UN CEDAW committee adopts General Recommendation on States' women's rights obligations with climate-related disaster risk reduction

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Article
14 March 2018

General Recommendation No. 37 on gender-related dimensions of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change

Author: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

The human rights consequences of... [climate change] are apparent in political and economic instability, growing inequality, declining food and water security and in increased threats to health and livelihoods... As a result of [gender] inequalit[y], women and girls are more likely to be exposed to disaster induced risks and losses related to their livelihoods and they are less able to adapt to changes in climatic conditions... [and] face a heightened risk of gender-based violence during and following disasters.

... In light of the significant challenges and opportunities for the realization of women’s human rights presented by climate change and disaster risk, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (the Committee), has decided to provide specific guidance to State parties on the implementation of obligations related to disaster risk reduction and climate change under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women... In relation to non-State actors, States parties should: (a) Create conducive environments for gender responsive investment in disaster and climate change prevention, mitigation and adaptation, including through... the promotion of renewable energies; (b) ...Create incentives for women to engage in businesses involved in sustainable development and climate resilient livelihood activities in areas such as the clean energy sector and agro-ecological food systems. Businesses working in these areas should also be encouraged to increase the numbers of women they employ, particularly in leadership positions; (c) Conduct gender impact analyses of any proposed public-private partnerships in the areas of disaster risk reduction and climate change... [and] (d) Adopt regulatory measures to protect women from human rights violations caused by private business actors.

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Article
14 March 2018

Statement on gender related dimensions of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change

Author: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

The General Recommendation is the first interpretive guidance on disaster risk reduction and climate change to be issued by a United Nations human rights treaty body to support the efforts of States parties. The Committee emphasizes that the disproportionate impact that climate change and disasters have on women and girls must be addressed through women’s empowerment and by achieving substantive gender equality... The need for concerted efforts cannot be overemphasized as the adverse impacts of climate change and disasters are trans-boundary. In the General Recommendation, the Committee underscores that States have obligations both within and outside their territory to ensure the full implementation of the Convention, including in the areas of disaster risk reduction and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Measures such as limiting fossil fuel use, reducing trans-boundary pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and promoting the transition to renewable energies are regarded as crucial steps in mitigating the negative human rights impact of climate change and disasters globally. Any steps taken by States to prevent, mitigate and respond to climate change and disasters within their own jurisdictions and extraterritorially must be firmly grounded in the human rights principles of substantive equality and non-discrimination, participation and empowerment, accountability and access to justice, transparency and rule of law.

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Article
14 March 2018

Tackling Gender Disparity at the Intersection of Human Rights and Climate Change

Author: Olivia Bonner, CIEL

CEDAW has often noted that climate change and natural disasters disproportionately impact women. Since 2009, CEDAW has worked to “ensure that climate change and disaster risk reduction measures are gender responsive, sensitive to indigenous knowledge systems and respect human rights.”... The General Recommendation brings these obligations together in one place to provide guidance to all 189 parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Convention). This General Recommendation will be the first document adopted by a human rights treaty body that directly and authoritatively interprets how States must integrate international human rights obligations into climate action... The General Recommendation focuses on three key principles: (1) equality and non-discrimination; (2) participation and empowerment; and (3) accountability. 

... The General Recommendation also acknowledges that climate action affects other women’s rights, including the rights of children (girls), women in indigenous populations, women in poverty, women with disabilities, and older women. The General Recommendation addresses several areas of concern where women are especially at risk due to the impacts of climate change, including the right to an adequate standard of living (including food, water, and sanitation), the rights to education and information, gender-based violence against women (particularly in the wake of climate change disaster responsiveness), and migration and forced displacement due to climate change.

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