The new global climate change agreement: what place for gender and human rights?

December 18, 2015

SOURCE: PSN/PSDA

PSN, along with other members of the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance (PSDA), has responded to the global climate change agreement recently announced at the COP21 climate change in Paris.

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PSDA's response: 

Whilst the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance (PSDA) welcomes the newly adopted ambitious global agreement on climate change, the lack of reference to human rights and gender equality in key operative clauses of the agreement is a disappointment. This is symptomatic of a wider absence of parties’ recognition of the situation of women and girls around the world already experiencing the harrowing effects of climate change and the detriment caused to their sexual and reproductive health, overall well-being and their ability to adapt.

What the agreement does

Many people around the world have hailed the new agreement on climate change, approved by 195 countries, as a historic one. Indeed it is the first agreement that commits nearly every country in the world to recognize and commit to lowering planet warming greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the most dramatic forms of climate change. The document states the planet's warming should be limited to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” and that nations should try to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. This is a “powerful signal” as US President Barack Obama put it, but the real results will be determined by the countries and their national actions in the realization of the Agreement.

What it does not do

Global climate trends appear to show that neither of the temperature goals - 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius - will be met by the national plans submitted by almost all countries ahead of the Paris conference. Instead, these Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) indicate the earth's average temperature by the end of this century will be close to 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Environmental experts say that the commitments made under the new agreement will cut global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by half of what is necessary to avoid what a 2 degree plus increase in temperatures will entail, namely rising sea levels, severe droughts, stronger storms and flooding, and wide spread food and water shortages. What the negotiators, from developed countries and the outspoken oil and petroleum exporting countries in particular, fail to acknowledge, is that these dramatic weather events are already taking place in many countries around the world. From the devastation caused throughout south-east Asia by Typhoon Hainan in 2013, to the catastrophic drought in Ethiopia throughout this year, and the recent widespread flooding in Chennai, India.

The current climate crisis is a human rights crisis, as the effects of climate change violate people’s rights to housing, safety, survival, food, water, and health. However, this is not reflected in the agreement, which only refers explicitly to the right to health, the rights of indigenous people and migrants, among others, in the non-binding preamble, and thus not in the operational text.

“The fact that human rights were actively deleted from the article of the agreement that describes its entire purpose sends a clear message to the world that climate change is merely a technical issue. But if we are not combatting and adapting to climate change for the sake of people, then who are we doing it for?” says Ida Klockmann, Advocacy Officer at the Danish Family Planning Association and chair of PSDA.

Women are on the front lines of climate change; as food and water shortages become more severe, women travel greater distances to collect essential resources like water, firewood and food to support their families, they are often threatened and abused. Gendered issues like these are not specified in the Paris Agreement, and that is problematic for two reasons:

One is that women and girls are more likely to suffer from the effects of climate change than their male counterparts. This is due to several reasons, including their greater vulnerability and health needs in natural disasters and in refugee situations.

Carina Hirsch, Advocacy and Policy Manager at the Population and Sustainability Network, PSDA Secretariat, says “there is nothing natural about natural disasters; they affect women and men very differently due to the social, economic and cultural constructs. We cannot continue to ignore gender and health dimensions in climate change discussions”.

The response to Typhoon Hainan failed to be gender sensitive; there were no sanitary items in the relief kits. The drought caused by the El Nino dry spell in Ethiopia is threatening the lives of over 10 million people, with women and girls at greatest risk. The extreme weather events in Bangladesh and India are also putting many young girls at risk of being married off as child brides. Young girls’ and women’s sexual and reproductive health and their overall wellbeing are being seriously limited and violated in such situations. Alison Marshall, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Senior Advocacy Adviser, says “ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights is key to enabling families to adapt to climate change”. These and other serious health consequences of climate change, are largely absent from the deal and were not the subject of any negotiations. This is cause for concern given that climate change has been labelled the greatest threat to public health of the 21st century.

Secondly, women and gender issues should have featured more strongly in the article about adaptation; we believe this reflects a failure to recognize the potential of women and girls in adapting to a changing climate. PSDA member organization the Asia Pacific Research and Research Centre (ARROW), affirms “there must be widespread recognition of the often pivotal role women play in adapting to climate change, acting as powerful agents of change at the household, community, and national levels”.

