Promoting Peace by Addressing the Linkages Between Gender, Climate Change and Security
The intersection of gender, climate change and security risks highlights the need for preventive approaches and for a concept of security that puts people at its centre. In this piece, we look at how the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs promote measures that simultaneously advance gender inclusive and climate responsive conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
At the launch of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Secretary-General António Guterres described the climate crisis as a “code red for humanity”. The report’s findings make clear that the effects of climate change spare no one; droughts, erratic rainfall, and extreme weather events impact people, livelihoods and economies around the world.
While everyone is affected, the impacts are not felt equally. Where conflict and insecurity have undermined coping capacities, communities are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. It is no coincidence that 70% of the most climate vulnerable countries are also affected by conflict. Women and girls are often hit disproportionately, as they have less access to and control over natural resources, credit, and decision-making structures, and thus fewer means at their disposal to cope with climatic shocks. Women and girls are also generally more likely to suffer gender-based violence during times of upheaval and are more vulnerable to exploitation when forcibly displaced from their homes, including by climate disasters.
A recent analysis by DPPA underscores the growing confluence of gender, climate, and security risks:
While gender equality, climate change, and peace and security are each established policy areas, the mutually reinforcing nature of gender-climate-security risks is a much more recent subject for consideration, including for DPPA. In a world where climate change is exacerbating preexisting vulnerabilities and multiplying risks to peace and security, understanding and responding to climate-related security risks, including gendered dimensions of such risks, has become a strategic priority.
What are DPPA and other actors doing to address the interlinkages between gender, climate change, and security? Three key areas of action are emerging.
Raising awareness and strengthening capacity to integrate climate change and gender considerations into political analysis as well as conflict prevention and sustaining peace strategies is key. In 2021, DPPA jointly with UN Women, UNEP and UNDP developed a comprehensive framework for understanding the linkages between gender, climate change, and security. Through the Climate Security Mechanism, DPPA produced a conceptual approach to integrated risk assessments, and just last month, in the margins of the 66th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), DPPA jointly with other partners launched an open online course on the linkages between gender, climate change and security.
Secondly, bold action to address gender inequality and climate risks should be a central element of inclusive peacebuilding and peacemaking. There is increasing evidence that peace efforts which systematically include women, and civil society at large, are more likely to lead to sustainable results. Emerging research also shows that when women participate meaningfully in decision-making processes around climate adaptation and natural resources, outcomes more often benefit larger groups of people. On 25 March, at a side event to the CSW, co-hosted by DPPA and the Permanent Missions of Denmark and Kenya to the United Nations, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Martha Pobee outlined that women’s roles as primary providers of food and water “can uniquely qualify them to anticipate and address the effects of climate change [and] may open entry points to further their participation in dialogue and mediation processes.” The recent IPCC report recognized that risks to peace are reduced by supporting people in climate-sensitive economic activities and advancing women’s empowerment.
Field missions play an important role. The Security Council has recognized the adverse effects of climate change on stability in several contexts where UN peace operations are deployed and has requested missions to provide support to women’s meaningful participation at all levels of decision making. Given the interrelated nature of climate and gender issues, progress requires simultaneous and coordinated action in both areas. At the CSW side event, Deputy Special Representative for Somalia Anita Kiki Gbeho noted that “the first ever environment and climate security advisor in a field mission has allowed us to place women in the forefront of climate action when it comes to natural resource management and peacebuilding in communities”.
Finally, engagement with communities must be another component in efforts to address the linkages between gender, climate change and security. Prioritizing and investing in solutions that are informed by local experiences and environmental knowledge, with the full involvement of women, is integral to building resilience where it matters most. As International Alert’s Rabindra Gurung highlighted at the CSW side event, ensuring meaningful participation for local women and communities means that “those in the room actually have a voice and are not just a number.”