Marcela Ballara

Substantial sums of money are invested to help people in developing countries become less vulnerable. In 2008 in Doha, the international community committed itself to this aim. The necessary changes will not be possible, however, unless efforts to promote women’s empowerment are coupled with measures for environmental protection. Larger donor organizations such as the World Bank and the Development Banks have pledged that they will adhere to the principles of equal rights and gender mainstreaming, but there is an urgent need for civil society to monitor compliance with these commitments.

Financing Gender Equality across the Silos: How Do We Move Forward

Gender Justice in Climate Financing?

According to The UNDP 2007 Human Development Report, the international community is investing very little in terms of financial support for adaptation and the funds available from climate financing mechanisms and official bilateral help amount only to 200 million US dollars. The critical balance drawn by UNDP and others on the implementation of national adaptation plans is inextricably linked with the latter’s underfunding. This underfunding is also relevant from the gender perspective, for one effect of the evident lack of willingness on the part of the donor community to reduce the vulnerability of the poor population is that it serves ultimately to intensify the especially high vulnerability of women and raises the risk that climate change could deprive them of their livelihoods.

Compared with the funds invested in climate and forest protection, i. e. made available for mitigation, adaptation mechanisms are significantly underfinanced even if donor countries from the north have come with numerous new financing initiatives. 1 For example, with the exceptions of the GEF funds already set up, and the World Bank’s Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), most of these bi-and multilateral climate funds are oriented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by developing clean technologies, promoting renewable energies and energy efficiency, and investing in forest protection; but they are not oriented to reduce the vulnerability and risks of marginalized population groups when it comes to the impacts of climate change.2

The resolution adopted by the International Conference on Financing for Development (Doha Declaration on Financing for Development 2008) sets out a commitment to finance adaptation measures designed to reduce the vulnerability of people in developing countries. Following difficult negotiations, the donors reaffirmed their commitment to a gender-equitable development financing. “[F]ostering gender equality” and “preserving the environment” specified as tasks in connection with official development assistance to reduce poverty, though without establishing any direct linkages between the two points (see paragraph 41).

Only the Report on the 52nd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 2008)3 establishes a linkage between the two global challenges – of gender inequality and adaptation to climate change. The report recommends that a gender perspective be integrated at all levels of planning for and decisionmaking on climate issues and that resources be made available to ensure the full participation of women.

However, things went different during the Copenhagen Conference in 2009. And as the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer puts it, the Copenhagen summit ended in a mere “Copenhagen Accord”, negotiated by a small group of the key countries, and “noting” the necessity to contain global warming to the 2 degree C limit. The Accord called for commitments by industrialized countries and engagement of developing countries, but with scarce specification on how this will occur.

While during COP 15, gender-sensitive text remained in the negotiating documents until the end, these texts meant nothing without an overall outcome that includes every bodie’s life and livelihoods protection. Nevertheless, the arguments of gender experts focused on equal access to technologies in climate protection strategies. Whole sections of the final COP 15 text lack reference to women, including the important financing and technology transfer sections.

Nearly all donors, as well as the UN, the World Bank and the regional development banks have – unlike the UNFCCC – committed themselves, in their policy guidelines, to advance equal opportunity and gender mainstreaming. Nevertheless, banks cannot be called to account if they fail to meet the social and political obligations they have voluntarily assumed. But the problem is that governments and the market gives too little consideration to gender justice in climate adaptation policy and they lack recognition of women rights as well.

Institutional reforms and gender-sensitive mechanisms are the only way open to monitor and effectively address contradiction between existing obligations and the political practice of resource allocation.

How to Move Forward?