What it should have done

The Paris Agreement will govern global action against climate change from 2020 onwards. From the perspective of PSDA, which works on the linkages between sexual and reproductive health and rights and sustainability issues, Paris represents a missed opportunity for an agreement based on human rights that includes strong references to gender equality and health throughout the operative text, and robust mechanisms to hold developed nations accountable to their commitments to combat climate change.

However, Negash Teklu, Director and Founder of Population, Health and Environment Ethiopia Consortium, sums up the Paris agreement as “a step in the right direction in order to do what science is advising and what justice is demanding”.

VIDEO: A just and gender responsive climate agreement is key

December 16, 2015

Carina Hirsch, PSN Advocacy and Policy Manager and Alison Marshall, IPPF Senior Advocacy Adviser, spoke to UNFCCC TV at the COP21 climate change conference to share the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance’s call for COP 21. 

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PSN's Advocacy and Policy Manager, Carina Hirsch, was interviewed at the COP21 climate change conference along with Alison Marshall of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in order to present evidence and experiences on the important linkages between population, health and environment issues.

As Carina and Alison specify in the interview, in order to effectively implement mitigation and adaptation strategies, climate change policy discussions must consider both health and gender dimensions. In particular, evidence form the ground shows that improving access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and voluntary family planning in particular, is a win-win for women, communities, and the planet. 

 

 

PSN's call for gender day at COP21

December 8, 2015

On COP21's gender day, PSN calls for a global agreement on climate change that is equitable and gender-responsive and recognises the important role of women in climate solutions.

 

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Hear our call

Climate change does not affect men and women equally. Though some may argue that natural disasters such as floods do not discriminate, but rather wash away anyone in their path; young, old, men, women and children; they are contingent on economic, social and cultural relations and therefore have highly gendered effects. In developed and developing nations, poor and disadvantaged women are unequally affected by natural disasters and over-represented in death tolls. 

Climate change related disasters are forcing families to find quick solutions and women and girls often bear the brunt. In Bangladesh, young women and girls are being married off at very young ages during post-flood devastation as families hope to secure young women’s future, thus perpetuating early marriage and other harmful practices that severely limit women’s and girls’ reproductive and sexual health.

Women play an important role in the management and use of natural resources; their responsibilities of fetching water, food, and fuelwood for cooking, for example, makes them acutely aware of the state of the environment and the devastating effects of environmental degradation, including climate change.

Women, therefore, can be powerful agents of change through adaptation and mitigation activities in their households, workplaces, communities and countries. Indeed, to effectively, efficiently, and equitably respond to climate change, countries must develop gender-responsive mitigation and adaptation strategies- not least because women are among those disproportionately and adversely affected and are seldom included in relevant decision making processes to identify and implement climate solutions.

Universal access to voluntary sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information and services is vital to ensuring gender equality. Not only does it enable women and men to choose if, when and how many children to have but it also ensures that women are able to actively participate in society and the economy, to the betterment of society and the environment. For example, Population, Health and Environment programmes are a practical approach to building climate resilient communities.

In the remaining days of the climate negotiations, Ministers and other negotiators must seize the unique opportunity to affirm that gender equality, women’s empowerment and their full and equal participation are crucial and indispensable to transformational climate response and action.

As PSN, we are calling for a global agreement on climate change that is equitable and gender-responsive and recognises the important role of women in climate solutions.

COP 21: Breaking the silos for a healthier planet - addressing reproductive health matters to build climate resilient communities

December 2, 2015

SOURCE: PSN

PSN is the secretariat of the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance. On 1st December PSN joined several PSDA member organisations at the COP 21 climate change conference in Paris, for a side-event focusing on the importance of access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in building climate resilient communities.

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PSDA panel members at COP21

Showcasing integrated PHE successes

The event brought together several PSDA member organisations, including the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), the Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW) and PHE Ethiopia Consortium to present evidence and experiences on the importance of access to SRHR in building climate resilient communities.

Panellists presented the Population, Health and Environment (PHE) approach, which is being implemented in many countries around the world as a means to effectively link population and climate change with positive impacts for the most vulnerable populations and environments.

Dr Doreen Othero, LVBC, presented a video highlighting the successes that PHE programmes have had in the countries in which LVBC operates, including Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi. LVCB’s PHE programmes have a wide-reach and are targeting the most remote areas of this region.

“PHE programmes save organisations and communities time and resources as they are multi-disciplinary, integrated development programmes, thus also generating great community support” said Dr Othero.

