About this Project
MRFCJ's 'Women Leadership on Climate Justice' Project was a time-bound initiative, culminating in our activities at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP16) in Cancún, Mexico, which aimed to facilitate greater interaction of women’s organisations, individual leaders and climate change groups from the global North and South in a network of leadership on climate justice and gender.
The work of the project connects local, grassroots and indigenous women with government and UN representatives, women Ministers, and other senior women leaders with the goal of promoting climate justice and a gender perspective on climate change.
The project has also contributed to the further development by MRFCJ of the concept of climate justice, and particularly of a gender perspective as an integral element within it.
The 'Women's Leadership on Climate Justice' project was supported by The Rockefeller Foundation as the first initiative of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (MRFCJ). The key action of the project was to facilitate greater interaction of women’s organizations, individual leaders and climate change groups from the global North and South in a network of leadership on climate justice and gender. The time-specific initiative was undertaken over six months in preparation for and during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 16 / CMP 6) in Cancún, Mexico in November and December 2010.
The overall project objective was to ensure that both climate justice and the gender perspective on climate change were adequately represented at COP 16 and that there was maximum dissemination of relevant information.
The project's networking effort connected local, grassroots and indigenous women with government and UN representatives, women Ministers, and other senior women leaders. It also aimed to complement existing organizations and networks working on climate justice and gender and enable them to achieve a greater level of impact.
Project Activities in Advance of COP 16
The initial activity of the project involved compiling a list of individuals and organizations worldwide working on gender and climate change. Articles and reference material on gender and climate justice were collated to provide an introduction to the topics.
Outreach was done both via telephone and in-person meetings and included informal briefings around the concept of climate justice. Later bilateral meetings with a range of gender experts and advocates in New York were arranged in September to involve them in the network.
During those contact sessions key issues began to emerge that were considered central to COP 16. These issues were:
- Climate change funding
- Forests and REDD+
- Lack of a gender perspective in some areas of the negotiating text (particularly mitigation and finance)
- Monitoring mechanisms
- National planning for both developed and developing countries
Following these bilateral meetings, MRFCJ and Realizing Rights co-hosted an initial strategizing meeting in New York on 17 September 2010 entitled Women's Leadership on Climate Justice: Planning for Cancún and Beyond.
The 17 September meeting preceded a week of international meetings in New York City, including the United Nations MDG Summit and the Clinton Global Initiative. This scheduling allowed the priorities and messages of women's leadership on climate justice to be brought into other events throughout this following week, resulting in exposure to a larger audience of policy-makers, businesspeople, global civil society, activists and the media.
Arising from earlier partnership discussions and linked to the strategizing meeting, an Op Ed by Mary Robinson and Wangari Maathai was proposed to highlight the need for women's leadership in achieving the MDGs and in addressing climate change, and calling for women, particularly from the global South, to participate in national and global decision-making. Led by RR and GBM in consultation with the partnership a draft text was developed for the Op-Ed entitled Women Can Lead the Way in Tackling Development and Climate Changes Together. The final Op-Ed was published in The Huffington Post on 20 September 2010.
Arising from the strategizing meeting, an informal Women's Leadership on Climate Justice email communication network was created involving all participants. The network quickly expanded to include over 60 members. The network helped facilitate cooperation and strengthened the combined efforts of members in preparation for COP 16.
A full list of network members is available and permission was given by all of them to directly share their email addresses, facilitating direct communication rather than solely to the group or via MRFCJ Research Officer, Sharon Jackson as network coordinator. The network was used to distribute presentations, the participant list and biographies from the strategising meeting, and to share documents for feedback and information. The network served to introduce to one another women working in many sectors, countries and levels of governance from communities to national governments and international agencies, many of whom had not met despite working in related areas. Network members attending COP 16 shared information about their plans, attendance dates and official and unofficial events. A compilation of gender-related events at COP 16 was circulated and added to. Those not travelling to Cancún brought its messages to other events, such as the GlobalPOWER international workshop of female parliamentarians (October 2010), the Gender Dimension in Climate Change and Risk Management conference in Mexico City (November 2010), and the TEDWomen conference (December 2010).
The strategizing meeting and network formation led to a number of spin-off connections. For example, Women's Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO) linked with Maldives and Pacific Small Island Developing States in advance of the Tianjin UNFCCC inter-sessional meeting; the Deputy Permanent Representative/Minister, Republic of Maldives was connected by the network with the Centre for Policy Studies and the National Democratic Institute; and Lifeline Energy was linked further to E+CO.
