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"Gender inequality hampers sustainable development"

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific (UNESCAP)

Story by GRID-Arendal June 2nd, 2016

By Tina Schoolmeester

Over the past year I have been fortunate to be part of the lead authors team of the Global Gender Environment Outlook (GGEO) of which an abridged version was prepared for and launched during UNEA-2. The full version of the GGEO will be released soon, probably in mid-July.

This GGEO was a massive effort engaging more than 50 experts and is the first comprehensive and global assessment of the connection between gender and environment. It points out that gendered environmental analysis is not just a matter of “add women and stir”. In fact, it is not primarily about “adding women” at all. The goal is to bring a gender lens to environmental assessment, which makes both men and women visible as actors and demonstrates how femininity, masculinity and environmental change affect each other.

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The report shows quite clearly that every aspect of the environment is “gendered”. Policies must therefore be gender-responsive or else they will be incomplete and unsustainable. With respect to the Sustainable Development Goals, I’m quite confident saying that it isn’t sustainable development if it isn’t just, inclusive and equitable.

The report provides sufficient proof of this statement and shows that the importance of applying a gender lens is gaining recognition (for example, in the work of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). But while all the UNEA-2 side events on gender and environment were extremely well attended (the room during the High-level Gender and Environment Forum was bursting at its seems, although mainly attended by women) gender hardly appears in the final resolutions. Drafting groups, negotiators and government representatives are still mainly male, and other side-events were hardly attended by women.


We need to be brave and speak up about gender in all events. Maybe there is no need for a high-level side event on gender and environment that is almost only attended by women. Instead this very well educated and extremely energetic group should split up and participate in all the other thematic events to ensure that a gender perspective is given. In addition, it is the responsibility of ALL governments and the UN to prominently take up gender in all UNEP activities, programmes and publications. Finally, existing environmental and gender commitments by governments need to be followed up and effectively implemented.


There’s too much at stake to ignore gender!