(New York, 25 March – The 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66)—the second largest UN intergovernmental meeting in New York—closed its two-week long session today (14 to 25 March) acknowledging the important role of women and girls as agents of change for sustainable development, in particular safeguarding the environment and addressing the adverse effects of climate change. The agreed conclusions adopted by Member States are a blueprint for world leaders to promote women’s and girls’ full and equal participation and leadership in the designing and implementation of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies and programmes moving forward.

Press release: UN Commission on the Status of Women reaffirms women’s and girls’ leadership as key to address climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction for all

The 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women closed with the adoption of agreed conclusions on 25 March, 2022. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

The Executive Director of UN Women, Sima Bahous, said: “The agreements reached by the Commission come at a point when the world urgently needs new and coherent solutions to the interlocking crises that impact us all. We now have a pathway with practical, specific measures for global resilience and recovery, and a shared understanding that solutions depend on bringing women and girls to the centre. Let’s capitalize on the work done here, put these agreements into immediate practice and move these decisions forward through all the major forums ahead, including COP27.”

CSW66 recognized with concern the disproportionate impacts of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters on all women and girls that can include loss of homes and livelihoods, water scarcity, destruction and damage to schools and health facilities and stressed the urgency of eliminating persistent historical and structural inequalities, discriminatory laws and policies, negative social norms and gender stereotypes that perpetuate multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. As a result of displacement, including forced and prolonged displacement, women and girls face specific challenges, including separation from support networks, increased risk of all forms of violence, and reduced access to employment, education, and essential health-care services, including sexual and reproductive health-care services, and psychosocial support. 

The Commission also expressed concern that the economic and social fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the impacts of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters and has pushed people further behind and into extreme poverty. The global pandemic has also increased the demand for unpaid care and domestic work and reported incidents of all forms of violence. 

The Commission called on the United Nations system, international financial institutions and multi-stakeholder platforms to continue supporting Member States to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes. Only by addressing the underlining barriers that exacerbate women’s and girls’ vulnerabilities in their social and economic status, safety, well-being and livelihoods, will it be possible to tackle the pervasive disadvantages in access to, ownership of and control over land and resources; equal access to services such as universal healthcare and quality education, gender-based violence prevention; and the equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work which hampers women’s resilience and rights. 

The outcome document calls for leveraging and strengthening the full, equal and meaningful participation and influence of women and girls. Specific efforts must be made to amplify the voices and knowledge of marginalized women, including indigenous women, older women, women with disabilities, migrant women and those living in rural, remote, conflict and disaster-prone areas. Their inputs must be heard and included in the management, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources and climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives and programmes. 

Initiatives to address climate change, environmental and disaster and risk reduction must consider the following:

  • Promoting women’s and girls’ full and equal participation and leadership to make natural resource management and climate, environment and disaster risk action more effective. Women and girls are taking climate and environment action at all levels, but their voice, agency and participation needs to be further supported, resourced, valued and recognized. 
  • Expanding gender-responsive finance at scale for climate and environment action and to reach women’s organizations, enterprises and cooperatives. Following the commitments undertaken under the Paris Agreement and the Glasgow Climate Pact on mitigation, adaptation and the provision and mobilization of finance, technology transfer and capacity-building, developed countries need to mobilize and meet their obligation to developing countries and small island developing States. In addition, climate finance must be increasingly gender-responsive to strengthen the capacities of women, youth and local and marginalized communities and their organizations.
  • Building women’s resilience in the context of agricultural and food systems, forest and fisheries management and the sustainable energy transition. Soils, forests, fisheries and oceans are principal sources of income, livelihood, social protection and employment, particularly for women and girls living in poverty. Equal access and rights to important resources and productive assets such as land, water, technology, technical advice and information can result in greater food security, renewable energy, and more just, resilient and sustainable systems for all.
  • Enhancing gender statistics and sex-disaggregated data in the gender-environment nexus; and fostering gender-responsive just transitions. Disaggregated data and gender statistics on climate change, environmental degradation and disaster risk reduction, especially with regard to gender differences in vulnerability and adaptive approaches, will enhance the capacity of policymakers to develop and adopt effective, evidence-based policies and programmes at all levels and boost women’s and girls’ specific contributions to environmental conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The Commission also emphasized the mutually reinforcing relationship among achieving gender equality and the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Commission also decided to conduct the Beijing+30 review in 2025, with the goal to assess the implementation of the Platform by countries and to identify strategies for further progress. In addition, starting with CSW67 onwards, the Commission will include an interactive youth dialogue within its annual programme of work to facilitate exchanges among youth representatives from delegations of Member States.

In the sidelines of the intergovernmental process, a High-level Multistakeholder Intergenerational Dialogue on Generation Equality marked nearly one year since the Mexico Forum and eight months since the unprecedented number of commitments at the Paris Forum by launching the online Commitments Dashboard, which will make the existing 2000 commitments and new ones, searchable and visible to all. The Dashboard is a key building block of the accountability framework to accelerate results for gender equality and to track their impact and contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. A first report will be published in the margins of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2022.

Other high-level events involving Member States, UN Agencies, civil society organizations, activists and private sector partners included UN Women’s side events on ‘Climate Shocks Exacerbating Humanitarian Crisis, Insecurity and Gender Inequality’ and ‘Beyond COVID-19: Advancing Gender Responsive Policies on Climate, Care and Jobs for a Sustainable and Equal Future’, as well as the Secretary-General’s Town Hall with women’s organizations and feminist civil society. As in the past, CSW66 attracted high-level participation from Member States, including two Heads of State and Government, three vice-presidents, and 111 ministers. CSW66 included 213 virtual side events organized by Member States and UN entities, many in collaboration with civil society. Additionally, more than 800 virtual NGO parallel events organized by civil society took place, fostering ongoing dialogue with key policymakers, ensuring that their voices are not left out of these crucial processes.

The Commission welcomed the major contributions of civil society organizations including women’s and youth-organizations, women human rights defenders, women journalists and and trade unions, in promoting and protecting the human rights of all women and girls, including in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes. It also expressed concern that they face many challenges and barriers to full participation and leadership, including diminishing funding, violence, harassment, reprisals and threats to the physical security of their members.