Project Activities at COP 16
Women's Leadership on Climate Justice activities at COP 16 were central to the project's key objective of ensuring that both climate justice and the gender perspective on climate change were adequately represented at COP 16 and that there was maximum dissemination of relevant information.
To this end MRFCJ undertook the following activities:
- Co-hosted two linked events in Cancún
- Issued a Statement on Women’s Leadership
- Convened a network meeting
- Enabled a representative group to participate
In the first weeks of the project MRFCJ entered a partnership with Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative (RR), the Green Belt Movement (GBM), Nobel Women's Initiative (NWI) and the Climate Wise Women (CW2) to develop an application to UNFCCC for an official side event at COP 16.
The event also linked women’s groups and aimed to influence perspectives at COP 16.
Women's Leadership on Climate Change Justice and the Grassroots Perspective was hosted on 4 December and focused on grassroots activity in relation to REDD+ and forests.
The official side event drew a large and enthusiastic audience. Panellists, respondents and the audience discussed strategies for women's participation in decision-making on climate change, and explored issues including:
- Mitigation and emissions levels
- Lessons from the grassroots on REDD+
- Climate justice
- Local solutions
- Ensuring funds reach local communities
- Protecting indigenous rights
- Educational tools for awareness-raising
- The responsibility of taking leadership
- The need to recognise women's rights
An important element of the project has been its efforts to amplify the voices of grassroots women already coping with the effects of climate change on their communities. Following the strategizing meeting of September 17, MRFCJ identified among the network members several community leaders from the global South who could be potential representatives at COP 16. Two women were financially supported for their travel and attendance at the conference and logistically in preparation for and during their participation. They were Ursula Rakova of the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea and Constance Okollet of Uganda who are both members of Climate Wise Women. A number of other potential candidates identified for support, particularly representatives of indigenous groups, had funding from elsewhere to attend. Links made through the network led to WEDO, a UNFCCC admitted organization, agreeing to nominate Constance and Ursula on behalf of MRFCJ for accreditation at COP 16.
Representing themselves and their communities, Ursula Rakova and Constance Okollet brought to COP 16 the realities of climate change and its human impacts, and were powerful advocates for gender and climate justice perspectives. Constance spoke as a panellist and Ursula as a respondent at the MRFCJ side event. The two community leaders brought grassroots perspectives to the high-level event. Constance presented at a meeting of female negotiators supported by the WEDO Women Delegates Fund, and Ursula later met with some of these delegates. Both Constance and Ursula met with their respective government delegations, Uganda and Papua New Guinea (PNG).
To support the objectives of the meeting, MRFCJ also issued a media statement on Women Leaders on Climate Justice. The statement underscored the need for women leaders to play a greater role in innovating, deciding and implementing the solutions that are so urgently required to respond to the challenge of climate change. It noted that climate change ultimately places a greater burden on women, due to existing gender roles and inequalities, but also that women are powerful agents of change. It called for the voices of women in the global South to be heard.
MRFCJ produced a short 'calling card' defining climate justice and outlining key actions was produced in print and on-line versions and distributed for the first time in Cancún. This was an important resource in strategically briefing project participants and in promoting climate justice and gender perspectives to the broader audience at COP 16. Social media including Twitter and Facebook were also used to provide information throughout the project.
In recognition of the fact that climate change negotiations are, for the first time, chaired by a growing group of women leaders, Ambassador Patricia Espinosa, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mexico and Mary Robinson convened a side event
Women Leaders on Climate Change on 6 December in Cancún.
This high level meeting convened an invited group of women Ministers, negotiators, key civil society figures and senior women leaders to discuss a human-centered approach to climate change that incorporates human rights and sustainable development.
Mary Robinson moderated a panel of Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mexico and President of COP 16; Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary; Connie Hedegaard; Lykke Friis, Minister for Climate and Energy and Minister for Gender Equality, Denmark; and María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Coordinating Minister of Heritage/Culture, Ecuador. Each panellist spoke powerfully and often personally about the potential for women's leadership to make a difference to the challenge of climate change. The event was attended by an audience of well over 200 negotiators, civil society representatives, Ministers and deputy Ministers.
