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Climate change, conflict and gender inequality

Women affected by conflict are key to building climate resilience – Women for Women International calls for their meaningful inclusion at COP28
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Mature woman protesting 'Stop the war' in the street, Ukraine

Climate justice, gender equality and peace are deeply interconnected.

Around the world, climate crises and conflicts are on the rise and it is women and girls who are disproportionately impacted.

In order to develop meaningful, sustainable and inclusive solutions, leaders must listen to them.

Relief, Recovery and Peace Day

A new report by Women for Women International brings the perspectives and experiences of women survivors of war and conflict to the heart of COP28, highlighting the effects of extreme weather, environmental degradation, poverty, violence and conflict on their lives.

The release of the report coincides with the first ever Relief, Recovery and Peace Day at COP28 today (03 December).

‘The most climate-vulnerable communities are also some of the most affected by conflict and economic insecurity; communities that have contributed the least to the climate crisis.

‘By elevating the voices, priorities and solutions of the often-overlooked groups of women we support, we want to highlight these intersecting impacts of climate change, conflict and gender inequality.

‘But women are frequently excluded from participating in the decision-making processes that impact their lives. Only by including the perspectives of women and the realities of their daily life, can we create meaningful and sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.

KAVIN MIRTEEKHAN
Programme manager, Women for Women International, Iraq

Friction with ‘green’ policies

The report also uncovers the frustrations shared by local Women’s Rights Organisations (WROs) with top-down ‘green’ policies, imposed by the international community, which are insensitive to the scale of women’s daily struggles for survival in conflict settings.

Women for Women International has supported women survivors of conflict for over 30 years.

The organisation produced the assessment based on conversations with nearly 1,000 women across 14 countries including DRC, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Myanmar, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and Ukraine.
 
Key findings reveal flooding, droughts, increasing natural disasters and extreme heat are among the biggest environmental impacts on the lives of the women surveyed, who cite food insecurity, water scarcity and the high cost of goods among the many complex challenges they face.

Access to food and water

All of the women surveyed in Afghanistan, DRC and Rwanda report experiencing food insecurity over the past 10 years, with 58% in Afghanistan saying it has worsened in the last year.

Over 70% of all the women surveyed in Afghanistan, DRC, Iraq, Nigeria and Rwanda report experiencing water scarcity over the last 10 years.

Of those, over half in Nigeria and Afghanistan report the situation worsening in the last year.

Climate and conflict

Women are excluded from decision-making despite their unique perspective on impacts and existing commitment, creativity and leadership when it comes to driving solutions forward.

This exclusion widens the gaps in conflict and gender-responsive programming and decision-making spaces regarding land, agriculture and climate action.
 
In the DRC and Nigeria, women say competition for food and water is also driving localised conflict.

‘I spend more on food and still get less of the food. Some farmlands have been destroyed during recent uprisings. Some farmers were not able to go back to farm due to insecurity’, said a woman in Nigeria.
 
They also describe conflict as contributing to the effects of climate change.
 
‘Climate change has a direct link with conflict. This results in restricted mobility and less accessibility to land for both women and men’, said a spokesperson from a women’s rights organisation in Sudan.

Funding with strings attached

Less than 3% of global funding is spent on initiatives that address gender equality or women-led organisations in conflict- and climate-vulnerable settings.

The funding that is available often comes with impossible environmental criteria attached.

In Syria, women’s rights organisations describe their shock at being asked to use ‘green’ fuel by donors at a time when conflict makes access to any fuel at all extremely limited.
 
‘They ask if they can guarantee whether the fuel is clean, when fuel is so hard to come by – it’s like they don’t care about the people’, said a spokesperson from Women Now for Development in Syria.

Report recommendations

The report advises that building climate resilient, peaceful societies needs better cross-sectoral collaboration and the integration of gender and conflict into climate policies.

It recommends prioritising holistic, community-led climate adaptation approaches alongside the global agenda for reducing carbon emissions and establishing climate mitigation measures.

The reports states that the burden and moral responsibility to fund solutions to the global climate crisis should rest on those that are major contributors to the problem, but the solutions themselves need to be built by the people most affected.

Any negotiated Loss and Damage Fund at COP28 should be conflict-sensitive and supportive of locally led solutions inclusive of climate adaptation measures.

Climate financing should include flexible, long-term funding for locally led climate adaptation led by WROs and civil society.
Women’s rifts organisations and women-led civil society should be provided with opportunities for education, learning and connections to enable their meaningful participation in climate mitigation, adaptation and financing discussions.

In partnership with Goals House, Women for Women International hosted a roundtable at COP28 in Dubai on 02 December, to explore ways to strengthen women’s resilience and adaptation to climate and conflict risks while advancing gender equality.

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