Gender Day at COP20



Within the framework of the “Gender Day” at the COP 20, multiple actors from the around the world – from grassroots organizations, to multilaterals and national governments – are expressing their views on the gendered impacts of climate change and the role of women in Climate Change negotiations.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the poor are the most affected by climate change-related phenomena. Considering that women represent six out of ten of the world’s population in extreme poverty[1], it is pivotal to understand that women are more vulnerable than men to the effects of climate change. Gender inequalities affect women’s involvement in planning and decision-making processes in their communities, rendering them and their children more vulnerable than men to natural disasters, while also restricting their ability to reduce damage[2]. There is also evidence that gender differences in deaths from natural disasters are directly linked to women’s economic and social rights. When women’s rights are not protected, more women than men will die from disasters[3]. Moreover, as women produce up to 80% of food in developing countries[4], they are proportionally more dependent on threatened natural resources[5]. In the event that a climate change-related damages their crops, they are more prone to poverty, as they lack the financial, social and political means to secure alternative livelihoods[6].

The Beijing Declaration, adopted in 1995 by the Fourth World Conference on Women, expresses the need “to advance the goals of equality, development and peace for all women everywhere in the interest of humanity.” Thirteen years later, in 2008, the Manila Declaration for Global Action on Gender in Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction, made a plea to the international community for cooperation to develop “gender-sensitive policies and program guidelines to aid Governments in ensuring gender equality while reducing climate-related risks and adapting to climate change at national and community level.”

Indeed, the pleas taking place in 1995 and 2008 are still resonating today during the COP 20. Susan McDade, UNDP’s Deputy Director of the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean mentioned that “climate policies are usually not gender neutral, they are gender blind”. At the same table, Lakshmi Puni – Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women – stated that women’s access to, and control over resources such as land is key for sustainable development. Although some countries have made great achievements (for example Mexico, by including a gender perspective in the development of its National Development Plan), speakers have expressed disappointment by the lack of a gender perspective in the negotiation processes leading to the Conference in Paris next year. Finally, they have invited citizens from around the world to pressure their respective governments to mainstream gender issues in the national climate change agendas of their respective countries.



[1] Aguilar, L. (2009). Women and Climate Change: Vulnerabilities and Adaptive Capacities. Worldwatch Institute.

[2] Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2003). Poverty and Climate Change: Reducing the Vulnerability of the Poor through Adaptation. New Delhi: OECD.

[3] Eric Neumayer, T. P. (2007). The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981–2002. Annals of the Association of American Geographer , 551–566.

[4] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2005). The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2005. Italy: FAO.

[5] Center for Asia-Pacific Women in Politics. (2013, December 12). Center for Asia-Pacific Women in Politics. Retrieved from Third Global Congress of Women in Politics and Governance:

[6] Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2003). Poverty and Climate Change: Reducing the Vulnerability of the Poor through Adaptation. New Delhi: OECD.