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EWL joins call for gender perspective to be taken into account by UN

(Brussels 26 September) The Parliament magazine has recently published the EWLs joint call with MEPs and other NGOS for the UN to recognise gender, economy and ecology perspectives in the UN’s new sustainable development goals (SDGs).

It is essential that the analysis and recommendations from the perspective of civil-society environmental and women’s rights organisations are taken into account when governments and UN agencies are preparing their priorities for a framework of goals and targets for development following the Rio+20 summit in June 2012, as well as the post-2015 follow-up of the millennium development goals.

Well before 1992, and the now-famous Earth summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, women’s groups in every region of the world have been leading work on all areas that contribute to sustainable development - social, environmental and economic - particularly focusing on gender equality and human rights. However, 20 years after Rio there has been far too little progress. In 2015, the United Nations will adopt a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs), thus establishing the broad framework for the global development agenda for the next few decades.

The recent high level panel of eminent persons’ report of the post-2015 development agenda shows a heightened and disturbing reorientation of development toward the interests and priorities of corporations, further marginalising and minimising the concerns of women all over the world, as well as their communities. In this period of economic and financial crisis, as well as other crises of human rights violations, militarism, food, fuel, climate change and environmental degradation, the influence of transnational corporations has never been as strong nor as networked in its resolve to protect profits above all else, and preserve structural inequalities that secure such gains.

The current economic system creates greater inequalities. While the wealthy consume more natural resources and are responsible for increasing levels of environmental damage, the poor are suffering from degradation of their agricultural land, forests, water supplies and biodiversity, and alteration of natural weather cycles due to climate change. Too much public funding goes to perverse subsidies for unsustainable and speculative activities such as the fossil fuel and nuclear energy sector. In times of economic crisis, austerity measures are often a greater burden on women than on men. Current prices of natural resources, energy and consumer products do not include externalities or future costs. The current economic decision making is too short-term; long-term benefits are not valued. Military budgets and tax-spending for bailing out banks are taking away necessary funding for social development and environmental protection.

Women form the majority of the world’s poor. The root causes of this unequal access to the world’s wealth are both economic and cultural. These causes are also embedded in deeply rooted patterns of discrimination, causing women to receive lower wages, own less property, and be more vulnerable to the hardships of poverty and environmental degradation. Sustainable development and women’s equal and full participation in society and economy is only possible when all women’s rights are ensured, including sexual and reproductive rights. All adolescent girls and boys, women and men should have the knowledge and the skills to know their bodies and their rights, negotiate sexual and reproductive decision making, access to health services, and be able to live free from violence and discrimination.

The contribution of nature and ecosystems, as well as unpaid care work, remains invisible in nations’ GDP. Intact ecosystems assure the survival of the poorest people, who depend for up to 70 per cent of their livelihoods on functioning ecosystems. Given women’s unequal care responsibilities their dependence on natural resources for survival in the form of water and wood gathering for their households in rural and urban poor contexts makes them more vulnerable to the depletion of natural resources. For example, if rivers are dried up, women and girls in poverty have to walk longer distances to collect water for their families. Therefore it is integral to include the integration between struggling against gender inequalities, ecological degradation and economic growth in both the new SDGs and in all climate action plans that are adopted.

Gender+E3 is an informal working group in the European parliament, composed of MEPs and NGOs within the field of gender, environment, economy and ecology. We understand that fighting gender inequalities is a crucial part for reaching a sustainable ecological and economic development. It is our greatest hope that the new sustainable development goals will recognise these issues. It is time to demand the integration of gender, ecology and economy.

  • Mikael Gustafsson is chair of parliament’s women’s rights and gender equality committee
  • Kartika Liotard is a member of parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee
  • Raül Romeva and Ulrike Lunacek are members of parliament’s women’s rights and gender equality committee
  • Nicole Kiil-Nielsen is a member of parliament’s foreign affairs committee
  • Sirpa Pietikäinen is a vice-chair of parliament’s internal market and consumer protection committee
  • Erik Blomqvist and Rebecka Hallencreutz are co-chairs of Friends of the Earth
  • Valerie Ndaruzaniye is president of the Global Water Institute
  • Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Brussels
  • The European Women’s Lobby
  • Women in Europe for a common future

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