COP23 Gender Action Plan: What are the implications for agriculture?

The first ever UNFCCC Gender Action Plan aims to integrate gender and human rights into climate action. Photo: F. Fiondella (IRI/CCAFS)

Newly adopted Gender Action Plan recognizes the need for gender-responsive policy in all aspects of climate change adaptation and mitigation activities.

On 14 November 2017, the first ever UNFCCC Gender Action Plan was adopted at COP23. A landmark decision, it is a step forward for integrating gender equality and human rights into climate action. Its overall goal is to support the implementation of the gender-related decisions and mandates in the UNFCCC process so far, with a set of specific activities identified for the next 2 years.

The GAP recognizes that gender-responsive policy needs strengthening in all activities relating to adaptation and mitigation as well as implementation processes (finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building) and that women should participate in decision-making on the implementation of climate policies. It also recognizes that all targets and goals in activities under the Convention should mainstream gender in order to increase their effectiveness. This resonates very clearly with commitments in the Paris Agreement (2015) to mainstream gender in adaptation actions and capacity development.

Five priority areas were defined as critical to achieving gender objectives:

  1. Capacity-building, knowledge sharing, and communication – increase         understanding of all stakeholders on how to integrate gender into policy and planning
  2. Gender balance, participation, and women’s leadership – as a followup to the Lima programme on gender which outlined commitments to increase the participation of women in climate negotiations at national and global levels, this plan continues to seek, “achieve and sustain the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in the UNFCCC process.”
  3. Coherence – strengthen the integration of gender in the work of UNFCCC bodies, the secretariat, and other United Nations entities and stakeholders
  4. Gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation – ensure the respect, promotion, and consideration of gender equality and the empowerment of women in implementation of the Convention and the Paris Agreement.
  5. Monitoring and reporting – improve tracking of implementation and reporting on UNFCCC gender-related mandates. 

The GAP is a solid step forward in encouraging gender-responsive climate action at the national level and in focusing on implementation of climate policy and commitments. It moves beyond the limited approach of gender balance in policy negotiations to integrating gender equality in all sectors of climate policy and action.

This is important progress. Accelerating increases in climate variability and extreme weather events are causing population movements within and across borders and may have unprecedent impacts on farming communities’ livelihoods, food security, water availability, and public health. Significant shifts in agricultural production zones (see Laderach et al. 2010; Gourdji et al. 2014) and migration are transforming rural economies, landscapes, and potentially, gender relations. One of the results of these trends, the “feminization” of agriculture (World Bank 2015) has relevance for all given agriculture’s role in regional food security, national shared prosperity, and household resilience to shocks. In addition to their role in childcare, health, and sanitation, women are smallholder farmers as well as environmental and natural resource managers. Their dependence on biomass for cooking and vulnerability to disasters makes them important partners for mitigation and disaster reduction. Women are active agents in responding and adapting to the impacts of climate change and engaging in mitigation strategies. If policy and action do not address climate change’s varying impacts on women and men and promote gender equality, global gender inequalities will increase, including the gender gap in agriculture.

Gender advocates have been calling attention to this gap in climate policy for some time. The Action Plan is a positive step forward and, as women's and civil society groups have noted, a potentially important accelerator in advancing gender equality. However, it will need to be accompanied by strong implementation that is supported by ongoing financial commitments to achieve gender-responsive policies in all areas.

Agriculture is not identified specifically as an important sector for attention, but several aspects of the plan have significant implications for gender equality:

  1. The FAO and World Bank have identified a gender gap in productivity in agriculture which stems from unequal access to inputs and resources such as finance, information, training, and resources. We know that there are gender differences in adoption of technologies and use of purchased inputs. A major challenge is to identify the context-specific technologies and supporting measures that may be needed; and the trade-offs and co-benefits that different combinations of options will benefit women and help transform agriculture and rural development in ways that promote gender equality. This means the finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building strategies developed to address adaptation and mitigation will need to target these gender differences in access, productivity, and opportunity.
  2. In relation to capacity building, knowledge sharing, and communication, policy makers and implementors at all levels need training in and access to knowledge on the gender gap in agriculture and approaches to increasing the empowerment of women smallholders – project design, analysis, and indicators. This includes the development of toolkits and guidelines on gender and climate-resilience agriculture (Examples include the CCAFS-CARE Gender and Inclusion Toolbox and the GACSA-FAO-CCAFS Practice Brief, A Guide to Gender-responsive Climate-Smart Agriculture). For example, Uganda has organized workshops for policymakers and agricultural technical experts on decision making tools for gender and adaptation, particularly for climate-resilient gender-sensitive value chain analysis and impact evaluation.
  3. Clear indicators and targets for monitoring and reporting based on sex-disaggregated data are needed to measure gender results in terms of the ability of women and men to access resources and opportunities for increased resilience and production, develop sustainable agribusinesses, retain control of assets, and participate meaningfully in household- and community-level decision making and leadership. At the national level, data and indicators are needed to assess the role of women in agriculture beyond the formal labourforce – to assess gender differences in productivity, contributions to food security, control over land and other assets, and labour patterns.

CCAFS is working with the African Working Group on Gender and Climate Change (AWGGCC), a group of experts from the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN), Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), NGOs and national and international research Institutions, to support gender submissions to the UNFCCC. The AWGGCC produced a gender responsive framework for implementing the Paris Agreement in Africa which highlights opportunities for African countries to implement gender-equitable solutions to climate change within the context of the Agreement. Earlier this year, CCAFS and AWGGCC assisted the AGN in drafting a submission on the Gender Action Plan in UNFCCC in May 2017 at SBI46. CCAFS and AWGGCC will continue to work together in 2018-2019 to train policymakers on gender mainstreaming in climate policy and undertake national assessments in 10 African countries on gender and climate change.

The UNFCCC Gender Action Plan is a positive step towards integrating gender equality and human rights into climate action. To achieve this, the global community and national governments will need to recognize women as active agents in managing local environments and contributing to agricultural production. As such, they should be considered partners in adapting to the impacts of climate change and reducing greenhouse emissions. Mechanisms need to be established for women and civil society to express opinions, take initiatives, and influence decisions, while finance needs to be made available for women’s local-level initiatives and businesses. Multistakeholder partnerships and approaches that include women, youth, and civil society are needed not only to build gender-sensitive climate action, but to achieve global climate goals and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Sophia Huyer is the Gender and Social Inclusion Leader at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Tatiana Gumucio is a Post-doctoral Fellow on Gender and CIS with CCAFS, and Mary Nyasimi is a Gender and Social Inclusion Science Officer with CCAFS.