Time to celebrate!

Doha COP18 will go down in history as the COP that incorporated Gender in the main negotiation text.

The draft circulated co chairs of SBI Agenda 21, which was prepared with contributions from many, especially Mary Robinson, and circulated by EU, was opened for consultation on 29th of November. After two days of consultations among delegates from participating countries a draft text was submitted for consideration in SBI with the suggestions that it go to COP.

Notwithstanding that there wasn’t sufficient time to discuss at length the text, and after initial discussions over certain language and concepts proposed by delegates from the parties present an agreement was reached in the greater interest of gender balance. For me it was about the women livingng under the climate change disasters now, and for those who were under the threat in the future for no doing of theirs.

Bangladesh had proposed that a measureable target with timeline, i.e., 50% by 2020, be incorporated for achieving gender balance in COP bodies, structures and related institutions. It was about inclusion, representation, effective contribution. Some countries present, did not agree to set this target and timeline. The disagreement may be attributed to varying reasons, countries not confident that they had the capacity within their country and region, thus the target within the stipulated time to having a 50/50 balance was not feasible; while another country objected as they would have to lose a few women in a all women delegation so as to include men in the delegation! Thus a longer duration to be able achieve these target was needed. In the end we agreed without the above measureable ambitions as the main thinking among the party representatives was that once the text is adopted, there were ways to amend the agreement. If invested there could be concerted efforts to develop the capacity in the meantime. We can take up action by developing work plan and investing in capacity building and reach the aspired goal.

In the preamble it has been recognized that there is a need to achieve greater participation from the developing countries. India proposed disaggregated data of women’s representation from developed and developing countries be made available so as to work to achieve balance.

In probably the shortest possible time all those present came to an agreement on the draft text as we all had a common agenda… Incorporate gender balance in COP and negotiations process. We could not afford to miss the opportunity

Friday 7thDecember 2012, may be the day to celebrate the inclusion of gender balance in the text of COP!!!

Surprising it was possible to agree on this text when there is no movement on any of the other fronts: Finance, Loss and Damage, nor any of the more contentious issues.

And… there is gender, women and climate change. So is it ‘add on’?

I find myself in Doha, in a city that perhaps I would not have visited in my regular course of work. It is COP 18 which made this possible. I come to the Negotiations to try and follow the process and track progress as well as contribute as best as possible. It is part of my commitment to integrate Climate change and justice in ActionAid agenda, programme intervention as well as across the federation and as part of policy advocacy in Bangladesh.

Why does Gender matter?

We celebrated Gender Day as a side event on 27th – an initiative that has been introduced since 2 years to register gender concerns in regards to Climate negotiations.

Yes it is a ‘side event’ as there are issues regarding incorporating Gender discussion as part of the main agenda of the conference of parties! Actually on the panel today Mary Robinson, President of MRFCJ, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC and H. E. Minster Alcinda Abrue, Ministry of Coordination of Environmental Affairs of Mozambique spoke of their personal experiences. We heard how Mum Mary Robinson and Christiana had to push to get Gender on to some of the discussion and ultimately get it on the agenda. It was so interesting to hear Mary Robinson, Christian Figurines and H.E Alcianda share their personal stories of getting into the negotiations and their efforts to keep the gender discussion alive in the COPs.

In the course of development, where the world stands today, women have contributed just as much as men have, may be even more. But where is the recognition? It is about the perspective of 50% of the population and it is about the impact on their lives yet not organically integrated.

Women were initially part of neither international negotiations nor policy formulations – a scene which is equally true at national levels. I am not raising this as a matter of representation of women only. It is much deeper and fundamental issue – it is about the conceptualisation and understanding that women are impacted differently and they suffer the impacts of climate change disproportionately. Thus, it is important to get their perspective on board to propose or make any change that may be brought to the table as part of adaptation or mitigation measures.

A need to change the structural dynamics of the negotiations was how Mary Robinson thought the change towards gender inclusion could be achieved. She opined that women are intergenerational and practical. I therefore would like to ask, do we bring in their knowledge and wisdom on board or leave it, as we often have in endless global processes and policies before? We have to catalyse the structural change within climate change negotiations to create an opportunity.

It, for me, flows from the principles of accountability, transparency and democracy. There is the need to ensure deliverables which are critical for a right based governance and equitable society. It becomes imperative to challenge the existing power dynamics and relationships. It calls for the change of mindset of both men and women.

National policies must facilitate the process of equitable development opportunities. At ground level, increasing broad-based economic development by promoting female education, employment and economic and political empowerment. It is most likely to prove as one of the most promising strategies for climate change adaptation, with women as key agents. A broad-based development approach requires gender-sensitive growth strategies that invest in women and empower them to more effectively contribute to economic development. All regions will require greater recognition that women need to be supported in their dual roles as care-givers and active economic agents. This will involve lightening their care burden through access to improved household technologies, extended public social protection systems, and through strategies that increase women’s bargaining power. The success of a post-MDG development framework depends on formulating policies and translating existing policy promises on gender equality and women’s empowerment into concrete actions.

Other issues such as migration and its impact have to be central to thinking for any policy or programmatic intervention we may propose. There is need for ensuring the environment for gender analysis and women’s participation in policy formulation and decision making without any further loss of time.

I ended with saying that those who are asking for gender analysis and inclusion in the formal agenda of the negotiations are not demanding with the force required. Women need to think of themselves as ‘power up group’ and more men have to actually join in and believe in moving from the support role to an active role for inclusion. Otherwise an equitable and just society call will be no more than rhetoric!

Well for me it was an excellent opportunity to listen to sisters from Asia Pacific –Kahealani Hekau, Farhana Yemin, European Government, Yvette Abrahams, from South Africa, Agnes Otzelberger from CARE international and Liane Schalatek of Heinrich Böll Foundation, Germany.

What inspiring individuals! … I go back with renewed vigor to continue…