Gender equality

Sustainable Development Goal 5

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Overview

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are important prerequisites for sustainable development, as recognized in a number of key international agreements, including Agenda 21 and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Convention on Biological Diversity, in its preamble, recognizes “the vital role that women play in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity” and affirms “the need for the full participation of women at all levels of policymaking and implementation for biological diversity conservation”.

Gender equality refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys, and implies that the interests, needs and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration. Without equitable conditions and effective engagement of women as well as men in decision-making for biodiversity conservation and management, the potential for identifying and applying sustainable solutions is severely limited. Women around the world are intimately connected to the process of biodiversity management and the consequences of biodiversity loss, playing key roles as resource managers, with responsibilities for household operations, food production, and collecting essential resources including water, fuel and fodder, among others. Thus the specific biodiversity-related knowledge and practices of women must be taken into account, as well as those of men, to ensure a fuller understanding of biodiversity value and usage, and limitations and opportunities for conservation and sustainable management. Biodiversity resources also constitute important assets that can be used to undertake income-generating activities, particularly for women, indigenous communities and marginalized groups – means which can promote the achievement of gender equality.

The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 is premised on the understanding that biological diversity underpins ecosystem functioning and the provision of ecosystem services essential for well-being. As the basis for food security, human health, the provision of clean air and water, and a necessary component of local livelihoods, economic development and poverty alleviation, so too is biodiversity an integral element of the achievement of gender equality. Aichi Biodiversity Target number 14 proposes that ‘By 2020, ecosystems that provide essential services, including services related to water, and contribute to health, livelihoods and well-being, are restored and safeguarded, taking into account the needs of women, indigenous and local communities, and the poor and vulnerable.’ Gender considerations must be factored into the achievement of many of the Aichi targets. In support of a fully integrated approach, the CBD’s 2015-2020 Gender Plan of Action puts forward proposals for actions by Parties to promote gender mainstreaming under the Convention and in the context of the Strategic Plan. It also provides a framework for integrating a gender perspective within the work of the Secretariat. The CBD’s approach is consistent with that of the proposed Sustainable Development Goal 5 – achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Specifically, target 5.a proposes that the international community ‘Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance, and natural resources in accordance with national laws.’ The CBD’s efforts towards gender mainstreaming are an important component in influencing and shaping national and international norms and laws related to equitable ownership and control over resources.

Challenges

Despite an increased recognition of the importance of gender equality for the attainment of sustainable development objectives, women and girls continue to have limited access and control over biodiversity resources and remain especially vulnerable to biodiversity loss in many parts of the world. The CBD’s Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 (2014) reported movement away from achievement of Aichi Biodiversity Target 14, indicating that the integration of the needs of women, indigenous and local communities and the poor and vulnerable in ecosystem management is decreasing, rather than improving. A survey by the CBD of Parties and organisations on the development of indicators to monitor gender mainstreaming found the lack of available data to be a key challenge, as well as a lack of capacity among relevant staff, limited financial resources as well as cultural challenges in engaging women. These findings are consistent with those of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Environment and Gender Index, which highlights that information about women’s roles and access in environment-related sectors is not collected and reported. Sex-disaggregated data with broad country coverage in sectors such as forestry, agriculture, water, energy, marine, disasters, and others does not exist. Implementation of global international agreements on gender and environment was found to be lacking in most countries, while gender parity in environmental decision-making remains well below par, with the global average for women’s participation in inter-governmental negotiations on climate change, biodiversity, and desertification having peaked at 36 percent.

It is clear that there is a need to move beyond words to action to strengthen capacity and support for women and girls to play an equal role in biodiversity conservation and management, as envisioned through target 5.a of the Sustainable Development Goals. The CBD and Parties to the Convention must work towards implementation of the 2015-2020 Gender Plan of Action and sharing lessons learned and best practices for gender mainstreaming. In doing so, activities under the Convention can support both the achievement of gender equality and the ultimate objectives of the Convention – to conserve, sustainably use and fairly and equitably share the benefits of biodiversity resources.

Messages

  • Gender equality and women’s empowerment are important prerequisites for environmental and biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
  • Women have a critical role to play in biodiversity conservation and management, as key resource managers with responsibility over household operations, food production, and collection of essential resources including water, fuel and fodder.
  • Equitable conditions and effective engagement of women as well as men in decision-making for biodiversity conservation and management is essential to fully recognize the potential for identifying and applying sustainable solutions.
  • Biodiversity loss can perpetuate gender inequalities through limiting access to education and employment opportunities, by increasing time spent by women and children in performing tasks such as collection of necessary resources (fuel, food, water).
  • Biodiversity resources constitute important assets that can be used to undertake income-generating activities, particularly for women, indigenous communities and marginalized groups – means which can promote the achievement of gender equality.
  • Women need to be more prominently represented in environmental decision-making in inter-governmental fora, and consistent measures must be taken to ensure women’s needs are incorporated into international agendas.
  • Data collection, capacity and financial resources need to be increased to enable effective monitoring of gender mainstreaming in relation to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • Dedicated effort and action is needed to enable women’s consistent and effective involvement in governance, decision-making, access and benefit sharing related to the sustainable use of biodiversity.