The 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW): Recognizing the Urgency of the Climate Crisis
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) designed to monitor and review implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and positioned as the principal global intergovernmental body “exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women,” held its 66th meeting in March convening Parties and gender advocates from around the world. This year’s priority theme was “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.” This was the first CSW meeting dedicated to gender equality in the context of climate change, demonstrating how gender equality and women’s rights mechanisms are the focus of increased global attention.
The focus on gender equality in the context of climate change also signals that CSW66 decision makers understand that global policy designed for a sustainable future must appreciate both gender and climate objectives. The foundation of CSW, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, expects all countries to hold women’s rights frameworks as foundation for national policy. Positioning this year’s theme within this expectation, a key CSW66 message for all was that women’s rights frameworks can and should underpin all global climate decision-making. This message aligns strongly with Parties’ commitments under the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris Agreement,its Rulebook and the Enhanced Lima Work Programme on Gender (LWPG); all of which call for the development of participatory processes and collaboration with national gender machineries and stakeholders to ensure climate policies, programmes and projects that address the differentiated needs and aspirations of diverse social groups, including women.
Notable in the outcomes of CSW is the acknowledgement that “achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls and women’s full, equal effective and meaningful participation and decision-making in the context of climate change, environmental degradation and disaster risk reduction is essential for achieving sustainable development, promoting peaceful, just and inclusive societies, enhancing inclusive and sustainable economic growth and productivity, ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions everywhere and ensuring the well-being of all.”
To do so, the CSW emphasized six high-level priority actions for governments, the United Nations system, international and regional organisations and civil society. These actions include:
Strengthening normative, legal, and regulatory frameworks
Integrating gender perspectives into climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies, and programmes
Expanding gender-responsive finance
Enhancing gender statistics and data disaggregated by sex
Fostering a gender-responsive, just transition across sectors
The text of the first action explicitly mentions existing national climate policy frameworks, including Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as vital policy frameworks for gender integration. This indicates a profound appreciation for existing climate frameworks and a recognition of the value climate policy mechanisms hold for integrated and rights-centered climate action. The emphasis placed on the urgency of the climate crisis at CSW66 sends a clear message on behalf of women’s rights and gender-equality policy makers that there is not only an interest in working as allies with climate-policymakers, but a recognized need. Identifying opportunities for harmonized and aligned rights-based investments and strategies that cut across global commitments in both policy spaces is key to leveraging action across sectors and ensuring action is guided by commitments to uphold the rights of women and girls.
It is important to remember that work to bridge these sectors is not completely new. For example, IUCN recently measured global progress on the inclusion of gender considerations and the adoption of gender-responsive policies and programming in the context of NDCs. The analysis shows that countries around the world increasingly recognise women as vital stakeholders and agents of change in urgent climate action, with an increase of 40% of NDCs reviewed in 2016 including at least one mention of gender to 78% of NDCs in 2021. These changes are a result of establishing gender policies in existing global climate mechanisms, and partnerships which recognise the value of gender integration in climate policy. Cross-sectoral partnerships are key for moving the dial forward on rights-based climate policymaking.
Tools to strengthen policies and partnerships already exist but must be used to result in intended outcomes. For example, the NDC Practical Guide for Developing Gender-Responsive NDC Action Plans provides an overarching framework for integrating gender considerations in national climate change planning and investment opportunities. Meanwhile, the ccGAP methodology pioneered by IUCN is designed to bridge the needs of women and national gender mechanisms into the climate machinery. Both of these tools build on a country’s national development and climate change policy or strategy and work in partnership with women’s organisations and community-level experts, identifying gender-specific issues in priority climate sectors.
As national governments reflect on the CSW outcome and implement their revised NDCs, they should remember that unlocking gender-based barriers and reversing course on gender-based risks are prerequisites to ensuring all people are agents of change for both mitigation and adaptation. With clear CSW66 action items, governments should look to the existing global gender machinery for guidance, expertise, and partnership. Governments must also recognise that we already have many important tools to help us get there, tools ready for climate policymakers to use to integrate gender into their work for enhanced climate action. CSW66 shows us that gender equality policymakers across the globe recognize the importance of working with climate policy mechanisms, understanding that any global policy designed for a sustainable future must uphold both gender equality and climate goals. CSW66 also shows us that these actors are ready to work together and there is no better time than the present to work together to design integrated policy for real impact.
This blog was written by Laura Cooper Hall, Ana Rojas and Jackie Siles and initially appeared on IUCN News.