A key outcome of the meeting was the proposal to form a 'Troika +' of women Ministers plus other women leaders on gender, climate change and climate justice. Other key messages included the desire for strong collaboration on gender for COP 17, including an on-line forum, and the need for a broad and inclusive approach to addressing climate change.
An informal meeting of the Women's Leadership on Climate Justice network was convened by Mary Robinson, facilitated by Oxfam who made their conference venue available, and over half of the network members at COP 16 at that time attended. The meeting gave attendees an opportunity to meet face-to-face and to update one another on events and progress at COP 16. Information shared included details in relation to the state of play regarding inclusion of gender in the negotiating texts, and perspectives on this issue from the network meeting directly fed into the high-level event the following day.
Lively discussions spilled over the time allocated and many members remained talking afterwards. Around half of the total of 60 network members were in Cancún at different points and there was on-going communication with the network during the conference, as well as informal get-togethers by individual members. It is hoped that this interaction assisted other network members in their promotion of gender and climate justice approaches more broadly, in their capacities representing their own organisations.
Measures of Progress and Impact for the Project
The following measures were used by MRFCJ to assess its progress and impact on the debate:
- Informal Women’s Leadership on Climate Justice communication network is established and active, involving representatives from key sectors and organizations in the global North and South, and promoting climate justice and gender messages
- A clear understanding of climate justice and the importance of gender is brought to key high-level government representatives and large numbers of other individuals involved in global climate change discussions
- Climate justice and gender issues are well represented at COP 16 at multiple levels, including through two events co-hosted by MRFCJ, one event highlighting grassroots and community leadership and another engaging women Ministers and senior leaders
- Women leaders at grassroots, local, national, UN and senior levels are increasingly engaged and visible in the climate change debate, particularly in promoting a climate justice and gender-responsive approach.
The project activities have endeavoured to promote the integration of a climate justice and gender perspective into the outcomes of COP 16 on mitigation, adaptation and key sub-topics of climate change.
Participation of representative grouping at Cancún
Apart from MRFCJ activities, Mary Robinson was centrally involved with Oxfam and other activities at Cancún. Oxfam had identified the need for a gender perspective in the proposed new Green Climate Fund, and Mary Robinson took part in an Oxfam Press Conference and bilateral meetings with official negotiators at which this issue was stressed as a priority.
She also spoke at an event on women’s leadership in the green economy, organised by Earth Day Network (EDN) and the United Nations Foundation (UNF). Her involvement in this event was coordinated with the organisers by Research Officer, Sharon Jackson as complementary to the Women’s Leadership on Climate Justice project, and both EDN and UNF became network members. Mary Robinson highlighted REDD+ and finance as key gender issues throughout COP 16.
Constance and Ursula gave print, on-line and television interviews while in Cancún. Through network contacts, UNIFEM recommended Ursula and Constance as interviewees for Outreach magazine and for the gender and climate change 'live' programme on One Climate TV at COP 16. They also met with prospective funders and had many informal networking opportunities. Both attended a large number of side events and discussions and reported that they had gained a great deal of knowledge and experience from attending the conference.
The project completed all five proposed activities, which contributed to the following outcomes:
A key outcome was the idea proposed at the high-level event to create a ‘Troika +’ of women leaders on climate change, led by the governments of Denmark, Mexico and South Africa and involving other women leaders in advance of COP 17 in Durban. The commitment, suggested by Danish Minister Friis, received the support of Minister Patricia Espinosa and others present at the meeting and subsequently. MRFCJ is following up with the Government of Mexico as the event co-host in order to progress this initiative.
High audience attendance at both the side and high-level events, and the quality of participants and debate at both, are indicative of a significant but still often untapped interest in gender and climate justice at all levels – among civil society, local communities, negotiators and senior leaders. Despite the unprecedented number of women in key positions at the UNFCCC and occupying global climate change policy positions, Patricia Espinosa mentioned that the high-level event was the first time she had been invited to speak on women and gender at the COP!
The two events, the Statement on Women’s Leadership, activities by network representatives, network communications, distribution of the climate justice 'calling card' and the use of a variety of media succeeded in bringing these issues and relevant information to large numbers at COP 16. The project activities as a whole achieved the overall policy objective of ensuring that climate justice and gender perspectives were represented at COP 16 and that information was disseminated widely.
