Historic CSW Agreed Conclusions lack sense of urgency

The most recent IPCC reports show the scientific proof of a situation that feminist and climate activists have been seeing on the ground for years: if we don’t act now on limiting our emissions and taking more ambitious climate action, the results of climate change will be irreversible and many parts of our world will be unlivable. It shows our current policies to address the climate and environmental crises are not sufficient. We need to be more ambitious! This is where we, as WECF and part of the global feminist movement, had hoped CSW66 would have made a difference.  

This CSW is historic, as it was the first time in its history that the intersections with climate,  environmental and disaster-risk policies were at the top of its agenda. The most recent IPCC report, released a week after the conclusion of the CSW, highlights that relevance: “attention to equity and broad and meaningful participation of all relevant actors in decision-making at all scales can build social trust, and deepen and widen support for transformative changes.” (page 56) Unfortunately, governments at the CSW, including those of the EU, lacked a sense of urgency and willingness to take bold actions on addressing the climate, environmental and inequality crises coherently. 

Analysis and summary of the Agreed Conclusions  

In the negotiations for the Agreed Conclusions, we faced ‘expected opposition’ from conservative countries in terms of human-rights language, references to diversity, and intersectional approaches. Other groups that we usually see as our allies in the CSW space, were not our allies this time in making progress on climate and environmental issues. They were only willing to make exact textual references to existing climate language. They mostly wanted to directly quote from outcomes of annual climate summits, COPs, like the Glasgow Climate Pact (2021) and Paris Agreement (2015).  

This is problematic.  

Generally speaking, it is worrying to see that many paragraphs include language that weakens the strength of commitments. For example using “as appropriate” gives countries the opportunity to deny the CSW recommendations, because governments can decide what is appropriate for them. This happened among others in paragraphs related to increasing girls’ participation and leadership, addressing loss and damage, and holding the private sector accountable for their violations of human rights and contributions to climate change and pollution.  

Important steps forward 

We are happy to see that the outcome text establishes the clear connections between the impacts of climate change & environmental degradation on women and girls in all their diversity. The text makes important references to the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and marginalization they face, and calls upon governments to identify and eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters. Especially in the context of climate change and biodiversity protection, it is important that these discriminations are specifically acknowledged for all indigenous women and girls. The principle of free, prior and informed consent is essential for (indigenous) land and environmental defenders, and it is good to see this mentioned in text. At the same time, we are disappointed that the term Women Environmental Human Rights Defenders (WEHRDs) did not make it to the text. Only references to Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) were included (adding “those working on issues related to the environment, land and natural resources as well as the rights of indigenous peoples”). 

Commitments to bridge the gender digital divide, to take measures and intensify research on gender perspective on impacts of environmental pollutants and harmful substances are important steps forward. For the first time in CSW history, universal access to sexual and reproductive health care-services are part of the introductory (or preambular) paragraphs. The important contributions and protection of women journalists and media workers are also mentioned for the first time in a CSW outcome document. It is good to see strong language on eliminating, preventing and responding to all forms of violence against all women & girls, both online and offline: take measures by “ratifying key international treaties which provide protection against gender-based violence and sexual harassment”.  

We are happy to see the CSW calling on governments to set specific targets and timelines to achieve a gender balance in participation, representation and leadership of women in climate change, environmental and disaster-risk reduction decision-making bodies and processes at all levels, for example through temporary quotas.  

Lacking important connections: gender-just energy transition or feminist climate finance 

Finance for feminist movements working on climate and environmental justice is essential. Not only finance focused on gender equality, but also climate finance mechanisms need to be more supportive of social and gender justice. Unfortunately this dimension is not part of the outcome document. Even though this is one of the key challenges for achieving gender equality in the context of climate, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies outlined in the Secretary General report published in advance of the CSW66.  

It is good to see commitment to support and finance gender-responsive, equitable and sustainable transition towards low-emission energy systems, although similarly to the climate summit the main culprit of the fossil fuel based economy is not mentioned. Another important dimension of our current unjust energy system, energy poverty, and its gender dimensions, are unfortunately not acknowledged at all in the outcomes. 

Civil Society participation 

Only three days before the start of the CSW, the UN announced that they would allow civil society inside (parts of) the UN building again. This was far too late for most people to still make their way to New York. That left this CSW to be one of the most exclusive in its history, and missing the voices of feminist activists has certainly made its outcomes less progressive.   

Governments were not only negotiating the Agreed Conclusions document during this CSW. The Methods of Work, the way of working of the Commission for the next years, was also on the agenda. Here we had hoped, as civil society, to increase meaningful participation in the process. Unfortunately, there was tough pushback by conservative governments. Civil society can still not observe the negotiations for CSW Outcome Documents, but only participate in so-called interactive dialogues, side-events and the General Discussion. One positive outcome is that from now on, an interactive dialogue with youth will be part of the CSW.  

Taking CSW outcomes forward 

All in all, this historic CSW66 takes important steps in addressing the climate, environmental crises in connection with gender equality. However, we had hoped for more concrete, bold commitments on civil society participation, (financial) support for feminist movements and gender-transformative climate action, and addressing inequalities. We will continue to work on ensuring that the climate and environmental crises are tackled with a transformative, intersectional approach. We will work, together with our partners, to make sure that CSW commitments are implemented on national levels, and to ensure that the CSW outcomes are followed up on with strong outcomes at COP27, where the UNFCCC Gender Action Plan is under review.  

Want to find out more about what we did during the CSW? Check out the links below: