CSW66: Looking Back and Paving the Way Forward on Climate Justice
This year, women’s rights advocates closely followed the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66). For the first time in 75 years, environmental and climate justice were positioned at the top of the Commission’s agenda.
What was at stake at CSW66?
CSW66 was a crucial opportunity to reinforce the role that girls and women play as leaders on climate action, and to solidify global commitments to gender-transformative climate solutions that center the health and rights of girls and women, in all their intersecting identities.
CSW66 was highly anticipated as a moment to advance progress on issues that directly affect girls and women, but are often left out of climate discussions. These include mainstreaming sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in climate and disaster policies, programs, and budgets; addressing structural barriers that impact girls’ and women’s ability to cope with and adapt to the impacts of climate change; and the just and equitable transition toward economies that recognize and address care work.
Our engagement at CSW66
Throughout CSW66, Women Deliver advocated for progress on SRHR and climate justice during negotiations alongside diverse partners, including the Women’s Rights Caucus, the SRHR-Climate Justice Coalition, Women Deliver Young Leaders, and Deliver for Good Country Coalitions in Kenya and Senegal. Women Deliver also served as an Advisor to the U.S. Delegation to CSW66.
Our advocacy priorities
SRHR are not yet part of mainstream climate policies and conversations. This must change. Mounting evidence shows that realizing SRHR are crucial for climate justice, for strengthening resilience, and for supporting the adaptative capacity of the people and communities who are already experiencing the disproportionate impacts of climate change, including on their rights: to food, health, including SRHR, and to life itself.
Women Deliver reinforced the links between climate change and SRHR through public and behind-the-scenes advocacy. For the Commission’s Agreed Conclusions (the Commission’s outcome document), the SRHR-Climate Justice Coalition, co-founded and co-convened by Women Deliver, demanded new language at the intersection of climate change and SRHR and that governments:
· Mainstream gender and SRHR in national policies, programming, and budgets related to climate change and disaster risk reduction;
· Commit robust and feminist financing at the intersection of climate and SRHR through holistic and integrated efforts;
· Invest in data, information, and education;
· Integrate SRHR into the UNFCCC’s Gender Action Plan under all its priority areas; and
· Promote collaboration between government entities and across spaces that address climate change, gender, health, and SRHR.
CSW66 made important strides in recognizing the gendered impacts of climate change. Governments need to work in tandem with feminist organizations to create and implement policies addressing climate impacts on girls and women. Safeguarding SRHR is a step toward building climate resilience.
Importantly, for the first time at CSW, Member States reached a consensus that SRHR are directly linked to climate change. Specifically, the Agreed Conclusions recognize sexual and reproductive health (SRH) as core to essential health services, that displacement can negatively impact access to SRH services, and link SRHR to climate policies and programs. The Agreed Conclusions also underscore the importance of investing in accessible health systems and universal health coverage in the context of climate change. Additionally, the text takes note of the UNFCCC’s Gender Action Plan (GAP), which opens the door to incorporating health and SRHR into all of the GAP’s priority areas.
Despite these advances, the Commission did not meet expectations for all, including grassroots and women leaders on the frontlines of climate action. Specifically, the gathering missed the opportunity to fully embrace climate justice, to recognize the Global North’s historic responsibility to address loss and damage resulting from climate change, and to ensure adequate space for civil society, particularly from Africa and the Pacific, to engage meaningfully and directly with Member States.
Regional partners and CSW66Africa
Feminists have called for the decentralization and transformation of CSW for years with limited success. As a result of ongoing shrinking civic space and extended restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, accessing the UN has been particularly challenging for organizations outside of New York. Still, women’s rights advocates, particularly in Africa and the Pacific, were at the forefront of advocacy campaigns and conversations during the two weeks of CSW66.
Deliver for Good Kenya Coalition members participated in CSW66Africa, which intended to shift power into the hands of grassroots and rural women’s rights movements. Coalition members reinforced the crucial importance of creating spaces that center the priorities, voices, and leadership of African girls and women. Women Deliver stands in solidarity with this effort, as it does with those organizing in the Pacific and in other regions around the world, to advance the leadership and priorities of grassroots feminist organizations at gender equality fora, including the Generation Equality Forum (GEF), CSW, and the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
SRHR are foundational to achieving climate justice
Women Deliver supported deeper exploration of SRHR, climate justice, and gender-transformative intersectional action via three events and by co-creating new resources:
· On 15 March, Women Deliver co-organized an event as part of the SRHR-Climate Justice Coalition which highlighted feminist climate solutions in Asia, the crucial role that young people play in driving forward gender-just climate action, and concrete examples of the links between SRHR and climate change.