Results from the LVBC region demonstrate that men are 40% more likely to support family planning programmes after having been involved in PHE programmes. Furthermore, women involved in PHE programmes are 4 times more likely to earn an income than those who are not involved.

COP 21 sign croppedDr. Manivone Thikeo, a researcher from ARROW, discussed her ongoing research on the link between health, and in particular women’s health, and climate change. She urged that increased attention must be paid to the particular negative effects of climate change on people’s health in developing countries, reminding us that “we are fighting for our health here and not just to reduce emissions”.

Ms Nalini Singh, ARROW, reinforced the importance of taking into account women’s needs in the face of climate change, especially as “many women around the world are already experiencing the drastic gendered effects of climate change disasters”.

Negash Teklu, PHE Ethiopia Consortium, presented evidence from Ethiopia. He remarked that Ethiopia was prone to drought and famine because the social, environmental and economic needs of the people and the country were not considered in an integrated manner. PHE programmes in Ethiopia are being implemented in the most over-populated and degraded areas. He also emphasised the importance of a rights-based approach to SRHR within PHE programmes and in development programmes in general.

A call to action

Alison Marshall, IPPF, moderated this multi-disciplinary panel and closed with a call to action to all participants: to speak to members of their delegations to raise awareness and understanding about the inter-linkages between population, health and environment, and the relevance of SRHR in climate change discussions.

Listen to the podcast

Listen to a recording of the event (Unfortunately, due to technical issues experienced by the venue organisers, a complete recording of the event is not available and we regret that Dr. Manivone Thikeo is not featured on this recording). 

IPPF features PSN's Sustainable Development Goals paper

November 27, 2015

SOURCE: PSN

IPPF is an active member of the Population and Sustainability Network (PSN) and has featured this recent PSN article on the Sustainable Development Goals in its blog. IPPF is a leading advocate for universal access to contraceptives, gender equality and safe abortion across the world. 

 

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The recently adopted 2030 development agenda, which includes an ambitious set of goals and targets, was hailed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world. PSN was delighted by the Secretary-General’s reference to “integration”. PSN wants to ensure, now attention is turning to the finalisation of the targets’ indicators, that the way in which the indicators are used, will support the Secretary-General’s vision.

At PSN our mission is to achieve “A world where everyone can decide freely whether, when, and how many children they want, for the benefit of all people and the planet” and so our work spans many of the SDGs and their respective targets. Whilst reaching target 3.7 (universal access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services) and target 5.6 (universal access to SRH and reproductive rights) are the core targets to achieve our mission, the SDGs and their targets are interconnected and so our work focusses on many other targets besides.

Integrated challenges are best solved with integrated solutions. Achieving the targets ending poverty (goal 1), achieving food security (goal 2), ensuring health (goal 3), achieving gender equality (goal 5), ensuring sustainable consumption (goal 12) and taking urgent action to combat climate change (goal 13) will all be substantially less challenging if everyone has access to quality voluntary family planning information, rights and services: in other words, successfully reaching targets 3.7 and 5.6. To reach all the deeply interwoven SDGs, we must remember not to lose sight of the wood (the SDGs) for the trees (the targets and indicators).

It is abundantly clear that the challenges we face, as set out in the SDGs, interrelate. It is therefore critical that when attention inevitably and imminently turns to working towards reaching those goals, that policy makers remember that when the challenges interrelate, so too must the solutions. Our paper focuses on some of the indicators which have been proposed under the targets most directly relevant to our mission and highlights the importance of the development sector not having an excessively narrow indicator driven view because, like the Secretary-General, we strongly believe in integration.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, sexual and reproductive health and rights and proposed indicators we present the dangers of narrowly focusing on a handful of indicators linked to each individual target and ignoring how the goals interrelate. We also present evidence of how development programmes integrating sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and environment interventions lead to greater gender, health and conservation outcomes than single sector development approaches. A failure to recognise the critical linkages between the SDGs will ultimately slow down progress to achieving them. SDG implementation and funding mechanisms must take this into account.

View this article on the IPPF site

Why women will save the planet

November 24, 2015

SOURCE: PSN

PSN’s Advocacy and Policy Manager, Sarah Fisher, has contributed to a new Friends of the Earth book, which illustrates that women’s equality is essential for the health of the environment and our future well-being.

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Friends of the Earth

The book, Why women will save the planet, is a collection of articles written by a range of academics, activists, and industry and political leaders, which forms part of a three-year research project called Big Ideas Change the World. The book argues that women’s equality is essential for the health of the environment and our future well-being and illustrates how, as the UN has stated, women are disproportionately affected both by poverty and by environmental pollution and mismanagement – and shows that this is no coincidence.

