28 February 2008
Economic and Social Council
WOM/1669

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on the Status of Women

Fifty-second Session

8th & 9th Meetings (AM & PM)


WOMEN MUST PARTICIPATE IN ALL ASPECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE DEBATE, IN PARTICULAR


DECISION-MAKING ON ADAPTATION, MITIGATION, SAY SPEAKERS IN WOMEN’S COMMISSION


Panel Addresses ‘Gender Perspectives on Climate Change’

Commission Also Hears 33 More Speakers in Continued General Debate


With women making up the majority of the poor in developing countries and in communities that are highly dependent on natural resources, experts participating in the work of the Commission on the Status of Women today argued that practical solutions to the escalating global warming crisis hinge on women’s participation in all aspects of the climate change debate, including mitigation and adaptation.


During a lively interactive discussion on “gender perspectives on climate change”, the emerging issue the Commission had chosen to consider during its current session, a diverse panel of experts cited numerous studies showing that global warming was not a gender-neutral process.  When natural disasters struck or severe weather changes occurred, they affected men and women differently, because, in most cases, their roles and responsibilities were based on inequalities.


To make matters worse, women were also underrepresented in decision-making about climate change and, most critically, in discussions and decisions about adaptation and mitigation, and disaster risk management.  The panel called on Governments -- and the members of the Commission -- to empower women to participate in planning and decision-making, especially towards the development and implementation of gender-sensitive policies and programmes.


“When women’s rights are not protected, more women than men will die from disasters,” said Lorena Aguilar, Senior Adviser to the World Conservation Union, who decried the fact that the climate change debate had mostly been “gender blind”.  But women were powerful agents for change and their leadership should be considered one of the priorities in adaptation and risk reduction strategies.  “The issue of climate change is too important to ignore the voice of half the world’s population,” she added.


Further, given that gender equality was a prerequisite for sustainable development and poverty reduction, the inequalities that were magnified by climate change slowed progress towards those goals as well. Therefore, she called for,  broader support for the development of a gender strategy or plan of action within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the establishment of a system for Governments to use gender-sensitive indicators and criteria when they reported to the Convention’s Secretariat.  


Minu Hemmati, of Women for Climate Justice (GenderCC), said that, as the international community geared up to draft, by the end of 2009, a post-Kyoto Protocol strategy to protect the Earth’s climate, ensuring women’s voices in the process was of the utmost urgency.  “This process will need a lot of awareness-building,” she said, because neither the Framework Convention nor the Protocol mentioned women or gender.  And, even though it appeared that attitudes were changing and gender equality was now seen by some as a core principle of mitigating climate change and adapting to its impacts, women’s participation in relevant negotiations must be consistent and continuous.


“The expertise is not there and needs to be brought in at national and international levels,” she continued, urging the members of the Commission to go back to their respective environment ministers and press for such participation.  “Don’t mind the raised eyebrows,” she said.  Women’s advocates must “talk up” the visible effects of climate change, from increasing desertification to increasing and more intense flooding worldwide, and their impacts on women, as well as men and societies as a whole.  “We must make this a conversation about sustainable development.  I think that is the goal,” she concluded.


Rachel Nampinga, Programmes Director of Eco-Watch Africa, said that, in many cases, women’s economic livelihoods and social roles relied directly on forest resources, so they were, therefore, disproportionately harmed by deforestation and had stronger interests than men in forest preservation.  In Africa, girls and women spent long hours every day collecting wood, agricultural residues and dung for use as fuel; such time could be used for more productive activities.  Their educational and income-generation opportunities were limited by a lack of modern energy services, keeping their families trapped in poverty.


Echoing the other experts, she said women’s participation in decision-making and in mitigation and adaptation instruments was still very low.  Since male perspectives dominated in climate protection and planning processes, mechanisms created thus far failed to take into account the practical and strategic needs of women.  “But the most vulnerable groups to climate change should be involved in developing adaptation and mitigation strategies,” she said, noting that African women were beginning to play important roles in tropical forest preservation.  For example, in Zimbabwe, women’s groups managed forest resources and development projects through woodlot ownership, tree planting and nursery development.


The panel, which was moderated by Commission Vice-Chairperson Ara Margarian ( Armenia), also included Anastasia Pinto, adviser to the Centre for Organization, Research and Education, and Woro B. Harijono, Director-General of the Meteorological and Geophysical Agency of Indonesia.


The Commission also continued its general debate today, hearing from some 33 delegations, which included representatives of several civil society groups, who touched on some other key topics.  A speaker for the Coalition against Trafficking in Women said that trafficking in women and children was one of the most devastating forms of gender-based violence.  Worse, it was on the rise, because it was being driven, in many parts of the world, by lax attitudes towards prostitution.  Prostitution should not be labelled “sex work”, as if it were just another ordinary job.  It should be seen as codifying male sexual privilege and a driver of a vicious cycle that included sexual trafficking and exploitation.


On gender-responsive budgeting, a representative of the Asia-Pacific Caucus said that State commitments on financing for gender equality had not gone far enough.  Indeed, there remained a gap between commitments and full implementation on the ground, as practical application of plans and policies was challenged by non-effective financing.  Millions of women in the Asia-Pacific, therefore, lacked sustainable livelihoods and full health care and lived in fear of violence and abuse.  With all that in mind, she said, the achievement of full gender equality required more effective and widespread implementation and monitoring of gender-responsive budgeting, with gender impact statements included in national budgets.


Also participating in the general discussion were the Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs of Zimbabwe and Kenya, and the Vice-Minister of Burundi.


The discussion also included interventions from senior Government officials of Turkey, Syria, Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jamaica, Cambodia, Netherlands, Viet Nam, Kuwait, Thailand, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Barbados, Spain, Pakistan, Malaysia, Philippines, Armenia and Fiji, as well as statements by representatives of Japan, Denmark, Malta, Uganda and Portugal.


Also participating were representatives from several non-governmental organizations, including the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie and the Council of Lebanese Women.


The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 29 February, to hold a panel discussion to evaluate progress in the implementation of the agreed conclusions on “women’s participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peacebuilding”.


Background


The Commission on the Status of Women met today to continue its general debate and consider follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.  It was also expected to hold a panel discussion on gender perspectives and climate change.


Statements


ŞENGÜL ALTAN ARSLAN, Head of Department of the General Directorate on the Status of Women, Office of the Prime Minister of Turkey, said adequate human and financial resources should be allocated to achieve gender equality, development and peace.  Gender issues should be given priority in designing, implementing and auditing budgets.  Budgets could be strong instruments for change, if prepared with a rights-based approach.  Government policies and priorities should be more responsive to gender issues.  It was necessary to promote and incorporate gender concerns into public spending and to increase women’s participation in governmental budgetary decision-making.  Budgets affected women and men differently, as their needs and expectations differed.  Therefore, a gender-sensitive approach was essential to preparing budgets at all levels.


