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Women and the Environment:
Achievements and Emerging Challenges since Beijing
10 January - 4 February 2005
Moderated by UNEP


Sustainable development is not possible without the empowerment of women and gender equality. The active participation of women and the integration of gender issues in environmental policies and actions are critical determinants for the implementation of the commitments of the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002), and the Millennium Development Goals. Although the crucial roles of women in environment and sustainable development have been recognized widely, discriminatory structures and attitudes still result in deeply entrenched patterns of gender inequality in these areas.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will moderate an online discussion on women and the environment, focusing on:
Week 1 (10-14 January 2005): Women and the Environment: emerging issues.
Week 2 (17-21 January 2005): Gender Mainstreaming in Environment.
Week 3 (24-28 January 2005): Women's Empowerment and Participation in Environment.
Week 4 (31 January-4 February 2005): Strategizing for the Future: institutions, policies and actions on women and the environment.

You are invited to share your views, experiences and concerns about women and the environment, as reflected in Section K 'Women and the Environment' of the Beijing Platform for Action (1995). Starting 10 January 2005, an online discussion will take place to assess achievements and challenges since the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. As part of a series sponsored by the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality and hosted by WomenWatch, this discussion will feed into the forth-coming ten-year review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which will be held from 28 February to 11 March 2005 during the forty-ninth session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The discussions can be accessed at: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/forums/review/. A summary of the discussions will be available at the CSW in February 2005 and posted on Women Watch.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action identified three strategic objectives in the critical area of women and the environment:

  • Involve women actively in environmental decision-making at all levels.
  • Integrate gender concerns and perspectives in policies and programmes for sustainable development.
  • Strengthen or establish mechanisms at the national, regional and international levels to assess the impact of development and environmental policies on women.

Following the 5-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action, major achievements in the field of women and the environment are:

  • A positive, albeit tentative, trend towards greater participation and involvement of women in environmental decision-making positions.
  • Steps to incorporate a gender perspective in (inter) national and local environmental activities, policies, plans and legislation, as well as in institutional arrangements.
  • Increase in women's capabilities in the environmental field, including their knowledge, skills, and organization.
  • A growing quantity and quality of gender-sensitive environmental research and data.
  • A more holistic approach that incorporates poverty eradication and women's economic empowerment in environmental conservation and management.

However, during Beijing+5 also a number of obstacles to further progress on women and the environment were identified. These include:

  • Low participation of women in environmental protection and management, and in the formulation, planning and execution of environmental policies.
  • Insufficient numbers and inadequate influence of women in responsible positions and a male monopoly in the management of environmental resources.
  • Under-representation of women in research and teaching in the natural sciences.
  • Lack of gender-sensitive environmental policies, programmes and research.
  • Absence of deliberate strategies to ensure women's participation in decision-making, including lack of funding and monitoring.
  • Low level of management and technical skills among women.
  • Women's limited access to resources, information, education and training.

Several factors are mutually reinforcing and contribute to gender inequality and, in turn, hinder the realization of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Millennium Development Goals and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (2002).

Details of the online discussion on women and the environment

In the online discussion we hope to share best practices and lessons learned. The focus is worldwide, and experiences from local, national, regional and global levels are welcomed.

To register and for more information visit the discussion website at: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/forums/review/environment/
For each of the discussions you have to register separately. Contributions/postings should be limited to a one-page message or 500 words.

You may also subscribe to the discussion via e-mail by sending a message to reviewforum-register@un.org with "Women and Environment" as the subject, providing the following information:

Online discussion: "Women and the Environment"
Name: [your full name]
E-mail: [your e-mail address]
Organization Name: [full name of your organization]
Organization Type: [specify whether organization is an NGO, UN entity, government, academia or other]
Country/region: [country/region your represent]
Areas of interest: [Critical Areas of Concern of the Beijing Platform for Action, other issues]
Sex: [woman/man]

Please allow one working day to be registered to the discussion.

Please feel free to send this message to your colleagues and other contacts.

If you have any further questions please contact the discussion moderator at irene.dankelman@hetnet.nl. For information on other discussions on the Platform's Critical Areas of Concern and other important issues, see http://www.un.org/womenwatch/forums/review/.

We look forward to a productive dialogue!

Week & Theme Details
Week 1
Women and the Environment: emerging issues.
(10-14 January 2005)

Apart from gender aspects of global and local sectoral areas such as water and sanitation, biodiversity, human settlements, new issues and trends are emerging, such as gender aspects of environmental change (including climate change), of environmental health, conflict and environment, and urbanisation. New institutional challenges such as ensuring women's land/water rights, as well as intellectual property rights and a human rights approach to gender aspects of environment are becoming more visible. Global trends such as globalisation, privatisation and increasing environmental degradation, natural disasters and climate change, as well as persisting factors such as violence against women, violation of women's human rights, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the increasing number of conflicts and war, as well as the lack of research, information, and data call for specific attention from a gender-environment perspective. What are emerging issues in the field of women and the environment? What institutional challenges do these bring? What are priority strategic policies and actions? How are global developments and local circumstances linked? How are/should women's knowledge, skills and experiences be included?

Gender Mainstreaming in Environment.
(17-21 January 2005)

At governmental level, but also at local level, regionally and internationally efforts have been made to mainstream gender in environmental policies, activities, plans and programs. However, experiences in these areas are limited, not well documented and only partly successful. A common concern is that the intention of mainstreaming gender in environmental policies and institutions - if not well managed - results in gender-invisibility and ad hoc policies and action. Long-term institutional commitment at highest level seems to be a prerequisite, as well as availability of indicators and data. Is gender mainstreaming in environment desirable? Why? What strategies are followed to mainstream gender in environment? With what effectiveness? What factors contribute to success and which factors cause failure? Which institutional arrangements are needed?

Week 3
Women's Empowerment and Participation in Environment.
(24-28 January 2005)

Women's participation and empowerment in environment is still limited at institutional level. Although the number of professional women in environment has risen, this is mainly in lower and medium-management level. And although women's participation in environmental decision-making has increased, their influence is still limited and efforts in this area often have an ad hoc character. On the other hand, during the past decade women in many regions have organized for environmental conservation and management. What experiences exist in the participation of women and their organizations, in environmental decision-making and management? Does empowerment and participation in environment also result in gender equality? What role do non-governmental organizations play in this regard? What factors contribute to women's empowerment, and what obstacles do you face in participation in environment? How is attention for differentiation amongst women integrated?

Week 4
Strategizing for the Future: institutions, policies and actions on women and the environment.
(31 January-4 February 2005)

This last week will build upon the discussion to date by distilling lessons and priorities from earlier discussions. Special attention will be paid to what is needed from the global community to move progress towards gender equality in environment. What lessons can be learned from previous experiences? Are there concrete steps that can be taken by (a) the United Nations, (b) governments, and (c) civil society?

Resources: via these websites you can find reports and information on women and the environment:

» View archived discussion

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