PSN’s chapter, Sexual and reproductive health and rights: a win-win for women and sustainability, takes a closer look at how sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and sustainability are linked, considers some of the common concerns and misconceptions about population issues, and proposes key strategies for drawing on the synergies between SRHR, gender equality and sustainable development.

We hope that this chapter and book will encourage more environmental activists to work collaboratively with women’s rights and SRHR organisations and activists to help empower women and girls, as without women’s full participation in society, full environmental sustainability will not be achieved.

The book will be launched later today but you can pre-order copies from the Friends of the Earth Shop.

Order online now using the discount code women2015 for the special price of £7.99.

PSN addresses Danish Parliamentarians on the links between population dynamics and climate change

November 17, 2015

SOURCE: PSN

PSN’s Karen Newman briefed Danish parliamentarians on the complex, controversial but critical links between population growth and climate change at an event in the Danish Parliament organised by the Danish Family Planning Association.

 

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Credit: Danish Parliament

Parliamentarians present included governmental delegates to the forthcoming 2015 Paris Climate Conference, which is aiming to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the objective of keeping global warming below 2°C.

Karen focused on the numbers of people on the move, and the importance of ensuring that a greater understanding of population dynamics, including migration, urbanization and population growth informs the world’s response to climate change. Several parliamentarians afterwards said that they had not known about these links before, and expressed an interest in receiving additional resource materials on these issues.

Woods and Trees: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and proposed indicators

November 17, 2015

SOURCE: PSN via MAHB

In response to the recently adopted 2030 development agenda, PSN's paper, “Woods and Trees”, outlines the need for more integrated solutions to interrelated challenges.

 

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Credit: © 2009 Rajal Thaker, Courtesy of Photoshare

A call for integration 

The recently adopted 2030 development agenda, which includes an ambitious set of goals and targets, was hailed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world. 

The Population and Sustainability Network (PSN) was delighted by the Secretary-General’s reference to “integration”. PSN wants to ensure, now attention is turning to the finalisation of the targets’ indicators (which were not simultaneously adopted and will help measure progress towards meeting the targets) that the indicators in their final form, and the way in which the indicators are used, will support the Secretary-General’s vision.

At PSN our mission is to achieve “A world where everyone can decide freely whether, when, and how many children they want, for the benefit of all people and the planet” and so our work spans many of the SDGs and their respective targets. Whilst reaching target 3.7 (universal access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services) and target 5.6 (universal access to SRH and reproductive rights) are the core targets to achieve our mission, the SDGs and their targets are interconnected and so our work focusses on many other targets besides.

Integrated challenges are best solved with integrated solutions. Achieving the targets ending poverty (goal 1), achieving food security (goal 2), ensuring health (goal 3), achieving gender equality (goal 5), ensuring sustainable consumption (goal 12) and taking urgent action to combat climate change (goal 13) will all be substantially less challenging if everyone has access to quality voluntary family planning information, rights and services: in other words, successfully reaching targets 3.7 and 5.6. To reach all the deeply interwoven SDGs, we must remember not to lose sight of the wood (the SDGs) for the trees (the targets and indicators).

In our paper, “Woods and Trees” The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, sexual and reproductive health and rights and proposed indicators we present the dangers of narrowly focusing on a handful of indicators linked to each individual target and ignoring how the goals interrelate. We also present evidence of how development programmes integrating sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and environment interventions lead to greater gender, health and conservation outcomes than single sector development approaches. A failure to recognise the critical linkages between the SDGs will ultimately slow down progress to achieving them. SDG implementation and funding mechanisms must take this into account.

It is abundantly clear that the challenges we face, as set out in the SDGs, interrelate. It is therefore critical that when attention inevitably and imminently turns to working towards reaching those goals, that policy makers remember that when the challenges interrelate, so too must the solutions. Indicators should do what they set out to do, provide an indication which becomes the basis of policy. Our paper focuses on some of the indicators which have been proposed under the targets most directly relevant to our mission and highlights the importance of the development sector not having an excessively narrow indicator driven view because, like the Secretary-General, we strongly believe in integration.

Read the full paper

 

PSN chairs UK London Launch of the 2015 FP2020 Progress Report

November 12, 2015

SOURCE: PSN

PSN’s Karen Newman chaired the virtual launch of the FP2020 progress report at an event hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation offices in London.

