Mainstreaming Gender and Youth in Latin America: Experiences from Panama and Ecuador
The NDC Partnership recognizes gender equality and youth engagement as key components of effective and sustainable climate interventions. Today, we highlight Panama and Ecuador, two countries in Latin America with strong commitments and exemplary follow-through on their approaches to mainstreaming gender and youth engagement in climate action.
The Paris Agreement emphasizes the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment as a guiding principle for climate action. A 2022 report produced by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) highlights the gender-differentiated impacts of extreme weather events, detailing the complex interaction of socio-economic factors that put women and marginalized groups at greater risk of experiencing the adverse effects of climate change, as well as unequal participation in climate-related planning, decision-making and implementation. While progress has been made in tracking such gender-disaggregated data, the report illustrates the significant work still required to adequately bridge data gaps, better integrate women and marginalized groups into decision-making at all levels and design more inclusive governance structures.
To address these challenges, many governments are creating legal frameworks to improve access to resources for women and girls, further integrating gender-responsive approaches that are critical for effective NDC implementation as well as overall sustainable development goals. Panama, for example, promotes the implementation of gender-responsive climate policies following a rights-based approach, while Ecuador has created a Gender and Climate Change Action Plan to promote the mainstreaming of gender into national climate policy goals.
Panama's Whole of Society Approach
Through a strong alliance with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and leadership from gender specialists within the Ministry of Environment’s Climate Change Directorate, the Government of Panama has taken steps to deliver on their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by prioritizing a whole-of-society approach in their climate commitments.
“Panama is preparing its updated NDC by following a participatory process and consulting with all sectors of society and relevant government institutions”, notes Vilma Alfú, Head of Panama’s Department of Climate Action. “Panama hopes to minimize the damage caused by the impacts of climate change by incorporating women, youth, and vulnerable groups in our MRV (Measurement, Reporting, and Verification), Adaptation and Loss and Damage monitoring systems, while also building resilience and maximizing climate finance opportunities.”
Panama developed its National Gender and Climate Change Plan (PNGCC) in 2021 to mainstream gender equality in NDC commitments and climate change policies, strategies and programs at the national level. The Plan seeks to promote and implement an equal role for men and women in all areas and sectors of the country and is the result of a long, participatory process with diverse national stakeholders across the public and private sector, civil society, and indigenous and afro-descendant groups.
In addition to prioritizing gender equality, Panama has outlined youth engagement as a key element of national climate action. The Ministry of Environment's Climate Change Directorate developed the Academy on Climate Change for Young Leaders as a space to strengthen the capacities of young leaders in the country on issues related to climate change. The Academy empowers participants to develop robust, real-world project ideas and concepts, ranging from the design of adaptation measures for national watersheds to initiatives focused on developing Panama’s blue economy.
The first Academy in 2019, featuring 30 participants selected from over 400 applications, highlighted the capacity and enthusiasm of young people towards shaping their own sustainable future. The NDC Partnership proudly hosted two of the Academy graduates during the first Youth Engagement Forum in 2021.
Furthermore, the Government has prioritized internships, training, volunteer opportunities and formal employment as methods to sustainably integrate young people into public service. This commitment to professional youth development in the climate sector resulted in Panama’s COP26 delegation being the youngest with an average age of 29.
These examples, bolstered by holistic support from key partners like UNDP, are driving a whole-of-society implementation of Panama’s NDC. Panama continues to strengthen its gender and youth programming, submitting a gender-informed Partnership Plan that includes training women in solar thermal technologies as an alternative to wood, hiring a consultant to lead the implementation of Panama’s National Gender and Climate Change Plan, building capacity and doing outreach around gender mainstreaming, and launching a gender-awareness campaign, among other relevant priorities.
Ecuador's Commitment to Mainstreaming Gender
Ecuador stands out for its commitment to climate action by incorporating gender-sensitive tools throughout the entire NDC process, building capacity around gender considerations, enhancing climate-related policies, adopting a whole-of-government approach, and pledging to involve women’s organizations at every step.
The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition (MAATE) of Ecuador, through the establishment of the Gender and Climate Change Commission, has prioritized gender mainstreaming as a key strategy to ensure that national climate action simultaneously advances gender equality. MAATE, together with the National Council for Women, also leads the Technical Committee on Gender and Climate Change, a group that coordinates 17 stakeholders representing public, private, academic and not-for-profit entities.
Through resources provided by the United Kingdom, the NDC Partnership has supported a gender advisor, Domenique Tapia, embedded within MAATE since 2021, assisting Ecuador to design and implement its Gender and Climate Change Action Plan (PAGcc). She has been involved in ten adaptation and six mitigation initiatives, including intersectoral capacity building workshops, providing technical support to ensure gender-responsiveness is integrated across the board. A series of eight intersectoral workshops were also carried out to capacitate stakeholders on the relationship between gender and climate change. Further support involved participating in technical discussions to advise on opportunities to integrate gender in climate projects and monitoring gender integration across Ministerial programming, as well as developing tools, informational booklets and educational materials to create gender awareness among MAATE personnel.
Gabriela Vargas, a Member of Ecuador’s Gender and Climate Change Commission, stated: “The technical gender support provided in recent years to the Climate Change Undersecretariat in Ecuador has been essential for the development of adaptation and mitigation measures that improve the quality of life of women and the vulnerable population at a national level. Domenique’s advice, focused on mainstreaming gender in climate change management initiatives, will support this administration’s national and international commitments to reduce inequality between men and women and position Ecuador as a gender and climate change pioneer.”
This specialized, short-term support has been essential for integrating and coordinating gender considerations across multiple national processes, proving indispensable to Ecuador’s NDC update process and the raising of their overall climate ambition. Ecuador has already requested support from the Partnership for continued gender mainstreaming across all sectors while the country works on the development of its updated NDC (2026-2035). Ecuador hopes this support will allow them to maintain the Technical Committee on Gender and Climate Change, develop guidelines for the inclusion of gender criteria in their NDCs and generate participatory spaces that contribute to mainstreaming gender across national NDC processes.
Leadership in the Region
One of the key principles that guides the NDC Partnership is the belief and investment in whole-of-society approaches. Panama and Ecuador offer concrete examples of how to put the Partnership’s Youth Engagement Plan and Gender Strategy into action at the country level. Their leadership in the region offers a model framework for other countries to emulate as they begin implementing their NDCs, adaptation plans and long-term climate strategies. Whether through comprehensive national gender plans, or the specialized and technical expertise of a gender advisor, Panama and Ecuador have set gender equality as a key priority, devoting resources and time to activities that will lead to impactful real-world results.
Five Tips for More Inclusive NDCs
Building on Panama and Ecuador’s examples, the NDC Partnership encourages members keen to mainstream gender across their climate action to consider:
Developing a national strategy led by a multisectoral high-level committee that includes clear engagement activities to ensure the inclusion of gender and youth in their climate commitments;
Promote the involvement of gender and youth experts across all stages of the design and implementation of climate change policies;
Develop capacity across and within ministries to ensure gender and youth awareness is prioritized;
Host stakeholder consultations to ensure inclusive commitments are delivered, and engage youth in decision-making processes and negotiations to develop their capacity to participate meaningfully;
Ensure budget processes include elements to support gender activities and expertise to drive meaningful results and impact.