And during this Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) we will really get an opportunity to discuss concrete ways through which we will tackle those challenges and move forward to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment by 2030.

The CSW59 Political Declaration, adopted yesterday emphasizes that the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform is essential for achieving the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and is key to tackling new challenges through a transformative post-2015 development agenda.

The implementation at country-level of both the Beijing Platform and the post-2105 Development Agenda will be critical for the achievement of gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls and the realization of their human rights.

The declaration highlights a number of actions that will contribute to strengthened implementation of laws and  policies, increased support for institutional mechanisms for gender equality, transformation of social norms and gender stereotypes, increased investment through domestic resource mobilization and official development assistance (ODA and other sources), strengthened accountability, and enhanced capacity building, data collection, monitoring and evaluation.

But another thing that the Declaration does, is commits governments to mainstream a gender equality perspective into the preparations for, and the integration, coordinated implementation and follow-up to all major UN conference and summits. And this of course applies to Conference of Parties 21 (COP21). 

As we approach COP21, and the adoption of the new agreement of climate change it is not more important than ever that we work to ensure that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) outcome document addresses the key challenges and opportunities in the context of gender equality and women’s empowerment – and we can go into these discussions and negotiations with the Beijing Platform for Action as a bedrock and this Political Declaration as our ammunition.

The Geneva text, the latest text of the climate negotiating body – the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, or ADP, now incorporates proposals for gender-specific references in the preamble sections and the substantive sections on adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building.

This is a good starting. Now we must focus on how we keep those references and go further. As you know, as the negotiations continue – in Bonn, in June, August, and in October, Parties will go through the streamlining of the text. We must not lose focus and must continue to mobilize ourselves even more as we get closer to our goal.

The women and climate change movement has the support of all sides – Parties, the UNFCCC Secretariat, UN System entities, foundations, women’s organizations and their powerful networks, we have had successive COP Presidencies that were very supportive and were leading in gender equality issues in the UNFCCC context.

And as we move forward in mobilizing support and pushing this absolutely critical agenda forward we will need Member States to champion this cause and keep gender equality aspects of climate change as key throughout negotiations on the new legally binding agreement on climate change.

We must work and support Member States to ensure that this agreement is agreement embeds actionable commitments, with specific time-frame for implementation, and be accompanied by concrete means of implementation – in the form of finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building. The means of implementation should incorporate elements that specify HOW a gender perspective or gender-responsiveness may be advanced or implemented.

For the new climate agreement to be a complementary tool in promoting justice and gender equality, the text of the new agreement should move beyond the mere references to gender-responsive, gender-sensitive, or inclusive actions, to more concrete actionable commitments, underpinned by gender mainstreaming as a strategy. Accompanying means of implementation and accountability frameworks must also integrate gender equality components with the goal to transform discriminatory institutions, recognize that discrimination can be embedded in laws, polices, cultural norms and community practices that, for example, limit women’s access to natural resources and or/technology or ignore their specific needs and contributions to mitigation responses.

And this is where civil society organizations come in. Civil society is absolutely critical in pushing this forward and hold governments accountable for their commitments toward climate change. 

Civil society has been effective in their advocacy and outreach, in forging key partnerships, including with Parties, the UNFCCC and UN System entities, in building the evidence and the knowledge base, in building capacity of women and training them to be leaders and decision-makers, in awareness-raising, training and education on gender equality and their linkages to mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, finance, capacity-building, technology development and transfer, in their work at the community-level, including with grass-roots and indigenous communities, among others.

Civil Society should continue to do all of the above important contributions, but most importantly, they should keep on “raising the bar” and be the repository of information, the institutional memories. Those who are representing the women’s groups and the youth group in intergovernmental processes should use their unique role in bringing the voice of their constituencies in intergovernmental discussions. They should also leverage their partnership with UN system entities and other international and regional organizations to consolidate and strengthen their messages and positions on advancing gender equality, women’s human rights and women’s empowerment in intergovernmental processes.

Through our collective effort we were able to ensure gender equality issues are now a part of the official agenda of the COPs, and at COP20, Parties adopted the two-year Lima Work Programme on Gender with action-oriented mandates spanning the elaboration of gender equality linkages across the thematic areas discussed in the UNFCCC context, to holding in-session workshops on these, and broadening capacity-building for women delegates, and raising awareness for men and women delegates to the UNFCCC on gender-responsive climate policy and action.

The foundations and the momentum are there. But it is not the time to be complacent. All the stakeholders, many of you present here, should continue their advocacy and outreach, but we should not forget that we should keep on building the evidence and the knowledge base to be able to make the best case that climate change is not gender-neutral and that women, more than victims, are leading and are active contributors to effective climate actions that benefit all.

Thank you.