Gender budgeting, however, was implemented in very few countries, she said.  Important progress had been made in gender budgeting in Turkey in recent years, in line with the period prior to Turkey joining the European Union and its public financial management and controlling system.  The 2005 public financial management and control law substantially improved the public budgeting system.  Implementation of “conditional cash transfer” within the “project on decreasing social risk” was considered a small and indirect sample of Turkey’s gender-budgeting efforts, she added.  Low-income families received allowances if they sent their children to school regularly.   Gender budgeting would help achieve gender equality and ensure sustainable development, as well as help achieve accountability, efficiency and transparency.


SIRA ASTOR, Head of the Commission for Family Affairs of Syria, said her Government was committed to improving the situation of the women in the country and had constructed its gender machinery around the tenets of the Beijing Platform for Action.  Syria’s second five-year plan -- through 2016 -- aimed to ensure, among other things, that women were able to actively participate in the social and economic life of the country.  The plan also aimed to boost women’s access to social services and enhance their voices in decision-making.  Much of that overall effort would be guided by the National Women’s Union.  As for the women and girls “languishing under the yoke of occupation” in the Syrian Golan, including those that had been displaced due the conditions there, she said the Women’s Union had been charged with providing assistance to those populations.  The Women’s Union also helped youth in the Golan enrol in schools.


The Government was striving to address all development challenges, as part of a drive to ensure sustainable development for all, including through the integration of gender in all plans and projects.  At the same time, she stressed that ensuring gender equality was an ongoing and participatory process that required the involvement of United Nations agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations.  One of the key concerns was that resources were being diverted to deal with the situation of the people struggling for survival in the Syrian Golan.  She called on the Secretary-General to continue his welcome efforts to raise attention about the situation of the people there and bring an end to the occupation.


TZIONA KOENIG, Chief Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission of Israel, said that, over the last decade, public awareness and efforts to advance the status of women in Israel had greatly increased.  The Government financed various gender equality mechanisms, including the newly created Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, which, as part of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour, acted as ombudsman in cases of workplace discrimination.  It had the authority to investigate and bring legal action against employers.  Domestic legislation guaranteed equality for women, as well as pregnancy and maternity leave for women in the workplace.  Legislation mandating affirmative action was being implemented with increasing success.


She said that, as in other countries, implementation remained uneven and existing social norms could obstruct progress.  Women earned between 82 and 84 per cent of what men earned.  Advocacy efforts must, therefore, focus on encouraging judicial activism, enforcing existing legislation and changing social norms.  Civil society in Israel played a crucial part in implementation and monitoring of the State systems for gender equality.  Of the over 200 non-governmental organizations dealing with the issue, many worked specifically with Arab Israeli women and other minorities.  Israel had also been working to increase awareness and amplify the voice of women in peace negotiations and conflict resolution, and women must be included in any peacebuilding negotiations.  Tzipi Livni, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, was leading the peace negotiations with the Palestinians.


RACHEL PAUL, Coalition against Trafficking in Women and associated groups, said that trafficking in women and children was one of the most devastating practices of gender-based violence.  Worse, it was on the rise, since it was being driven, in many parts of the world, by lax attitudes towards prostitution.  She said everyone should be clear about the ills associated with prostitution and the degradation and violence that corroded the lives of its victims.  Prostitutes often suffered severe and negative physical and mental health damage, either at the hands of the pimps who controlled their lives or the johns who paid them for their “work”.


She said abuse was often perpetrated by Governments that adopted policies tolerating or regulating prostitution.  Prostitution should not be labelled “sex work”, as if it were just another ordinary job.  It should be seen as codifying male sexual privilege and one of the drivers of a vicious cycle that included sexual trafficking and exploitation.  The time had come to shift the moral and criminal responsibility away from the women and girls being victimized and focus on the “enslavers” and all those profiting form that from of extreme abuse.


O.C.Z. MUCHINGURI, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development of Zimbabwe, said her country had adopted a national gender policy in 2000 as a way to implement international and regional instruments on gender.  An implementation framework guided the activities of stakeholders in mainstreaming gender in their sectors.  Gender-responsive laws had also been enacted to promote the legal status of women in such areas as inheritance rights, maternity rights and equal employment opportunities.  A Domestic Violence Act had been enacted and the Government worked with civil society to promote an integrated approach to addressing gender based violence in the country.


Continuing, she said a special quota had been reserved for women under the land reform programme to enable access to that valuable resource.  Assistance was also provided to help women in agriculture acquire equipment and loans through the Agricultural Development Bank.  A Women’s development fund served to finance economic empowerment projects.  And, despite challenges that slowed the country’s economic development, the Government had introduced a gender-budgeting initiative to ensure the implementation of the national gender policy through targeted resource allocation.  Funding had been increased for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development.  Results-based budging had been introduced as a management tool for effective and efficient use of resources.


ROSE NDUWAYO, Vice-Minister for Human Rights and Gender Affairs of Burundi, said her country was emerging from a long period of conflict and was working towards peacebuilding.  Economic recovery was vital to reducing feminine poverty.  All sectors were affected in that regard, including health, employment, education and housing.  The aggravation of the country’s economic situation, caused by the cycle of instability in the Great Lakes region, could not be ignored, as it affected women and children to a great extent.  There had been great progress in the 10 years since world leaders had adopted the Beijing Platform for Action, but challenges for women remained.


The budgets and resources allocated for programmes and strategies to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment were not proportionate to the need, she said.  Burundi had earmarked just 1 per cent of total national budget for women’s issues.  In light of the need to help victims of the long period of conflict, including orphans and displaced persons, that percentage had to be increased.  Many women’s associations existed today to address the needs of victims.  They were also working with the Government to expand education and socio-economic opportunities, as well as to combat poverty.  Still, there were many challenges for the State, and it should incorporate gender concerns into all areas.  Burundi was revising its legal codes to make them more gender friendly.


SAMRA FELIPOVIĆ-HADŽIABDIĆ ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) said the levels and types of violence against women during the 1992-1995 war suggested strong and deep-rooted patriarchal values.  However, women had often provided shelter to war-affected women, cared for widowed refugees, organized schooling and were the first to cross the borders between the entities, which had helped a lot in the integration process during the post-conflict period.  Thanks to international women’s networks, women in Bosnia and Herzegovina had been empowered to become equal partners during the post-war reconstruction, but the limited access to education during the 1990s had had a profound effect on women’s access to employment.


