Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lack of female presence on climate change panel draws criticism

Rebekah Mintzer in Media Global: Women, particularly in developing nations, have a lot to lose from a failure to combat climate change worldwide. Consequently UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s 4 March announcement of the members of a climate change panel—a group that initially contained zero female representatives—struck many as odd. The new High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, assembled to determine how to direct funds secured at Copenhagen and apply them to thwarting climate change in developing countries, was criticized for having no female representatives out of the 19 people selected when it was announced. One woman, Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister has since been added, and, according to the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, it is likely that there will be more confirmations in the future.

“While the Secretary-General places emphasis on gender representation in the constitution of UN entities, a multitude of factors, such as nominations by governments, geographical representation and balance between developed and developing countries, were brought into play in the decision-making,” Ari Gaitanis, Associate UN Spokesperson for the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General told MediaGlobal. “The time constraint for the establishment of the group was an additional factor. These factors precluded appropriate attention to the gender balance.”

Women bear a disproportionate amount of the burden when it comes to climate change and its deleterious effects. As the keepers of the home in many countries, they are often in charge of gathering food, water, and fuel, three commodities that climate change will render more difficult to obtain. Some estimates indicate that women in developing nations are responsible for 70 percent of agricultural productivity, and climate change is poised to pose threats to crops. Women, especially those in developing countries, are also more likely to be in the crosshairs of natural disasters and extreme weather conditions that could arise with climate change. They are often not granted as much mobility as men because of societal restrictions and are more isolated from aid and information about disasters. According to a recent report released by Women’s Environmental Network, about 10,000 women already die from weather disasters a year, compared to 4,500 men.

These harsh realities have prompted many groups to advocate for a more gendered perspective on dealing with climate change. Marion Rolle, of Gender CC- Women for Climate Justice, a network of advocacy groups, pointed out that participation in climate change talks has not reflected the true gender balance, and that there was even a decrease in female heads of delegations at COP 15 in December 2009….

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