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Women’s perspectives marginalized at Rio+20 Intersessional Meeting

Women's Major Group disappointed that women's perspectives were largely missing in discussion at first day Rio +20 interssessional in New York

18.01.2011 |Sascha Gabizon and Gail Karlsson

The Women’s Major Group is disappointed that women’s perspectives were largely missing in the discussions at the first day of Rio+20 intersessional, despite the fact that the MDG Review Summit held in September 2010 recognized the critical importance of investing in expanded opportunities for women and girls as a basis for sustainable development, and the World Bank has concluded that investing in women is the best way of investing in communities.

Gail Karlsson, Energia International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy and Sascha Gabizon, Women in Europe for a Common Future

Ensuring greater social equity
The all-male panels speaking on the first day did not focus on this, and the representative of the new UN Women entity was chided by the Chair for his statement on gender equity issues since this was outside the scope of the afternoon presentations on the green economy.

It is clear that achieving the Millennium Development Goals and responding effectively to environmental threats cannot be accomplished without greater social equity and engagement of women, including rural and indigenous women, in sustainable initiatives to promote food security, energy access, forest and land restoration, and new socially and environmentally sustainable business enterprises - as farmers, land managers, community leaders, technology designers, and entrepreneurs.

Achim Steiner of UNEP mentioned that four variables are essential for implementing a green economy: policies, enabling environments, finance and access to technology. Indeed these are important, but currently large segments of the population lack significant influence on these variables. Rio+20 offers an opportunity to focus on ensuring greater social equity.

On policy
The ability of women to find sustainable livelihoods, or start green businesses, is often constrained by legal, economic and social barriers. In many countries, women produce 80% of food, but own only 1% of the land. We need to promote policy and legislative changes that secure women’s property rights, land tenure, and access to natural resources. We would also like to see targets for women’s access to green jobs, and sustainable energy sources for new income-generating activities. Government policies, legislation and investments in women can effectively boost women’s opportunities for economic empowerment and their contributions to national sustainable development priorities.

On finance
Government investments in women can effectively boost women’s opportunities for economic empowerment and their contributions to national sustainable development priorities. A roadmap for a green economy will require new financing and credit facilities dedicated to women’s green business development.

On technology transfer
It has been noted that sustainability depends on the ability to make environmentally friendly technology more widely available. We would like to expand on this idea by also emphasizing the need for women-friendly technologies - ones that can free up women’s time, expand their access to communications and information, and provide new opportunities for sustainable livelihoods and improved food production.

On enabling environments
We recommend that gender balance should be required on all management boards, expert panels and advisory groups, and that gender analysis should be conducted to ensure equal access to benefits and opportunities for men and women. An example can be see in Norway where legislation asks all private and public companies to have 40% women on their boards. We also seek support for policies that specifically offer technology training and business management skills for women so that they can enter new green business sectors.

Possible outcomes?
Rio 2012 needs to bring renewed commitments in the area of the governance of sustainable development. One suggestion is to establish a structure to deal with complaints by communities affected by unsustainable economic activities. We also can learn from the UNECE Aarhus Convention, which has implemented the Rio principle 10 through a legally binding mechanism for access to information, justice and public participation.

We call on governments to contribute at the highest level to a successful UNCSD summit in 2012. We believe that real commitment is expressed through legally binding measures, for example by renewable energy laws, by clear targets for sustainable development, and measurable, verifiable implementation plans.

Outcomes of Rio 2012 should include:
  • a negotiated agreement at the ministerial/heads of state level
  • a negotiated road map on a green, socially equitable economy, with measurable and verifiable targets, indicators and timelines
  • a new structure or coordination system for international governance of sustainable development that recognizes the essential role of women in sustainable development
  • coordinated initiatives by civil society, governments, and businesses.
Read the full article in Outreach, multi stakeholder magazine on environment and sustainable development

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