She said the adoption of the gender equality law in 2003 had been an important step forward.  The law contained all international standards and defined both direct and indirect discrimination, gender based violence and harassment, and provided for sanctions against offenders.  Thanks to quota regulations, the representation of women in Parliament had reached 17 per cent.  In 2005, the gender equality centres of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska had established a coordination board.  In 2006, the Council of Ministers had adopted the gender action plan, a five-year strategy in which all the obligations set forth in the documents of the United Nations, the European Union and the Council of Europe were vertically and horizontally linked.


RACHEL DZOMBO, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Gender, Sports, Culture and Social Services of Kenya, said the her Government was committed to the empowerment of women and, in an effort to ensure their economic development, had set up the $29 million Women’s Enterprise Fund.  That Fund was expected to receive another $14 million this year and would aim to not only boost Kenyan women’s economic standing, but also promote the achievement of the overall national poverty reduction and development efforts.  The Government had also set up a Youth Enterprise Fund to facilitate youth employment through job development and labour export.   Kenya had sourced that Fund with some $25 million over the past two years.


She went on to say that the Government’s health services particularly targeted women and children.  It had also committed resources to family planning initiatives and had established, among others, free health-care facilities for children 5 years of age and under; free child birth; pre- and postnatal care for women; and free antiretroviral drugs and counselling for persons living with HIV/AIDS.  She said the Government would continue to intensify its efforts to finance gender equality through gender-responsive budgeting and strengthening partnerships with development partners and regional groups.


YORIKO MEGURO ( Japan) said her country set numerical goals for promoting women’s participation in policy- and decision-making processes based on international commitments such as the Beijing outcome.  Disappointingly, however, Japan continued to rank low on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) gender empowerment measure.  Deducing that a financing mechanism was needed to achieve a gender-equal society, the Government had introduced a five-year basic plan for gender equality and had established a Cabinet-level Gender Equality Bureau, which, among other tasks, compiled the annual gender-related budget.


Outlining national measures related to quality of life issues that had an impact on women, she said her country helped empower women around the world through development projects, including one for capacity-building for gender-sensitive budgeting in Mongolia.  Also, Japan had co-hosted the “ASEAN + 3 Human Security Symposium on Women and Poverty Eradication in July 2007 and had presented policies at a regional expert meeting on alleviating the feminization of poverty.  A Tokyo symposium in August had focused on incorporating perspectives of gender and unpaid care work into economic and development policy, since the Millennium Development Goals could not be achieved unless there was goal-sharing in the area of caring for people in society.  Two major events would be held in Japan during 2008.  One would be the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, to be held in May.  The other would be the Group of Eight Hokkaido Toyako Summit, where important issues such as climate change would be taken up.  The hope was to start a fresh dialogue on gender perspective and climate change, and that went beyond seeing women as “vulnerable” and acted upon, rather than capable of taking action themselves.


FAITH WEBSTER, Executive Director, Bureau of Women’s Affairs of Jamaica, said her Government’s commitment to empowering women had begun with the establishment of a Women’s Desk in 1974, which a year later had been updated to a Bureau of Women’s Affairs.  A national policy statement on women had been developed in 1987 and relevant international instruments had been ratified, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Current global economic conditions presented serious challenges to the Jamaican economy, and gender budgeting had not yet been introduced.  Still, the Government consistently allocated budgetary resources to support and promote gender equality goals, with financing that was supplemented through cooperative arrangements with other Governments through bilateral donor agencies and multilateral institutions.  Small and micro-business initiatives aimed at disadvantaged groups also had positive implications for women, who tended to make use of them.  Other partnerships to meet funding objectives for gender equality included those the Government forged with women’s non-governmental organizations, the private sector and faith-based organizations.


CHOU BUN ENG, Director-General in charge of Social Development of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Cambodia, said gender equality was a priority for the Cambodian Government.  It was committed to promoting it through its rectangular strategy for progress, employment and equity that included women as the drivers of socio-economic development.  The Queen of Cambodia chaired the National Council for Women, which had been set up to promote gender equality at senior Government levels, particularly in terms of monitoring implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Cambodia had made achievement of the Millennium Development Goals a top priority, particularly concerning the elimination of domestic violence.  The Ministry of Women’s Affairs had set up a legal unit and a domestic violence unit to respond to violence against women.


In 2005, the law on the prevention of domestic violence and the protection of victims had been adopted, she continued.  This year, the Council of Ministers would adopt a national action plan on the prevention of violence against women.  In December, a law on suppression of human trafficking and sexual exploitation had been adopted.  A strategic plan on women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS, including spousal and partner transmission, had been launched in 2007 by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.  The Government had also set up a national committee on the promotion of social morality, women and family values.  The Committee was fully and actively committed to taking action to combat all forms of violence against women and girls.


ROBERT DIJKSTERHUIS, Head of the Gender Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said his delegation welcomed the Commission’s decision to focus on financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women.  In that regard, the Netherlands believed it was necessary to first consider identifying policies that had yielded positive results in the field.  The next step was to examine the availability and quality of resources, as well as possible recourse constraints.  In that respect, the Netherlands would emphasize the necessity of speeding up actions to achieve Millennium Development Goal 3 (women’s empowerment) and 5 (maternal health), both of which were lagging behind.


The Netherlands recognized that the United Nations Task Force on Education and Gender Equality had identified areas that required priority action to close the gender gap, including sexual and reproductive health, women’s economic empowerment, eradication of discrimination against women regarding inheritance rights and equal participation in decision-making processes.  As for reproductive health, the Netherlands believed that, given the scope of the challenges in that area, the recent trend to decrease budgets for reproductive health was unacceptable.  Therefore, “reproductive health for all” would remain a key focus of Dutch development policy over the coming years.


NGUYEN THI THANH HOA, Chairperson of the Women’s Union of Viet Nam, said her country was committed to women’s advancement and gender equality, and considered both to be important tools for equity and sustainable development.  Viet Nam had recently passed two important laws to advance those goals.  The gender equality law had been passed in November 2006 and the law on the prevention of domestic violence had been passed in November 2007.  Both were being implemented.  The laws reflected the fundamental principles and provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  The gender equality law defined gender equality in all areas of social and family life; the responsibilities of all agencies, organizations, families and individuals regarding equity; and included provisions for the oversight, inspection and treatment of gender-equality violations.


The law on the prevention of domestic violence aimed to curb the prevalence of domestic violence and to institutionalize the State’s view on the family, she said.  For the first time, all actions falling within the definition of domestic violence had been regulated by law.  Those laws illustrated the State’s efforts to address women’s advancement.  The Ministry of Labour, War Veterans and Social Affairs had been designated the State management agency on gender equality.  A Department on Gender Equality had been created to guide implementation of gender-equality measures.  The Government had increase resources and authority for the National Commission for the Advancement of Women.  Also, the National Women’s Congress had been successfully organized in October 2007, and was further strengthening the role of the Viet Nam Women’s Union and women’s organizations.


