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Gender-Responsive Strategies on Climate Change: Recent Progress and Ways Forward for Donors

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Executive Summary


Neither the impacts of climate change on people nor the ways in which people respond to climate change are gender-neutral (see Box 1). Gender inequalities and different gender roles, needs and preferences which vary over space and over time influence the different ways in which young, adult and elderly males and females experience the impacts of climate change and develop strategies to adapt to or mitigate them.

Gender equality is both a development goal in itself – reflected, for example, in the third Millennium Development Goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment, the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – and a condition for the achievement of sustainable development. As such, gender equality is also a condition for successful adaptation to climate change, and the successful transition to low-carbon pathways in developing countries. This means that, if they are to be effective, climate change adaptation and low-carbon efforts need to be gender-responsive (see Box 1) – taking into account the specific needs of men and women and the gendered inequalities that may compound the impacts of climate change for poor women in particular, or prevent women from benefitting from climate change policy responses. This in turn will ensure effective, sustainable poverty reduction. Yet, climate change responses also have the potential to challenge existing gender power imbalances and, by doing so, can contribute to the realisation of greater gender equality and women’s rights.

Therefore, any development programme or policy addressing climate change should be premised on the principle that neither the impact pathways nor the responses to climate change are gender-neutral, and that a gender-responsive approach is required from the outset.

Yet, while some progress has been made over the past few years, few strategies for climate change adaptation and low-carbon development take an appropriate, comprehensive gender-responsive approach. Amongst known and new sets of stakeholders working on climate change and development-related issues – including governments, civil society and the more recently emerging role of the private sector in low-carbon initiatives – donors’ leadership on promoting a much greater focus on the social and gender dimensions of climate change is, therefore, essential.
As a contribution to the wider effort of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to promote the integration of gender into climate change adaptation and low-carbon development policies and programmes, this paper focuses on the role of donors in this process, and is mainly targeted at those departments and staff in donor agencies under whose responsibility climate change falls. It draws on secondary literature as well as primary information gathered from a broad range of donors, with a focus on DFID’s experiences.

This paper outlines a rationale for improved integration of gender into climate change and seeks to support donors in this endeavour by investigating the challenges and opportunities donors are facing, updating the wider body of work and knowledge on gender and climate change and the status of gender in global and national climate policies. Based on these findings, it proposes key principles, questions and strategies for donors – from bilateral and multilateral to non-governmental organisations with a funding role – to improve gender and climate change linkages. Finally, it also offers a menu of ideas for individual steps for donors to take.