A real accelerator for achieving climate goals

Global NDC Conference 2019 Berli: Day 2, Breakout Sessions

Question: What is one of the single most effective investments that governments and cooperation partners can make to accelerate NDC implementation?

Answer: Women’s and girls’ increased leadership and participation in climate-smart development.

This answer was the headline conclusion of several sessions at the Global NDC Conference. Conventional power structures and discriminating social attitudes still keep women from having an equal say in decision-making, in many places.

However, delegates said that when women are given an equal place in designing and implementing climate programmes, then those initiatives are consistently more effective in reaching their goals in the short term, and more sustainable in the long run.

For example, an initiative to develop more climate-resilient urban and peri-urban livelihoods and mitigate flood risks in Uttar Pradesh, India, was found to be under-performing until programme leaders intentionally increased women’s involvement.

Farmers with products of solar-powered irrigation
Credit: LIBIRD-Nepal

Meanwhile, food security in Nepal rests on the shoulders of women farmers – especially now that climate and other factors are encouraging men to leave their villages and migrate to cities or overseas. Most farms are smallholdings and are highly exposed and sensitive to climate risks, such as droughts, floods, soil erosion, landslides, pest outbreaks, and heat waves. A series of initiatives has been designed specifically to support women’s participation in climate-smart agriculture. These are working well: by marrying local women’s knowledge (for instance, about effective water and livestock management techniques) with new technologies such as solar-powered irrigation pumps, to increase farm productivity, reduce women’s workload and improve their wellbeing.

From design through implementation and evaluation, activities are carefully designed to take account of women’s multiple duties and pressures across home and work, so that they may participate fully in the climate-smart agriculture programme and use their time efficiently.

In Chad, national NGO Lead Tchad was interested in supporting climate resilience, but programme leaders discovered that gender-based violence is so debillitating for many rural women that it strips them of their autonomy and dignity, and excludes them from participating fully in any climate and development programmes. The issues are inseparable.

“Violence against women is so bad in Chad that we realised we need to address this before anything else,” said Colette Benoudji, Lead Tchad Coordinator. “Even though gender-based violence is illegal in Chad, the practice is different from what’s in the law, and that needs to change.” Now, as a result of her team’s efforts, the country’s President has drawn attention to gender-based violence and several donor agencies are investing in further research, public engagement campaigns and support services for women suffering violence. Although there’s a long way to go, things are starting to look up for Chadian women.

Proven strategies for success

‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’ is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG5). Evidence from several countries demonstrated that there is a strong, mutually reinforcing effect when governments intentionally pursue SDG5 along with SDG 13: Climate Action.

“We are supporting countries to figure in climate change and gender equality as a dual objective not a separate approach,” said Verania Chao, a Gender Specialist at UNDP’s NDC Support Programme.

Chao explained that UNDP is facilitating dialogues and improved peer-to-peer working between the national ministries that are responsible for women’s affairs, on the one hand, and the line ministries and departments that are working to mainstream climate action in their sectoral plans, on the other.


Credit: LEAD Tchad

“Capacity building is key – technical staff need it: on behaviour, communication, language and skills [for gender integration],” agreed Sandee Recabar, Chief of the Implementation Oversight Division, Phiippines. In the Philippines, gender specialists support line ministries directly to integrate gender-responsive aspects their strategies and plans, by developing sector-specific guidelines and providing staff training.

The Government of Kenya trialled a secondment programme to get the climate change and gender specialists learning from each other. For example, Jackline Mokokha, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender was seconded to the Ministry of Environment. She said she convinced colleagues to start collecting and analysing sex-disaggregated data, to better understand how women are participating in and benefitting from climate policies.

Untapped knowledge

All the same, there is a need to better document issues for women [in coping with climate change] on the ground and to feed this insight into the national policy process”, said Sabia Kpekata, Climate Change and Gender Focal Point, Department of Gender, Ghana.

Sandee Recabar of the Philippines added: “Knowledge at the local level could inform the national process. Most of the issues are found at the local level although the NDC formulation process is at national level.”

“Also, civil society could provide evidence based information on the issue of gender mainstreaming into the NDCs.”

Putting money where it matters

Step-wise good practice on how to apply gender thinking in climate planning – according to Sam Bickersteth, CDKN – includes:

Gender analysis

Do a gender analysis at project preparation stage, to understand how climate change effects women, men, girls and boys differently in the target area (and don’t just look at females as a homogenous group, but consider how age, race, ethnicity, economic status, disability and other factors could give some groups particular needs.

Inclusive planning

Use the findings of the gender analysis to plan in an inclusive way for integrated climate-development solutions. This includes defining desired, climate-smart development outcomes for specific groups of women and girls as part of the programme/project’s results framework.

Gender budgeting

Vitally, make sure there is enough budget assigned to achieve those gender-specific climate goals; also called gender budgeting. For example, if one of the goals is to increase the participation of ethnic minority women in climate-smart agriculture training, then ensure there is sufficient budget to reach out and recruit the women (using relevant communications channels) and for providing approprate personnel and materials to deliver the work.

In Peru, the government has taken this step-wise approach even further by developing an approach to planning and integrating gender, intercultural and intergenerational concerns into climate actions – according to Rosa Morales, General Director of Climate Change and Desertification. This approach is already hard-wired into national thinking. Morales’ team is now exploring how it could be applied through climate activities in different economic sectors, and sub-nationally.

The bottom line

The conclusions of these diverse discussions were:

  • Climate policies and programmes work when they take women’s priorities meaningfully into account, as well as men’s. Even at the stage of scoping or assessing a policy or programme, it is necessary to design consultations and assessments so that women can participate.
  • Climate programmes that overlook women’s concerns are consistently demonstrating failure and need to be adapted. Not only is this a matter of fairness and rights. It also makes practical sense to involve women and men, girls and boys as equal partners in climate-compatible development.
  • Sometimes, the key to unlocking women’s knowledge, talents and skills co-depends on new policies or speeded-up implementation of existing policies in other areas of law. Enforcing laws against gender-based violence is just one example of a complementary action that frees women to have decent lives and so step up as equal partners to pursue climate progress.
  • Climate solutions are more successful when they empower women to be leaders. This doesn’t necessarily mean ‘conventional’ and hierarachical forms of leadership; in fact, forms of reflective and collaborative leadership often shown by women are particularly well suited to addressing the complex climate crisis.
This blog is a rapid round-up of discussions during Days 2 and 3 of the Global NDC Conference 2019. 

Note: The Global NDC Conference organisers endeavoured to provide equal space for women’s and men’s voices in the conference. Of the conference participants: 50% were female and 50% were male (145 female/144 male) on day one (other days’ figures are being calculated); Panel members in the plenary sessions were 50%-50% (10 females/10 males).