MONICA XAVIAR, a Uruguayan Senator speaking on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said IPU had held several side events with the Commission during the current session.  Those successful workshops had highlighted the importance of Members of Parliament participating in the Commission’s work, as well as in the intergovernmental process, to promote the advancement of women and gender equality.  On some of the issues that had been raised at the events, she said that participants had made it clear that financing was crucial to meeting national and international gender equality goals.


She said parliamentarians often found themselves in situations where they had passed laws and approved programmes only to discover that their aims could not be achieved due to a lack of resources.  If Governments were sincerely committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, they should urgently establish priorities and provide the necessary financing, so that their efforts were effective.  To that end, parliamentarians could play a key role thorough their capacity to adopt proposals and exercise oversight of action by the executive.  That gave them a central role in making sure that established objectives could be acted on.


In a related statement, FRANCOISE BERTIEAUX, Vice-President of Female Parliamentarians of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie, said her relatively new organization promoted the political participation of women in social and political life, with a particular focus on young girls, wives and mothers.  The Assembly was committed to the implementation of the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention and it had to date organized five seminars on the matter in French-speaking countries in Africa.  The Assembly was also focused on extreme violence against women taking place in Africa and other countries.  The African seminars had also focused on training, as well as monitoring and follow-up.


SHEIKHA HISSAH SAAD A.S. AL-SABAH, Deputy Chairperson of the Women’s Affairs Committee of Kuwait, said her country had taken part in all international women’s conferences, starting with the first conference held in Mexico in 1975.  It had taken positive steps towards gender equality and women’s advancement, and had signed and ratified several international instruments related to human rights and women’s issues.  Violence against women negatively impacted their ability to participate in the development process.  Kuwait was striving to create an environment to enable and empower women and to end all forms of violence against them.  The 1962 Constitution enshrined the principles of women’s empowerment and protection of women in society.  Also enshrined in the Constitution were guarantees for the provision of care for mothers and children, the right to education, free expression and intellectual property rights.


Women had been given their full political rights, she said.  A cabinet minister and two heads of municipal councils were women.  In 2006, several women had run for election for the first time.  Women were given grants and loans to promote their well-being and prosperity.  Women represented 41 per cent of the workforce, versus just 2.5 per cent in 1962.  Sixteen per cent of all public and private institutions were headed by women.  The Government was striving to have women contribute to decision-making at all levels.  It was important to provide opportunities for women to participate in setting up economic plans.  She called on all Member States to endorse and implement the Secretary-General’s campaign to end violence against women, noting that Kuwait had a centre to assist women victims and to work towards ending such violence


KANDA VAJRABHAYA, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security of Thailand, said her Government had pursued both legislative and administrative efforts at both national and regional levels to ensure its commitments under the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention and the gender targets of the Millennium Declaration were met. It had taken many significant steps to mainstream gender -- from the grass-roots to the policymaking level.  In 2002, Thailand had established the Office of Women’s Affairs and Family Development within her Ministry, to guide the nation’s women’s machinery.  In addition, the Government had appointed chief gender equality officers and gender focal points in all ministries and departments.  Those officials ensured that the administration under their purview would take gender into account when all decisions were made.


Turning to other endeavours, she said the Government had also supported women’s roles in environmental conservation.  The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment was analysing the impact of climate change on women, and was actively encouraging women to participate in environmental and natural resource protection and management at the community level.  The Thai Government was also proud to say that it had achieved Millennium Development Goal 3, by eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education.  Although there was a small gender gap at the primary school level, it was, nevertheless, notable that girls now outnumbered boys in higher education.


CLARE BECKTON, Coordinator of the Status of Women of Canada, said her country’s focus on results and accountability was strongly tied to this year’s priority theme.  It was evident that gender-based analysis had a much greater impact when tied to a clear set of objectives, with anticipated outcomes that were concrete and measurable.  Canada’s framework for assessing gender equality results in its development cooperation was an important advance, in that regard.  A focus on results must be accompanied by accountability mechanisms to ensure their achievement.  In Canada, all Government departments were required to consider gender issues when seeking to obtain programming funds.  The close collaboration between Canada’s central planning agency and its national women’s machinery was critical to success.  Last year, the Government of Canada had increased funding to the Women’s Programme, administered by Status of Women Canada, bringing the total budget for the organization to its highest level ever.


Over the next year, the Government would build on that achievement by developing an action plan that would advance women’s equality across Canada through improved socio-economic conditions and greater participation of women in democratic life, she said.  Achieving results for equality between women and men, and girls and boys was an important focus in Canada’s international development assistance.  Progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals would be undermined if gender equality was not included when implementing the Monterrey Consensus and the Paris Declaration.  She supported the explicit and systematic integration of gender analysis, especially concerning results, in reviewing implementation of the Monterrey Consensus in Doha this year.


SONYA RIMENE, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Women’s Affairs of New Zealand, said her delegation welcomed the Commission’s priority theme on financing for gender equality.  Indeed, gender equality, poverty alleviation and economic growth were all inextricably linked.  If the international community was to achieve the objectives set at Beijing and by the Millennium Declaration, all States must ensure that the promotion of gender equality was at the heart of policymaking and resources delivery.  “By removing barriers and empowering women and girls to fully realize their potential, we will all benefit,” she said.


Domestically, New Zealand was committed to incorporating a gender perspective into the design, development, adoption and execution of its policymaking and budgetary process.  It had a stand-alone Women’s Affairs Ministry, which focused chiefly on policy.  She also stressed that, over the past 30 years, New Zealand had “undergone a profound transformation” to address the rights and needs of its indigenous people.  That had led the Government to embark on efforts to improve the outcomes not only for the Maori and others in New Zealand, but also other Pacific Island people, those with disabilities and migrant women and girls.  Responding to the needs of the different communities was not simple, particularly when it came to data collection on small groups of women, but the Government would persist, as accurate data was essential to good policymaking.


ANN KEELING of the Government Equalities Office of the United Kingdom, said that, despite radical improvements in women’s status in the United Kingdom in the past 100 years, there remained a persistent pay gap between men and women.  Women still shouldered the majority of caring responsibilities for children and elderly relatives, and violence against women remained a fact of life.  Her country’s ministers for women had, therefore, focused domestic policy priorities on those issues.  Gender-responsive budgeting was an important tool for analysing the impact of resource flows and policies.  The United Kingdom Government was working with non-governmental organizations to improve gender analysis of tax and spending policies in the next year.  Tackling gender inequality also required a range of complementary measures to set standards, monitor progress and enforce compliance with best practices.