 

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The event was co-organised by Marie Stopes International, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the HIV/AIDS Alliance and Plan UK. Highlights from the FP2020 progress report, which was launched via video-link to Washington DC, were presented by FP2020 Executive Director Beth Schlachter.

As part of the launch event, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged an additional investment of $120 million over 3 years, which is a 25% increase of its financial commitment.

Following the report launch, Karen chaired a discussion, which included interventions from FP2020 via video link, Marie Stopes International, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and other UK civil society organisations.

Unprecedented number of women and girls using modern contraceptives in world's poorest countries

November 12, 2015

SOURCE: FP2020

The new FP2020 progress report released today notes that unprecedented numbers of women and girls are using modern contraceptives in world's poorest countries. Despite great momentum, immediate acceleration needed to reach Family Planning 2020 goal. 

 

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Credit: Meena Kadri via Flickr

Excellent progress is being made

According to a new report released today by Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), more women and girls than ever who want to avoid or delay a pregnancy —290.6 million—are voluntarily using modern contraceptives in the world’s poorest countries, an increase of 24.4 million from 2012. While significant strides have been made to reach the ambitious goal of enabling 120 million additional women and girls to access rights-based family planning by 2020, the report shows that FP2020 and its partners must take immediate action to speed up progress.

The FP2020 progress report, Commitment to Action 2014-2015, details achievements since the landmark 2012 London Summit on Family Planning.

The additional 24.4 million women using effective contraceptives, in the past year alone, have averted 80 million unintended pregnancies, 26.8 million unsafe abortions and 111,000 maternal deaths.

Countries, donors and organiations continue to join the global family planning movement, stepping forward with financial, policy or programmatic commitments. The Governments of Madagascar, Mali, Nepal and Somalia joined this year, as did private sector partners Bayer, Merck—known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada—and Pfier; the global nonprofit, Management Sciences for Health; and the International Contraceptive Access Foundation. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to increase its commitment to family planning by 25 percent over the next three years. Marie Stopes International committed to doubling its FP2020 goal, while the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Pathfinder International and Jhpiego renewed their commitments. More new and renewed commitments are expected in the coming months.

The report also reveals that family planning is increasingly a global development priority: donor governments have increased bilateral funding for family planning by one-third since 2012. The United States was the largest bilateral donor in 2014, providing $636.6 million—almost half (44%) of total bilateral funding. The United Kingdom was the second-largest bilateral donor, accounting for nearly one-quarter of all funding, at $327.6 million.

Despite progress, there are still millions of women who want to avoid or delay a pregnancy, but cannot access the information and tools to do it. Overall, the report shows that the effort to reach more women and girls is behind by 10 million in its 2015 projections.

The need to close the gap has implications, not just for 2020, but for the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in September.

Family planning is vital to sustainable development 

“This is a pivotal year in global development. With the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals, the new Global Strategy for Women’s Children’s and Adolescent’s Health and expanded financing mechanisms, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to chart the course for the world we want,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and Co-Chair of FP2020’s Reference Group. “Access to voluntary family planning saves and transforms lives. It empowers women and offers a pathway out of poverty. When millions more women have access to the modern contraceptives they need to choose whether, when and how many children to have, we will all be closer to achieving our common goals.”

The lessons learned, thus far, point to three areas where strengthening efforts will help accelerate progress: better understanding and meeting the reproductive health needs of adolescents, increasing the quality of services women receive and placing a greater focus on reaching the urban and rural poor.

“Thanks to the work of FP2020 partners, millions more women now have access to contraceptives, including the poorest, the most marginalied and the hardest to reach,” said Dr. Chris Elias, President of Global Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Co-Chair of FP2020’s Reference Group. “Yet our progress, while significant, is not matching our ambition. We need to take a hard look at the data, scale successful programs and invest smartly. I’m confident that we can keep our promise to millions of women, but only if we act now.”

Beth Schlachter, Executive Director of FP2020, added, “Our task is ambitious, but achievable. We know more now than we did three years ago and have data and on-the-ground experience to show what works and what doesn’t work. Through this global partnership, we have learned that we can make an enormous difference, but we must work together to empower women and girls to plan their own lives, families and futures. It’s a promise we made three years ago at the London Summit—and it’s one worth keeping.”

This article, published by FP2020, has been reproduced by PSN and does not necessarily reflect our views. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.