The establishment of a Global Green Climate Fund was an important step in assisting developing countries to address climate change effects. Earlier in the negotiations, the Fund referenced gender for the first time, by requiring gender considerations in the composition of its board. However, neither this nor stronger language reflecting gender equality made it into the final agreement. But in her Message to Parties (CF/NAW/eps) issued in late December seeking nominations to the Fund Christiana Figueres invited all to bear in mind the mandate and criteria for membership, recall decision 36/CP.7 on improving the participation of women in UNFCCC bodies and to give due consideration to the nomination of women. MRFCJ hopes this request will be reflected in the nominations received.
Eight references to gender were included in the LCA outcome text, under preamble, shared vision, adaptation, mitigation, capacity building and technology. There was greater emphasis on gender in the decisions of the Subsidiary Bodies, which importantly support countries in national implementation. Under SBSTA, the Nairobi Work Programme will support countries in building the capacity of relevant stakeholders, including women, to utilize its tools to assess impacts, vulnerability and adaptation. Under SBI, the mandate of the LDCs Expert Group was extended to provide technical guidance and advice on gender within LDCs, and gender balance will also be considered. Much remains to be done, but alongside the determined actions of many others, MRFCJ hopes the project's work in promoting a gender perspective helped contribute to the outcome of greater inclusion of gender in the Cancún Agreements.
The creation of the Women's Leadership on Climate Justice communication network itself is an important outcome, having connected over 60 women working at different levels and sharing an interest in gender and climate justice. Electronic communication and face-to-face meetings, on 17th September in New York and at the two events and the network meeting in Cancún, facilitated sharing of information, developed ideas, strengthened collaborative action and supported the community of dedicated women working on gender and climate change for COP 16. An important feature of the project's networking activities was its success in connecting women at the grassroots with government and senior leaders. The network has now been established and maintained and, in a suitably modified form, can continue to be a valuable resource in the lead-up to COP 17 for MRFCJ and other organizations within the network.
Given the suspicion and antagonism that characterised global climate change negotiations at and following COP 15 in Copenhagen, it was important that COP 16 endeavoured to rebuild trust in the relationships between developed and developing countries and in the UN system as a whole. The role of women in rebuilding that trust proved critical, including the leadership shown by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Figueres and President of COP 16 Espinosa. It can be hoped that MRFCJ contributed to strengthening trust through its events which brought together representatives of multiple sectors and countries, and which promoted a collaborative and constructive understanding.
There was strong interest expressed in continuing to collaborate more broadly to strengthen the gender dimension of climate change policy in preparation for COP 17. Panellists at the high-level event committed to keeping the gender dialogue open during 2011, and Mexico promised support for this in an inclusive way on the road to Durban. An on-going policy forum was suggested, including a website portal on women’s leadership on climate justice, to facilitate interaction between women Ministers, women’s organizations and other gender groups. Partners from the side event are keen to continue collaboration with MRFCJ on future events, and additional partnerships have been initiated through the network that can be built on for COP 17 and beyond, including Rio +20 in 2012.
While difficult to quantify, it seems fair to conclude that the project contributed to ensuring a greater focus on gender and climate justice in the agenda and outcomes of COP 16. In terms of the project's measures of impact, substantial progress was made in each area. The commitment by senior leaders to engage in the 'Troika +', increasing interest in gender and climate justice, the participation in and growth of the network, additional references to gender in the Cancún Agreements and greater trust in the process are significant outcomes to be built on for COP 17.
The Women's Leadership on Climate Justice project has helped highlight the power of women's leadership in ensuring action on global climate change. It has shown that there is significant value and widespread interest in bringing climate justice and gender perspectives to this immense challenge. As the project has indicated, it can be hoped that increased participation of women leaders at grassroots, local, national and international levels will lead to greater success in addressing climate change in the future.
MRFCJ would like to acknowledge the support of The Rockefeller Foundation for the Women's Leadership on Climate Justice project.
Women Leaders Can Turn Commitments on Climate Change and Gender Equality
into Action on the Ground
- 24 October 2011
Green Belt Movement articles and photos from events at COP 16
Green Belt Movement blog entry after side event
Nobel Women's Initiative article after side event
Women's Leadership on Climate Justice: Planning for Cancún and Beyond
Official MRFCJ COP 16 Side Event - United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancún - 29 Nov - 10 Dec 2010
Women Leaders on Climate Change: COP 16 Special Side Event - 6 December 2010
MRFCJ welcomes Cancún Agreements - calls for reinstatement of gender dimension