The United Kingdom had put a range of such measures in place, including strategic target-setting to delivery Governments services, a statutory gender duty, a review of discrimination legislation and measures to improve communication and collaboration between key agencies and stakeholders for gender equality to improve impact and share best practices, she said.  Improvements in public transport were among the 19 targets in the United Kingdom’s public service agreement on gender equality, which sought to stimulate improvements in areas that successive ministers for women had identified as critical to improving gender equality.  The public service agreement had five key priorities, including reducing the country’s gender pay gap and increasing participation in public life by women, ethnic minorities, the disabled and young people.


JOHN HOLLINGSWORTH, Director, Bureau of Gender Affairs of Barbados, said that, over the years, his country had been able to make significant strides in its quest to ensure equality between men and women.  Barbados now provided universal access to education from primary to tertiary levels and full access to health care.  Further, there was just a 2 percentage point gap between men and women in the employment sector, and women’s rights were guaranteed under the Constitution.  However, despite those achievements, challenges remained, especially in the areas of domestic violence, poverty and HIV/AIDS.


He said that, although Barbados had a small gross domestic product -– just $2.8 billion -- the Government was actively targeting areas where women’s rights and gender equality needed to be strengthened.  Constrained from financing specific gender equality programmes in some areas, the Government ensured that sectors such as health care and education, which were vital to women’s advancement, received the greatest share of budget expenditures.  At the same time, he acknowledged the important role played by regional and international organizations, both in terms of policy development and in the financing of gender equality programmes.   Barbados had enjoyed excellent working relationships with many United Nations agencies, the Inter-American Development Band and others.


AURORA MEJIA, Ambassador for Gender Equality Policies of Spain, said her country had worked to end violence against women through an organic law on integral protection measures against gender violence; appropriate funding to create new courts and specialized prosecutor offices; increased staff in the specialized units of the national security forces; and special care and protection to victims of violence.  The 2007 budget for the Special Government Delegation on Violence against Women, a body set up to safeguard compliance with, and implementation of, the organic law, totalled €212 million.  The 2007 organic law on equality aimed to mainstream the principle of gender equality into all areas of social life.  It was an “expensive” law, costing €490 million, but its implementation was the only way to make equal opportunity a reality.  It was also important to incorporate a gender perspective into the public budgetary process.  That meant more than allocating funds for specific programmes; it also required assessing the impact on men and women of all actions funded by public budgets.


Implementing a gender perspective did not mean creating different budgets for men and women, she said.  Rather, it meant calculating the various effects public programmes in education, health, employment and housing, among other areas, had on men and women.  Since 2005, Spain required that national budgets take into account a particular programmes’ impact on gender equality.  In that regard, the Ministry of Economy had developed a large number of sex disaggregated indicators for various programmes.  In December, the Spanish Government had approved the 2008-2011 strategic equal opportunities plan, as required by the organic law on equality.  That plan had a budget of €3.7 billion, the largest investment ever by the federal Government in the area of equality.  In the past four years, Spain’s contributions in development cooperation to gender issues and sexual and reproductive health had increased by 400 per cent.


MAHMOOD SALIM MAHMOOD, Secretary, Ministry for Women’s Development of Pakistan, said his country’s Government had launched its national plan of action to implement the commitments outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action.  To realize the socio-economic and political empowerment of all Pakistani women and bring them into the mainstream of the country’s economy, the Government had set up a full-fledged Ministry for Women’s Development and, in 2000, had also established a national Commission on the Status of Women, mandated to examine the relevancy and efficacy of all policies and programmes aimed at ensuring women’s development and gender equality.  He added that Pakistan had also mainstreamed a gender perspective into its draft Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, among others.


He went on to say that employment schemes for women were being developed and many steps had been taken to facilitate their role in the development of the country at all levels.  A microcredit scheme for rural and urban poor women had been set up and was being administered by the Khushhali Bank, the Agricultural Development Bank and the Women’s Bank.  In addition, the National Rural Support Programme had been created with a focus on building the capacities of Pakistani women through social mobilization and the provision of technical assistance.


MARGARET HO POH YEOK, Policy Adviser of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia, supported the Secretary-General’s campaign to end violence against women.  More than 100 centres had been set up throughout Malaysia’s Government hospital system to support and provide treatment for victims of violence.  Malaysia had a zero-tolerance policy towards eliminating violence against women.  The 1994 Domestic Violence Act was being reviewed and the Penal Code had been amended to more greatly deter sex offences.  Preventive and rehabilitative programmes had also been implemented, such as shelters and the “Women against Violence”, or WAVE, campaign of trained community volunteers, who provided guidance and services to victims of violence and reported cases of violence to the appropriate authorities.  An integrated one-stop call centre had also been set up, enabling authorities to respond faster and more effectively to help victims and assist in overall social welfare issues.  The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act approved in May 2007 strengthened the legal framework for combating trafficking in persons and addressed the welfare of victims.


Since 2003, Malaysia had adopted a gender-responsive budgeting system to integrate gender perspectives into the policies of line ministries, she said.  The Ministry of Finance had issued circulars for ministries to undertake gender analysis in their budget and operating programme statements.  As part of that initiative, the National Institute of Public Administration, a national training centre for the public service, offered gender budget analysis courses in its annual training programme.  Budget Review Officers of the Ministry of Finance, gender focal points of various ministries and Government agencies also provided training.  In August 2006, a gender budgeting manual had been produced to guide Government officials.  Malaysia had set up the Gender Disaggregated Information System and had developed a gender gap index to measure gender equality in health, education and economic empowerment.


FAIKA TUQUIEH, Council of Lebanese Women and expert on women’s issues in Lebanon, said there was a certain universality in the struggle for women’s rights.  Lebanese women, like women everywhere, had had to press for the rights to participate equally in the labour market and in decision-making.  Women in Lebanon had achieved significant progress in employment.  But, troubling trends were revealed when one looked more closely at women’s representation at management or higher management levels, where their participation was less accepted.


To that end, she said, women’s groups in the country had discovered that, while Lebanese society at large firmly supported women’s advancement, including working outside the home on equal footing with men, there was an entrenched political hierarchy in the country that refused to evolve.  Women’s groups were, therefore, calling for the creation of a national women’s department to work actively with civil society and within Government structures to promote women’s advancement and their right to participate in the labour market.


MYRNA YAO, Chairperson of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women of the Philippines, said that, in 1992, the Philippines had started to institutionalize financial resources for gender programmes when it passed the Women in Development Nation-Building Act.  That law mandated allocating at least 5 per cent to 30 per cent of official development assistance to programmes focused on women’s empowerment and gender equality.  During the same year as the Beijing Conference, the Philippines had instituted a gender and development budget policy, by which it instructed all Government entities to allocate at least 5 per cent of their total budget to gender-related activities.  Such resources had enabled women micro-entrepreneurs to have better access to credit, training, product development, technology, information, markets and social protection.


