Women Leaders at helm of COP17

Women are agents of change and can steer a successful outcome from the Durban Climate Change Negotiations

The importance of women’s leadership at COP17 was highlighted today by President of COP17/CMP7, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, South Africa, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and outgoing COP President, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mexico, Patricia Espinosa during the Opening Ceremony of the Seventeenth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa.

The international climate change negotiations are led by a growing group of women leaders and COP17 represents a real opportunity to demonstrate the value of women’s leadership.

COP17/CMP7 President, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said: “We now have women leaders at the helm of this COP and its CMP. The outgoing President is a woman and a very capable woman, the Executive Secretary is a woman and a capable woman and the incoming president is a woman. It is a very nice coincidence so we will not give up this opportunity to make use of it.”

In a reference to the grassroots women who are struggling with the impacts of climate change on their food security, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mexico, Patricia Espinosa said: “Many actors outside this process are ready to support our efforts. I have seen for example that women are actively seeking solutions and exercising leadership in their communities. Let us help empower them and boost their contributions“.

President of the Foundation, Mary Robinson, who attended the Opening Ceremony said: “We have an opportunity if we link the leadership of women at grassroots, their wisdom, their knowledge, their coping mechanisms with the fact that more and more women are ministers and leaders who have access to the negotiating tables and access to the important meetings where decisions are being taken. It is fitting that women are leading this COP, here on African soil, where women are responsible for 60-80% of food production but where the impacts of climate change are being felt in their daily lives. If we really show our strengths as women leaders in Durban, we will change the narrative, we will genuinely change the debate on climate change and find much more practical solutions for the future.”

The Foundation is co-hosting a high-level event with President of COP17, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, entitled Women Leaders’ Commitments on Gender and Climate Change on 7 December which will convene women Ministers and deputy Ministers, negotiators, key civil society figures and senior women leaders to discuss how to take a human-centred approach to climate change that incorporates gender and sustainable development.