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Gender@UNFCCC

GenderCC's engagement with the international climate regime is based on the notion that gender equality and human rights are fundamental to a strong and effective response to global climate change.

This section provides an overview of our activities at the UNFCCC conferences - from COP1 right through to the present day negotiations - as well as current information on key negotiating topics, and the role of the Women and Gender Constituency.


A slow start on gender issues

Throughout the past decade there has been slow but steady progress made towards identifying and addressing the many linkages between climate change and gender.

This is largely due to the ongoing efforts of women’s rights organisations and gender experts, who recognised at a very early stage that gender aspects were largely absent in the realm of climate policy, despite the clear need to connect climate justice with gender justice.

When the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992 as the main framework for international efforts to tackle climate change, it failed to include any reference to gender. In contrast, the other outcomes of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (also known as the Earth Summit) – including Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration, and the Conventions on Biodiversity and on Desertification and Drought – all made clear attempts to address women’s concerns and recommendations.  

Some have argued that the highly technical and economically-driven nature of the process made it hard to find entry points for social dimensions, including gender aspects. However, recognition of the need to strengthen women’s participation in the negotiation process and address gender issues has grown substantially, to the point that gender equality is now reflected in a number of key UNFCCC decisions and bodies.

GenderCC members have been pushing for gender justice to be integrated in all climate-related policies and processes since the very beginning – even prior to the official formation of the GenderCC network in 2008.


Women's participation at the climate negotiations

Improving the participation of women in climate change decision-making presents an ongoing challenge, both at national and international level.

While the numbers of women on UNFCCC boards, bodies and government delegations have improved slightly in recent years, women continue to be underrepresented, particularly in high-level positions.
At the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) in Cancun, for example, women accounted for as few as 30 per cent of all delegation parties and between 12 and 15 per cent of all heads of delegations to the UNFCCC. Since COP 21 (Paris) the size of the parties' delegations is increasing. Astonishingly, with the higher number of party-delegates the share of women is dramatically decreasing.

The first attempt to address the importance of women’s participation in the UNFCCC was made in Marrakesh in 2001, yet progress on implementing this decision has been limited. At COP18 in Doha, Qatar, an additional decision on promoting ‘gender balance’ in the UNFCCC was adopted by all Parties.

While this progress is welcome, it is important to keep in mind that in order to enable equal participation of women in climate change processes at all levels, there is a need to address the deep-rooted social and cultural inequalities that can act as constraints to women’s real inclusion and prevent them from participating meaningfully.