  • From a gender perspective, the debate on climate financing must focus on the need for mandatory monitoring instruments for adaptation and climate protection.
  • In relation to the instruments, there is an urgent need to overcome conceptual bottlenecks. This means to ensure that gender aspects are mainstreamed in climate policy. Therefore solid financing must be included to avoid these efforts leading only to a discourse without any practical implications.
  • Gender aspects should also be included in the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), set up to promote mainstreaming of climate change adaptation into the national development planning and budgets of developing countries (as in the case of Malawi4).
  • Increase access for women to existing mitigation and adaptation funds. Financing instruments that have impacts at the national level should include, ex ante gender- specific consideration as well as social disparities within societies.
  • Adaptation strategies need to take into account women and men’s relative and different capacities, power and social resilience, vulnerabilities and resources, because gender norms, roles and relations can either enable or constrain adaptive capacities.5 Therefore studies on quality and quantity of adaptation financing with a gender lens are needed as studies currently available fail to address gender issues.
  • Adoption of gender-specific indicators to monitor the gender impacts in programmes, and projects; performance of gender impact assessments and gender audits.
  • Develop and implement gender-specific indicators as well as gender analysis in each phase of adaptation programmes and projects.
  • Implement mandatory adoption of gender-responsive budgeting in national and international financing mechanisms. Monitor the gender-specific allocation of resources and its effects/benefits.
  • Women should be recognized as powerful contributors of change and should be fully integrated into climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies at all levels. Equal involvement of women and men in negotiations on and implementation of financing mechanisms is urgently needed.
  • At the global and national levels, calls to increase the number of women chairs in the UNFCCC, with a meaningful participation of women and men from all sectors in national and global climate policies. This also includes strengthening the commitment to prioritize the most vulnerable, and gendersensitive approaches in the draft Mexico agreement.

An articulated political will and a substantial increase in international financial resources is needed to implement gender justice in adaptation policy. If this is not achieved, poverty-oriented adaptation policy will not really be implemented, will have no impact and most probably the third MDG will not be reached. The achievement of all of the MDGs depends, in very crucial ways, on reaching MDG 3.


1 The funds provided are voluntary or compensation paid by the countries mainly responsible for climate change (Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Action Plan). In the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development, the industrialized countries reaffirm their obligation to make new and additional funds available to finance adaptation. It is, however, unclear whether “additional” refers to funds additional to existing adaptation funds or to existing ODA funds. The donor community is also divided on the demand to mobilize adaptation financing in addition to the 0.7 goal, that is, without counting these funds towards ODA.

2 The NAPAs, for instance, are a product of the Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF), which, like the Climate Change Fund, is administered by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).The LDCF has less than 10 million US dollars, and 200,000 US dollars of this is made available to every country preparing an NAPA. Only eleven of a total of 38 NAPAs have been completed thus far. This figure, which is far too low, is not only a reflection of the general underestimation of global adaptation costs, indeed, it is also a reflection of the low political significance attached to efforts designed to reduce vulnerability and the social costs. Thus far, their implementation has not been supported significantly through bi-and multilateral DC, nor do the Climate Framework Convention’s funds have sufficient resources of their own.

3 “(jj) Integrate a gender perspective into the design, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting of national environmental policies, strengthen mechanisms and provide adequate resources to ensure women’s full and equal participation in decision-making at all levels on environmental issues, in particular on strategies related to the impact of climate change on the lives of women and girls” (UN Commission on the Status of Women. Report on the 52nd Session, 25 Feb.– 7 and 13 March 2008; E/CN.6/2008/11, 8).

4 Malawi, a notable exception, has identified gender as its own sector, not merely as a cross–cutting issue: Several interventions are proposed that target women in highly vulnerable situations: (i) empowerment of women through access to microfinance to diversify earning potential, (ii) ensuring easier access to water and energy sources by drilling boreholes and planting trees in woodlots, and (iii) use of electricity provided through the rural electrification program (Malawi NAPA, March 2006, x– xi, in: WEDO ibid.).

5 After Hurricane Mitch in 1998, La Masica, Honduras reported no deaths. A disaster agency had provided gender-sensitive community education on early warning systems and hazard management six months earlier. Women were able to assume responsibility for continuously monitoring the early warning system, and the municipality was able to evacuate the area promptly when Hurricane Mitch struck.