Minister Heidi Hautala: key note -speech in the High Level meeting ‘Gender Policy & Rio Conventions’

Minister Heidi Hautala: key note -speech in the High Level meeting ‘Gender Policy & Rio Conventions’

The Gender Policy Framework and Action Plan for the UNCCD and the Mainstreaming of Gender within the Three Rio Conventions

H.E. Ms. Heidi Hautala
Minister for International Development of Finland

United Nations, New York
21 September, 2011


In 2007, in a climate change meeting in Bali the Finnish delegation was observing that there are many people outside of the meeting room, saying ”climate change is affecting us. Please, listen to us!” and inside the meeting room, behind the closed doors there were many people who never stopped by these stands. The delegation also noticed that most of the people outside were women and most of the people inside were men.

Finland decided that it is of critical importance to achieving a successful climate agreement that we benefit from the knowledge of both women and men in most affected areas and that they have the chance to participate in planning and deciding on priorities. Finland started to implement this focus in collaboration with the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA), which was established in 2007, and in 2008 a special project on Gender and Climate Change was initiated with the purpose of improving women’s impact on environmental and climate change negotiations. It was considered important that especially in the national adaptation plans of least developed countries, the gender perspective was strengthened.

When the ninth Conference of the Parties (COP 9) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) decided on the formulation of a gender strategy in 2008, Finland decided to support that important work in 2009 through 2012. COP 10 approved the proposed strategy, and it is now under initial implementation. The next COP of the UNCBD in 2012 should be able to decide on permanent integration of gender policy in the work of the Convention. We will fully support this decision.

We also supported the gender strategy formulation for the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and there is a proposal to that effect on the agenda of the COP 10 of the UNCCD taking place next month in Changwon, Republic of Korea. We look forward to supporting that decision-making process and in the implementation of the strategy.

Finland also actively promoted the inclusion of gender perspective during the fifth Replenishment negotiations of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). We’re delighted that in the end this important dimension was included to the policy recommendations and programming.

It has been very rewarding to observe the close cooperation between the Rio Convention Secretariats and the GEF in the field of gender strategy development. The expertise and the pro-active role assumed by the IUCN in this have been remarkable and we hope that this cooperation will continue.

The International Women’s Leadership Forum in Liberia in 2009, an event convened by the presidents of Liberia and Finland, was one of the important milestones. The event gathered together different actors and provided new thinking and concrete proposals on how to move the agenda forward.

During the past three years there have been many achievements. The Cancun Agreements include numerous references to gender equality. Furthermore, first time in the history of the climate convention, three work programs also include gender references. For those of you who have been part of this process, you know this has been a major achievement and has required a lot of hard work. Climate change was, and still is, by many seen purely as a technical issue that does not require attention to gender. Unfortunately there is still a lot to do also in order to reach a new global and comprehensive climate agreement. We all need to be alert and work hard to ensure that, firstly, this new agreement will be reached soon and that, secondly, the gender perspective will be recognized there.

One important part of our project, implemented by the GGCA, is the support provided for the participation of women delegates from developing countries to the climate change negotiations by allocating targeted funds for this purpose through the Women Delegates Fund. The fund has financed more than 70 trips for female delegates from developing countries to the negotiations thus far. And more are to be financed during this year. This has contributed also to a fact that the female delegate’s average participation rose to 34 % in 2010, which is highest ever.

Climate change does not affect women and men in the same way. It has a gender-differentiated impact. Women and men would also have gender-differentiated impact on climate change. It is important that both women and men also participate in decision making. Strengthening women’s capacity is essential and that is why Finland is committed to continuing its support to women’s participation and to their capacity building.

We all need to realize that when we talk about impacts of climate change they hit hardest the women in developing countries. These women would, however, have many of the answers to questions on how to deal with this problem. As the climate change will increase drought and irregular rains and floods, it will have a serious impact on agriculture and food security, as well as availability of water. Due to various economic and social roles, women are mostly responsible for agriculture. For example in Africa, FAO estimates that 60 to 80 per cent of food is produced by women. Also in Asia women carry the main responsibility for the food producing agriculture. Women are responsible also for fetching the water and fuel wood for household consumption – they are the ones who see the rivers, lakes and forests every day. This means that these women can be powerful agents of change.

As already said women have knowledge and skills related to the management and use of renewable natural resources that are critical to livelihoods and adapting to a changing environment. Conservation of biodiversity and adapting to climate change should be seen as mutually reinforcing, and should be taken into consideration when formulating policies and strategies. We encourage everybody to find synergetic solutions; we hope that the cooperation between the Rio convention secretariats and the GEF will contribute to this goal.

There is a clear need for country level focus. From 2010, the work in the national level was introduced as a new project component to our gender and climate change project. Most of the countries now have their National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs). These need to be implemented in such a way that they rather improve gender equality and by no means should not do harm to it. They should be fair to both women and men – and indeed ensure better environment and better future for all. Thus far we have two countries that have integrated gender into their NAPA, these two are Bangladesh and Nepal. Furthermore, for example Jordan, Nicaragua and Central American countries have developed their gender integration strategies at the national level. This work is still in its early stages, but we expect more results this year, and next two or three years as we are working towards continuing our support to his important project.

Training of decision makers has been part of the Finnish focus activities during past years. Together with the Global Gender and Climate Alliance we have been training climate meeting delegates, both female and male, on gender and climate issues. There are many to whom this has been eye-opening experience. The training sessions have also served as a way of setting up a network on delegates interested in gender and climate.

The work that has taken place so far is a good beginning - and just a beginning. We need to systematically continue ensuring that gender aspects and recognition of women’s role will indeed appear in the future climate agreement text. Furthermore, we need to make sure that those vast sums of money that are linked to climate change, and also other Rio Conventions, benefit also women and especially women in developing countries. We need mechanisms to ensure that women take part in deciding on these funds and that all, both women and men, are aware of the impact of climate change on women’s lives and as well aware of the knowledge and information women all around the world have on climate change – and of the possibilities they have to mitigate it.

Our work in this field has been noticed, the President of Finland, Ms. Tarja Halonen was rewarded the Torch on Millennium Goal No 3 in Copenhagen in 2009. Finland got also then the Gender Championship award from the NGOs. We promised then to continue working towards facilitating the integration of gender perspectives in NAPAs and in their implementation as well as to continue funding female delegates to climate meetings and to promote such forestry and other natural resource activities that enhance also better gender equality. Women can make a contribution to increasing the forest cover and quality which will be important for increasing the sinks and thus reducing the carbon content in the atmosphere. For example in East Africa Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai has done remarkable work in establishing the Green Belt Movement which has planted millions of trees. This is providing work and income to women and relatively cheap investment in climate issues.

Finland identified gender and climate change as its focus area for the reason that we believe that it is not going to be enough that only one half of the world’s population would be able to take care of this huge problem. Without inclusion, we will fail. Involvement and commitment of both men and women is the only possible way to achieve the climate targets. This applies also for the other environmental challenges. Finland is committed to working towards gender-equal environment policy and actions – and this can only be achieved if there are many of us who are working for it. There has never been a better time to implement it than now.

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