By Ashim Steiner
The world wants an end to the tremendous human suffering in Ukraine, with millions of Ukrainians displaced by the conflict. The situation jeopardizes the safety of all Ukrainians and, as with other conflicts in other parts of the world, puts women and girls in particular at increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence, especially those who are refugees or otherwise displaced from their homes. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has joined the UN-system wide response to support those affected by the conflict, both inside Ukraine and in the neighbouring countries receiving refugees. In Ukraine, as with many other crisis and conflict contexts, from Afghanistan and the Sahel to Myanmar and Yemen -- increasing the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in peacemaking, conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts is crucial to find lasting solutions.
This approach also holds true when it comes to tackling climate change and environmental degradation; and boosting disaster risk reduction -- the theme of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women. Women play a crucial role in the climate and environmental sectors, and they are often leading frontline natural resource management strategies. This makes them well-placed to identify and implement effective and sustainable solutions. Yet environmental degradation and increased competition over scarce resources are exacerbating the risk of gender-based violence while women environmental human rights defenders, including indigenous women, often face threats and violence. UNDP and the University of Pittsburgh’s Global Report on Gender Equality in Public Administration shows that even though women are disproportionately impacted by the climate and environmental crises, they are still hitting a glass ceiling that stops them from advancing to the highest levels of leadership in environmental protection and climate action. Women’s participation in ministries of environmental protection averages 33% globally, for instance, and parity in decision-making on these critical issues is exceptionally rare.
Yet change is possible. UNDP’s Climate Promise is currently assisting 120 countries to enhance their climate pledges, known as National Determined Contributions (NDCs). These NDCs are important vehicles for advancing not only sustainable development but also gender equality. Globally, over 110,000 people have engaged in NDC stakeholder consultations and women are leading the process in many cases. 96% of second-generation NDCs supported under the Climate Promise include references to gender compared to 48% of first-generation NDCs. Or look to the Feminist Action for Climate Justice Action Coalition, co-led by UNDP and a consortium of partners. It aims to accelerate progress on climate justice and gender equality over the next five years. We need to build on such efforts to advance more ambitious gender-responsive environmental and climate agendas. In particular, they must take the unique needs and perspectives of women into account and actively promote women’s participation and leadership. They must also make climate and environmental finance work for women. Driving forward this change can have a ripple effect. Research shows, for instance, that countries with a high representation of women in parliament are more likely to ratify the international environment treaties that the world now needs.
Guided by the Global Goals, our new Strategic Plan 2022-2025 and our upcoming Gender Equality Strategy 2022-2025, UNDP will continue its steadfast efforts to realise #GenerationEquality. UNDP itself is changing and has now achieved a 50-50 balance in our workforce. We know that a sustainable, green, and equal future for all is simply not possible without gender equality. Informed by data and analytics provided by resources such as the COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker, countries must now put women and girls -- and their needs -- at the centre of the growing green recovery. That includes new policy measures that address women’s economic and social security including unpaid care work, the labour market, violence against women, and the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on women and girls. This much is clear: creating a more equal world today will set the conditions for a more sustainable tomorrow.