The gender and development budgets supported programmes and services to implement anti-violence against women laws, she said.  That included women and children’s protection desks and special hearing rooms in police precincts and hospitals; shelters, counselling and productivity skills enhancement; and the institution of more gender-sensitive procedures for handing cases of violence against women.  The Government had also organized the “Men Opposed to Violence against Women Everywhere” campaign.  The President had established an annual 18-day special anti-violence against women campaign.  At the local level, the community-based monitoring system was used to gather household and village data for gender planning and budgeting.


NOUNEH ZASTOUKHOVA, Acting Head of the United Nations Division, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said the Constitution was the key guarantor of equal rights for all Armenians, regardless of sex.  No legal acts were discriminatory against women.   Armenia had also adopted or approved the relevant core instruments on gender equality and women’s rights.  To cut down on unemployment and improve women’s participation in the labour market, the Government had undertaken a number of activities.  In that regard, last year, Armenia had provided jobs for some 3,800 unemployed persons, 56 per cent of which were women.  It also provided social payments for unemployment and organized training courses for unemployed persons and persons with disabilities.


She said that, this year, the Government was planning to increase social payment to some 145,000 unemployed persons, some 70 per cent of whom were women.  It also planned to organize vocational training for persons with disabilities.  The Government also partially compensated employees for recruiting unemployed persons from vulnerable social groups and provided financial assistance to unemployed persons to launch their own businesses.  The Government was also focused on the situation of women in rural areas and had targeted job creation initiatives that provided opportunities outside the agricultural field.   She noted that the need to improve the socio-economic conditions of some 300,000 refugees and internally displaced persons, more that half of which were women, as a result of the “unleashed war”, was among the challenges her Government was facing.  That issue required systematic work and concerted efforts.


LEPANI WAQATAKIREWA, Permanent Secretary of Health, Women and Social Welfare of Fiji, said his Government machinery for women had recently been merged with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to bring about the much needed integration of gender-equality perspectives in all aspects of health, development and management.  It also meant that the Department of Women would have more access to additional resources and the wider network of health and related infrastructure and processes available.   The 1998-2008 Women’s Action Plan provided for the implementation of gender mainstreaming in all Government processes.  While gender policies were in place, Fiji, like many other developing countries, found it difficult to implement gender equality and women’s empowerment for various reasons.


The Ministry of Women, with technical assistance from the Asian Development Bank, had conducted a gender audit in 2002 in the Ministries of Agriculture and Health, and its recommendations had already been incorporated into the Ministries’ work plan, he said.  Gender budgeting was part of the Women’s Action Plan.  In 2000, the Ministry of Finance, with assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Ministry of Women, had launched a project to include a gender focus in the national budget process.  That project was ongoing and would require more resources and technical expertise in gender budgeting.  Also, he stressed the importance of a gender perspective on climate change.  Noting that, in the recent past, Fiji had suffered from severe natural disasters, he called on the international community to consider technical assistance, including education and training for expertise in that area, to small island developing States like Fiji.


CAROL SHAW, speaking on behalf of the Asia-Pacific Caucus, said the Asia-Pacific region was home to 60 per cent of the world’s women.  The women of the region wanted to stress that State commitments on financing for gender equality had not gone far enough.  Indeed, there remained a gap between commitments and full implementation on the ground, as practical application of plans and policies was challenged by non-effective financing.  Millions of women in the Asia-Pacific, therefore, lacked sustainable livelihoods and full health care and lived in fear of violence and abuse.


The lack of access to sexual and reproductive health-care service, physical and psychological health services and effective education further impeded the well-being of women in the region, she said.  With all that in mind, the achievement of full gender equality required more effective and widespread implementation and monitoring of gender-responsive budgeting, with gender impact statements included in national budgets.  In addition, she stressed that gender mainstreaming did not replace the need for targeted, women-specific policies and programmes, positive legislation and corresponding budget allocations for women at the national, regional and international levels.


CARSTEN STAUR ( Denmark) said that, while the Millennium Development Goals had brought attention to women’s social empowerment, health, nutrition, primary education, child mortality, maternal health and HIV/AIDS, women’s economic empowerment was still not given enough focus.  It was necessary to address women’s empowerment in a more holistic way, where social and economic empowerment was mutually supported.  Women consistently lagged behind men in terms of pay for equal work and were discriminated against in access to credit, inheritance and land ownership.  The Danish Government would sound a “call to action” to remove barriers to women’s empowerment and launch a global campaign on Millennium Development Goal 3 aimed at economic empowerment.


He said Denmark would set up an international “MDG3 network” and host an international conference in Copenhagen in April in a bid to convince Governments and other decision-makers at all levels of the need to set up a “Global MDG3 Coalition” to contribute to the high-level event on the millennium targets scheduled to be held in September in New York.  Donor Governments should allocate more development assistance to gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Business leaders and companies must do their utmost to end employment discrimination, and developing countries’ Governments should better integrate gender equality into their Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, as well as track more resources and expenditures for those tasks.  Denmark would double its financial support to gender equality and women’s empowerment from 2008 through 2010, and track official development assistance to gender.  Denmark strongly advocated gender-responsive budgeting.


SAVIOUR BORG ( Malta) said that, while his delegation generally agreed with the statement made earlier in the debate by the representative of Slovenia on behalf of the European Union, it would clarify its position on the issue of sexual and reproductive health.   Malta firmly maintained that any position taken or recommendations made regarding women’s empowerment and gender equality should not in any way create an obligation on any party to consider abortion as a legitimate form of reproductive health rights, services or commodities.


Turning to the situation of women in his country, he said his Government had always striven to ensure equality of both men and women.  Malta had made “critical strides and major breakthroughs”, which had included legislative measures that safeguarded equality between the sexes.  Among those significant measures, he highlighted the Government’s enactment in 2006 of legislation on domestic violence and relevant amendments to the Criminal Code, which included the establishment of a Commission on Domestic Violence.  The Government had also set up standards for care facilities throughout the country for victims.  Malta had also promoted measures towards reconciling work and family responsibilities through the introduction of family-friendly initiatives, and changed school textbooks to eliminate gender bias and stereotypical classifications


FRANCIS BUTAGIRA ( Uganda) said the international community had no doubt agreed to several policy strategies and frameworks on gender equality, but it was clear that, across the globe, the requisite financial and other resources had not followed those commitments.  Implementation of gender equality strategies had been slow and, in many respects, selective.  Uganda would host and chair the eight Commonwealth women’s affairs minsters meeting in June.  Its theme was financing gender equality for democracy and development.  Uganda had incorporated a gender-responsive budgeting initiative into its national development plan.  Its experience over the years had taught Uganda that gender-disaggregated data for all sectors and strong partnerships between the Ministry of Finance and the national women’s machineries were critical for the initiative’s success.  A national gender policy was an important driving force and money must be tracked from budgeting to implementation to determine the extent to which women’s needs were being met.


