Putting women’s rights at the drivers’ seat of UN Environment’s #solvedifferent

Environmental governance can only be coordinated globally. Pollution of plastics in one country, contributes to the global suffocation of the oceans. Air pollution and water pollution do not stop at borders.

At the 4th UN Environment Assembly (UNEA4) in Nairobi, 4 – 15 March 2019, all 193 Member States met to agree on common actions to address the immense damage being done to the planet. WECF and the Women’s Major Group came with 20 activists and social entrepreneurs to call for gender-just policies and measures to protect women human and environmental rights defenders. On International Women’s Day we organised an action to which we invited all the member states delegates and UN staff, and where Isis Alvarez of Global Forest Coalition read a feminist statement. Bharti Kannan of Boohnd India did an act on plastic-free menstrual hygiene.

Photos by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis

A historic resolution on “women and environment” was presented by Costa Rica to the member states; a first one ever at the UN Environment Assembly. We supported to have a reference to Women’s Human Rights and Environmental Defenders in the text. After 8 days of negotiations the resolution was adopted by all Member States. It still has a reference to the defenders, indirectly by quoting the relevant General Assembly resolution. But most importantly, the title of the resolution is stronger than what we were able to get for the Agenda2030, as it clearly stipulated the ‘human rights of women and girls’. So step by step, we are progressing to show that women’s human rights are clearly linked to environment and climate policies. Download the resolution here.

The big polluters, fossil fuel and chemical companies, were strongly present at UNEA. There aim is to present ‘solutions’ which are an excuse for continued production of fossil fuels. This includes high-risk technologies in the area of Geo-Engineering which are unproven, and where potential damage is of planetary scale. We spoke out against these false ‘solutions’ and insisted on addressing them at the source, namely by phasing out production of plastics, fossil fuels and hazardous chemicals at the source. We showed examples from the ground how marginalized people, including many women, carry the brunt of cost of the pollution caused by these unsustainable economies. Our delegation spoke in numerous events alongside Ministers of Environment, and participated in the One Planet Summit. We supported UN Environment with the event for the Women Ministers and Leaders for the Environment. We were glad that we could have several of our partners from local and indigenous communities speak to all the member state delegations, and meet with the new directors of UN Environment, a female duo with great interest in taking on some of our proposals.

Publications: Women & Chemicals, Plastics, Gender & the Environment, Global Gender & Environment Outlook (GGEO), GEO6, Gender Resolution UNEA4


Partners:  Women2030, Women’s Major Group, GFC, WEP, Boohnd, ARUWE, Climate Chance, Break Free From Plastics, Soroptomists Kenya 

Donors: EU Women2030