· On 17 March, the Coalition co-hosted an event in partnership with UNFPA to discuss the criticality of women’s leadership on climate justice and SRHR.
· As part of our work with the SRHR-Climate Justice Coalition, Women Deliver developed a CSW66 Factsheet to support advocates in calling for gender-just climate action during the Commission’s negotiations.
· Finally, Women Deliver moderated a panel hosted by FP2030 that reiterated calls to center women’s voices in socially just and rights-based climate frameworks, and to ensure that health systems are climate-resilient — and able to deliver the full range of SRH services — in times of calm and crisis.
Meaningful Youth Engagement
Youth leadership in climate action was highly visible at CSW66, including that of Women Deliver Young Leaders, who brought expertise, urgency, and hope. Climate change has intergenerational impacts, and youth must be at the center of the development, monitoring, and accountability of policies and programs.
· Three current Women Deliver Young Leaders, Virginia Maria Barchiesi, Daren Katigbak, and Sohanur Rahman, kicked off CSW66 by planning and speaking at a two-day Youth Forum. The Forum, co-sponsored by Women Deliver, was a critical platform for youth to feed into language recommendations ahead of CSW66 negotiations.
· In addition, in a U.S. State Department event, “Renewing Democracy: A Global Partnership to End Online Harassment and Abuse,” Women Deliver Young Leader, Agita Pasaribu, Founder of Bullyid, highlighted her work to digitalize support systems by providing confidential online psychological and legal support to victims and survivors of harassment.
· During an official 24 Hours Around-the-clock Generation Equality event on 16 March, hosted by the Adolescent Girls Investment Plan (AGIP), the Government of Ireland, and Purposeful, Women Deliver Young Leaders Ishanvi Malayanil & Gulmina Imran discussed the ongoing need to engage adolescent girls in GEF Accountability, and called for the creation of the GEF Adolescent Girls Advisory Body. Women Deliver fully supports this youth-led demand for accountability and is committed to amplifying and supporting adolescent girls’ leadership in the ongoing GEF process.
Collective and cross-cutting action
Across the two weeks of CSW66, feminists tackled a range of issues at the intersection of climate action, gender data, economic justice and rights, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aimed at breaking down silos across issues, actors, and policy spaces.
· Climate and Gender Data: Data is key to understanding where we are, the progress we are making, and where gaps remain. Increased investment in the collection, analysis, and use of gender-disaggregated data around climate change is needed. During CSW66, with partners including Data2X, PARIS21, Open Data Watch, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN),the Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO), DIVA for Equality, ARROW, and International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA), Women Deliver engaged in a tweetathon which drew attention to #GenderData4CSW, reaching over 300,000 accounts.
· Climate and Care: Tackling climate action cannot be done without ensuring sustainable systems to support care and care work. As members of the Global Alliance for Care (GAC), Women Deliver co-sponsored the high-level side-event, The Relevance of Care Work for Gender Equality — Action for Sustainability, alongside the Governments of Mexico, Argentina, and Germany, the International Labour Organization (ILO), UN Women, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The discussion highlighted the need for gender-responsive, climate-related policy interventions that recognize and address girls’ and women’s disproportionate burden of care.
· Climate and the SDGs: During CSW66, Women Deliver’s partner, Equal Measures 2030 launched the long-anticipated 2022 SDG Gender Index, which looks at progress on gender across every measure of development, and puts forward recommendations to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
Next for climate
While CSW66’s Agreed Conclusions did not incorporate all of the asks from diverse women’s rights and youth advocates or from the most climate-affected countries, the session’s Agreed Conclusions are a critical step on the road to gender-transformative climate action, and an opening to push for additional progress.
Progress made at CSW66 at the intersection of SRHR and Climate Action is a step in the right direction. Together, across sectors and generations, we must boldly step toward a future that engages youth and grassroots feminist advocates as co-designers and co-creators of just and equitable climate change policy and programs.