He noted the commendable efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goal 3, which focused on promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Uganda was doing its part to achieve that Goal by developing universal primary education programmes that had helped narrow gender gaps in primary school enrolment and completion.  However, it was also important to address women’s economic security, increase women’s participation in politics and decision-making, expand women’s human rights and ensure their security.  Financing gender equality and women’s empowerment was a legitimate precondition for achieving and sustaining socio-economic development, as well as fulfilling the rights of all women and girls.


JOÃO SALGUEIRO ( Portugal) said that, after his country’s recent reform of the public administration system, the main national gender equality mechanism, now called the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality, had been strengthened at several levels.  Chiefly, its competencies had been expanded to now encompass matters related to policies for combating violence against women and the gender perspectives of human trafficking.  Accordingly, three 2007-2010 national plans had been adopted -- on citizenship and gender, domestic violence and trafficking.


He said Portugal had also adopted a national strategic reference framework in which a specific line of funding would be allocated to promote gender equality.  Priority areas included promotion of women’s employability and entrepreneurship; supporting women non-governmental organizations and projects aimed at women’s empowerment; and the development of knowledge, training and information on gender equality for the broader society.  Finally, he noted that Portugal was also committed to reinforcing women’s political participation and representation, and had, among other things, approved a law in 2006 setting a minimum 33 per cent quota for both sexes on the candidate lists for elections in Parliament, the European Parliament and local authorities.


Panel Discussion: Gender Perspectives on Climate Change


In the afternoon, the Commission held an interactive expert panel discussion on the “emerging issue” it had chosen to consider during the current session: “gender perspectives on climate change”.


Opening the dialogue, Commission Vice-Chairperson, ARA MARGARIAN ( Armenia) who served as moderator, said the recently concluded United Nations Bali Climate Change Conference had clearly signalled Member States’ commitment to addressing global warming.  The Bali action plan had called for the launch of negotiations to achieve a comprehensive global agreement by 2009.


In light of that action plan’s call for enhanced efforts to address mitigation and adaptation strategies, as well as technology and financing, today’s panel provided an opportunity to discuss new and innovative approaches in dealing with the gender perspectives of climate change.  It would also provide further suggestions to intergovernmental bodies for addressing the issue in their coming negotiations.


Panellist MINU HEMMATI, Women for Climate Justice (GenderCC), said the Kyoto Protocol had a relatively short lifespan, ending in 2012, and to ensure that its landmark targets on greenhouse gas emissions were reinforced, it was necessary to develop a long-term system for protecting the Earth’s climate.  That meant that, by the end of 2009, the international community would need to agree on a new instrument, allowing time for its full ratification and entry into force by the end of the first Kyoto commitment period.  “So this is of utmost urgency,” she said.


But, for women, there were hurdles right at the start.  “This process will need a lot of awareness-building,” she said, because a close examination of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol would reveal that women and gender were conspicuously absent in both.  The negotiation process on those instruments had seemingly included scientists and lawmakers who had failed to integrate gender-sensitive elements into the texts.


She said that, in the meantime, however, women’s groups and community activists had continued to raise their voices on the matter, and it now appeared that some countries, as well as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat, appeared to be opening up to the idea that gender equality was a core principle of mitigating climate change and adapting to its impacts.  Even though attitudes were beginning to change, women’s participation in the climate change negotiations process must urgently be made consistent and continuous.  Such participation should include research on gender impacts, as well as policy formulation.


“The expertise is not there and needs to be brought in at national and international levels,” she continued, urging the members of the Commission to go back to their respective environment ministers and press for such participation.  “Don’t mind the raised eyebrows.”  Women’s advocates must “talk up” the visible effects of climate change from increasing desertification to increasing and more intense flooding worldwide, and their impacts on women, as well as men and societies as a whole.  “We must make this a conversation about sustainable development.  I think that is the goal,” she concluded.


Next, LORENA AGUILAR, Senior Adviser to the World Conservation Union, said that, unfortunately, most of the debate had heretofore been “gender blind”.  But, the recent groundbreaking series of reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had spotlighted that the effects of global warming, while they would be diverse across countries and regions, would almost certainly disproportionately affect the Earth’s most vulnerable people -- the poorest of the poor.  In most cases, that group included a high percentage of women and girls.


Here, she stressed that, while women should not be considered victims or being “simply weaker than men”, everyone should acknowledge that they faced discrimination over access to resources and basic services that hampered their social integration in many parts of the world.  When disaster struck, pre-existing biases and discriminatory practices were exacerbated and the negative impacts on women and girls amplified.  “When women’s rights are not protected, more women than men will die form disasters,” she said, highlighting evidence from a broad sampling of surveys.


One such study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that about 35 million people worldwide were engaged in fishing and aquaculture, she said.  In the pacific region alone, it was estimated that women caught about a quarter of the total seafood that was harvested.  So, if current global warming trends held, in the very near future, fish stock depletion and coral reef destruction could result in the loss of key marine ecosystems that supported marine resources essential to women’s livelihoods.


With that in mind, she said, women were powerful agents for change and their leadership should be one of the priorities in adaptation and risk-reduction strategies.  Given that gender equality was a prerequisite for sustainable development and poverty reduction, the inequalities that were magnified by climate change slowed progress towards those goals as well.  She called for, among other things, broader support for the development of a gender strategy or plan of action within the framework of the Climate Change Convention and the establishment of a system for Governments to use gender-sensitive indicators and criteria when they reported to the Convention’s Secretariat.


She also called for increased access by poor men and women to market-based approaches to climate change adaptation efforts, such as the Clean Development Mechanism.  Further, women’s organizations, women’s affairs ministries and agencies such as the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) should play an active role in the discussions and decisions that were being made in the climate change arena.


ANASTASIA PINTO, adviser to the Centre for Organization, Research and Education, as well as the Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and a member of the Gender and Climate Change Network, Women for Climate Justice, said climate change would affect everyone in all countries.  Despite a clear understanding that intervention was needed in order to halt the accumulated impact of the global and local disasters caused by climate change, the main thrust of decisions, thus far, had been to hand over the responsibility for that process to private companies.  That was ironic, given that industry had precipitated the magnitude of the crisis.  With the carbon market, the message was that people could continue living their lives as they had during the past three decades, with the same lack of concern about production and consumption, and that private corporations would take care of the problem.


However, that solution clearly would not work, she said.  The survival of all species could not be left to a sector whose primary motive was profit and its own perpetuation, regardless of its impact on the rest of the world.  That attitude was creating real problems in local situations in India and elsewhere.  For example, India was developing major high dams to convert from fossil fuel consumption to cleaner, hydro-electric power.  But hydro-electric power, contrary to industries’ claims, was not clean.  It destroyed vast stretches of land urgently needed for food production.  Old technologies were also being resuscitated, such as nuclear energy, because they did not emit carbon dioxide.  But, that opened the door to massive radioactive and nuclear wastes.  The world did not have the technology to produce clean nuclear power.  The nuclear power and other solutions were negatively affecting the environment, as well as the process of development and poverty eradication on a mass scale.


