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Green Climate Fund must keep gender equality promises

Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 7 Mar 2013 14:15 GMT
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When working with wood, it is said, measure twice and cut once. Act carefully, with precision from the start, and save resources in the long run. Countries currently building the U.N. Green Climate Fund (GCF) appear to be doing just that.

The GCF is expected to eventually channel a significant portion of international climate finance to developing countries to promote low-emission and climate-resilient development.  

Therefore its objectives, principles, governance and other institutional arrangements have been quite meticulously measured.

In the design process in 2011, history was made. The GCF became the first global climate finance mechanism to include gender equality concerns at its inception. But how the plan is executed, from blueprint to final structure, is still in question.

That the GCF includes a gender dimension in its operational guidelines is a revolutionary first step. It reflects an increasing awareness that gender equality and women’s empowerment, in addition to being human rights, are fundamental to sustainable development and to tackling climate change.

For example, disaster-related deaths and gender equality are closely linked; women’s mortality from climate-induced disasters is lowest in countries where gender equality is highest.  

Yet, too often, women have a limited voice in decision-making, harming their livelihoods, health and survival — as well as those of their families, communities and countries. Conversely, greater gender equality enhances our collective capacity to address climate change on multiple fronts.

Disaster planning and efforts focused on combating and building resilience to climate change that are gender-responsive are more likely to be effective, appropriate for local circumstances, have buy-in at the community level, and create mutual benefits.

Gender equality also correlates positively with per capita gross national product, with economies that are more competitive and grow faster, as well as wealthier countries, which are more resilient and able to adapt to the impacts of climate change.  

In capitals, parliaments with a larger proportion of women are more likely to support environmental legislation, which should inspire us to surpass today’s global average of 20 percent.

And in rural areas gender equality can help boost food security in the face of climate change. Ensuring women farmers have the same access as men to seeds, fertiliser and other inputs could raise national agriculture yields by up to 4 percent, reducing the number of hungry people by 100-150 million.


Mindful of these realities, the Green Climate Fund lays down an inspired blueprint to integrate gender considerations and efficiently deliver resources to address climate change, in alignment with countries’ development agendas.

After diligent efforts by some governments and advocates from civil society and multilateral agencies, the GCF’s Governing Instrument, adopted in 2011 in Durban by parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), mandates that it take a “gender-sensitive approach” and that the composition of the fund’s board and secretariat staff give due consideration to gender balance.

It also mandates the inclusion of gender aspects in the way the fund operates, including access to funding. And it acknowledges the input and participation of women in the design, development and implementation of the strategies and activities to be financed by the fund.

As the fund moves from blueprint to operation, with the aim to start disbursing money in early 2014, gender equality considerations must also be integrated into its day-to-day guidelines and policies.

Unfortunately, there are signs that this is not being given enough attention, increasing the danger it might be overlooked in the end.

First, the new GCF board fell far short of its mandate to seek gender balance, with only five of the 24 principal members and another three of the 24 alternate members being female. Second, a suggested work-plan for the board throughout 2013 is silent on the issue of putting into practice a gender-sensitive approach.

A second set of measures is required to follow-through on the gender equality commitments included in the blueprint. The mandated “gender-sensitive approach” requires more gender balance in the decision-making forums, and more importantly, gender expertise.

GCF board meetings should be open for input by women’s groups as part of a wider integration of observer participation. As the fund expands its secretariat staff to move to its permanent locale in Songdo, South Korea, later this year, gender expertise must be made an important criterion for staff selection and promotion, and gender training provided for all GCF employees.

Gender-based criteria and guidelines should be developed for fund allocation, including project identification, design and performance objectives. In recipient countries, women’s groups, in addition to government entities, should be able to directly access funding without using intermediaries.

The development and implementation of national strategies and plans must engage key national institutions working on gender equality and ensure the full and meaningful participation of women on the ground.

Finally, in order to give women’s groups and communities better access to GCF funding, a dedicated small grants programme or separate funding facility could be built, with streamlined processes.

Concrete measures by the board at its next meeting from March 13-15 in Berlin, and throughout 2013, will be critical as the GCF moves toward its first funding decisions. 

For an efficient, effective and fair fund, gender must be a fundamental part of its building process, informing all policies and guidelines.

The GCF has boldly taken the historical first step of making gender equality considerations fundamental to its blueprint. Now, further actions are needed to make those a reality in the fund’s structure and operations. This will help save lives, stretch scarce public resources further, and better assist countries and communities to tackle climate change in the future.

This blog was written by the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA) Climate Finance Working Group and the Heinrich Boell Foundation North America.

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