She stressed the need to talk about energy production and consumption, the distribution of wealth, revenue generation and the kind of investments that developing countries were invited to undertake in order to copy the economic paradigm exemplified in the United States, the European Union and other advanced countries.  That kind of development was no longer feasible for developing countries.  The global climate change picture was grim and would become grimmer, unless the international community took action to prevent it from becoming worse.


RACHEL NAMPINGA, Programmes Director of Eco-Watch Africa, said warmer temperatures, sea-level rise and an increase in storms, combined with a high dependence on natural resources and an overdependence on rain-fed agriculture, meant that many African countries would be highly vulnerable to climate change in the coming decades.  Poverty, inequitable land distribution, conflict, HIV/AIDS and debt meant than many African countries lacked the adaptive capacity to cope and adjust compared to most developed countries.  The 2006 drought in East Africa was one of the worst on record with more than 8 million people in need of food aid.  It was a stark reminder of how development and the economy were still largely dependent on climate.  Climate change disproportionately affected the rural poor, especially women.  But, little had been done to date to mobilize and empower women and men in Africa to address it.  According to the May 2007 Women’s Manifesto on Climate Change, 70 per cent of the world’s poor were women, making them more vulnerable to environmental damage, and were also 85 per cent of the people who died from climate-induced disasters.


Women’s economic livelihoods and social roles relied directly on forest resources, she said.  They were disproportionately harmed by deforestation and had stronger interests than men in forest preservation.  In Africa, girls and women spent long hours every day collecting wood, agricultural residues and dung for use as fuel; those hours could be used for more productive activities.  Their educational and income-generation opportunities were limited by a lack of modern energy services, keeping their families trapped in poverty.  Further, because of their role in relation to the household water supply and domestic chores, women were particularly at risk for malaria and other waterborne diseases.


An overall analysis of the climate change debate revealed that women were largely excluded and underrepresented, she said.  Women’s participation in decision-making and in mitigation and adaptation instruments was still very low.  Since a male perspective dominated in climate protection and climate adaptation planning processes, it failed to take into account the practical and strategic needs of women.  The most vulnerable groups to climate change should be involved in developing adaptation and mitigation strategies.   In Africa, women were beginning to play important roles in tropical forest preservation as an adaptation strategy.  For example, in Zimbabwe, women’s groups managed forest resources and development projects through woodlot ownership, tree planting and nursery development.


The final panellist, WORO B. HARIJONO, Director-General of the Meteorological and Geophysical Agency of Indonesia, said that, because climate change was already occurring, it was necessary to focus on disaster risk management efforts, especially including the mainstreaming of gender into such efforts.  Since it was clear that women were most adversely impacted by natural disasters, no woman should allow climate change to become a barrier to the realization of their full potential.  “Women from all walks of life should, therefore, join hands and move towards clear and achievable goals,” she said, calling for women to actively participate in efforts to mainstream gender in disaster risk management.


She stressed that, even in the wake of massive natural disasters like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, disaster risk management mechanisms had not been updated with adequate gender-sensitive policies that addressed women’s needs.  Strong political leadership and commitment was needed to change that.  Based on the experience of Indonesia, which had recently suffered a series of natural disasters, including floods, landslides and cyclones, it was clear that women’s voices should form part of the climate change and disaster management dialogue.  Failing to address such matters would only make women at risk even more vulnerable.


During the ensuing question-and-answer period, a participant asked what measures should be taken to protect women to ensure their survival during and after natural disasters.  Another asked how to quantify gender responsiveness in implementing and developing climate change policies.  What were the critical issues for women in relation to technology and finance in addressing climate change?  Could the panellists elaborate on the Internet platform concerning activities of Women for Climate Justice (GenderCC)?  What could be done at the grass-roots level to undertake gender budgeting?  How could mechanisms be developed to fund projects that made renewable energy technologies available to women at the local and grass-roots level?


Another participant said African women had been burdened to do more to combat climate change.  But couldn’t there be recommendations to get large multinational corporations to take responsibility to develop solar energy and invest in other substantial ways to help women in Africa cope better with climate change?  How could funding for mitigation arrangements for clean development mechanisms be set up or expanded under the Kyoto Protocol or be made to ensure women’s participation?  How could affirmative action be integrated into the Kyoto Protocol, and how could a women’s fund for climate change be established?


In response, Ms. HEMMATI said, in terms of the lack of gender disaggregated data, that a general decision on climate change was needed at the international level.  The GenderCC network was discussing the installation of a gender check mechanism in the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  National Governments should support that.  GenderCC was also trying to build regional focal points to expand the networks.  The web site should be operational next week, she said, noting that the network had been collecting a lot of data and would enable women to upload materials.  Women were probably the only ones who could or would take a leadership role to broaden climate change to include sustainable development and justice.  The global process to address climate change was in dire need of having that happen, she said, stressing that there would be no climate protection regime if women did not take on that role.


Ms. AGUILAR said that, in Bali, none of the delegations had made comments during the plenary session on gender perspectives on climate change.  Getting the gender perspective into documents on climate change was a lonely and difficult process.  Women’s voices must be heard during such discussions, she said, urging participants to be vocal and prepare properly for the next Conference of State Parties process in Poland.  Concerning financing mechanisms, a major debate was under way over who would get funds and for what projects.  Women must get involved in the process of funding adaptation.  What were the criteria for assigning resources?  So far, gender had not been part of that discussion.


In terms of how to make funding gender sensitive, Ms. PINTO said there was no money available for work called for by the Climate Change Convention process.  Governments had to be more vocal to secure funding before deciding how to allocate it.  Whatever money was being generated was being done through public-private partnerships.  That meant that none of the money for clean development mechanisms was actually sent to the communities that were cleaning up the mess.  That practice was wrong.  The climate change regime was perpetuating the problem by not involving women in clean development mechanisms, when women were, in fact, planting trees, disposing of garbage and taking other steps to clean up the mess.


As far as how to make the climate change process relevant to women at different levels, Ms. NAMPINGA said it was important to ensure that women participated at decision-making at all levels.  National Governments should mainstream gender into national adaptation policies.  For example, in Uganda, the national renewable energy policy had been revised to include a gender perspective.


Ms. HARIJONO said gender mainstreaming could be expedited through either scientific or political channels.  However, the scientific channel took longer, since the case must first be made in a scientific journal and then sent to the Climate Change Convention.  The political channel was faster, she said, stressing the importance of getting high-level political leaders to endorse climate change regime proposals and strategies.


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For information media • not an official record